What’s the point of nationalism?

Considering some of the debate we’ve been picking up in recent week, Dennis Kennedy and Arthur Green argue that in persisting towards an aim outside the current polity of Northern Ireland, nationalism can only destroy the short term aim of establishing peaceful relations between the two main communities. They ask: can an Irish identity be expressed and enjoyed only within an independent Irish state? Why make unification the defining factor in nationalist political endeavour when it is impossible without the majority consent, which is unobtainable?

Not all of their argument is aimed at Nationalists:

Not all the rethinking has to be done by nationalists and governments. If unionists want a peaceful Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom they have to do what they can to ensure that it is a Northern Ireland in which nationalists can feel at ease. Unionists should ask themselves whether defending the right of every Orangeman to walk where he always did is the proper way to go about this. Marching may be the visible sign of a community feeling marginalised and threatened, but unionists should adopt a much more nuanced approach to Orange marches if they wish to win sympathy rather than condemnation. Similarly, apparent reluctance to condemn Loyalist thuggery does nothing for the image of unionism or community relations.

  • darth rumsfeld

    George
    the Irish language was never criminalised by the United Kingdom. The RC Church on the other hand thought it a hindrance to its communicants being able to emigrate to the USA and elsewhere and discouraged its use. The attempt to establish a single Church failed long before the disestablishment in 1868, which is why Maynooth was endowed by Dublin Castle, not to mention the wranglings over the establishment of UCD, UCC, and UCG by the RC Church

    Presbyterianism has no tradition of respect for the rule of law. Quite the contrary-it has a tradition of covenant based government-if Government doesn’t meet its obligations to us we are released from our obligation to it- a radical and potentially frightening view of democracy. That’s why there’s a United States of America today. That’s why we turned out in 1798, and indeed 1912, 1974, 1985 etc etc

    BTW Why am I obliged to accept a theoretic future democratic vote for unification if nationalism doesn’t accept a hundred or more actual votes for Union since 1922? If I said that the results of every election post 1922 in RoI were irrelevant , and only the first vote for re-admission to the UK was binding I’d be laughed at.

    I’m not going to re-explore the 1918 election result again other than to ask how SF got les than 50% of the vote but you claim 467,000 votes out of 600,000 (excluding abstainers do you now lump the IPP vote into the legitimators of Dail Eireann?- because I very much doubt that the IPP would have done)

    “If anything the British people need to get in touch with the Irish influence on their culture.”

    Couldn’t agree more with that sentiment

    Please clarify your first two paragraphs. Do I take it that the British loyalist ethos- in declinin to give allegiance to the Republic, though paying taxes, obeying laws etc – is “subversive” in your view, if held by , for example, a Donegal Orangeman, or a Bandon Anglican? If so, your test seems to be that you cannot be a Unionist and a good citizen. Ergo I presume no Republican in NI can be a good citizen.What then is the appropriate response of the state to such subversion? Are you sure you don’t want to rethink your test, given the consequences it could invoke?

  • ‘BTW Why am I obliged to accept a theoretic future democratic vote for unification if nationalism doesn’t accept a hundred or more actual votes for Union since 1922’

    Its called democracy. Labour don’t remain in power in a certain constituency without a vote every few years to either return them or eject them, otherwise its tyranny. If NI votes to cede with RoI then that democratic wish is fulfilled. There will follow the entirely democratic intergration of both jurisdictions and from that point onwards, there will be only one jurisdiction from which a majority can vote on its sovereignty, that of RoI (32 county). Disagree with this and you disagree with western values.

  • George

    Darth,
    they tried to crush the Irish language by refusing to allow people do any official business through it. I never mentioned “criminalise”.

    The Catholic Church had no interest in the Irish language, not least because the only bible in the vernacular was Protestant (Elizabeth I).

    “BTW Why am I obliged to accept a theoretic future democratic vote for unification if nationalism doesn’t accept a hundred or more actual votes for Union since 1922?”

    Because the people of Northern Ireland agreed by a 2/3rds majority to this in a democratic referendum in 1998 to address the “constitutional issue” and this the view of Her Majesty’s Government, your government. A referendum can (doesn’t have to) be held every seven years if it appears a majority are in favour.

    There’s an error the figures I gave alright, I’ll add them up again another time. There was an electorate of over 900,000 in 1918 and 73 out of 105 seats went to independence parties, which is a mandate either way, in my view.

    I don’t mind people following the British loyalist ethos, many in Dunlaoghaire still have the Queen’s picture on the mantlepiece and my father used to be sat down for the big speech of a Christmas. The Victoria and Albert Monument has also been painstakingly restored after some SF person dragged it up Marine road behind a truck 20 years ago.

    Subversive is to be in opposition to democratic civil authority and government and to look to overthrow it by undemocratic means.

    Donegal Orangemen etc. have a fundamental right to express their views and culture under the Irish Constitution. They do although, out of respect for the state, desist from flying the union flag. They could fly it if they wanted but everyone appreciates the fidelity. The British Legion flies the Tricolour in its Dublin office.

    With our country’s experience of oaths, there is no obligation to swear allegiance. However, “fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State are fundamental political duties of all citizens” (Art. 9.2).

    They wouldn’t have a right to plot the overthrow of the state, collaborate with a foreign power or to take up arms against it.

    You can be a unionist in Ireland as long as you act within the democratic parameters laid down by the constitution. The entire power of the state will defend that right.

    If a unionist party was set up tomorrow and got two-thirds of the seats in Dail Eireann, I assume it could then put a referendum to the people looking to become a member of the United Kingdom.

    That’s the advantage of a written constitution. In my understanding, to remove Northern Ireland from the UK, the Westminster Parliament only needs to pass the requisite legislation. You or anyone else in Northern Ireland (bar your 18 elected representatives) don’t have a say in the matter.

