Is 2016 time to “write out our own clean birth certificate for the Irish Republic”?

And for the third week in a row, here’s a piece from the Sunday Independent and Eoghan Harris who warns ill-prepared southern politicians from testing their ‘leaky consensus’ on the differences between the south’s military struggle for independence and the IRA’s recent (some would say, ongoing) long war…

Adams would “win” any such debate for two reasons. Because of what I call a “leaky consensus” against the IRA’s actions. And because the border between the Old IRA and the Provo IRA is not as clear as southern politicians claim — a point proved by Ursula Halligan’s second programme on Sinn Fein for TV3.

Denis Bradley, a former priest, and a respected intermediary with the IRA, convincingly castigated what he saw as a southern double standard whereby the Republic defends Old IRA atrocities but denounces Provo IRA terror. And the holes in southern hypocrisy were not filled convincingly by the contributions of either Ruairi Quinn or David Andrews.

Both politicians followed the familiar southern mantra that the Old IRA had a “mandate” from the 1918 General Election. Before dealing with that doubtful claim, let me note that Andrews struggled to find an acceptable word for his father’s abortive attempt to shoot an alleged British agent on Bloody Sunday, finally rejecting Halligan’s offer of “murder” in favour of “killing”.

The problem Harris’s argument runs into is the deeply non trivial problem of disowning a nation’s history… HIs answer can be best described as vestigial. In more modern parlance it’s barely a wireframe.

Certainly we can salute the courage of my grandfather’s generation which went out in 1916 against great odds. But we should not let their deeds dictate how this generation handles our history of political violence.

Time we cut the bloody umbilical cord that binds us to the violence of 1916-1921. Time we ended a hundred years of hypocrisy. Time we wrote out our own clean birth certificate for the Irish Republic. 2016 provides the perfect date to do so.


  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    I cant think of any nation that is embarrassed / ashamed by the violence its people wrought to gain independence. Like it or not, the 6 counties that make up Northern Ireland did not become independent. The island that was treated by the British as a single entity electing 105 (?) MPs to Westminster in 1918 was sundered in two with some expedient chicanery with threats of insurrection by both the military and civilian populace.
    It is indeed hypocrisy of southern politicians because since 1921 they have betrayed the ideals, the people and the republic they swore to protect.
    War is hell, but lets not judge the actions of 1916 through a 21st century prism.
    The british and other empire building states dont concentrate on individual incidents that brought shame to the nation but rather the results of the victory of their battles. So too, to focus on the minutae of 2000 irish men in 1916 against the greatest empire the world had ever seen, with her armies mobilised and trained 250 miles away, is to overlook the fact that Ireland became independent.
    Talking hadnt worked through centuries of discrimination and 3 successive home rule bills.

    Theres a lot to be proud of. Theres a lot to be ashamed of. But theres much more of the former.

    We dont need a clean birth certificate. We have a bloody one. We should be reminded of it and the sacrifices people made for it. It wasnt for emmigration, final salary pensions and expense accounts. It was the freedom to choose our destiny.

  • The Nation has a bloody birth certificate and I have a bloody passport.
    I am proud of both.

  • It seems to be the fate of many newly independent countries to experience a civil war. It has happened many times in Africa and South Sudan might be going that way right now.

  • Mick Fealty


    I think (Eoghan would have to speak to his own argument here), there is a problem with commemorating 2016 as the sole originator of the independent Irish state, which lies in the failure both of its chosen means and its long term objects.

    The establishment of the Republic was an process, not event. As Charles Townsend notes in The Republic (, the process of imagining the state was a short lived affair between wars (largely 1918 and 1919), and included the crowdsourced adoption of the current tricolour.

    Once the state passed into existence there was an immediate adoption of omerta on the teaching of history, and in many senses there is an opportunity to gather our senses about what that whole mad ride of a hundred years was all about. And begin to develop a collective sense of what the next hundred years might be about.

    If it was only about bloodshed over the many unresolved issues of ’16, then passports become little more than symbolic beermats for soaking up the blood of generations as if they were only so much spilt beer.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Sorry Mick, the republic was established when the first dail sat in 1919. The other events, Treaty, international recognition, commonwealth exit was just internal and external actors playing catching up.

    What followed was state building. There was no immediate adoption of anything. It took years to build effective ‘soft’ control over the peripheral institutions of state.

    The state was insecure. The state took steps to ensure its existence from both sources within and without. The state was wrong but it doesnt change where we were, where we are, or where we want to go. Subversion by both state and non state players is still in existance to this day, the only difference being their more restricted objectives.

  • In other words Harris is arguing that we severe the modern nation-state of Ireland from its revolutionary roots and mandate as defined by the 1916-1923 period, in the process calling those very roots and mandate into question. And perhaps the nation-state itself?

    Harris is simply doing what Unionist refuseniks have always done: refusing to accept the outcome of the War of Independence while still defending Britain’s colonial rule over Ireland, in whole or in part. Transport him to France and he would be defending the record of the Vichy regime against the “political violence” of the Resistance and de Gaullists, place him in Italy and he would be revising the history of Mussolini, drop him into Russia and he would be arguing for the greatness of Stalin (actually he sort of implies the latter anyway with his frequent references to Uncle Joe).

