The state carries on the Republican tradition

Every year there is a tussle amongst Republicans of all shades for the title deeds of Wolf Tone’s Republican ideal. It centres on commemoration ceremonies at his graveside in a quiet (derelict?) Protestant churchyard in Bodenstown. Senator Martin Mansergh with his historian’s scalpel had a very precise take on the physical force tradition (subs needed) in the Irish Times last Saturday. He cuts to the point when Presbyterian inspired Republicanism fell away from its Belfast based, merchant class origins:

The United Irishmen wanted legitimately to form a secular Irish Republic on the model of revolutionary America and France. French aid was two-edged. Stirring up fears of Orange extermination backfired disastrously in Wexford; 30,000 died amidst brutal carnage.

The experience inhibited open rebellion for 100 years. Political agitation and constitutional methods, the only options left, made slow but steady progress in the 19th century, though small armed affrays, like Emmet’s rebellion in 1803, by Young Ireland in 1848, and the Fenians in 1867, had lasting resonance. From Fintan Lalor on, there was a determination not just to undo the Union, but the conquest.

He notes that seven men invited William of Orange to take the throne from James, and seven men signed the Easter Proclamation which set Irish independence in train. Big events have small origins.

He goes on to argue however that the period from 1916 to independence was the last time the physical force tradition could be argued to have been justified.

Sinn Féin points out that terrible and indefensible things happened in the War of Independence. The difference lies in the overall legitimacy of that earlier struggle. Southern Protestants, like American loyalists in the early 1780s, and European settlers in colonial Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, lost out, and there are many sad and some tragic stories. Yet, when the dust settled, and despite depleted numbers, a substantial proportion of the agricultural, business wealth and professional employment post-independence remained in Protestant hands.

Since 1922-1923 an indigenous democratic constitutional tradition has been consolidated. Most republicans associated with 1916, including the Pearse family and Countess Markievicz, gave their support to de Valera’s participation in the State. It is wrong to attempt to validate an exclusive or dominant identity between 1916 and the Provisional IRA, where the connection to the State is much stronger.

  • Brian Boru

    Martin Mansergh is right that the PIRA, CIRA, RIRA and OIRA have no right to claim to be the same organisation that liberated the 26 counties.

  • slug

    It is a very self-serving argument though, isn’t it?

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s an argument nonetheless.

  • darthrumsfeld

    Sorry brian- they had the same aims, and used the same methods to achieve those aims,perpetrated on the same victim class.And of course Fianna Fail passed the torch to PIRA when the government funded the gun running in 1970 precisely because they shared an ideal and it was necessary to sideline the Marxist Officials.

    As we say in County Antrim -They’re all the one sow’s pigging.

    What they achieved may have been retrospectively mandated by the 26 counties, and may have been less bloody in its execution than , say, the life and death of Yugoslavia, but that only makes it less evil-and the ambiguity continues to have consequences, as in the 79 out of 80 refusals to extradite criminals to your fellow EU state since 1980, because of such vital details as leaving an “s” off the name of Evelyn Glenholmes.

    Time to stop being in denial. True reconciliation on this island requires an admission of republican failngs, as Unionists are daily required to do over the shortcomings of Stormont-not pretending that the current IRA is an aberration.

  • smcgiff

    Darth,

    If you think you’re going to get an apology for the people on this island seeking self determination then don’t hold your breath.

    And compare like with like. What shortcomings did Dail Eireann have in common with Stormont, or in general.

  • Brian Boru

    “Sorry brian- they had the same aims, and used the same methods to achieve those aims,perpetrated on the same victim class.And of course Fianna Fail passed the torch to PIRA when the government funded the gun running in 1970 precisely because they shared an ideal and it was necessary to sideline the Marxist Officials. “

    Well if you are going to put it like that I could claim similarity between the Old UVF and the present-day one. By 1918, the constitutional path had already run its course because the Brits kept refusing the democratically-expressed will of the Irish people. In the end only force succeeded in removing the army of what most Irish people considered a foreign nation from the 26 counties.

    President Wilson in the Paris Peace Conference called for self-determination. The Irish were just as entitled to self-determination.

    The Dutch had to fight the Spanish to gain independence in the 70 years war 1580-1648. I wonder do you consider the Dutch actions to have been “evil” or “terrorist”?

  • Brian Boru

    And regarding gun-running in 1970, the arms got as far as Co.Louth. They didn’t get to the PIRA.

  • smcgiff

    And as for Ulster Resistance guns. Were they stopped by the state to which they were imported?

  • Brian Boru

    The British army didn’t mind letting Carson bring guns into Larne but shot at people bringing in Irish Volunteer guns in 1914.