  • Brian Boru

    “BB
    Gifts from the union~??
    The English langage – some in then republic make a reasonable stab atit. ( I exclude all of Limerick and parts of Dublin )
    Without it Irland would be on a par with Angola ”

    Like Japan is you mean? 🙂

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Darth: “Dread, your devotion to this theory shows an endearing Ulster-like stubbornness, but it just won’t wash.If your unique devotion to sumptory- I presume you mean sumptuary, or in plain English laws restricting expenditure, is correct , then the subsistence farming that there unquestionably was in Ireland at the time must surely have provoked death and emigration on an enormous scale every year. ”

    Ah, but the sumptuary laws had other impacts — a Catholic was not allowed to own a decent horse, something that one would expect to have an impact on a pre-Industrial agricultural effort. There are other legacies and subtle impacts.

    Darth: “If the impact of the half-heartedly enforced Penal Laws- repealed so far as land was concerned in 1778,or three generations before, really hadn’t worked its way through market forces or the brutal economics of survival, then the Irish agricultural economy pre 1840s had reached a sustainable level of sorts- albeit one that no sane person today would tolerate. ”

    Only if you discount the legacy of those laws, which had sub-divided Catholic land-holdings into miniscule plots. Throw in the displacement arising from the establishment of the plantation, sending folks to measurably less arable lands, and you have subsistence farming. Add into that the Corn Laws, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    Darth: “Ulster emigration to the USA in the 18th century was provoked by several famines and English protectionism too,on a smaller scale, but that’s no consolation to those areas affected.”

    The Great Hunger is, in essence, a direct consequence of English mismanagement and moral depravity of occupied Ireland. It is the same mentality that lost them the American colonies — the desire for a captive market for English goods. The linger legacy of some laws, combined with the impact of the Corn Act, which artificially buoyed foodstuff prices, combined additionally with the British effort to turn back aid from the United States created the hunger. Without English meddling in Irish affairs, the potato blight would have been a relatively minor issue.

    Darth: “It’s not the basis for any grown up political philosophy to attribute the motivation of the Irish to seek independence to the shortcomings of a Victorian Dublin-centric laissez faire administration, any more than one might attribute the 1919 terrorism to the brutalisation, collective trauma, and disillusionment of a generation of young Irishmen who had been through the hell of the Great War for a cause that now seemed worthless.”

    Spoken like someone who has never missed more than a meal now and again…

    While I agree this would not be something solely base a political philosophy upon, it does make a good arguement for not wanting to be under the rule of a collection of incompetant bunglers, apathetic bureaucrats and bloody-minded Imperialists who could countenance such idiocy. It is more than enough to disillusion even the most trusting Catholic that, just perhaps, the Empire didn’t have their best interests at heart. Irish antipathy for English rule is not a “single issue” matter — it comes from a history of conquest, political double-dealing, bureaucratic mismanagement / malfeasence on the order of Stalin’s engineered famine in the Ukraine and bouts of brutuality, such as the Black and Tans and the B Specials. Its a little like a the proverbial pebble that starts an avalanche — once things get rolling, they tend to pick up momentum of their own.

  • Brian Boru

    Oh and Darth, surely even you accept that if a majority in NI vote for a UI, then it would no longer be tenable to hold all of the Six Counties within the UK against their will? What would you propose doing if a majority were to vote this way? Would you really insist on forcing all Six Counties to remain in the Union when a majority in most of them would have voted to leave? Can you not see where that would inevitably lead, Darth? Remember 1918-21 Darth, when the Brits decided to wage war on democracy by jailing all SF MPs before the War of Independence even broke out, and then sent the Black and Tans – recruited from English jails – to terrorise the Irish people – burning 25% of Cork city, jailing its elected mayor Thomas McCurtain, killing 13 people and wounding 100 in Croke Park during a game, and openly supporting a policy of reprisals against Catholic civilians in response to attacks by the Old IRA?

    Holding all of NI in the UK against its democratically-expressed will in a future referendum could only lead to very serious instability Darth. Democracy is the Western way, and resisting it has always led to trouble in Western societies in the past few centuries. Realise that and adjust to it. The world doesn’t revolve around the wishes of Unionism. 🙂

  • Brian Boru

    “George
    the Irish language was never criminalised by the United Kingdom. ”

    It’s teaching in schools in Ireland was criminalised by the Stanley Education Act 1831.

  • Ling

    “Oh and Darth, surely even you accept that if a majority in NI vote for a UI, then it would no longer be tenable to hold all of the Six Counties within the UK against their will?”

    I’ve noticed this kind of thinking cropping up a few times over, this conceit that *when* the referendum is held the unionists are just going to have to bend over and take it when the people of NI vote themselves out of the UK… Now my only problem with this is that if this was the case then surely there would be an Irish nationalist party in the majority and not the DUP? Cos it looks like the people of Northern Ireland are voting to stick with the union more than they are voting to join independant Ireland.

    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with optimism, but there does seem to be quite a current of “You just wait till the boots on the other foot” along with the impression that the northern nationalists think that they are the majority population in the region and so many people vote for unionist parties out of confusion or misguidedness. Which helps no one really.

    I asume it does little more than annoy and further alienate the unionists and if the referendum ever does come and you all march off saying “your turn is comming now ya pack of bastards” and then return the same vote split as you get with the general elections you’ll just end up with egg on your face and a valid excuse not to have another referendum on the subject for a very long time, if ever.

    If your talking about parts of NI seceding from UK and not the whole of NI then that’s a whole different barrel of fish, and not what’s in the GFA anyway.

  • Ringo

    Dread Cthulhu

    Without English meddling in Irish affairs, the potato blight would have been a relatively minor issue.

    Ya, that bastard Raleigh has a lot to answer for. If we had no contact with the English, we’ed never have depended on the cursed lumpers.

    Cop on man – the simple fact is that it was not a direct consequence of English anything. The only thing that the famine was a direct consequence of was the blight. They might have made things worse but they didn’t cause it.

    Government policy wasn’t the determining factor in the potato’s position as the staple crop in much of Ireland. It was the ground. And the climate. Regardless who was running the country, the spud was always going to be the food that fueled the people who lived in the west of the country. When the blight struck they were inveitably going to suffer. This idea that the potato blight would have been a relatively minor issue without the English is absolute nonsense.