    The ideological formula of Harris and crew is simple, it takes no great effort at analysis:

    Irish political violence in Ireland = Bad
    British political violence in Ireland = Good

    It’s as simple as that and just as credible.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Murdering isolated police officers in the rural wilds, or with their families (taking at times family members as well), or going to Mass or standing unarmed in the street, as with the DMP.

    Torturing prisoners or murdering wounded and subdued casualties, as at Kilmichael. ‘Disappearing’ bodies etc. Whilst simultaneously keening about the ‘Terrible Tans’.

    Such was the murder campaign which was dubbed, as in the most recent bloodletting, a “war”.

    But Irish nationalists so luxuriant in the Blood Sacrifice (of others of course) that it was wrong of Mr Harris to diss them over it.

    After all the carrion pit was, and is, the centre of both their legacy and philosophy.

  • Brian Walker

    Is there really such a double standard? Most nations feel the need to have a fight for freedom in their foundation story and the modern Republic gives retrospective legitimacy to 1916. Most of the states of Europe had been all up for a fight in 1914. Why should a faction of Irish nationalism not join the club belatedly in 1916?
    The detached observer might say that Home Rule in theory gave them the freedom to be free, as Collins memorably argued Dominion status did in 1921. But nobody thought like that at the time. OK, the counterfactual seem obvious now, that they would have got enough freedom in Home Rule to take the greater freedom of independence later. But at the time they had grounds for believing it might not be delivered in the end and it in any case it was being adulterated by the looming threat of partition.

    Unity was Irish Ireland’s natural and instinctive goal, nothing to negotiate about. Unionists agreed as they began to see themselves as not part of Ireland, a new nationalism if you like, but you can hardly have expected nationalists to have accepted it meekly.

    WW1 intervened to fend off what looked like becoming a full scale civil war which would have put the 1916 Rising in the shade.

    So here’s the next counterfactual. What would have been the outcome? With our islands on the brink of full democracy, another 1798 -1800 would have been unlikely. The two state solution after the spilling of much blood and vast population movements?

    Poor Redmond thought he had a deal over supporting the war in 1914 and was badly let down when the War Office refused to recognise the National Volunteers as the British garrison of Ireland, as a prelude to Home Rule post war. As the war dragged on it was far from absurd for radical nationalists disenchanted with the Redmondites to see themselves as a small nation fighting for freedom. They felt humiliated, not in control of their agenda. And so they reintroduced physical force into the mainstream after over a century’s lapse and began the fight postponed in 1914m and almost certainly incurred far fewer casualties than civil war in 1914. Even 1919-24 would probably have been less costly . Their cause was democratically legitimised in 1918 and ever after.

    The civil war banished physical force from the mainstream of the new Irish state to the sidelines after “ the most conservative revolution ever” ( Kevin O’Higgins), where unfinished business left it viable if only just.

    To return to the double standard argument. Modern Ireland today is in process of integrating unionism into its national myth whether or not the North eventually integrates with modern Ireland. This is a move Ireland can afford to make after the destruction of unionist power and the achievement of power sharing. It is made out of magnanimity not weakness. In my view it is unhistorical to expect that case to have been advanced in 1970. No nationalist felt kindly to unionism then ( although CC O’Brien was beginning the reappraisal virtually alone.) Nobody can really be surprised when Adams &co picked up the torch and lit it..

    We can be counterfactual again and claim that IRA insurgency – which was not preoccupied with Catholic defence by the way; rather the opposite – was counterproductive and severely delayed a deal by several decades.

    I’m not sure about that. The signs are that unionism would still have accepted direct rule today had it been on offer as more than a default. The Redmondites of our day the SDLP deplored the IRA but they were no more successful at delivering than Redmond had been.

    The brute fact which I for one regret is that power sharing would not have been delivered had it not been for IRA pressure on the British and directly and indirectly on unionism, thanks to long standing unionist intransigence. This is where quite a few unionists and Eoghan Harris come close. They would much prefer a federal Ireland that has rejected the physical force tradition than power sharing with Sinn Fein in the North under the Union. But Harris and co are somewhat unfair to their own tradition and are being deliberately provocative. If you’re into polemics Unionism has to take the rap too.

    The double standard case is based on a wistful romanticism/ might have been/a benign form of whataboutery. It is an intriguing element in a developing new Irish myth in the interests of reconciliation.

    But it has little to do with history.

  • Alias

    The Shinners will have mixed emotions about that Eoghan Harris article but they’ll, of course, welcome the bogus comparison to the old IRA.

    There is, however, no valid comparison between the Provos and the old IRA. The IRA asserted a claim to Irish national self-determination on behalf of the Irish nation in the absence of Irish national self-determination. The Provos could not have been asserting a claim to Irish national self-determination on behalf of the Irish nation since the Irish nation had already obtained national self-determination.

