If Lynch had invaded

RTE have just finished showing the programme which Brian Walker mentioned on Sunday suggesting what might have happened had Jack Lynch ordered troops from the RoI to invade Northern Ireland in 1969. The programme is not yet on line. In essence it suggested the Irish troops would have been massacred. This suggestion has stimulated hearted debate on Balrog, Politics.ie and elsewhere. The most sensible comment, however, seems to have come from World by Storm on Cedar Lounge: “There was never an ‘invasion’ policy, instead there were plans which in themselves demonstrated that an invasion was an impossibility.” That has not stopped the assorted armchair generals who of course do not have to worry about the blood letting their fantasies would have caused.

  • Dewi

    Except, of course Turgon, if Wilson had invited them in. That could have worked. Hindsight wonderful of course.

  • Turgon

    Dewi,
    Clearly it has not stopped your armchair fantasies which indeed would also have caused blood letting on a vast scale. I am sure, however, hindsight is helped greatly by not actually living in Northern Ireland. Like most fantastists you seem to be lacking in self awareness: still that stops none of the others so do carry on.

  • I’ll comment here with roughly what I said on another thread about this on Cedar Lounge.

    The RUC and the B Specials – who were incredibly well-armed and had access to motars and the like – and who I think outnumbered the Irish army certainly would have attacked Irish troops, even if London had decided to pin them in and not wipe them out. Never mind the unionist population as well.

    On top of that there would have been attacks on non-unionist areas to make Bombay Street look like a picnic. The result would have been something approaching full scale civil war, with those the Irish army was supposedly helping being the worst hit. The UN wouldn’t have had a chance to get in if the British had decided to push the southern army out.

    Good thread Turgon.

  • Driftwood

    No-one is any doubt the British Army, and RAF and Royal Navy would have ‘suppressed’ any such attack if it was ever conceivable, which I doubt.
    The big IF is if the Unionist government had taken the quantum leap, accepted that the nationalist population were indeed Irish (like themselves)and gone on to accept the 2 nation (British/Irish)solution. I think O Neill and Chichester Clarke were OK with this.
    The Paisleyites (DUP)and the -Provisional-IRA clearly were not.
    Pity it took Paisley and McGuinness 40 years to realise it.
    Now we have a crap assembly that just milks expenses for themselves.
    So that’s alright then. Problem solved.
    If only 40 years ago we had come across the innovative solution that everyone (in power) can be bought. As they all were. (And we accepted it).
    So it goes…..

  • ben

    Oh, hark, ye “fantasists”! Someone who believes in talking snakes, witches, and a 6,000-year-old earth has an incoherent lecture for you!

    Of course, Turgon’s once-and-future friends wanted to be left alone to continue their bloody ethnic cleansing without interruption or interference.

  • borderline

    The real shame of the South is that they had absolutely no plans to cope with a doomsday field-by-field, street-by-street battle which could have erupted.

    It really could have come to pass, though.

    I hazard a guess that my unionist duelling compadres on this site might agree that if the Serbs and Croats went into the abyss, then so could we.

  • col

    more like the Chechens and Russians but still into the abyss none-the-less.

  • picador

    When a later Wilson government gave consideration to withdrawal in ’75 Cosgrave’s Fine Gael /Labour coalition almost had a fit.

    Of course the Provos never bother telling that to their legions of misguided followers.

  • Wilde Rover

    Turgon,

    “I am sure, however, hindsight is helped greatly by not actually living in Northern Ireland.”

    Obviously. In the same way that British people don’t care about the war crimes in Iraq because it is far away.

    By all means Turgon express your Britishness but spare us your crocodile tears. It really is undignified.

  • KieranJ

    The stupidity involved in the replies to this ridiculous subject is earthshaking. Please use some common sense.

    Had the Irish military headed north, it would have been for the expressed purpose of protecting the minority Catholic population in the province.

    The United States would have immediately become involved and urgent communications would have taken place with both the Irish and the British governments (important allies of the U.S.) and both governments would have come to terms vis-a-vis the matter at hand.

    All other suppositions are simply nonsensical. Please stop them.