    Only one thing can be taken as certain – if there was no blight there would have been no great famine, just like there wasn’t a great famine in the previous years and decades. To say that without this characteristicly vague, catch-all ‘English meddling’ there would have been no great famine is impossible to stand up. Unless, of course, you are hide-bound by your latter day political prejudices – not entirely unlike the DUP councillor and his hurricane theories.

  • J McConnell

    george and b.b

    You really need to read more constitutions. Try http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/. Lots of them there..

    Back to the 1937 one..

    >
    In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
    < Does this preamble sound like the constitution of a modern secular state, a state which recognizes the different historical traditions in this island? Sound more like the traditional opening of the constitution of Roman Catholic country. Lots of examples of these in South and Central America.Or how about..>
    Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,
    < I do not see much room for those of the British tradition here...We will skip quickly over Articles 2 and 3 and all the embarrassment they have caused over the years, and Articles 12.2.1 and 12.3.3 which seem to be purely optional.Next are lots of the usual articles about how the state is organized, rules, laws enacted and enforced. The whole tone is more civil law than common law but we will pass over that.Article 40, now we are back in Roman Catholic constitution territory. Article 40.3.3 pure Catholic. Article 40.6.1.i. is pure Catholic as well. Secular constitutions seem to be less interested in upholding public morality..Articles 41 and 42, pure nacionalcatolicismo.Regarding the divorce amendment. If you know anything about how divorce has actually been implemented by statute and the courts in the ROI you would know that it is a deeply cynical piece of deliberate cruelty. It has been deigned to make an already difficult situation even more nasty, to greatly reduce the numbers tempted to end their marriages legally. No sane person would want to get the Irish courts involved in a contentious failed marriage.Article 44...Religion. Well the explicit reference to the Catholic Church maybe gone, but the spirit lingers. Look no further than 44.1..>
    1. The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.

  • Ling

    Well, if we didn’t go all for it with the catholic and irish speaking how else would we know that we were irish? I mean all we really have to go on in figuring out who’s *real* irish and who’s decended from EVIL PLANTER SCUM is by a persons religion, and maybe a bit from their surname. Why, if we didn’t ram nationalism down evereyone’s throats from birth people might start questioning things. They might even end up realising that it all means nothing at the end of the day. And we couldn’t be having that now could we.

    Eveyone loves the Irish cos we’re the best and greatest pluckiest race on earth, and nobody likes the British cos they’re evil (duh). I mean, why wouldn’t you want to be Irish, I’m sure all those people living in Northern Ireland will feel like their eyes have been opened once they’ve been all freed from having to be a nasty ‘Brit’.

    I’m Irish, this means I grew up on that bit of muck over there and watched Bosco as a small child. Bollocks to the rest of it.

  • J McConnell

    > It’s teaching in schools in Ireland was criminalised by the Stanley Education Act 1831.

    And we have a winner for the best MOPE of the day..

    How a Act of Parliament that set up the Irish National School Boards, a civil act, an act that attempted to create multi-denominational education in Ireland (and failed), becomes the criminalization of the teaching of Irish is quite impressive.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Without English meddling in Irish affairs, the potato blight would have been a relatively minor issue.

    Ringo: “Ya, that bastard Raleigh has a lot to answer for. If we had no contact with the English, we’ed never have depended on the cursed lumpers. ”

    Nor had to suffer Cromwell, the Black & Tans, the internment camps, or the B-Specials or one of a dozen other indignities… but that, alas and alack, is a flight of fancy.

    Ringo: “Cop on man – the simple fact is that it was not a direct consequence of English anything. The only thing that the famine was a direct consequence of was the blight. They might have made things worse but they didn’t cause it. ”

    Without English laws meddling in what could be grown and for what purpose, reliance on the spud as a staple would not have been nearly so great.

    Without the Corn Laws, foodstuffs could have been imported to make up for the shortfall resulting from the blight at relatively cheap prices, not the artificially inflated ones created by the law’s high tariffs on imported food.

    Without English regulation, aid ships from the United States, would have been able to land & disgorge their aid, ameliorating the hunger.

    England was clearly part of the problem, not part of the solution, sitting with its metaphorical thumb up its arse, doing nothing to help and near all to hinder. Or, in your Anglophilia, do you imagine it was the starving Irish who demanded high prices and a high tariff on non-English foodstuffs, allowing an artificially inflated price? Without English micromanagment and bloody petty-mindedness, down to the level of what a renting farmer could and could not grow, the blight would as like as not been a much smaller issue.

  • darth rumsfeld

    my what a little mine of MOPEry has been opened.

    George- how can you “be” a Unionist in a United Ireland, (as distinct from being a British subject/EU citizen) without being at least disloyal to the institutions of the state and potentially being subversive as you call it?
    You can simply advocate a re-establishment of the Union ( the SDLP in reverse), but to withhold support for the Guards for example, like SF here is presumably so subversive that the state …er must take some action against you.Your logic would require the Unionist to be a loyal citizen- or be an Irish nationalist, and we’ve long since given up trying to convicne the Falls Road to give up it’s nationalism- indeed it is institutionally recognised in the GFA.

    Dread
    Stop embarassing yourself.No really, please . You’re beyond parody now.A mangy horse in 1703 meant that the owner’s descendants had no chance of surviving the potato blight. And if Catholic land was divided into miniscule plots in 1703 what law of economic stultification meant that situation still pertained in 1845?

    I suppose the Plantation and Cromwell also caused the Famine, though of course Cromwell did give some parts of Connacht to his soldiers-perhaps their great great grandchildren ate all the healthy spuds. Godwin’s law (Stalin variant) is obviously alive and well. There’s a lot of difference between the campaign to liquidate the kulaks, which took 15 years, and the mass deportation of the Chechens and the inadequate repsonse of Dublin castle to a natural disaster.An objective reader of your post might feel the only “proverbial pebble” is the one rattling around in your noggin.

