Sorry Séamus, but there can be no such thing as retrospective democracy.

Séamus Mallon has a speech transcript in the Sindo today. In it he takes his usual stance on the counterproductive futility of armed republicanism. But one fundamental contradiction sticks out like a sore thumb. Early on he says:

In that spirit let me say I applaud current efforts to make 1916 commemorations truly inclusive. In the event, the men and women of 1916 received a retrospective democratic endorsement which more recent violence including against this State has never obtained.

But further on he sings a different song:

Yes, maybe the IRA in its various forms was not defeated by any external agency such as the British Army or An Garda Siochana. But it was defeated by its own internal contradictions and demons. In fact defeat came with the first bullet fired without democratic mandate. It came with the first bomb primed without moral justification.

But surely the first bullet fired on Easter Monday 1916 was also fired without a democratic mandate? Sorry Séamus, but you can’t have it both ways. Either democratic legitimacy has to be established in advance of action, or it does not. Either both the 1916 revolution and the 1969 uprising were undemocratic, or both were legitimate. The fact that the 1918 general election returned many of the leaders of the 1916 rising to represent the will of the people in 1918 does nothing to help us navigate the moral minefield of two years earlier. The 1916 leaders could not have known at the time that they would eventually command the support of the electorate. Events that were yet to unfold cannot be used to justify actions that were taken as a high stakes gamble with the possibility of glorious bloody failure viewed as a selling point. No doubt the leaders of the IRA in 1969 believed that they would similarly be justified by history. 

The only meaningful difference is that the 1916 leaders were lucky. 

The legitimacy of the Free State and its successor republic cannot derive from the actions of a self selected elite, no matter what elections they may have won after the fact. At the time, they had little to no electoral support. At the time, they did not know the things we take for granted now as established history. If our moral and legal principles are to mean anything as guides to action, they must be calculable in real time. Once history plays out and you eventually discover whether you were on the “right” side or not it is too late. 

The legitimacy of any government can only come from the freely expressed consent of the people. The Republic of Ireland is legitimate because its people have voted time and again to establish and maintain it, starting with the 1918 general election, where the ideals of the rising were belatedly put before the public. It is true that the 1916 rising was the catalyst for change, but too often mechanical cause is confused with moral or legal justification. Maybe the Free State or something like it would have come into being without the rising. Maybe it would have turned out better, maybe it would have turned out worse. But none of this amounts to democratic legitimacy, which must be held to a higher standard than “sure didn’t it turn out alright in the end”. Similarly, the fact that the winners of the 1918 election claimed retrospective legitimacy for the rising did not automatically make it so. An election win merely decides who gets to run the country for a while within a greater moral or legal framework. It does not give the winners the right to define legitimacy to suit themselves. 

And as we have subsequently seen, the actions of the 1916 leaders in government served as a template to generations of dissidents, starting with Fianna Fáil and continuing through to the present day. Each has, at least for a while, tried to deny the moral weight of democratic opinion by claiming to be a vanguard that will eventually win over the people and thereby forgive, even justify any intervening sins. And each claims an unbroken trail of legitimacy back to that fateful day in 1916.

The pernicious idea of retrospective legitimacy only encourages extremists to act first and ask forgiveness later. “History will surely prove us right” has been used to justify too many atrocities. It is time for constitutional politicians of all stripes to put this dangerous myth down.

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  • Zeno

    He must be nearly 80. Give him a break,

  • aquifer

    “the winners of the 1918 election” But even then, a majority of the votes cast in an election marred by intimidation were not for separation, so the mandate for this was suspect from the off. The use of violence within politics defeats democracy first, because how can we properly consider the merits of anybody’s political or religious schemes when under threat of death? And violence as a first rather than a last resort suggests the perpetrators had already lost the argument.

  • Ian James Parsley

    An important piece.

    It is also symbolic of the SDLP’s failure to defend and promote its own narrative. It has allowed a generation of young Nationalists, and even others, to believe the “armed struggle” was legitimate and about civil/human rights. This is of course the new Labour leadership’s narrative too.

    It is, of course, bunkum on both counts. The SDLP needs to say so, repetitively, vehemently and vociferously – or it has no point.

    The logical consequence is indeed that 1916 was a mistake (albeit on all sides). It split people, it made the “agreed Ireland” Hume spoke of impossible, and it took generations to recover from. The founding myth which springs from it is fundamentally inappropriate for the new Ireland of which the SDLP used to speak. Again, if the SDLP cannot say these things, it really doesn’t need to exist.