  • Dewi

    “hindsight is helped greatly by not actually living in Northern Ireland”
    Probably true actually, certainly not hindered. Consider Nevin’s Doomesday 2016 concerns. If it all goes pear shape again surely a joint peace keeping operation would be preferable to a Grounhog day re-run?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Turgon,

    re. “the blood letting their fantasies would have
    xaused.

    Perhaps, but the ACTUAL blood letting that followed the non invasion suggests it migh have been the better option.

    It is surely fairly insulting to the Unionist population to assume they were would embark on some sort of murderous campaign in defiance of the government they claim allegiance.

    Turgon, are you suggesting that ordinary, decent Prods would have started murdering their neighbours or that the police would have done the same even after the British made it clear that the situation was to be dealt with by them.

    I find it curious that Unionists can talk about the ‘evil’ of the PIRA campaign but lightly suggest there own community would have embarked on a massive murderuous campaign as if it was their only course of action open to them.

  • Thereyouarenow

    Perhaps the Irish goverment could have backed (financial and ordinance) a terrorist organistion and made the dirty war dirtier and longer.

  • Turgon

    Dewi,
    I have suggested repeatedly albeit sadly that I have little doubt violence will start again. I think you fail to understand that the Serbs, Croats and Muslims have been fighting on an off for generations; as have all these so called ethnic conflicts (though there are often no ethnic differences). Who tries to peace keep would be unlikely to make much difference.

    Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit,
    I think you are right: the vast majority of nationalists had absolutely nothing to do with killing unionists and vice versa (thankfully). In a proper “ethnic war” like Bosnia still most people do not kill their neighbours. Sadly in an “ethnic war” more people would have killed their neighbours than we had here and hence, even more deaths.

    What happened here was truly terrible in 1969 and afterwards. However, most other options would probably have ended up being a whole lot worse.

  • fin

    KieranJ hits the nail on the head, and that was always the expected outcome of the invasion, US, UN and Western Europe involvement, not outright military victory.

    The invasion would have highlighed the ethnic cleansing of Cathloc areas and left GB with few choices.

    Militarily people here seem to be thinking WW1 tactics, would the Specials and BA have gone across the border into the South, would there have been air raids and artillery bombardments, how long before the leaders of both countries (and several interested parties) were on the phone to each other. What would the Irish in GB have done?

  • Dewi

    “I have suggested repeatedly albeit sadly that I have little doubt violence will start again”
    Indeed you have – in which case hindsight might be beneficial. The two key errors of the miltary involvement IMHO:

    1) Lack of involvement (in a joint operation) of Republic troops.
    2) Not simultaneously abolishing direct rule.

  • Scaramoosh

    If Ian Paisley had been born a RC …

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    KieranJ, fin,

    I tend to agree but am not conivnced that there would not have been a colonial reaction similar to Bloody Sunday but on a grander scale and we cannot assume anything about yankee support – our last major dealings with them were during WW2 and were not entirely positive.

    But I think it fair to say that most international opinion would have sided with the ‘good guys’ and Britian’s embarassment at propping up a sectarian state where the police were part of the problem would have made them look for a political solution much earlier and may in the long run have been for the good.

    Turgon,

    in relation to the Unionist use of force can you confirm whether you agree wth the contention that the Northern Ireland state could not have come in being without the threat of Unionist violence?

  • Pigeon Toes

    So not only are we arguing about what did happen, we are now arguing on what didn’t…

    Wonderful.

  • Get Them

    Lynch should have invaded and drenched our eneies in rivers of blood. All Prods south of the border: Cavan Orangemen, Trinity UVF men, Greystones brokers would have got it. Ethnic cleansing would have cleaned the slate. Ordinary decent Catholics would have got involved and the Orange supremacist, with more to lose, would have got their just desserts.

  • Barnshee

    “in relation to the Unionist use of force can you confirm whether you agree wth the contention that the Northern Ireland state could not have come in being without the threat of Unionist violence? ”

    Dangerous bastards these prods– attack them and they have the temerity to fight back– how dare they —try to incorporate them in a sectarian state and they refuse— what an ungrateful lot

  • McGrath

    If an invasion had occured, it would have been staged from northern / middle Donegal pressing eastward into County Derry, knowing that there would be strong support from Tyrone to the south. Needing the element of surprise the Irish Army would have amassed and entered without wearing uniforms. The invasion would have pushed forward to the Bann and then halted. The USA, even though involved heavily with the Vietnam war would have been forced to respond by popular support within its own country by sending in peace keeping troops into the newly occupied areas. Negotiations would have started at that stage, with Derry held firmly, Tyrone a virtual no go area, and Fermanagh powerless to do anything these three counties would have been ceded to the South.