    What the Provos did was deny the right of the Irish nation to national self-determination, not assert it. The Provos claimed that the Irish nation had no right to self-determine its own affairs and that this was not a collective right belonging to a nation but was in fact an individual right belonging to a gang. So the Provos claimed that the gang held the right to determine the affairs of the Irish nation. The gang was to be considered the rightful government of the Irish nation, usurping the right of the nation to elect its own government and thereby duly determine its own affairs.

    The aim of the Provos was an aim that was entirely invented by the British state and did not even exist in 1916. Unity is, rather obviously, a post-partition and post-1916 agenda. The aim of 1916 was national self-determination. That aim of unity allowed the British state to use the Provos to place the focus of ‘republicanism’ on unity rather than on national self-determination.

    To that end, the Irish in NI were led to offer to trade national self-determination for unity. Any unified state that emerges from the GFA will not be an Irish nation-state and it will require the removal of national self-determination from the Irish nation to be replaced with a ‘bi-national’ state where British nationalism is to be promoted to parity of esteem with Irish nationalism.

    The Provos were never Irish nationalists, never mind Irish republicans. They remain as useful tools of the British state.

  • CW

    I’m not sure what Harris is actually asking for as he remains vague in his account – ie abstract notions like severing umbilical cords whatever that means – but he doesn’t seem to make any practical suggestons. But I suppose one suggestion some might put forward would be to change the words of the national anthem to something with a less militaristic feel, while leaving the tune intact of course. Can’t see this happenng though.

    Going a bit off topic here, but I’m surprised that this blog hasn’t posted any kind of a tribute to its greatest namesake – the great Peter O’Toole – a brilliant actor and colourful character if ever there was one – who’s just passed away at 81. They don’t make them like him any more.

    I once read an anecdote apparently told by by Michael Caine (possibly apocryphal, but I’d like to believe that it’s true) where Caine had been on a 3 day bender with O’Toole. Caine had woken up in the kitchen of an unfamiliar house with a very sore head to find O’Toole milling around. He then asked O’Toole what time it was.

    O’Toole replied with the unforgettable line:

    “Never mind the time – what fucking day is it?”

  • Mick Fealty

    People, do try and focus!! Otherwise posts will just simply disappear…

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    I see a post has already been airbrushed. Hasn’t something similar north Korea. I’m all for focus, less for censorship

  • Mick Fealty

    Count, I’ve sliced off three posts.

    The way to avoid the drop is to pay some attention to the rules: play the ball, and forgo the temptation to take out the man. You did, the others didn’t.

    It’s up to commenters to decide if this is as far as this thread goes. That will depend to a large extent on whether people feel the conversation worth having, or not.

    Sorry, but no one can say they weren’t warned.

  • Barnshee

    “Irish political violence in Ireland = Bad
    British political violence in Ireland = Good”

    Irish political violence in Ireland = Bad for every one
    British political violence in Ireland = Bad for everyone
    Irish political violence in Ireland =Violent Protestant reaction bad for everyone

  • Mc Slaggart


    Why did you say it was the ” south’s military struggle for independence”?

    Tom Clarke was the first to sign the Easter Proclamation and he grew up in Dungannon. I often heard (which shocked me) that vast majority Tyrone republicans actually supported Collins approach rather than Devs.

  • gendjinn

    The problem for southern politicians starts with 1916. Pearse & Co acted without any democratic authority. They had no justification for killing unarmed Dublin policemen and civilians.

    Non-sequitur, lacking a democratic mandate obtained at the ballot box does not eliminate justification for the killings. One can agree or disagree with the justification (attempting to destroy rebel barricades at St Stephen’s green for example) but it does not eliminate them.

    Given Eoghan’s concern for democratic mandate and justifications – why isn’t he interested in what mandate & justification the British state & army had for the precise same acts in Ireland?

    The Easter Rising deprived the Irish Republic of democratic credentials at birth.

    Rubbish, the Irish Republic received it’s democratic mandate in the 1918 election and every subsequent election held.

    That secrecy, manipulation and contempt for democracy has left us in a permanent political and moral fog for the past hundred years.

    No evidence provided to support this assertion. What is a “political and moral fog” anyway. This guy has been reading far too much Friedman.

    …the 1918 election was a mandate for political struggle but not for the murder…

    1918 election was a mandate for an independent Ireland. History to that point left no one in doubt it would mean violence, one hoped for the alternate but if you’re relying on Bew to attack Irish history you are already on less than robust footing.

    The General Election of 1918 was essentially a nationalist vote against conscription.

    Oh please. This is just an outright lie by Eoghan.

    Nor did the results give Sinn Fein a majority mandate. Sinn Fein won 485,105 votes.

    Oh Eoghan, from bad to worse. Got to seize on the one tiny view of the data to fail. How come SF won 75% of the seats? What was the reason for that? Because they were so wildly popular that in many constituencies no one bothered to run against them and that depressed their final vote tally. Another lie from Eoghan.

    Time we cut the bloody umbilical cord that binds us to the violence of 1916-1921.

    It would have been really helpful if Eoghan provided some examples of countries we could emulate. United States, France, South Africa… erm hold on.

    Time we ended a hundred years of hypocrisy.