    Brian and George
    Democracy has to be pretty skewed to accept the insurrection of 1918 was endorsed by a minority of votes cast, a minority of total votes in Ireland -a minority of the electorate. And Brian your case would be less dubious if you didn’t misrepresent history- there was no burning of 25% of Cork City. Perhaps Mayor MacCurtain’s invlovement in a murder gang which shot a policeman a few hours before his own demise, rather than his politics, contributed to his unpopularity with the unknown persons who killed him.
    At a wild guess, if many SF MPs had not been involved in terrorism there might not have been grounds to detain them, and they might have been able to invoke habeas corpus if they were arrested purely for their political beliefs.

    Re The Irish language- if the only Bible in Irish was Protestant- Bedell’s I presume, from the 1640s- what stopped an enterprising scholar translating the RC version in the intervening 200 years if the RC church was really interested in preserving and promoting the language? And of course it was Unionists like Sir Samuel Ferguson who rescued Irish literature from obscurity.

    Now I confess to never having heard of a ban in the Stanley Education Act, but perhaps Brian can tell us how many people were prosecuted? I’ll bet if there was one, he would be lionised today as the Irish language Martyr. So possibly that’s another law that was never invoked ( you know, like the treason Felony Act was on the Statute book throughout the last thirty years but Gerry, Martin and co had never too much to worry about)

    BTW, please tell me what happens if the 50%+1 vote for a United Ireland in – say a European election- is followed by a referendum with a similar narrow margin, and the next Assembly election provides 50%+ 1 votes for the Unionist candidates. Can we all go back into the UK? Can we heck!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Darth: “Stop embarassing yourself.No really, please . You’re beyond parody now.A mangy horse in 1703 meant that the owner’s descendants had no chance of surviving the potato blight. And if Catholic land was divided into miniscule plots in 1703 what law of economic stultification meant that situation still pertained in 1845?”

    Ah, the ad hominem attacks, snide comments and insults — I was wondering when you would get around to those — I was starting to wonder if I would have to check the basement for pods, you were being so civil. You were punching above your weight in the manners department, but, alas, all good things come to an end.

    As for the impact of past economic insults on current economic conditions, it is a fact of life and history. Once an economic system is shocked, it can take generations to repair itself, particularly when the shock is not a simple economic displacement, but a systematic effort to bring a conquored populace to heel spanning generations. Once the plots had been reduced to diminimus amounts, how, pray tell, were they magically recreated in time for the blight? I don’t suspect that many Unionists, having acquired land at the Catholics expense, suddenly jumped up and returned with an “oops, our bad” and a hardy handshake. In the main, Irish Catholics had been pushed down and still struggling to get up. Even your Scots-Irish cousins in the American South have not fully recovered a century and a half on from the Reconstruction following the War between the States, which was a much less severe regieme than what was saddled on the Catholic Irish whilst under the English rule.

    Darth: “I suppose the Plantation and Cromwell also caused the Famine, though of course Cromwell did give some parts of Connacht to his soldiers-perhaps their great great grandchildren ate all the healthy spuds. Godwin’s law (Stalin variant) is obviously alive and well.

    Lesee… we have a famine (check), laws that exacerbate and maintain said famine (check), no move to relieve the famine by the controlling power(check) and, we have, in fact, food being removed from the area afflicted by the ruling / empowered class for their own profit (check). I’m not sure how Godwin’s Law (Stalin Varirant) applies — we have to analagous situations, the only real differences being location and size (More Ukrainians died — no MOPing here).

    Darth: “There’s a lot of difference between the campaign to liquidate the kulaks, which took 15 years, and the mass deportation of the Chechens and the inadequate repsonse of Dublin castle to a natural disaster.An objective reader of your post might feel the only “proverbial pebble” is the one rattling around in your noggin. ”

    As I said before, I was wondering where the insults were — “who are you and what did you do with Darth Rumsfeld?” and all that.

    As for the comparison, the results certainly seem to be the same — increased political power for the grafted population (Russian in the Ukrainian SSR, Scots-Irish in Ireland) and a diminished, more controllable, native population within the occupied area. As for Dublin Castle (and London — let us not blame the dog for the master’s failings), “inadequate” does not begin to describe the response (or, more aptly, utter lack of response) to the Great Hunger. There were no efforts by the English to relieve the Hunger — in fact, outside efforts were discouraged / turned back. There was not even move to temporarily reduce the tariffs on outside / non-English foodstuffs, such that food could be purchased at a more reasonable price.

  • darth rumsfeld

    but dread I AM being civil really I am, in pointing out that you are embarassing yourself.
    Just look at what you’ve written-

    “laws that exacerbate and maintain said famine”- what law maintains a famine?- The Preservation of Empty Tummies (Ireland) Act, perhaps?

    “we have, in fact, food being removed from the area afflicted by the ruling / empowered class for their own profit”- How did that happen then?-“Quick! There’s some hungry Catholics down the road. Burn all the cake before they get here!”
    Or did the solid farmers of Ireland, the majority of whom were…er Roman Catholic..sell their produce on the open market, rather than …em ..give it to their starving co-religionists? Food wasn’t being removed from the areas afflicted, because(doh) it was a famine and there wasn’t any food. Besides which no Irishman could grow anything on his handkerchief-sized allotment according to you, But in other parts of Ireland there was food, and no restriction on it being moved to the stricken areas-either by government or by private charity initiative.

    “no move to relieve the famine by the controlling power”- certainly no effective move by our standards, but are you sure? Didn’t evil Britain build workhouses, and come up with work for food schemes? It’s a strange way to kill off a population by coming up with relief schemes – no matter how useless in practice. Why make that small effort if the Irish were just to allowed to die?
    Read a book on the Ukraine, and Stalin’s purge of the kulaks before you presume to make such a fatuous comparison again. Did Britian herd all the peasant farmers into collectives in a few years,imprison and murder those who resisted, centralise production and then export the food to the cities , literally putting food on trains taking it away from starving communities?

    “many Unionists, having acquired land at the Catholics expense”
    Omigod, my farm has been in my family since 1825, I’m a blow in- back on the boat to Scotland as soon as find out the descendants of the Irish clan who may have been here 300 years ago.
    How interesting that you see me as part of the “grafted population”- such a telling phrase, dripping with prejudice. No pretence that I’m Irish there anyway.
    And just how many Unionists were there in County mayo or Kerry in the 1840s again? About 6 I would guess.

