The partitioning of old Ulster

Lively thread at Love Ulster on the partition of Ulster. It begins with an anti-partitionist, Unionist perspective on the breaking up of an historic province.

  • overhere

    The only reason that the nine counties of Ulster were not incorporated into Northern Ireland was that the Unionist majority would not have been as large and lasted this long. As for the old chestnut of re-partisioning Northern Ireland is is a non starter I believe on both sides.

    The Unionists would be getting themselves into a tighter corner and accepting that they werre on a loosing wicket as it were and the Nationalists would not simply give up the repartitioned area.

    What would those of either side do in the new arragement, would they be required to move North or South as it were?

    I believe more importantly what would the people of Britain think. They would have to be consulted on this in a referendum. Would they want to keep any part of Northern Ireland if they thought they could get rid of the whole sorry mess?

  • dodrade

    Personally, I believe a true Unionist should not aim merely to keep Northern Ireland in the UK, but seek to regain the lost 26 counties, by peaceful means of course. Unlikely perhaps, but I dont see any good reason why the ROI could not at least rejoin the Commonwealth. It would be a minor step but would gain some Unionist goodwill and Southern athletes could compete in the commmonwealth games.

  • Hektor Bim

    What possible reason is there for Ireland to join the Commonwealth beyond some weird Unionist nostalgia for the British empire? What did the British empire ever do for Ireland, since that is what the Commonwealth is an echo of?

    Also, I don’t think I understand what “regaining” the 26 counties means. Does that mean the Republic of Ireland would be absorbed by a sectarian state that refuses to allow Catholics to be head of state? Is that the objective?

    What possible reason is there for Ireland to join the United Kingdom? They seem to be doing quite well outside of it, both economically and politically. If they did join, they would be ignored like Scotland is, and would probably suffer economically, culturally, and politically, just like Scotland has.

    And I’m not even including the fact that Ireland out of the UK means their soldiers aren’t dying in Iraq because they are American lapdogs.

  • Hektor Bim

    Unionist postings like this seem just breathless in their naivite. The UK had hundreds of years to try to convince Irish people to want to be part of the UK, and they failed completely. Unionists of all stripes are largely responsible for this failure. It’s breathtaking for unionists to assume that they can convince Ireland to rejoin the UK, forgetting their own history and bloodshed, while unionists refuse to forget theirs. This is especially true now that it is clear that leaving the UK and joining the EU is the best thing to happen to Ireland in a good long time.

  • Occasional Commentator

    I think the 26 would be happy to rejoin the Commonwealth if it helped the peace process and they could get around the legal technicalities around the Queen choosing the Taoiseach (sp?). If the 26 could elect their governor-general, I’d say they could be convinced.

    Sure didn’t the founder of Sinn Fein in 1905 say he wanted to keep the monarchy?

  • smcgiff

    ‘If the 26 could elect their governor-general, I’d say they could be convinced.’

    Outside a UI? Not a snowballs…

  • fair_deal


    “Outside a UI? Not a snowballs…”

    Are you saying nationalists are not willing to embrace change in the interests of the peace process? 😉

  • smcgiff


    Them be those oppressed in the six counties. They have our sympathies, but.. oh, Lost is on TV…

  • Occasional Commentator

    Hasn’t Fine Gael often suggested rejoining the Commonwealth? FG was in favour of it in its early days and I remember John Bruton talking about it.

    Sure, there’d be a vocal minority that would huff and puff about it. But there’s a quiet majority who wouldn’t give a damn and would agree if it was part of a comprehensive deal and the details were sorted out properly.

  • middle-class taig

    Would you all calm down. The Queen wouldn’t get to choose the Taoiseach and Ireland wouldn’t have to have a GG. Ireland could remain a republic and join the commonwealth in precisely the same way as it could join OSPAR, NATO, etc.

    I would want commonwealth membership to be on the agenda at any future constitutional conference on a UI, and I would probably vote in favour. We share much with other British colonies and former colonies.

  • middle-class taig

    Would you all calm down. The Queen wouldn’t get to choose the Taoiseach and Ireland wouldn’t have to have a GG. Ireland could remain a republic and join the commonwealth in precisely the same way as it could join OSPAR, NATO, etc.

