Why Blair could deal with IRA…

John O’Farrell in the New Statesman believes that Tony Blair was singularly equiped to understand the journey that the IRA could make from violence to peaceful democratic engagement with state, as much from his mother’s Donegal background as anything else.

  • Elvis Parker

    John O’Farrell and the New Statesman – nearly always wrong! Blair’s mother was a Protestant from Donegal! This undermines a cornerstone of O’Farrell’s article. Nil points John.
    It is interesting to speculate however on why she left Donegal.
    “Tony’s mother, Hazel, was of a different character. Where Leo was ambitious and gregarious, she was gentle and quiet. Born in Ireland—in her famous son’s description, “in the flat above her grandmother’s hardware shop on the main street of Ballyshannon in Donegal”—she had moved to Glasgow when her father had died, and there had met and married Leo.”

    Why was the family business abandoned? Could it be the grandmother and Hazel were both heart broken at – having be reared as loyal British citizens – they were abandoned by gutless London politicans to a Govt run by facist sectarian Irish Nationalists (sound familiar?)

    Perhaps Blair doesn’t know his family history – after all he knows very little about history in general.

  • Charles

    Funny, one state gave constitutional protection to its religious minorities and deprived nobody of the vote, while the other openly discriminated against its minority, and guess which one gets labelled ‘facist sectarian’? Pathetic!

  • circles

    Great insight into Blairs family history there Colonel – you even seem to have the inside track into the granny’s and the mother’s thoughts.
    Thoughts so secret that they managed to keep them entirely to themselves and even away from little Tony.
    Quite a pathetic attempt at writing your own interpretation between the lines to suit your own narrative, hound dog!

  • David Vance

    “John O’Farrell believes..” – yip, you see that’s the whole problem. Anything John O’Farrell believes isn’t worth hearing. And if you do hear it – it’s usually unbelievable!!

  • Mick

    Can anyone throw any light on Elvis’s question?

  • fair_deal

    Pseudo-psychology from journalists should always be viewed with strong scepticism and this reeks of it.

    Charles

    Sigh! For the sake of accuracy.

    “one state gave constitutional protection to its religious minorities”

    1. The legislation that set up the Stormont assembly included a clause against discrimination on the grounds of religion. The Civil Rights movement tried a number of unsuccessful challenges with this in the 1960’s.
    2. There was no denial of the vote for Westminster or Stormont elections (suffrage was universal). The limitation on voting rights was solely for local councils and was based on property not on religion. This limitation was common in the UK until 1948.
    3. Promises of protection aren’t much use when. The Irish Constitution until the early seventies gave a privileged position to the Catholic Church.
    It singularly failed to provide adequate protection to the Protestant and Unionist minority during the Irish civil war.
    It offered no protection to Orange marches in a number of border counties in the early 30’s when the IRA specifically targetted the parades.
    Its first review of boundaries just so happened to remove its only Protestant representatives. Its Irish language requirements was de facto exclusion of Protestants from the law.
    Protestant street preachers physically assaulted etc etc

    NI and RoI are not mirror images of one another but direct and indirect sectarianism can be found in both.

  • ballymichael

    well, Blair has invested far more time, energy, and political capital in politics in ireland than any british prime minister since gladstone.

    So maybe it wasn’t catholicism that did it. But it comes from somewhere. He’s a smart political operator, and there’s little to be gained other than brickbats in engaging with the conflict. Gladstone proved that quite satisfactorily!

    His religion is likely to come into it, I would say. Like him being anti-abortion – which wins him no friends in the labour party either.

  • Charles

    Fair_deal, no problem with your analysis. I think the republic’s attempt at even-hadedness was imperfect, and I think southern catholics also suffered from the priveleged position of the RC church. But it was an attempt, and that is why it galls me that one side was singled out for offensive denigration.

  • fair_deal

    Charles

    fair enough

  • elvis Parker

    Ballymichael
    “well, Blair has invested far more time, energy, and political capital in politics in ireland than any british prime minister since gladstone.”
    Debatable I think history might suggest Major did us much – he just didnt try to make a PR stunt out of every event and refused in the end to swallow all the paramiliataries WORDS

  • chris

    fair-deal,

    I have problems with two points in your analysis -just for the sake of argument.

    1) no protection for Orange parades = discrimination. What do you think the OO is for? It was founded in 1795 to oppose Catholic emancipation (the relief act had been signed in 1793 and the people who founded the OO didn’t like the way the increasingly bourgeois mood of English legislation was headed). Its very purpose is discrimination. So to my mind not supporting the OO doesn’t count as discrimination.

    2) asking prods to learn Irish = discrimination? no it doesn’t. first it’s also your heritage if you’re of Scots descent. second, since when has learning a national language been discrimination? third, if english was also a requirement was that discrimination against anyone with Irish as their first language?

  • George

    Chris and Fair_Deal,

    As one of the two national languages of Ireland, English is also compulsory so Irish native speakers have to learn it.

    Maths is the third compulsory subject.

  • bertie

    Blair’s grandparents signed the Ulster Covenant. His grandfather was a Mason and I would put money on him having been an Orangeman. I am trying to imagine a conversation between him and his grandpa if the latter could be brought back for the day!

  • ballymichael

    elvis

    “engaging in PR stunts” IS expending political capital. Blair’s announced so many historic breakthroughs everybody just rolls their eyes.

    That is an unusual thing for a PM to do. As is rushing off, repeatedly, to last-minute deadline negotiations. Most premiers would delegate that.

    Either he’s tactically clumsy, as a politician (I suggest this is proven not to be so), or he sees some advantage to it (that eludes every other political commentator) or he feels sufficiently strongly about the peace process, that he feels “called” to get involved personally.