    Yes, we’re tired of yours please desist.

    Overall weak stuff from Eoghan, but he’s re-used this tea bag so many times it’s unsurprising.

    His argument could have had some merit if he’d used the atrocities committed by the Free State forces during the civil war – the 66 for instance – but then he’d be accusing his beloved blue shirts of crimes and we know he can’t do that.

  • megatron


    “The problem Harris’s argument runs into is the deeply non trivial problem of disowning a nation’s history”

    Maybe but the problem is that even though that might follow his argument, itis not a point against his argument. I am sure there was a similar problem with proving the world was round.

    Of course he is right – there is no CLEAR differentiator between the two. The worst rubbish is the retrospective legitimacy argument. I am sure if you asked the dissidents they believe that is coming for them as well.

    The problem for Quinn / Andrews et al in trying to make a nuanced argument is that I am sure it would not take long to find a “violence can never be justified” type quote which is crazy talk (regrettably).

    I made a point on a recent thread that we all should have an honest conversation about when violence is justified – in my opinion that would be a great step towards strengthening the peace.

    Harris’ intervention could be seen as a unwelcome light shining on others inconsistent positions rather than an argument of his own. In that way it’s quite useful.

  • socaire

    Just watched ‘Bású – Execution’ on TG4 where the Free Staters/British executed a Republican from each province in revenge for the killing of Seán Hales TD. In total they murdered 77 anti-treaty republicans – unarmed prisoners – held as fodder for occasions such as this. Imagine the furore when the brutal Nazis executed French civilians in revenge for Resistance actions. Both sides armed by the British , of course.

  • socaire

    People need to remember that the mercenaries who rushed so eagerly to the Union Flag to fight for King and Country in WW1 were not slow to enlist in the Free State forces and turn their guns and their training on the Irish Republicans. Collins may have been a skilful soldier but as a politician he was putty in Lloyd George’s hands.

  • Gopher

    Just watched 5 minutes of the TV programme and seriously it is the historical equivalent of the Victor. Its really hard to take seriously unless of course your a mono cognitive nationalist and then its biblical which brings us neatly back to the opening post on which my only criticism of Harris is the length of the peace. Simply put the Irish are living comic book nationalism in 2013 and therein lies the problem.

  • Harry Flashman

    “the Free Staters/British executed a Republican from each province in revenge for the killing of Seán Hales TD”

    Passing over the nonsensical “Free State/British” bit, why was the Free State executing political opponents any more morally repugnant than the IRA doing it?

    Did the IRA have a mandate to murder Hales which the Free State didn’t have when they executed IRA prisoners?

    Hales was a democratically elected member of the Irish parliament, the IRA men were attempting to overthrow the democratic decision of the Irish people by violence.

    It is quite normal, in the presence of an existential threat to the existence of the state, to take extreme measures against those threatening the state.

  • IrelandNorth

    Has the same republic been re/declared all along, Or three different republics, 1916/’19 – 1922 – 1937. Whose was the most legitimate, Pearse’s, Collins’s or De Valera’s (devil Éire’s?). If the former, surely all successors have been counterfeit constitutions. How can one reuissue a clean birth cert. Either it certified a genuine birth. Or merely recorded a still or breach birth. Or is the choice that between a nation once again. Or a republic sometime in the future. Eitehr way, life is a compromise existentially and politically

  • Tochais Síoraí

    We could argue all day about the democratic mandate of the people involved in the Independence struggle in 1916-21. One salient fact remains however….they had a far bigger one than the forces they were fighting against. The moral and democratic basis for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland? Good luck with that one.

    As for Harris, he’s nothing but a chancer. ‘These are my principles, well if you don’t like them I have others…..’ No doubt he’ll instruct us all on the shape of this new Republic. Well, he certainly will if some eejit keeps sending him the cheques. He’s some man to be talking about clean birth certs – he’s been a SFer, Marxist, apologist for North Korea, nutjob Catholic, FF supporter, FG supporter, Unionist advisor. Anything I left out? ….. Probably.

    Anyone who doesn’t agree with him these days he dismisses as a ‘Shinner.’ He likes to pick holes in other people’s arguments and yet ignores his own spectacular inconsistencies and at times sheer barking madness. Some old favourites. Mc Aleese? Tribal time bomb. Mc Aleese’s Old FF colleague Ahern – Top Guy. Defends him to the hilt in the midst of the bloody Mahon Tribunal. Quid Pro Quo (or should that be Quids In) – he’s a senator. Cheerleader for Cowen and FF in 2007. 2007? Wow, nice timing for someone who claims predictive skills. Still, some people see him as some kind of serious social and political commentator. In most other countries he’d be laughed out the door.

  • 241934 john brennan

    The more things change the more they remain the same.

    Physical force republicanism has always espoused a noble cause – and always besmirched it with the most despicable of crimes. Harris is right, e.g when he points to the fact that there is no difference between the old IRA murdering and secretly burying people in bogs in Cork, and the Provo IRA doing the same in the North.

    But the same myth applies and still prevails – Brit/prod violence bad – IRA/mick violence good.