    I would want commonwealth membership to be on the agenda at any future constitutional conference on a UI, and I would probably vote in favour. We share much with other British colonies and former colonies.

  • smcgiff

    I think Garret Fitzgerald was a big fan of it, but it’s stretching the knicker band a little too far to suggest FG are a pro commonwealth party. They certainly don’t mention it with any degree of regularity, and I’ve never heard John Bruton fly this particular vote looser up the flag pole. I certainly haven’t heard FG moot this one other than Garret.

    And in fairness, unlike FG I imagine, Garret would have been in favour of closer ties to the UK than just membership of the Commonwealth – hardly an indicator of general public opinion in the ROI.

    ‘But there’s a quiet majority who wouldn’t give a damn.’

    This is another agree to (strongly disagree) moment. There’s no evidence whatsoever that there’s any ambiguity towards joining the commonwealth. The collective memory of being involved with the UK was bad news, and the current economic circumstances would make it even less attractive.

    ‘would agree if it was part of a comprehensive deal and the details were sorted out properly.’ If comprehensive meant a UI, then yes.

  • soothsayer

    I can’t honestly see the point in us rejoining the Commonwealth. The only reason people seem to put forward is that we could then take part in the commonwealth games and make a statement to Unionists.

    Sure we’d still never win anything and the Unionists would condemn (or is it condone?) us for playing political games to try to absorb them into our mono-cultural, Catholic state.

  • 9countyprovience

    John Brutal has been known to spoute a few West-Brit policies alright. 😉
    I believe rejoining the commonwealth is one.
    Those pesky Blueshirts were historically pro-British, but that was their way of searching for a solution to partition, more so than being pro-monarch.

    Personally, I’d have to say I can’t make up my mind on this one. The Republican side of me (to coin a phrase) says, ‘No, Never’. The rational dreamer side who would love a UI and would see this as a consession to Unionists if a time ever came around would agree with it.

  • George

    The Commonwealth put up as some beacon once again.

    Could anybody tell me what benefits the Commonwealth would bring to the Irish Republic other than placating unionists. I’ll join, just give me a decent reason.

    What the Commonwealth has done for them in Northern Ireland. Apart from the Commonwealth Games, what does it do that isn’t already done by something else?

    How much investment has it brought in? How has it improved NI’s relations with India or whatever? How has it impacted on your life?

    For me it’s a talking shop and we already have the channels of communication open with Britain.

    The Irish Republic has the Council of the Isles, Blair and Ahern see each other all the time.

    You can’t tell the Irish people your joining the Commonwealth so the unionists might like them more, they need decent reasons.

    P.S. Ireland had its membership terminated when it declared itself a Republic. Britain didn’t care if we left. It changed to rules to stop India leaving when it declared itself a Republic.

    The reason there is apathy to the Commonwealth is that the world kept turning after it was gone. Nobody noticed a difference.

    On partitioned Ulster,
    I find it very interesting that 4 counties seems to be the number for the new Ulster Lite for all the posters on Love Ulster with Fermanagh and Tyrone next to face the unionist trapdoor.

    What about Derry and Armagh? Why do they stay? Is there a hierarchy of counties in the unionist psyche? Grade A Protestant protection for some, cast away without a by-and-or-leave for others.

    Speaking of hierarchies on who to protect from the sullen Gael.

    The good unionist people of Kingstown, now known as Dun Laoghaire, will never forget the lengths to which their Ulster brethren fought to keep them in the union. Queen’s picture on every mantelpiece to this day so there is in memory of their great sacrifices.