    If you really believe the twaddle you write, then I waas wrong. You’re beyond embarassment.

  • DavidD

    Dread

    The potato is a particularly nutritious vegetable. As a result Ireland was able to support a growing population in the early years of the 19th century; early marriages were common and the birth rate increased. In fact the population of Ireland grew at the same rate as that of Great Britain. However limits were being reached as evidenced by the increase in emigration, particularly in the 15 years before the blight struck. What was the British government to do about this situation? How was it responsible? It is a strange plan for genocide that allows a population to grow from 5 million to over 8 million in forty years. Then consider an alternative. Let us imagine that Ireland had been an independent nation in 1845. The blight would still have struck so how would the Irish government have reacted. Apparently you would have favoured dispensing homegrown grain products at very low prices and forbidden exports. Farmers, denied export markets, would have been impoverished and there would still have been insufficient food. How would imports have been financed with many taxpayers themselves reduced to poverty? Emigration suggests itself as a solution. But then would Britain have accepted hundreds of thousands of destitute foreign refugees? I doubt it. How many did France or Spain accept in the actual famine? Why should Britain have permitted a mass emigration of foreigners to its colonies? Why should Britain have allowed these foreigners to enter so they could sail from Liverpool and other ports to the USA? In truth were it not for the Union the tragedy would have been greater.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Darth: “but dread I AM being civil really I am, in pointing out that you are embarassing yourself.”

    It is possible (although in your case, not probable) to disagree without being disagreeable. Mayhaps you’ll relaize this some day, but I doubt it.

    Darth: ““laws that exacerbate and maintain said famine”- what law maintains a famine?- The Preservation of Empty Tummies (Ireland) Act, perhaps?”

    No, the Corn Law, which artificially maintained high prices on foods and those regulations which empowered the English to turn back aid shipments from the United States. I would have thought that the obvious inference, but if I needs explain, then I must… The tariffs of the Corn Laws to artificially maintained high prices on foodstuffs for the benefit of English farmers. In assuming this protectionist stance, they prevented the most natural response to a blight impacting a single crop — the utilization of adequate substitutes for the scarce material (in other words, the purchase of other foods to make up for the shortfall caused by the potato blight.) Likewise, by preventing aid shipments from being unloaded, they maintain their captive colonial market, at the expense of the Irish population. Thus, through the implementation of English law, the famine was exacerbated and, in fact, maintained.

    Darth: ““no move to relieve the famine by the controlling power”- certainly no effective move by our standards, but are you sure? Didn’t evil Britain build workhouses, and come up with work for food schemes?”

    Ah, indentured servitude — the “good old days” when those “demmed Taigs” knew their place, eh?

    Make you a deal… we compromise on “no credible move to relieve the famine” and move on.

    As for the rest of your post, it is more posturing than useful prose. Your ignorance (initially trying to blame the Famine on a single crop blight, rather than a complex interaction of biological, economic, political and sociological forces) and your deliberate avoidance of any credible discussion of the impact of economic regulation(The corn act, the turning back of outside relief efforts, et al) and other outside forces upon the depth and duration of the Great Hunger, such as the central regulation of Irish agricultral endeavors, the lingering impact of the Penal laws, the prevention of outside aid, the wholly inadequate internal – British response to the Great Hunger displays which of us in “beyond embaressment,” Darth. As your tone and your inability to address points of fact, combined with your preference for hyperbole and histrionics, makes clear you have nothing to stand on and, perforce, must pound the table with your shoe.

  • Carl

    J McConnell,
    The UK isn’t very secular. It’s head of state is the head of the Church of England and there is a ban on Roman Catholics becoming head of state. Should the Irish install the Pope as President for equivalence? Would that satisfy you?

    Darth Rumsfeld,
    there are quite a few people out there who subscribe to the view that the Irish Famine was a planned British genocide to clear Irish lands for development along the lines of what happened in the great famine in India.

    This is angriest site on the issue but it has tons of great quotes for those who wish to propagate this argument:

    Times leader of 1848:

    “A Celt will soon be as rare on the banks of the Shannon as the red man on the banks of Manhattan.”

    Or Queen Victoria’s economist, Nassau Senior, worrying that existing policies “will not kill more than one million Irish in 1848 and that will scarcely be enough to do much good.”

    http://www.irishholocaust.org/

    Enjoy.

  • Ringo

    Dread Cthulhu

    Without English laws meddling in what could be grown and for what purpose, reliance on the spud as a staple would not have been nearly so great.

    Brilliant! ‘Let them grow rocket’.

    You don’t grow much of your own food do you? If you did grow veg, you’d know what gives you the best return in the west of Ireland and beyond.

    What staple do you think they’d have grown? Corn? Rice? Wheat?

    Check out the population figures before the potato was the staple crop and after. It was the dream crop. Quite simply the population in the 1840’s was only sustainable while the potato thrived.

    Without the Corn Laws, foodstuffs could have been imported to make up for the shortfall resulting from the blight at relatively cheap prices, not the artificially inflated ones created by the law’s high tariffs on imported food.

    And how were they very people who were surviving on the spud in the hills of Conamara and the like going to pay for this ‘relatively cheap’ food? They owed their existence to the potato.

    Not to mention the logistics. Even with high powered aid agencies and all the will in the world we are still completely inept at dealing with famine.

    England was clearly part of the problem, not part of the solution, sitting with its metaphorical thumb up its arse, doing nothing to help and near all to hinder.

    Well I’m glad you’ve at last got a bit of perpective on it. They were worse than useless. They made a bad situation a lot worse. Clueless, negelectful, arrogant and some were probably even opportunistic. But as you have finally come around to recognising, they were NOT, as you claimed earlier, directly responsible for the famine.

    Without English micromanagment and bloody petty-mindedness, down to the level of what a renting farmer could and could not grow, the blight would as like as not been a much smaller issue.