    In relation to the present Haass talks, particularly the problems about dealing with the past, truth recovery etc, the repeated position of the current Sinn Fein leadership may be summarised by distorting a line from the Psalms from:
    ‘In his days peace shall flourish and peace till the moon fails.’
    ‘In his days injustice shall flourish and denials till the moon fails’.

  • Greenflag

    Name me a country/nation or state with a ‘clean birth certificate’ and while you are looking for one -look also for a pig that can fly and a cat that can ride a Harley Davidson Either of the latter two will be easier to find .

    As Count EBVG above rightly stated

    ‘lets not judge the actions of 1916 through a 21st century prism.’

    Or the actions of 1690, 1798, 1800, 1848, 1912 , 1969 etc etc.

    The ‘past ‘ can’t be changed. It’s interpretation is always subject to change in the light of current circumstances / new revelations /new discoveries etc .

  • paulG

    Eoghan Harris?

    Good Grief, who are they going to dig up next, the Cruiser?

  • denogla

    As usual when it comes to the always reliably banal Harris-Myers interpretation of Irish history one important cause for the persistence of violent Irish republicanism is left out: the fact (and is a fact) that the settlement of 1921 was designed to secure British strategic and imperial interests, not Irish nationalist aspirations as expressed in the Sinn Fein programme and actively supported in two elections by the majority of the Irish electorate.

    Republican myth really does not come into it, both sides in the Treaty debate recognised that it was designed (on its own terms) to secure British interests over nationalist aspirations, and (for the Free Staters) that the development of the latter would result from accepting the former. This was the central ideological grounds for the Republican campaigns fought over the next several decades. As we all know, ‘the North’ hardly figured in the Civil War (which, objectively, has at least as much a claim to be the foundational event of the modern Irish state as the Rising).

    But of course, the small matter of Lloyd George’s threat of ‘immediate and terrible war’ doesn’t figure into the Myers-Harris school’s calculations, probably because whether admitted to or not at its core is a rejection of the whole post-Redmond nationalist project.

  • Gopher

    When you think of other civil wars and counter revolutions I not quite sure the Irish one makes it into the pantheon of internecine warfare. The facts never really support the hype rhetoric or delusions. The casualty figures suggest a disinterest and lack of intensity for a nation so beholden to history. Perhaps there is selfish interest at the heart, perhaps the Irish should stop burning witches or in this case Harris and actually do some proper and reasoned analysis.

  • Erasmus

    If you believe that the 1916 Rising was an immoral act and if you believe that this ‘immoral act’ was the seminal event leading to the formation of what was to become the present-day Irish Republic than major implications become apparent:
    The concept of the Rising as ‘an immoral act’ necessarily implies, within this framework of thinking, that the resulting independent state was an ill gotten gain. And the concept of an ‘ill gotten gain’ inevitably leads on to the concept of restitution. Restitution here of necessity means a return to the status quo ante and the re-incorporation of the ROI into the UK; therein lies the rub and the key to understanding Harris and co.
    I personally think the rise of southern neo-unionism the most significant political phenomenon in Ireland in the past 15 years. I suspect it was always there under the surface but only relatively recently felt too reticent to reveal itself openly. There is still some residual reticence to the extent that it is still holding back on revealing its complete agenda: the re-incorporation of the ROI into the UK – I believe this (agenda revelation) will take another 15 years. In this respect they are secretly gloating at the south’s current economic travails. Its greatest triumph is its virtual domination of the media to the extent that I have to visit internet fora to get the northern nationalist perspective. Its second greatest is configuring the general narrative so that anybody who questions any part of its agenda is labelled a provo sympathiser.

  • Gopher

    Again with the confrontation in Dublin Easter 1916 we cause problems with definition and scale. The ignorant of Irish history if he was versed in the other “Risings” through the ages might be let down by the scale and intensity given the appellation. Off course while many just for the sake of being understood if talking about an incident in Dublin Easter 1916 use the term others seem to use the term literarily with the belief that would make a Scientologist blush. When scientlologists blush it’s hard to get at the truth.

  • Reader

    denogla: But of course, the small matter of Lloyd George’s threat of ‘immediate and terrible war’ doesn’t figure into the Myers-Harris school’s calculations,
    It must have come as a terrible shock to Collins that his initial gambit of “a bit more bother after a short breathing space” was comprehensively trumped by Lloyd George’s play of “immediate and terrible war”.
    It’s almost as though the Brits didn’t realise they were beaten, isn’t it?

  • Harry Flashman

    “the Civil War (which, objectively, has at least as much a claim to be the foundational event of the modern Irish state as the Rising”

    You make a good point, the Easter Rising was the foundation of the first Irish Republic, it lasted about a week and then was obliterated.

    A few years later after much conflict and electoral politics the Irish Free State, later Eire, later the second Republic of Ireland came into being. The state created in 1922, the Free State, is the state that exists today and bears little or no resemblance to the Irish Republic declared in the GPO other than its name.

  • denogla

    ‘I personally think the rise of southern neo-unionism the most significant political phenomenon in Ireland in the past 15 years.’ – A bit of an exaggeration don’t you think, @Erasmus?