    An invasion through south Armagh would prove too difficult with much resistance met early on. However, during negotiations groups from south Armagh would argue strongly to have the borders of Monaghan and Louth redrawn to incorporate much of south Armagh including the portion of Newry that lies in Armagh, but not Armagh City itself.

    The border could have been redrawn in the 1920’s for the sake of paying a bit of debt, but the Irish Government couldn’t be bothered about that. What makes the anyone think the same people would have actually risked getting shot at for the same thing because a border shift would have been the only likely outcome.

  • Sam Thompson

    McGrath

    Not quite sure how Co. Derry would have been ceded to the south, with its 70% unionist majority once the City was removed? I doubt Coleraine, Limavady, Garvagh, Portstewart etc. would have been in any way supportive of it. However, I agree that the 1920’s was a missed opportunity…

  • anony mouse

    The naivety expressed here leaves me flabbergasted.

    In the south it is wellknown that the Irish government was highly anti-republican/anti-nationalist. They really didn’t represent the feelings on the ground, and couldn’t have cared less. Anyone who doubts this, just think of Connor Cruise O’Brien joining a Unionist party in his old age. This was his true political home on this island.

    Like most politicians, Lynch was looking after himself. He had no known feelings on the border issue, and apparently joined Fianna Fail because Fine Gael didn’t offer the same prospects for “getting on”. He felt had nothing to gain from taking a strong position on the North, much less invading. And in fact, when the FG-Labour coalition came in and heavily repressed dissidence of all colours (both republican and left-wing), Lynch did nothing to reverse that policy. And neither did Haughey.

    As for the Americans coming in, that is just laughable. They only ever work in their own perceived interest. Does anyone seriously thi nk that Richard Nixon cared for the Irish? If his religious and political background is anything to go by (protestant, extreme right-wing, one of the McCarthy era’s products), he would have been on the side of the unionists.

    On top of all that, I feel that a great many unionists have a complete misconception as to what sort of a political entity the South is.
    If truth be known, the southern political establishment would be one of their biggest friends. They have no interst in taking over the north, and are be quite happy to leave it to its own devices. To do otherwise would be a major upset to the system, with its clientelist structure, politicians, business and churches providing mutual support and favours to one another.
    If this had to be extended to take in the north, a whole set of arrangements would be upset, and a lot of those feeding at the trough would be seriously discommoded

  • Two things come to mind;

    If my grannie had balls she would have been my grandad;

    If we had rashers we could have eggs and rashers if we had eggs.

  • John East Belfast

    I agree with anony mouse about the Americans.

    In 1969 they were up to their eyes in Vietnam and their only foreign policy agenda was stopping communism.

    They would not have had the will or inclination to get involved in such a spat. The US of the Republican late 60s was a very different place to the world interventionist/troops on the ground policy of Clinton – something which Bush would have catapulted if it had not been for 9/11. Following Iraq and Afghanistan the US “acting in its own Interest only” doctrine will surely return – and that is what it would have been like in the late 1960s.
    Not to mention the UK was an ally.

    The one thing that this says to me is how we all have to be thankful to the UK Govt – Troops and Money – which alone stopped this place descending into a Balkan style civil war. (Please dont tell me if Britain hadnt come here 400 years ago there would have been no need)

  • fin

    Sammy, not sure if its true, however, I undersand that in the early days the US tried to get the UN involved, however GB warned them off by claiming it was a Civil Rights issue, therefore the UN should also get involved in the US’s Civil Rights issue.

    However those early days proved to be of benefit to George Bush, the Ireland v HM Govt court case on torture was the basis for his arguement that the yanks weren’t using torture on prisoners in recent years

    Not sure how likely an invasion was, I know the Finner Camp troops were geared up for it and the local FCA companies were issued with weapons to be kept at home.