  • mickfealty

    Good point Andrew. The retrospective mandate argument is, in my view, a corollary of an under debated (or under-understood?) Irish political past.

     Though ironically perhaps, I also agree with Ian that this is an important speech. Not least because you can actually pick an argument with it rather than just nod at each safe nostrum and bromide turn in phraseology. 

    Mallon, here at least, gives every Republican on the island (nationalist or otherwise) an occasion to think again about why they believe they are such. Ireland is long overdue its own Putney debates!

    No mean feat for a man of his age?

  • tmitch57

    The failure of the SDLP to defend this narrative is a corollary of Fine Gael’s and Labour’s failure to defend the idea that there must be a mandate for a war that goes beyond a small conspiratorial group that believes that it is a vanguard with superior historical and moral reasoning than the rest of society. That failure was a curse on the island throughout the 20th century.

  • Gingray

    Useful contribution as always.

    Nobody forced Mallon to speak up, and I have no doubt as a former politician he is used to having his comments critiqued.

    And as Mick and Ian note, there is a strong narrative in it that needs discussed, about what it means to be an Irish republican in 2015.

  • Gopher

    That is simply down to the fact that as with all revolutionary movements it is not sufficent to be a patriot one had to follow an ill-defined idealogy. Republican, Bonepartist, National Socialist, Communist. The masses let themselves be defined by the most extreme act or view point. Its not like an idealogy changes or modifies democraticaly that is the Albatross that is round the necks of Fine Geal, FF, Labour, Hume, Mallon and whoever else cries into their milk now. Throughout their whole carreers they fought the “imaginary” reactionaries instead of making a state

  • Granni Trixie

    Was with you Mick until the last line.

  • Granni Trixie

    We are obviously living in different worlds Ian. I have consistently heard the opposite from SDLP supporters – suggesting that they refute SF assertion that the IRA campaign was motivated by lack of civil rights. I sense infact that many Nationalists are conscious and even resentful that SF/ IRA exploited a legitimate grievance.

    Bear in mind too that SF produce different reasons to different audiences for the paramilitary raisin d’être – to some the rationale is that it was motivated ‘to get rid of th Brits’ and achieve UI.

  • Granni Trixie

    Being 80 is no excuse. Don’t patronise.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The only meaningful difference is that the 1916 leaders were lucky.

    Erm I thought most of them were either killed in the Rising or Executed afterwords!

    Apart from Countess Markievicz President of Cumman na mBan and Founder of the Irish Citizen Army. I think they all were killed if they survived, executed if convicted and were at the very least imprisoned.

    Michael Collins wasn’t a leader of the Rising, neither was Eammon De Valera, sure they were involved but neither was leader.

  • Zeno

    He is obviously confused.

    “But surely the first bullet fired on Easter Monday 1916 was also fired without a democratic mandate? Sorry Séamus, but you can’t have it both ways. Either democratic legitimacy has to be established in advance of action, or it does not. Either both the 1916 revolution and the 1969 uprising were undemocratic, or both were legitimate.!

  • Paddy Reilly

    Our civilisation is based on retrospective justification. We tend not to regard Jesus Christ as a rebel legitimately punished by the Roman authorities.

    Obviously if Ireland had been a democracy then any rising or revolt against it would have been illegitimate, but it would also have been unsuccessful. But the process whereby Ireland became subject to a parliament in Westminster was an entirely violent one, and so invited a violent response. The British Empire was not built by holding referenda on whether a particular country wished to be taken over by the redcoats.

    Similarly, the ‘Northern Ireland’ entity took too many liberties in its formation for it to be able to command the loyalty of all of its population. Had the proper plebiscites been held, then Derry and all the territory beyant the Bann would have gone with the Free State. There would have been no Bloody Sunday, no Crossmaglen, no Border campaign, etc, merely slight disturbances in West Belfast of the same seriousness as those of Tottenham in London or Toxteth in Liverpool.

    Mallon is indeed inconsistent. If the Easter Rising had no mandate, then the action to suppress it had even less. There may have been violent people in Northern Ireland who set out to make war on the state, but the experience of the majority of the people caught up in the troubles was different. Their narrative is this: We did not set out to make war on the state: the state made war on us. We had no idea that we were anything but valued citizens, until the door broke open and we were dragged away to torture.

  • Gingray

    Zeno
    Again, useful contribution.
    He is as confused as any politician who supports the legitimacy of 1916 yet overlooks the conflict in Northern Ireland. Which is not at all. Political expediency.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think you’re politicking a bit here Ian and at the expense of a democratic party that kept so many people away from the paramilitaries.