    ‘It must have come as a terrible shock to Collins that his initial gambit of “a bit more bother after a short breathing space” was comprehensively trumped by Lloyd George’s play of “immediate and terrible war”.’ – @Reader, one thing that struck me reading Charles Townshend’s excellent new book ‘The Republic: Fight for Irish Independence’, is how woefully unprepared the Irish side apparently were for a resumption of hostilities after the Truce. Practically no preparations were made, at least at GHQ level. Another shot at the myth of Michael Collins as the great combat leader (rather than the excellent administrator and ‘spyhunter’ that he was).

  • Barnshee

    “There is still some residual reticence to the extent that it is still holding back on revealing its complete agenda: the re-incorporation of the ROI into the UK”

    Why do you think the UK would have it back (not a snowballs chance in hell)?
    The existance of N Ireland prevents treating the Irish as the aliens they are.

  • denogla

    @Barnshee the fact that Irish people in Britain are afforded ILR and voting rights (perhaps unfortunately they never tried to set up an ‘Irish lobby’ as they did in the US) from the get-go must really irk you.

  • Barnshee

    “@Barnshee the fact that Irish people in Britain are afforded ILR and voting rights

    Er voting rights etc are extended to all who satisfy the requirements -why would that irk any one ?

    Why do you think they would have you back? (the fact that over years most have appeared to move to GB may make it unnecessary)

    The reason the Irish are treated so casually is largely because of NI`s presence in the UK Sloughing it off would allow the UK to treat the Irish properly formall and a t arms length-the same way as France Pakistan etc

  • Greenflag

    The Irish Republic will not be returning to UK political jurisdiction .Why on earth would it ? The only really significant economic and political progress made in the country over the past couple of centuries was under Irish Government rule . British rule i.e London rule left the country , stagnant economically and just a reservoir for cheap labour , soldiers and food supply for the neighbouring island.

    Northern Ireland’s Unionists for all there ‘britishness ‘ still opted for mandatory power sharing instead of ‘direct rule ‘
    One of the main reasons for Unionist alienation is the fact that they no longer wield majority rule power in Northern Ireland . Having wielded it for 50 years (1920-1972) they had to be forced to give it up by HMG .

    They enjoyed ‘running ‘ their own show for 50 years which is why the loss of that show still rankles so much among some Unionist politicians and why they simply can’t accept that their time in Ireland is ‘over ‘ as a separate political state with Unionist majority rule .

    The Republic is a genuine democracy unlike the NI State which is still in training . The Republic’s hard fought struggle for it’s independence will not be given up . Once countries win their independence they don’t ever want to return to their former political status . The Ukraine does not want to return to a Russian version of the old Soviet Union -Neither does Latvia , Lithuania or Estonia or Armenia or Azerbaijan or Georgia .

    Relations between Britain and Ireland will continue to improve and they’ll improve even more when the current NI State is consigned to history as it inevitably will sooner or later .


  • socaire

    Mr Flashman, the british supplied the war materiel to the Freestaters and the threat that if they weren’t able to subdue the Republicans then Britannia would step in. That’s why I say,nonsensically, Freestaters/British. OK. If the Freestate was a legally constituted government we should surely have expected a higher standard than that demonstrated by the barbaric Republicans. Shoot to kill?

  • Congal Claen

    A few random comments…

    The Conservative and UNIONIST party won the UK 1918 election – not the shinners.

    What the shinners accepted in 1921/22 – a 2 state solution – was on offer in 1914 prior to any bloodshed.

    Within a year from now Scotland can decide to leave the union or not. Not a shot has been fired. Regardless of who wins that vote I cannot imagine any violence from the losing side. Compare and contrast with here.

    That’s why nationalism needs to reject the IRA from any era.

  • socaire

    Ireland ‘decided’ to leave the union, after never having wanted to be in it, and where did it get them? If the Muslims in Glaschú decided that they wanted to stay in the UK against the wishes of the Scottish people and began to arm and train with the notion of setting up their own ‘country’ in Scotland, what do you think would happen? (I only use Muslims to denote a minority who profess no loyalty to the country they have settled in)

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Socaire,

    it was largely catholic Ireland that wanted the union to further the chances of emancipation. Ironically enough, it was the Orangemen who were against it.

  • socaire

    Congal, that’s an interpretation – not a fact. It may be a valid one.

  • Harry Flashman

    “If the Freestate was a legally constituted government we should surely have expected a higher standard than that demonstrated by the barbaric Republicans.”

    It always amuses me when Republicans, as they did in the recent Troubles, complain when the other side plays dirty, it apparently shocks – shocks – Republicans to discover that they aren’t allowed to have a monopoly of extra-judicial killing. They always assume that it is the duty of their opponents to lie down and take whatever the Republicans mete out to them without hitting back in kind. The real world is a sad and confusing place for Chucks.

    Just for the record as the Republicans believed that they, and not the Free State, were the legitimate government then by their own standards they should have expected nothing less from their lickspittle, shoneen enemies and it should have been the Republicans who had the moral imperative to behave as the law-abiding, legitimate state forces they claimed to be.