  • fionn

    barnshee

    Dangerous bastards these catholics—attack them and they have the temerity to fight back—how dare they—-try to incorporate them in a sectarian state and they refuse—- what an ungrateful lot

  • Barnshee

    “Dangerous bastards these catholics—attack them and they have the temerity to fight back—how dare they—-try to incorporate them in a sectarian state and they refuse—- what an ungrateful lot ”

    It was truely horrible– us caflics were crucified–we were not allowed to be doctors,dentists, lawyers, architects, accountants, surveyors , plumbers,joiners, brickies,teachers, social workers, nurses,customs officers, tax officials etc etc – the list is endless its no wonder we were revolting.

  • Thereyouarenow

    Anyway it all ended so well what with all the peace walls and all.

  • Brian MacAodh

    I thought that program was kind of ridiculous towards the end of it. There was no realistic chance of any ‘invasion’. But playing “what if” with history is usually fun.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Barnshee,

    “in relation to the Unionist use of force can you confirm whether you agree wth the contention that the Northern Ireland state could not have come in being without the threat of Unionist violence?”

    My question to Turgon was an attempt to clarify Unionist attitude to violence when the state was set up, which it turn might have coloured British attitudes in response to the ‘invasion’?

  • OC

    I see many parallels between the Anglo-Irish situation and the history of Texas-Mexico relations.

    Many Ulster-Scot descended Americans migrated to the region now called Texas.

    They were required by the Spanish-then-Mexican government to convert to Roman Catholicism.

    Many of the people in the now-independant Republic of Texas (1836 – 1846), and then USA State of Texas, bitterly hated the Mexicans for their brutality during the Texas War of Independance.

    When the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848) erupted, we see an interesting parallel: One side had the help of paramilitary Texas forces (many Scotch-Irish, nearly all Protestant) on one side, and Irish-Catholic troops on the other – Rangers vs Celtics is nothing new!

    Twenty-seven years later, a Mexican-led insurrection had the avowed aim of wresting back Texas (and other States) from the gringos. One of their official tactics was “a no-quarter race war, with summary execution of all white males over the age of sixteen”, which was then carried out. This led to a reprisal/counter-reprisal campaign, spearheaded on the Texas side by “[h]undreds of new special Rangers” [emphasis added].

    This was followed up by General Pershing’s punitive expedition in Mexico against Pancho Villa.

    “Not sure how likely an invasion was, I know the Finner Camp troops were geared up for it and the local FCA companies were issued with weapons to be kept at home.”

    Closer to the point at hand, the FCÁ was in part made up of former members of the Local Security Force – Group B, the RoI’s very own B Specials, and many of whose weapons ended up in the hands of NI republicans, or so I was informed by a poster here recently.

    Any invasion of NI by the RoI in 1969 would have probably ended up much like the Mexican-American War: part of RoI devastated, NI RC’s ethnically cleansed, and possibly RoI Protestants killed in retaliation. It would have played right into the hands of the most hard-line sectarian unionists in NI.

    And as IRA plans were known to have been prepared for attacks against US troops in NI during WWII, the US would most likely have deferred to its long-time ally, the UK, in the matter.

  • OC

    errata:

    Sixty-seven years later, a Mexican-led insurrection had the avowed aim of wresting back Texas (and other States) from the gringos.

  • OC
  • Reader

    Dewi: Except, of course Turgon, if Wilson had invited them in. That could have worked.
    What route from the border to Bombay Street?

  • RepublicanStones

    “Dangerous bastards these prods—refuse to kneel down and they have the temerity to fight back—how dare they—-try to exercise the democratic will of the vast majority of your country, they refuse—- what an ungrateful lot “

    Indeed.

  • The Impartial Observer

    Someone asked upthread about what the Irish in Britain would have done had the Irish Army crossed the border.

    I guess there would have been widespread sectarian strife across Britain, particularly in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and other other cities with significant Irish populations. This did happen on a relatively low level after IRA atrocities such as the Birmingham bombs but in this scenario you would have seen Bombay Street in Middle England.

    As bad as The Troubles were, it’s clear that if certain decisions had been taken differently or if certain things had happened then we could easily have been in a Bosnia style situation in the early 1970’s.

  • Reader

    RepublicanStones: …the vast majority of your country…
    Not much point in trying to impose the democratic will of the Republic of Ireland on Northern Ireland.
    Now, at last, we have all agreed the Principle of Consent, so there can’t be a replay.