    My only advice is to pick your battles, parties like Alliance and Ulster Unionists would be on the receiving end of condemnation when their complaints about violence fall on deaf ears of those who support it. They can’t simply shun responsibility for bringing Sinn Féin, and by extension the PUP and UDP into non-violent constitutional democratic politics on the SDLP, nor the success of any “justifications” they make either.

    We are seeing the DUP and UUP and Alliance try to politically maneuver in the wake of the Kevin McGuigann and Gerard “Jock” Davison … is history going to write that going into the Executive on designated days, leaving the Executive or asking for a suspension against the will of the majority of the Assembly did one single iota to stop the mad men and mad women on the streets with the guns and the undecommissioned willingness to kill?

    Shouldn’t this be a battle we should all be fighting collectively rather than bickering over who can do it better?

    We all failed … We failed to ensure attacking the peace was repulsive to even the most cynical and critical people out there… two men are dead.

    What use is attacking this party or that party, when the electorate sees no action being carried out to stop the violence and the people who commit violence see egotistical politicians (on all sides) playing “holier than thou” with fellow democrats rather than putting the peace process before partisan interests being less powerful than the gunmen and gunwomen again. That’s not an attack on you, but a perception of politics here among the disenfranchised.

    No party alone was able to stop the violence, it was the peace process that stopped the violence.

  • Barney

    Mr Gallagher wrote
    “But there can be no such thing as retrospective democracy.”

    Yes there can, as the experience of Apartheid S Africa, India and all other former colonies will attest. What can be said is that an Empire, almost by definition, cannot be described as democratic. Of course there are those in the “mother of parliaments” who still consider both Mandela and Gandhi terrorists

    The blinkered argument set out by Mr Gallagher reminds me of Israeli destruction of ancient water facilities in Palestine because it seems the Romans forgot to apply for planning permission.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It was Sinn Féin politicians who suggested the IRA as a conspiracy organisation as a hypothetical academic argument to justify the “cause”.

    It’s basically Sinn Féin rhetoric to use when the party is on the defensive over the IRA’s raison d’être.

    All other opponents could merely point to political own goals like the Shankill and Enniskillen bombs and call it pointless terrorism i.e. pointless use of terror. Conspiracy implies active brain cells, which these acts show no existence of.

    What type of rewrite of history do you think they could make, that people should not have been terrified by IRA bombs and guns, particularly all the civilians killed by roadside bombs and collateral damage?

    Fair play to the Sinn Féin representatives who don’t justify it and try to put it in the past. It’s the ones defending the indefensible that are causing division and who oppose dignified partnerships.

    Now, from Sinn Féin’s point of view we are seeing criminals conspiring to put the IRA’s name and “cause” into disrepute by housecleaning and killing suspected drug dealers by convincing the Chief Constable they’re some sort of veterans association… and suddenly guess what?

    It’s a conspiracy!

    Good thing about conspiracies is no one could prove what’s really happening.

  • John Collins

    Again I refer to the Act of Union which created the basis for all that followed

  • John Collins

    Kevin. I think most people would feel that Dev was a leader in the 1916 Rising. He was next to be executed but so strong was the public opinion backlash and his American background that he got a reprieve.

  • John Collins

    What about the tory leader who in 1911 told a huge Loyalist gathering said ‘there are more important things that Parliamentary majorities’

  • Zeno

    “We all failed ..”

    Speak for yourself.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If the goal is to try to defeat political violence from the political pulpit the inevitability is failure.

    To ask the question differently, if you haven’t failed how have you succeeded? How many violent men and violent women have you persuaded to turn away from violence?

  • Kevin Breslin

    He was among the highest ranks to escape, but he was still a subordinate to the likes of Padraig Pearse. Commandant yes, Leader not really.

  • Zeno

    With that logic I’ve also failed at becoming World Formula One Champion, a Rock Star and an award winning film director.
    I don’t like being lumped into someone else’s collective failure for no good reason. If you failed you failed , fair enough. The rest of us didn’t.

  • Greenflag 2

    The SDLP was ignored by the UUP . The first voluntary power sharing agreement collapsed because of right wing loyalism and unionist fellow travellers . Thats why SF are now in mandatory on and off coalition with the DUP and not the UUP.

    1916 probably would not have happened but for 1912 and the self arming by Loyalist gun runners and of course WW1. What would have happened post 1918 minus the 1916 Rebellion is anybody’s guess .