    He’s like Gladstone in that too. Very unapologetic about bringing God into things. How did he got to be leader of the labour party of what is, on average, a very secular country!

  • Greenflag

    ‘Why was the family business abandoned? Could it be the grandmother and Hazel were both heart broken at – having be reared as loyal British citizens – they were abandoned by gutless London politicans to a Govt run by facist sectarian Irish Nationalists (sound familiar?)

    Perhaps Blair doesn’t know his family history – after all he knows very little about history in general.’

    And you sir don’t know your ‘business’ More than a third of family business’s don’t survive past the first generation . And of original businesses less than 20% make it to the tird generation . Donegal was never the greatest place in Ireland for business ‘investment’ given it’s location . Happily in these days location while still important is becoming less so due to modern technology and communications .

    Nevertheless even the latter will not prevent Northern Ireland’s economy from continuing its relative decline in comparison to the Irish Republic . With Irish GDP per person now approaching double the Northern Ireland figure and given a continuation of the present trends you can look forward to the Irish Republic GDP per person being three to four times that of Northern Irelands in another decade .

    As to the Blair’s mom leaving Donegal . She was just one of the approx 1,000,000 people who left Ireland both North and South in the period 1900 through 1970 the vast majority of whom were RC’s in search of economic opportunity . I’m sure you recall HMG’s wonderful job of economic management in Ireland in the period 1750 through the 1920’s ?

    Happily the Irish have demonstrated much better and more appropriate economic management skills in recent decades such that British subjects now flock to Ireland to work and live and earn more than they can in blighty 🙂

  • fair_deal

    Chris

    1. The OO did not ask for “support” from the state. Its members in border counties were/are citizens of that state as with every other citizen they were/are entitled to protection by the civic authorities from violent assualt. They sought nothing ‘extra’ just the basic guarantees for a citizen from a state and the state failed to provide it to when faced with the threat of the IRA.
    2. Your disagreement with the ethos of or perceptions of the OO are irrelevant. There is no ‘acceptable beliefs test’ for a state to provide basic protection to a group of citizens, especially of a religious minority.
    3. There are two forms of discrimination – direct and indirect. The limitation of suffrage in local councils was direct discrimination on the basis of class and indirect discrimination as there was a disproportionat number of RC’s excluded by it. The requirement for Irish was introduced in the 1920’s it was direct discrimination against non-Irish speakers and indirect discrimination as there was a disproportionate number of Protestants in the legal profession without any Irish.
    4. “first it’s also your heritage if you’re of Scots descent. ”
    Please do not try and impose a particular view of identity on me. My identity is for me to determine.

  • chris

    sorry fair-deal. I meant “your” in the other sense. I could have said “also one’s heritage” but that would sound poncy. how did the use of Irish discriminate against lawyers (serious question). was legislation redrafted in Irish? were law reports issued in Irish? were cases held in, evidence given in Irish? a couple of friends went from the north to trinity to take law. the test was pretty perfunctory and they had a damn side more trouble getting the A’s than saying hi I’m X and I’m from Y or whatever the question was.

  • Ringo

    Fair Deal –

    very few non-native speakers had any Irish in the 1920’s, as it wasn’t taught widely in schools when they were growing up. Native speakers made up a percentage roughly equivalent to that of the protestant population at the time, so and stringent requirements would have affected far more catholics than protestants.

    To be honest I think you are overplaying the requirement to have Irish – the state quite simply would not have managed to survive working from a pool of talent restricted to those who could speak Irish. The administrative and legal infrastructure inherited from the British was maintained after the founding of the state.

  • lib2016

    fair-deal

    You are complaining that the South didn’t give preferential treatment to the KKK and let it break the peace as and when it liked? It strikes me that the same thing is now happening in the North at long long last.

    I’m delighted that the OO are finally beginning to realise the need to get on with their neighbours in Derry. Where they don’t as in Ardoyne they will in future have to face the consequences.

    If the North had only put manners on these people instead of constructing a state based on the worst aspects of their beliefs the last 30 years of civil strife wouldn’t have become inevitable, nor would a UI.

    Instead of whining about their past catching up with them unionists would be better trying to devise a Plan B. Becoming useful citizens rather than sponging off the Brits might be a start.

  • fair_deal

    lib2016

    1. I made no mention of the KKK.
    2. OO parades organised in the border counties in the early years of the Free State were peaceful.
    3. “Where they don’t as in Ardoyne they will in future have to face the consequences.”
    There were talks with Ardoyne residents and they broke their undertakings displaying bad faith as they provied incapaable of controlling the inherent sectarianism of many in Ardoyne.

  • Nathan

    Elvis Parker – I take it you’ve read the Being Irish book of reflections then.

    If so, you weren’t paying much attention to detail because Blair made it quite clear that it was Hazel’s mother alone that relocated to Scotland after the death of her first husband – George Corscaden. Hazel’s maternal grandparents stayed put and lived out the rest of their lives in post-independence Donegal.

    As for your claim that this particular Ulster Protestant family were reared as ‘loyal British citizens’, I would believe that to be the case. Hazel’s first husband (Blair’s grandfather) was a member of Carricknahorna Loyal Orange Lodge 147 – and his brother was Deputy Master of the lodge for a short time in the early 1900s – so loyal subjects to the Crown they must have been.

  • Nathan

    Lo ciento –

    “Hazel’s first husband (Blair’s grandfather) was a member of Carricknahorna Loyal Orange Lodge 147” obviously doesn’t make sense.

    Should be – Hazel’s father…

  • Greenflag

    ‘Hazel’s maternal grandparents stayed put and lived out the rest of their lives in post-independence Donegal.’

    Tony Blair has been known to recall many pleasant happy summer holidays at his grandmothers in Donegal !