  • anne dunne

    what would be a decent reason for you George.

    what wrong with friendly statements, playing games together and helping the development of small pacific island nations. I think it sounds fun.

    i’m with MCT. in fact i was tempted to redub myself MCP but that’s been taken. come to think of it – imagine the discussions at the UI conference when the subject of the new Ireland’s membership comes up. would you tell those traing in NI for the next Commonwealth Games that their dividend from a UI would be that they couldn’t attend unless they pretended to be English, Scots or Welsh. Doesn’t seem like a good start to the marriage to me

  • anne dunne

    And they kept the yacht club Royal! It’s an advertisement to Ireland’s easy going-ness for all ferry disembarquers.

    while I’m on that point I get a bit flustered when the Guards ask me my nationality at the port.

    british!! seems rude and irish seems a bit bogus so I just sort of mumble “Northern Irish” and that doesn’t seem right either. I’m just going to say Up North from now on

  • soothsayer

    imagine the discussions at the UI conference when the subject of the new Ireland’s membership comes up. would you tell those traing in NI for the next Commonwealth Games that their dividend from a UI would be that they couldn’t attend unless they pretended to be English, Scots or Welsh. Doesn’t seem like a good start to the marriage to me

    They could try to qualify for the actual olympics instead of the olympics-lite.

  • anne dunne

    that last bit was about Dun Laoghaire by the way

  • fair_deal


    As the third term of MCT is a derogatory one should in not be MCH rather than MCP? 😉

  • George

    I believe handing over 0.7% of our GDP to help poorer nations sooner rather than later is the way to help Pacific nations, not set up another talking shop.

    If all its members give 0.7% of GDP to poorer nations , we’ll join the Commonwealth, how about that?

    How much money has the Commonwealth given to anybody?

    We already have friendly relations and statements with the countries of the Commonwealth and then some.

    The thing is it sounds like duplication to me, not fun.

    In my view it’s not constructive enough an organisation for 21st Ireland I’m afraid.

    But if I’m wrong or it changes, I’m all for joining it.

    The Royal St. George Yacht Club if you don’t mind.

    Try these islands for the nationality, I heard Snow Patrol use it.

  • middle-class taig


    🙂 v funny


    For Commonwealth Games purposes, I wouldn’t have a problem with NI competing separately for some purposes. Certainly for a few games until it bacame silly.

    George, I think Ireland should rejoin the Commonwealth because:

    – I think colonialism has been one of the most destructive forces the world has ever known. I think the Commonwealth provides a useful forum for the sharing of experiences of colonialism between those scarred and damaged by it, coloniser and colonised alike.

    – I think that, historically, we in Ireland have reflexively rejected any recognition of the Britishness in our national heritage. We should acknowledge it, especially now that we have conquered many of the infant diseases that post-colonial nations suffer from. We have much to offer to and learn from other countries with a colonial past.

    – the Commonwealth lacks a European input. Yeah Malta, Yeah Cyprus, whatever. Our contribution as a colonised people who helped colonise others (militarily, economically, religiously) is unique to us, and would enrich the Commonwealth.

    – many of our partner nations would be among those now sending immigrants to our shores. Any partnership we can strike with Ghana, Nigeria, etc, is positive in my book.

    – some of our would-be partners are economic powerhouses of the future; India, the best example. Let’s get in there and graft for Irish industry.

    – the unionist community (the one’s not terminally embittered at least ) would appreciate it. I don’t think that’s an inconsiderable reason for joining.

    I agree with you on the foreign aid. Can we not do both?

  • CQ

    The only politician I can recall suggesting that we should join the Commonwealth is Fianna Fáil minister Eamon Ó Cúiv. FG took Ireland out of the commonwealth – I cannot imagine them suggesting we rejoin.

    Even if there was a United Ireland, presumably the Assembly etc. would remain in force. Couldn’t commonwealth membership could be to Northern Ireland?

  • United Irelander

    I don’t think FG are a pro-Commonwealth party seeing as they are the ones who took us out of the thing.

    I favour Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth. We’re the only country to have left and not returned. Mandela applied for South Africa to rejoin when he became President. There are many republics in the commonweath.

    We have many friends in the organisation besides the British – Canada, Australia, South Africa to name a few.

    I think it would be a good way of dispelling unionist notions that the Republic is still anti-British.

    When Ireland left, it resulted in the Ireland Act and destroyed the last link between north and south.

    It was one of the worst, inept, incompetent and quite frankly moronic things the State has ever done and I think we should rectify the error.