    Did you see what I just did there?

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Congal – History 101. Prior to the Act of Union Ireland was under the jackboot of a protestant-only colonial administration (penal laws anyone?) controlled exclusively by the Anglo Irish gentry most of whom could trace their ancestry in Ireland back only a handful of generations and of course these were backed by the British army and assorted militia, .

    Catholic Ireland was largely indifferent to the Act of Union, it could make their situation no worse, their main objective in life being not to starve. The Catholic Church rather the catholic people, supported the Act of Union, as you say, to further Catholic Emancipation. And you could argue that the Church did indeed prosper under the Union (unlike the people who continued to starve at regular intervals).

  • Tochais Síoraí

    And of course the Orangeman were against it (the Act of Union) because it threatened the status quo i.e. their hegemony.

  • Barnshee

    Orange order founded 1796/7
    Act of Union 1800

    Hegemony ? all 3 years of it

    Now Roman Catholicism

    “The predominant influence, as of a state, region, or group” that is real “hegemony”

  • socaire

    I make the point, Harry, that a faction who – along with the british – consider themselves the legitimate government, do not hold hostages to murder at a convenient time. Now forget about the whataboutery, can you justify that behaviour? The British instigated the Irish civil war, as they have done in most of their colonies with a view to leaving two weak sides that would not trouble them for a while.

  • Barnshee

    ” If the Muslims in Glaschú decided that they wanted to stay in the UK against the wishes of the Scottish people and began to arm and train with the notion of setting up their own ‘country’ in Scotland”

    If they constituted- oh say 25-30% of the population and sincerely wished to separate from people who had actively supported the murder of members of their grouping (including actual arming of murder gangs ) then who could blame them ?

  • socaire

    Blame doesn’t come into it. Would it be allowed ‘without a shot being fired’?

  • Barnshee

    “Blame doesn’t come into it. Would it be allowed ‘without a shot being fired’?

    I suspect the remainder would be g;lad to see the back of them

  • Harry Flashman

    “Now forget about the whataboutery, can you justify that behaviour?”

    Yes, in the circumstances of the Civil War when a small unrepresentative faction was clearly intent on destroying the democratic state and were engaged in banditry, robberies, destruction of infrastructure, murder and turning large sections of the country into anarchic wastelands, it was reasonable for the state to take extreme measures as a last resort.

    If an existential threat to the state is posed, as it was in the democratically mandated and legitimate Irish Free State in 1922-23, then sometimes harsh measures are justified. Lesson to be learned? Don’t try to overthrow democratic states, you won’t like the consequences and if you do don’t whinge when you get your arse handed to you on a plate.

    Payback is a bitch, but if you want to play in the big boys’ league you gotta play by the big boys’ rules, Mick Collins learned that in negotiating with Lloyd George.

    Incidentally the Hebrides have indicated that if Scotland goes for independence they might opt for their own independence or return to Norwegian rule. Does self-determination apply to them too?

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Barnshee, I’d say you know full well the Orange Order was controlled by their masters in the Anglo-Irish gentry who in turn controlled Ireland on behalf on the crown.

    As for the RC church……when the last king is hung by the entrails of the last bishop…..

    (Harry – are you mixing Shetlands up with Hebrides?)

  • socaire

    Anything to get away from England. See you in Guantanamo,then.

  • socaire

    At the Truce, the majority were against and the Dáil almost were. How many Brits were for WW2 or were they asked. A minority of malcontents headed by Winnie took Britain to war against a democratically elected govt. And poor Cuba, too. Power comes from the mouth of a gun. Shoot innocent hostages because you can. And try not to pull wool over this po’ boys eyes.

  • Harry Flashman

    Could be TS, my geography isn’t the best at times.

    Is that comment directed at me socaire?

  • Harry Flashman

    You’re losing the run of yourself now old son, take a lie-down, you’ll be alright in the morning.

  • Harry Flashman

    Were the hostages they shot “innocent”?

  • socaire

    They were innocent of the crime for which they were murdered but what the hell? I apologise for raising several hares at once. I know it upsets you.

  • Harry Flashman

    They weren’t executed for specific crimes as you well know, they were executed “pour encourager les autres”, and it worked a treat, within six months the banditry had ceased and the country was restored to stability. A cost well worth paying to save Irish democracy.

    Look socaire, there are only two logical possibilities, you either condemn the murder of TDs and also condemn the reaction by the Irish state, I respect that, I happen however to lean towards the position that the Irish state had to take the extremely unpleasant and harsh but nonetheless extremely necessary actions it took in the face of the outrages committed by the Republicans.

    The position, which I believe you are adopting, that it was morally justifiable to murder democratically elected TDs but morally unjustifiable for the state to repay this attack on it in kind is logically absurd.

    It is akin to a bank robber saying that it was wrong of the police to beat the shite out of him in the cells but nonetheless perfectly reasonable of him to rob the bank in the first place.

    You don’t get it both ways in the real world.