    Getting back to the horticulture side of it – tell me, what crop would you suggest should be grown out the road from me, where the ridges from the potato drills that were abandoned 160 odd years ago are still visible on the hillsides?

    To this day that ground was never dug again, because aside from spuds it was useless for anything other than grazing mountainy sheep.

    And btw – I lost my entire crop of Golden Wonders to the blight this year. Entirely my own fault, but the result was still staggering. Tried to spray to slow it, but it made no impact, within 7 days it had destroyed the plants above ground. I’m still digging the rotten tubers out of the ground.

    And as for the Anglophilia charge? Should I be an Anglophobe? I have no hesitation in saying that I find English people and England quite pleasant. Don’t you?

  • Ringo

    Carl

    Queen Victoria’s economist, Nassau Senior

    You mislead. He was professor of political economy at Oxford in 1848.

    there are quite a few people out there who subscribe to the view that the Irish Famine was a planned British genocide to clear Irish lands for development along the lines of what happened in the great famine in India.

    Anyone who suggests that the British managed to create phytophora infestans in the 1840’s is clearly out of their mind.

  • darth rumsfeld

    thanks carl, that’s the funniest MOPE site I’ve ever seen- even Mary Robinson is part of the cover up of British genocide. But apparently she married one of those grafted Irishmen- the race traitor!!

    The food removal regiments seem to have been a bit rubbish though- after all they seem to have failed spectacularly in supporting the “carbine toting British constabulary” in wiping out the Irish people. The site seems a bit thin on examples of Irish people being prevented from selling their food to fellow Irishmen, or charitable donations being stopped at the borders of Clare by the food police.Nor does it mention the importation of maize, which didn’t work but might be construed as relief for the starving.

    As for Queen Victoria’s odious economist, your problem there is that Vicky had as much power then as Prince Charles has today,and just as many loonies around her and just because he came out with some deeply offensive racist lunacy doesn’t prove government-inspired genocide any more than Prince Philip’s thoughts on the Chinese directed policy on Hong Kong.

    Dread
    I bow to your mastery of the subject. I am indeed a mere novice in the fields of hyperbole and histrionics, compared to a man who sees the Famine as the 19th century’s version of Stalinism- no exaggeration there of course.Of course English protectionism did exist, and did harm all Irish industry, including those employing the grafted-Irish, who also suffered in earlier famines- as you conveniently forget. Strangely , they didn’t seem to spend the next 150 years whinging about it, though they were probably pretty hacked of at the time. As Ringo says, and I have said, the response to the famine was woeful, but hardly the justification for 21st century political thought.

    Unfortunately you have rather proved the point of this thread- your nationalism seems to be first and foremost anti-Britishness. Or is there nothing positive you can say about the people of Columba, Cuchulainn, and the Book of Kells?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Ringo: “Well I’m glad you’ve at last got a bit of perpective on it. They were worse than useless. They made a bad situation a lot worse. Clueless, negelectful, arrogant and some were probably even opportunistic. But as you have finally come around to recognising, they were NOT, as you claimed earlier, directly responsible for the famine. ”

    Actually, I think, if you re-read my posts, that I claimed the English made the Great Hunger for more than it should have been. If I mis-stated my case, than mea culpa. The blight was the first domino in a much more complex set of economic and political actions and reactions. There are quotes from English sources, noted above, that seem positively gleeful at the Great Hunger and its impact. If you actively pursue courses that prevent the relief of a famine, does that not mark you, at least in part, responsible for the famine? If you make matters worse, do you not, in turn, own some portion of the result?

    The Victorian English has some peculiar notions on economics. They strove to maintain farmers with colonial markets and artificially high prices, created through a tariff system, particularly on foodstuffs. One could make the wholly rational arguement that by maintaining this imperialist regimen, enforced by colonial regulation that benefitted the master at the expense of the colony, the Hunger was inevitable, especially given the share-cropper existence of Irish Catholic tenent farmers. However, since some like to proclaim that England was the best thing to happen to Ireland since the leprachaun on this board, is it not appropriate to point out the glaring failures, such as the Black and Tans or the Great Hunger?

    Ringo: “Not to mention the logistics. Even with high powered aid agencies and all the will in the world we are still completely inept at dealing with famine.”

    Actually, the biggest problem with famine is not logistics, but interference, where the ruling powers play silly-buggers with the food. In Ethiopia and North Korea, the food comes in and primarily benefits the elite or rewards the loyal, whilst the people starve. In Ireland, we’ll never know, since relief efforts were actively intercepted and prevented by the English. I agree the logistics would have been daunting and there would have been displacement, but nothing on the order of the death and emigration that the Great Hunger caused. The only question is were the English A) seeking to maintain their colonial market or B) seeking to hasten the exit of the Irish from Ireland. Ultimately, motive has little to no effect on the outcome — deprivation, starvation and emigration and, as the Times put it “A Celt will soon be as rare on the banks of the Shannon as the red man on the banks of Manhattan.” If you want to argue former and others wish to argue the latter, does it really make a difference?

    As for my opinion on the English, its mixed — take each one as they come and go from there. The one’s I’ve met tend to lean towards the pompous on the most part, but easily routed. The few “normal” English I’ve met were perfectly pleasent, although I don’t have the “Wow, an English accent, isn’t that charming!!” knee-jerk response some have.

  • Brian Boru

    “What was the British government to do about this situation? How was it responsible? It is a strange plan for genocide that allows a population to grow from 5 million to over 8 million in forty years. Then consider an alternative. Let us imagine that Ireland had been an independent nation in 1845. The blight would still have struck so how would the Irish government have reacted. Apparently you would have favoured dispensing homegrown grain products at very low prices and forbidden exports. Farmers, denied export markets, would have been impoverished and there would still have been insufficient food. How would imports have been financed with many taxpayers themselves reduced to poverty? Emigration suggests itself as a solution. But then would Britain have accepted hundreds of thousands of destitute foreign refugees? I doubt it. How many did France or Spain accept in the actual famine? Why should Britain have permitted a mass emigration of foreigners to its colonies? Why should Britain have allowed these foreigners to enter so they could sail from Liverpool and other ports to the USA? In truth were it not for the Union the tragedy would have been greater. ”

    I think existing is more important than money. After all you have to exist to use it 🙂 In that context the Famine Queen should have told her government to stop exports of food from Ireland. Enough food was exported from Ireland during the Famine to feed 17 million people. The Brits used Irish food to feed their soldiers who had stolen the sovereignty of India and was using India and Ireland as captive markets. The lack of competition allowed them to charge us through the roof and their greedy British landlords charged us rents through the roof and so the cattle and pigs etc. had to be handed over to the landlords as payment in kind. The evil landlords then exported food and made an absolute fortune. Laughing all the way to the bank they were. They loved it.