  • Ling

    When I told people I was moving to England a few yaers back they reacted the way people used to react to being told a person was going to America. I think an awful lot of the less gombeeney ROIers, especially of the didn’t-have-to-emigrate generation look at Britain these days in a lot more friendly light than once would have been the case. I’d be completely up for Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth. I think it would be a good psychological step for the country to take. Getting over the past and taking on a positive step forward with our large neighbour to the east.

    People from other ex British Empire countries I’ve spoken to have nowhere near the enimity towards Britain than the traditional Irish attitudes hold. And some of them got treated a lot worse a lot more recently in historical terms.

    It’d be nice if we could get over ourselves and start building more links with our closest neighbours.

  • Hektor Bim

    The problem I see with rejoining the Commonwealth is that it isn’t really a club of equals, like the EU is. It’s a club of people who used to get bossed around by the British, headed up ceremoniously by the British monarch. Part of the reason Ireland left in the first place is that it became a republic, and the Commonwealth of the time couldn’t have that!

    By contrast, in the EU, Ireland has a roughly equal place at the table, and it has been able to build bridges with other countries and escape the economic domination of the UK, which turned out to be excellent for it.

  • maca

    I’ve never heard any good reasons for Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth, none today either.
    It’s a waste of time even discussing it IMO.

  • tbyrne

    I’m no futuristic constitutional lawyer but I would assume that any (post-)Unionists in this hypothetical UI situation who wanted to compete for Britain in the Commie Games would be able to as they could apply for British citizenship as long as one of their parents was born before Ireland was officially reunited. Same as the way Irish people can avail of British citizenship if a parent was born in 1949 ie before the declaration. As regards joining I would also assuume that this would be a constitutional issue and thus would need the ratification/consent of the Irish People, even though Unionism is built on the obstruction of their wishes.

  • Yoda

    I’m all for closer links with Britain, as I’m sure a lot of Irish people are, but does it really have to be through a framework with such historical baggage?

    The EU seems to me to be a good way of forging closer links with all our European neighbours.

  • Cahal

    Thread about repartition….everybody yapping on about the commonwealth. Typical.

    On topic, I doubt any repartition would be done along county lines. If it was wouldn’t Antrim and Down be the only counties with a unionist majority?

    Another idea was to use the Bann. Doesn’t that run right through Coleraine and Portadown? Come to think of it, why is Derry even in NI to start with? That wasn’t very smart…..or was it a little practical joke by the new Free State government – here, have Derry, it’s a lovely place and won’t be any bother at all.

  • United Irelander

    Hektor Bim

    “The problem I see with rejoining the Commonwealth is that it isn’t really a club of equals, like the EU is.”

    You’re kidding right? The EU a club of equals? Dear oh dear…

  • George

    are you saying we should join the Commonwealth to administer some Post-Colonial stress disorder therapy to the other members?

    “I feel your pain Pakistan, they tell us we were never a nation until the British created us too” type of thing? Not for me I’m afraid.

    I also don’t need to share colonial stories with other victims to get in touch with the Britishness in my national heritage and I certainly don’t need to join the Commonwealth.

    The Britishness in me is much more multi-faceted than that. I just jack in the British programme, it’s part of my matrix. I don’t have to seek it out. If you ask me, the British are in greater need of getting in touch with their Irishness, we’re up to speed on British. It hasn’t been the type of influence you can simply ignore.

    Maybe unionists have a different British programme in their makeup, with administrator rights perhaps, one that needs regular Commonwealth updates.

    Why enrich the Commonwealth? What can it do for us and what has it done for its members? It’s like saying enrich the government of Sierra Leone. Why? I don’t see it as a success or as progressive.

    On the new immigrants to our shores, I’m afraid the Irish government doesn’t want poor Africans and Asians any more, it’s Eastern Europeans from here on in.

    The only deals they want to strike with Nigeria over its citizens is a deportation accord to return them as cheaply as possible. Sad but true.

    We already have excellent relations with India and coventions and accords in place. The Irish state is in there grafting and I don’t see the Commonwealth improving the situation or delivering more. We deal with them today as equals, two independent Republics in an ever-changing world.

    You say the unionist community would appreciate it. One thing is for certain, we can’t do it as a sop to unionists otherwise they will take it as such. We should do it because it makes sense.