  • Dewi

    11.Dewi: Except, of course Turgon, if Wilson had invited them in. That could have worked.

    What route from the border to Bombay Street

    My point was a joint initiative might have been a good idea.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Now, at last, we have all agreed the Principle of Consent’

    Such a pity unionism didn’t recognise that right all those years ago, wouldnt’ you agree?

  • Reader

    Republican Stones: Such a pity unionism didn’t recognise that right all those years ago, wouldnt’ you agree?
    Unionism recognised it in about 1912. Nationalism not until 10 years ago. The delay is strange really, since the PoC falls naturally out of the recognition that there are two main national identities on this island.

  • Reader

    Dewi: My point was a joint initiative might have been a good idea.
    And mine was that you had ignored the nitty-gritty. Even if Wilson and Lynch had sorted out de-facto repartition in a week, that still leaves hot tempers, outraged principles, refugees and enclaves.
    And how does an army in a desperate hurry deal with roadblocks manned by civilians?

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Unionism recognised it in about 1912.’

    Hence the weapons eh?

    ‘Nationalism not until 10 years ago.’

    So the desire for home rule which the vast majority supported was that not them giving their consent?

  • Reader

    RepublicanStones: (1912)Hence the weapons eh?
    Awww. Did that make it difficult for your lot to claim every square inch?
    RepublicanStones: So the desire for home rule which the vast majority supported was that not them giving their consent?
    Your majority spoke for you, our majority spoke for us. Neither of them spoke for the other. I really do not see why Bangor should be in a United Ireland because of votes cast in Limerick. With the Principle of Consent, Nationalism has accepted that point too.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Awww. Did that make it difficult for your lot to claim every square inch?’

    Funny, but a unionist crying about somebody claiming ‘their’ land gives ame a wry smile.

    ‘Your majority spoke for you, our majority spoke for us.’

    The majority of the people of Ireland spoke. Its just unionism refused to accept democracy which allowed the pesky natives any kind of say. But thanks for illsutrating perfectly the inherent sectariansim in unionism.

    ‘I really do not see why Bangor should be in a United Ireland because of votes cast in Limerick.’

    Well pre-partiton bangor was in ireland wasn’t it? It still is come to think of it. Ireland was an entire entity in the union (which lets face it, the irish didn’t get a vote on whether they wanted to join in the first place). Perhaps you should look up the name of the union…was it called the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’ or the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain most of Ireland and Ulster’?

  • McGrath

    Reader

    “Awww. Did that make it difficult for your lot to claim every square inch?”

    So it was down to one lot or another claiming square inches? Not too much of the “principle of concent” in that remark.

  • Gréagoir O Frainclín

    A good documentary (pity about the awful shakey camera work in parts) that hopefully puts an end to the idea of if Lynch had invaded. It was all summed up perfectly at the end when the reality of the whole situation was pointed out, that an underfunded ill equipped Irish Army would have comitted an act of war by invading “UK sovereign soil” and no doubt would have been obliterated by the well experienced at war – the British army. No doubt all mayhem would have broken out on the island, another guerila “War of Independance” would have ensued and the politics, international relationships and economy would have been put back by decades. Probably the Brits would have invaded the whole island too for the sake of “democracy”. Blaney, Boland & co were full of “republican” guff, ignorant of the very reality. Common sense prevailed and Lynch steered us through difficult times, and perish such a nonsensical idea of “if Lynch had invaded”.

  • Gréagoir O Frainclín

    A good documentary (pity about the awful shakey camera work in parts) that hopefully puts an end to the idea of if Lynch had invaded. It was all summed up perfectly at the end when the reality of the whole situation was pointed out, that an underfunded ill equipped Irish Army would have comitted an act of war by invading “UK sovereign soil” and no doubt would have been obliterated by the well experienced at war – the British army. No doubt all mayhem would have broken out on the island, another guerila “War of Independance” would have ensued and the politics, international relationships and economy would have been put back by decades. Probably the Brits would have invaded the whole island too for the sake of “democracy”. Blaney, Boland & co were full of “republican” guff, ignorant of the very reality. Common sense prevailed and Lynch steered us through difficult times, and perish such a nonsensical idea of “if Lynch had invaded”.

    Gréagóir O Frainclín