    “Didn’t evil Britain build workhouses, and come up with work for food schemes? It’s a strange way to kill off a population by coming up with relief schemes – no matter how useless in practice. Why make that small effort if the Irish were just to allowed to die?
    Read a book on the Ukraine, and Stalin’s purge of the kulaks before you presume to make such a fatuous comparison again. Did Britian herd all the peasant farmers into collectives in a few years,imprison and murder those who resisted, centralise production and then export the food to the cities , literally putting food on trains taking it away from starving communities? ”

    Workhouses in which families were split up, adding to the trauma of the situation. And putting emaciated people to work for their food has to be seen as especially callous.

  • darth rumsfeld

    so there were no workhouses in England then brian?

    Not so much especially callous, as especially Victorian, as no doubt the peasants of Scotland, and the poor of the industrial cities throughout could have testified.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Darth: “Unfortunately you have rather proved the point of this thread- your nationalism seems to be first and foremost anti-Britishness. Or is there nothing positive you can say about the people of Columba, Cuchulainn, and the Book of Kells? ”

    Actually, I haven’t said a word on the matter of nationalism in the whole of my participation of this thread. And its a weak arguement for you to try and put words in my mouth. You wanna know a secret, Darth — I come for a good debate. When you’re not insulting folks or misrepresenting what folks say and keep your wits, you give good arguement. You’re a joy to riff off, when you’re not being an emmerdeuse or reacting petulantly to something you can’t riposte or rebut.

    As for nationalism, since you ask, I was going to posit a question of “how did we get here, anyway?” with regards to the Great Hunger. As for what I value or take away first from Ireland are the accomplishments. While this does include establishing the Free State, I prefer the Irish monastaries where knowledge was stored and protected to all the Irish to “save civilization” (hyperbole, I know, but hey, it sounds good) and other accomplishments, both in Ireland and without. Irish nationalism, however, willbe entwined with a strain of anti-British Imperialism, but that’s fading as, what, almost a century of self rule for most of Ireland. Another generation and only those dusty relics who actually read history or know a bit of law and economics will argue about half this stuff, since we seem to crashing headlong into a post-literate society.

  • Brian Boru

    “so there were no workhouses in England then brian?

    Not so much especially callous, as especially Victorian, as no doubt the peasants of Scotland, and the poor of the industrial cities throughout could have testified.”

    But they didn’t have millions starving to death and half their population emigrating, that’s the difference. More Victorian than callous? Both. They are mutually compatible. She was The Famine Queen. Damn her. Mean cow.

  • DavidD

    Carl

    Congratulations, you have finally cracked the conspiracy. As you have discovered Queen Victoria commissioned a team of scientists in 1837 to devise a potato blight to inflict on Ireland. After numerous trials they were finally successful and were ready to unleash the beast. But the plot thickens. During their work they had stumbled across an antidote. Naturally the London establishment was appalled and, to keep the secret, it was decided to send the scientists to a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. Only when the exiles had arrived did they discover that a secret ingredient that they had included – the one that spared potatoes planted by Protestants – was totally ineffective. They all perished. Tragic.

    BB

    Have you ever read about anything outside Ireland? Have you ever read (say Cobbett) about the rural poverty in Dorset in the 19th century? Do you not think that English families were broken up by the workhouse system? It was a hard life in those times. Disease was rife; the poor got a bad deal all over Europe. There was nothing ‘special’ about Ireland.

  • J McConnell

    I always found it interesting that when Doctor William Wilde actually went out to tabulate all the excess deaths during the period 1841-1851 he could only find 20 or 30 thousand who actually died of starvation. Lots more people died of disease traditionally associated with period of famine, but a lot of the deaths seems to be of diseases that were epidemic all over Western Europe at the time.

    Because of the influenza, cholera, and dysentery epidemics the annual mortality rate in London during the 1840’s often exceeded 2% per annum. The only reason the population of the city grew at all during the decade was because of massive immigration from the surround region and to a lesser extent the rest of the country. So you probably had better odds of surviving as one of the rural poor in Leitrim or Laoise than as one of the urban poor in the East End of London for most of the 1840’s.

    One of my favorite history trivia questions is – When was the last major famine in Western Europe? The answer is the Great Famine in Finland in 1866-68 when around 200,000 people, 6% of the population, actually did stave to death. And you cannot blame Sir Robert Peel, or Lord Russel, or Queen Victoria or Sir Walter Raleigh for that one. It was those beastly Russian doing what they do best, showing the world how you really oppress a minority.

  • Brian Boru

    “Have you ever read about anything outside Ireland? Have you ever read (say Cobbett) about the rural poverty in Dorset in the 19th century? Do you not think that English families were broken up by the workhouse system? It was a hard life in those times. Disease was rife; the poor got a bad deal all over Europe. There was nothing ‘special’ about Ireland. ”

    Did the population of Dorset half? Did 1/8 of the population of Dorset starve? 1/8 (1 million) of the people of Ireland starved, and the population halved from 9 million to 4.5 million. False comparison.

    “I always found it interesting that when Doctor William Wilde actually went out to tabulate all the excess deaths during the period 1841-1851 he could only find 20 or 30 thousand who actually died of starvation. Lots more people died of disease traditionally associated with period of famine, but a lot of the deaths seems to be of diseases that were epidemic all over Western Europe at the time. ”

    Was Dr.Wilde one of Queen Victoria’s officials? I have no belief in them. Like asking the Nazis to investigate the Holocaust.