    It doesn’t make sense for us at the moment but, having said all that, if it’s an essential for a future united Ireland I don’t mind.

    Yet another talking shop is a small price to pay.

  • peace

    Economics as well as votes will decide the future of N.Ireland just as it does and always has done in every other divided democratic island or country.It’s just a pity the Ian Paisley and the Orange disOrder do not have the brains to realise that burning Belfast doesn’t help N.Ireland’s economy.It certainly does not seem like a vote winner to me

  • Patrick Brown

    George –

    You can’t make concessions to unionists. They don’t notice. Has it made the slightest difference to unionist attitudes that the Republic has given up Articles 2 and 3, that republicans now accept partition and that the IRA has announced it is to stand down?

  • Keith M

    I agree with Cahal, this thread seems to have gone down the rathole of discussing Ireland re-joining the Commonwealth, rather than the subject of the thread. Our re-joining of the Commonwealth is worthy of a separate thread as it seeems to come up every so often here and no doubt will again in the build-up to the Queen’s visit.

    Let me correct a point made at the start of the thread, the “six county” version of Northern Ireland was not done at the behest of Unionists. In the 1918-1920 period, three models were suggested; the first being all nine counties of modern Ulster (let’s never forget that the modern version of “Ulster” introduced by Britain, is a completly different shape than previous versions, which existed in the middle ages and before). The second was the one that was chosen and has existed without any boundary change for over 80 years (which is more than most European countries can claim) and the third was a four county model, which excluded Tyrone and Fermanagh.

    Back at that time Tyrone was split almost 50/50, with a slight Catholic majority but Fermanagh had a clear Protestant / Unionist majority. If Unionists wanted to draw the border where the Unionist majority was at its biggest and most sustainable they would have favoured the four county model. Carson however favoured the nine county model, as there was a large Protestant/ Unionist poulation in East Donegal. There was also a not insignificant unionist vote in both Cavan and Monaghan. He took a lot of persuading to accept the six county model.

    Of course the fine tuning of the border that was to come with the Boundary Commission was supposed to minimize the number of people caught on the “wrong” side. However the work of the commission was stopped for three years due to the civil war in the IFS. Carson refused to appoint anyone because he did not want to be seen to support a machanism that could move thousands of British citizens over to the then hosile and unstable Free State.

    However the Boundary Commission chose to make far less dramatic changes. This was mainly because in the interveening years many people in Northern Ireland had become wary of the war torn south. Instead of moving the city of (London)Derry to the IFS, the commission decided to keep the city in N.I., and indeed proposed to move the border to the west to have the unionist people in East Donegal in Northern Ireland.

    In Tyrone, most of the western third of the county would have gone to the IFS, but there was only minor tinkering with the borders of Fermanagh, Monaghan, Cavan, Armagh and Down. Newry would have been on the border but would have stayed in N.I.

    After the commission’s findings were leaked in the Morning Post (who’s editor had been on the commission), both the UK and the IFS decided to leave well enough alone.

    Would the new border have been better? Who knows? Personally I think that the right decision for the time was made. That is not to say that the border needs to stay exactly where is is in perpetuity. If any county or Westminster constituency shows a clear majority (say two thirds) in favour of changing, I think that those wishes should be respected.

  • Biffo

    Including West Belfast? Could the Gardai cope with the Shankill?

  • Brian Boru

    For a start, Tyrone and Fermanagh were Nationalist counties and as such should not have been included in the Northern statelet.

  • Keith M

    No true Brian Boru, even when the high point of nationalist voting in 1918 you get the following numbers you get the following vote shares in Fermanagh and Tyrone;

    Unionists ; 46%
    Sinn Fein ; 36%
    Nationalists (IPP); 15%
    Independents; 3%

    When you consider that the Nationalist party opposed full independence from the rest of the UK, then it’s clear that Fermanagh and Tyrone ended up on the right side of the border.

    Biffo, I don’t believe that enclaves can work except in exceptional circumstances, so West Belfast would stay in N.I., and Dublin 4 would have to stay in the REpublic 😉