  • socaire

    I’m speaking as an observer. Both sides did wrong but the ‘govt’ side did wronger simply because it was the govt side. And we’re not talking about the ‘real world’ where police beat confessions out of suspects but what is right and morally defensible. I feel somehow that you approve of extraordinary rendition and Guantanamo. Tell me I’m wrong.

  • …the Dail almost were….

    That got a chuckle from me. Trying to put a good face on losing perhaps the most important vote ever taken by them.

  • Greenflag

    @ Socaire ,

    The Irregulars (Anti Treaty Forces under Eamon De Valera ) took up arms against the democratically elected government of the Irish Free State

    The people had voted for the Government ergo the Irregulars had to be put down . They were .

    Fast forward to 2013 post the GFA

    The people of Ireland both North and South have voted to accept the GFA settlement .

    It follows that those who now take up arms against that settlement be they dissident republicans or loyalists -will also be ‘put down ‘ . Neither Government- neither the Irish Republic’s nor the British Government or it’s devolved Northern Assembly will do anything less .

    The ‘security of the people ‘ comes first .

    It can be argued and it is by Northern Ireland Republicans that the post 1969 conflict was legitimate in that the NI government was ‘never ‘ a proper democracy given that Northern Unionists ignored /disregarded the result of the 1918 General Election whereas Southern Unionists accepted that result at least to the extent of not taking up arms against the democratic wishes of a majority of people on the island of Ireland .

    Be that as it may and there are those who still deny the legitimacy of the 1918 General Election result -I don’t – but there can be no doubting today -2013 -that any party or faction which takes up arms against the GFA settlement which represents the will of the vast majority of people on the island will be ipso facto anti democratic and will get nowhere if they use violence against the people’s will.

    The Irregulars /Anti Treaty Forces learnt that lesson albeit too late in the day to avert the Irish Civil War which as we all know today was a complete waste of life , time and money all presumably over an oath which 20 years later was ignored anyway by the Free State Government. The Republic’s Declaration in 1949 was btw condemned by the very political party which sprung from the Civil War Irregulars i.e De Valera’s FF .

  • Greenflag

    @ Socaire,

    Where did you get the extraordinary idea that Governments don’t do wrong ? They may not be supposed to and they may be bound by the terms of their Constitutions but that doesn’t stop some from doing what is later seen (if discovered and made public) – as wrong .

    You may be too young to recall an American President name of Richard Nixon who was known to have lied and done wrong albeit on a scale which is modest in comparison to other governments such as those of Stalinist Russia , Nazi Germany , Mao Tse Tungs China or Pol Pots Cambodia and Seseke Mobutu’s Zaire and many others .

    Which above examples are all reason’s why the power of government’s should be limited by a written Constitution the main provisions of which should only be amendable by a referendum of ALL the people.

  • socaire

    It’s called having principles, Greenflag. Something that Freestaters have shown themselves completely devoid of.

  • neutralist

    With all due respects, having read your material over the years, I am increasingly reminded of the ‘Stephen’ character — played by Samuel L. Jackson — in Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’.
    I believe that the assassination of Seán Hales *and* the subsequent Free State government executions were *both* morally indefensible.
    By the same token I would have abhorred the various republican/loyalist and loyalist/republican retaliation chain reactions that took place during the troubles. Your lack of insight into Southern political life is revealing: scars were left for generations by these events; political debate centred around who did what in 1921/1922 rather than the relevant social/economic issues of the time.
    In anticipation of your likely counter argument: OK the said loyalists and republicans were not a legitimate democratically mandated govemment; but this cannot be used as an all-purpose excuse — the Nazis, after all, were democratically mandated (stuff Godwin’s Law).

  • neutralist

    PS: execution of POWs is considered a war crime under the Geneva Convention. I know, I know, the GC was not around then — the moral principle was though.

  • IrelandNorth

    In a week when an ex-Irish president, Her Excellency (HE) Mary McAleese spoke of the entente cordiale between herself and Her other self (ie Her Majesty (HM) EIIR), during an interview in Edinburgh (above all places), one can’t help but wonder if HE is making conciliatory gestures to Scottish nationalists re independence from HM. Undoubtedly, a constitutional compromise between the British and/or Irish Isles is long overdue, with a neo-liberal pontiff in the Vatican, His Holiness (HH) Francis. But might somebody fear a union between the two nations of Scotland and Ireland as checkmating the other two of England & Wales. And how would the union jack look without the Saint George’s cross, not least since the Saint Dafyd’s dragon was excluded since time immemorial.

  • IrelandNorth

    I’m reminded of a conversation over a couple of pints in the Buttery bar in Trinity many years ago in the company of an empathic English man. When the then longstanding bar steward was ask to moderate the difference (if any?), between the good Old IRA and the newer (Provisional) IRA, he replied (tongue-in-cheek), that the older variant were a better class of thug altogther. Which only goes to show that one man’s Óglaigí may be another man’s t’Óglacht. Problem being, the grandsons of the revolution tend to look back on the deeds of their more visceral forefathers with a luxurious disdain afforded by the sacrifices of those very antecedents. Such is the price of social evolution.