  • slug

    Mick

    I am always a bit wary when people come out with self-serving argument, especially regarding the appropriate use of violence. Whether it is old UVF, new UVF, old IRA, new IRA, or indeed any other conflict. In the case of Mansergh, the line he draws is pretty facile and very self-serving.

  • Mick

    slug,

    That’s twice you’ve dissed his argument without actually addressing it. It may be that I’ve cut it badly from the original piece: one reason why I don’t like linking to subscription locked sites. But there’s considerable substance to some of things he says (and I’ve quoted), even if you don’t buy the overall argument.

  • fair_deal

    smcgiff

    “Were they stopped by the state to which they were imported?”

    If memory serves it is claimed the UR weapons were imported through the Republic of Ireland, so no the country they were imported to did not stop them.

    brian boru

    But the money for guns did get through.

  • smcgiff

    Fair Deal,

    Were they eventually imported into NI? Were they stopped by the NI government?

    As you know the Republic stopped the guns to which is being referred.

  • slug

    Well Mick here seems to be the legitimacy argument and its perhaps the least compelling argument in the history of Irish times columnists:

    “The difference lies in the overall legitimacy of that earlier struggle. Southern Protestants, like American loyalists in the early 1780s, and European settlers in colonial Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, lost out, and there are many sad and some tragic stories. Yet, when the dust settled, and despite depleted numbers, a substantial proportion of the agricultural, business wealth and professional employment post-independence remained in Protestant hands. “

    Can’t see why the #prods with money afterward has any bearing whatsoever on legitimacy.

  • IJP

    Brian

    How many people do you know who were alive in 1914?

    More witless whataboutery.

  • darthrumsfeld

    “Well if you are going to put it like that I could claim similarity between the Old UVF and the present-day one. “

    Yes ostensibly they profess the same aim, but I think the difference in actions is rather significant. The old UVF didn’t kill people because of their religion, or deal in drugs, and indeed their drilling was quite clearly legal as the law stood at that time as local magistrates were notified and the aim was the defence of the constitution- you know, like the Volunteers of the 1770s.

    And of course the universal view of nationalism at the time was that the UVF was a bluff, because..er it hadn’t actually indulged in any violence. So perhaps a nationalist’s perspective should really be ” old UVF: peaceful, posturing at violence; current UVF: violent posturing at being peaceful”

    “By 1918, the constitutional path had already run its course because the Brits kept refusing the democratically-expressed will of the Irish people.”

    Ah , so now its not just the 1918 general election which is the justification for the violence ( lucky, since we all now know that there was no mandate for independence), it’s …er all the previous elections when there was no popular vote for independence at all. You haven’t really got the hang of this election thing yet, have you?

    Oh, and Woodrow Wilson wasn’t impressed by the Irish case as I recall when they tried to put it to him, but of course he could hardly have accepted that a vote of less than 50% on a lowish turnout was a true reflection of the will of the Irish people. Wouldn’t have cut the mustard in a plebiscite that one.

    I think we can all agree that the Netherlands wasn’t a part of Spain integrated geographically,ethnically culturally, or even religiously and so I don’t think your example of the heroic resistance of the House of Orange really helps you.

    Now Brian, tell me again the differences between the old IRA and PIRA in their professed aims and their actions instead of dodging the question.

  • Brian Boru

    “Ah , so now its not just the 1918 general election which is the justification for the violence ( lucky, since we all now know that there was no mandate for independence), it’s …er all the previous elections when there was no popular vote for independence at all. You haven’t really got the hang of this election thing yet, have you?”

    Well, I am counting from when the Home Rulers won most votes in Ireland right up to the 1918 election. The British parliament kept blocking Home Rule. By 1918 we were tired of waiting for Godot – especially after the execution of the 1916 rebels.

    The terrorism of the Black and Tans also justified armed rebellion against what the vast majority of the Irish people considered an alien regime. Unlike the Provos, the Old IRA (1918-21) did not normally target innocent civilians. Primarily, the targets of the Old IRA were British soldiers, informers and Castle Catholics who betrayed their country (Ireland) by continuing to assist the British adminstration in Ireland, instead of Dail Eireann – the legitimate parliament of Ireland.

    They were like the French Resistance fighting the German occupation – even if the British regime was not committing the same scale of attrocities as the Nazis. They were freedom fighters. Unlike the Provo’s who just killed anyone who happened to be Protestant.

  • Brian Boru

    The arrest of almost all the newly-elected SF MPs straight after the 1918 election was also a provocation that could not go unanswered. Remember also that the Old IRA usually gave warnings to Castle Catholics/Protestants to stop collaborating Vichy-style with the invader. They had a chance to save their lives.