  • Brian Boru

    And anyway, starvation-related illness are death by famine as far as I am concerned. That regime hated us. They wanted to kill us off. They regarded the Irish as the Nazis regarded the Jews.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Brian Boru: “And anyway, starvation-related illness are death by famine as far as I am concerned. That regime hated us. They wanted to kill us off. They regarded the Irish as the Nazis regarded the Jews.”

    Nothing quite that virulent, Brian… The English saw the Irish as an inconvenience, but they had their uses, including dying in wars, buying over-priced English foodstuffs and the like, all of which required them to be alive on the front side.

    The blight started the famine, which was prolonged by the English regulations that enforced the various regiemes that made the Irish useful to the English — such as the Corn Laws that boosted the profits of English merchants. The English were not nearly as organized or calculating as the late, lamented German regieme you reference.

  • J McConnell

    Brian Boru

    But 1 million did not die of starvation. That number is nothing more than a wild-ass guestimate based on the assumption that the population peeked in 1846 rather than 1842 or 1843, that the second mass migration in Irish history started in 1846 rather than 1841 – 1842 and that the ‘missing’ half million or so, those who cannot be accounted for if you take the later peak and later mass-migration state date, all somehow died unrecorded deaths somewhere in Ireland, rather than say, joining the hoards that left.

    So the 1 million, 12% of the population number is a politically motivated number, rather than a number based on any defendable thesis based on historical demographics. The excess death number was more likely closer to the 6% region, the majority dying of the various epidemic diseases doing the rounds at the time, most of the rest dying of starvation related diseases.

    There was nothing unique to what happened in Ireland in the mid to late 1840’s. There was crop failures, famine and wide-scale rural depopulation all over Europe. What was unique was the nature of its political after-effects.

    In France the crops failed in 1846, causing wide-spread hunger, localized famines, a large increase in diseases associated with hunger, rural flight, and an economic collapse that lead directly to the Revolution of 1848. Same story in large regions of Germany and Eastern Europe. There were an awful lot of hungry people marching, fighting, and dying all over Europe in 1848.

    The main difference between Ireland and say France, for example, is that you did not have a large migration of population to the Americas where the migrants and their descendants lovingly sustained and embellished myths of oppression and foul deeds done to them and their forebears by some oppressor or other, in this case the ‘da dirty Brits’. This political mythology would have been fairly harmless in itself if it was not for the fact that these Irish-Americans have financed and supported the murder of thousands of people in this island over the last hundred years or so. If there had been no Irish-Americans to finance and encourage politically motived murder and terrorism this island would probably have been at peace long long ago.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Dread my old mate I will give you this- you are less hysterical than Brian , and even George occasionally lets the urbane civilised exterior slip to reveal a starey-eyed, spit flecked gibbering lunacy -usually when debating the 1918 general election as a mandate for the terrorism of 1919-21 if you want to provoke the phenomenon BTW.

    You have truly stretched this debate in a much more intelligent fashion than Brian’s immature Nazi metaphors ( Mr Godwin!!!) . Frankly, I had never heard of sumptuary laws , in the context used by you before and I am obliged to you for a very articulate exposition of the nationalist theory that the Brits were so bad that they can never never never be forgiven, and all the good things some people misguidedly attribute to them are more than outweighed by the Famine.

    But…you are ducking the challenge in your master class on the Famine ( and hats off to J McConnell and David D for succesfully meeting the challenge)

    This thread is about nationalism. I and others have argued that Irish nationalism, perhaps uniquely, has a greater concentration on the hatred/fear of the neighbour than of the great achievements of the Irish – which are numerous.

    This, I believe, is because the Irish nationalists see their identity as diminished-almost polluted by people like me- the British Irish. Now perhaps we are like the grey squirrels, and it’s a shame that we came and all the cutsie little red sqirrels were forced out, but that’s hardly my fault, and at least noone tries to argue the greys aren’t squirrels- albeit “grafted” ones. And the last campaign of pest control from 1969-2005 has failed.

    (BTW this is the most bizarre simile I’ve yet used on slugger-damn those psychedelic drugs .it might take off,and there’ll be an Orange Lodge called the Loyal Squirrels of Seskinore or somewhere)

    Nationalism can only be positive if it is inclusive. Patently it fails that challenge and is in fact divisive here more than say in Finland, or Portugal,where there is a comfortable common view of identity, and more like France and Germany where it’s inherent negative quality is directed against immigrants- and let’s face it- Ulster Scots are just the Pakistanis with four hundred years of “coming over here, taking our jobs etc etc” for some people.
    Nationalism tells us that we are Irish when it suits them, like Vieira and co were told they were the representatives of the French people in 1998. At other times- in a GAA world view for example, we aren’t.

  • Ling

    I think it’s pretty obvious that the two different national identities on the island pivot around Them British, British Bad and We British, British Good. Evidenced through the discussion degenerating predictably into “The British are bad and smelly because this and this and this” vs “Don’t be silly the British did only good, and when bad was done it wasn’t specifically at you it was at everyone including ourselves and so doesn’t count”.

    One streak of nationalism needs the British to be bad to uphold their own virtue (if you’re in opposition to something bad you must therefore be good, right?), while the other streak needs the British to be good to up hold their virtue (as no-one ever defines themselves as bad).

    So the question of what the point of nationalism in this case is to divide, as seen by the arguments going on here. Even though it’s drifted way off topic, it’s still driven by everyones national identity, hence 2 groups of people from the same small island having wildly different views on the same piece of relativly recent history.

    If you look at the definition of what nationalism is, it requires distinct borders and population masses. Nationalism, and the nation state (a recent idea in the scheme of the history of the world) does not work with overlap. In this situation it crumbles and fails horribly.

    So unless a new national identity can be forged that includes everyone’s identity, which essentially needs a common enemy to define the them and ussness in a way that puts us all on the ‘us’ side together, nothing will ever get really solved. Nationalism’s failed everone here.