    The problem with the absolutist argument -i.e legitimacy or non legitimacy is it ignores the actual real political situation at the time including the then past history.

  • congal claen

    Indeed. The Conservative and Unionist party won the 1918 UK election.
    It’s similar to the SNP winning a landslide in Scotland in 2015 against the overall UK win by the Conservatives. The difference is that the SNP can’t claim that Scotland therefore voted for independence as we know the result of the referendum a mere 6 or 7 months earlier. It follows that neither can Irish Republicans of 1916.

  • ConallBoyle

    Democracy? That’s elections surely, where the majority gets its way. It’s called the Mandate. So why (a) were the Irish Nationalists refused their due democracy from 1870-1916? And (b) why now are the Scot Nats (remember 56/59 MPs) denied immediate independence?

    So maybe only some kinds of democracy are OK, prospective, retrospective or current?
    And what should you do when democracy is frustrated by trickery?

  • Greenflag 2

    Paddy ,

    Jesus Christ was by some accounts (non religious) a non violent Jewish Nationalist zealot who even the Roman’s thought was a harmless nuisance and upsetting only to the local Pharissees and money exchangers which is why the then financial priests wanted him gone i.e crucified .

    350 years later when Christianity finally became the State /Emperor’s religion and the ancient Roman Gods had lost all credibility -they just died off when people stopped believing in them Jesus’s teachings became the new order on which the Holy Roman Empire was founded .

  • John Collins

    Well Kevin. He was elected President in 1919 and was still President in 1973. He was leader of Fianna Fail and its republican antecedents from 1922 to 1959, despite the claims of several other prominent ’16 men. I cannot help feeling this enduring top level career suggests than he was at least the most prominent survivor of the Rising.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘Of course there are those in the “mother of parliaments” who still consider both Mandela and Gandhi terrorists”

    They don’t say the same of George Washington oddly enough or David Ben Gurion . One could argue that there would’nt be a modern Israeli State if it had’nt been for the idiot ideology of Nazism . Most German Jews ( half a million ) who formed about 0.5% of the then German population were loyal citizens- many had fought in WWI . One could just as easily argue that but for Unionism an independent modern Ireland would not exist today as most Irish people might have settled for Home Rule .

    We’ll never know

    The point is it doesn’t matter what could/would/might have been . It is what it is .

    If the people of Ireland (ROI ) were ever to rejoin the UK ( an unlikely event I know ) it would be NOT because of NI Unionism but in spite of it .

  • Greenflag 2

    “Sorry Séamus, but you can’t have it both ways. Either democratic legitimacy has to be established in advance of action, or it does not.”

    Seamus had/has to live in the real political world not in the absolutist world of political theory or academia . There is no black and white . There was no vote before the French or American revolutions likewise the Russian or later revolutions or the recent Arab Spring . The Jewish Irgun did not hang around to have an election before they started shooting and bombing the British in Palestine . You might get some who would decry Israel’s right to exist . Israel’s 200 or so nuclear weapons tends to cloud that argument .

    Nobody today would suggest that France or the USA are illegitimate because of their failure to adhere to democratic norms before their ‘revolutions . Ditto for the Irish Republic apart from a few British Unionist extremists.

    So Seamus and others can have it both ways . Even Unionists can have it both ways -its built into the GFA .

    For the people in Tianamen Square there was no way although credit to them -they tried . The one party corporate fascist Chinese State continues to exist .

  • Greenflag 2

    Rubbish CC . Ireland’s political history followed a much different course from Scotland’s Scotland’s nationalists haven’t had a 1916 or 1912 or any major revolt since 1745 and even then the Scots wanted to get rid of one monarchy (the German Hanoverians ) and replace them with the legitmate ” Stuarts ” IIRC there were 58 stronger claims to the throne than the Hanoverians – the problem was that all the others happened to be Catholic -apparently they did’nt have enough Protestant or Atheist aristocrats at the time thus they picked George the German who detested England and refused to speak its language . Just shows what people will do to sell out their country even for so called religious reasons 😉

  • Greenflag 2

    The Act of Union was passed by perjury and fraud . There is a list I have somewhere not to hand alas which lists the actual cost of the vote in terms of offices , royal sinecures , religious appointments etc i.e bribery . The then Irish Parliament voted itself out of existence in a similar exercise to what happened in Scotland a century (approx ) earlier . The people in both countries had no say in the matter . Neither did the people of England or Wales .

    Lord Castlereagh was the genius behind the Act of Union . He suffered from major depression and later committed suicide -he slit his own throat . It seems to have been a family thing for his nephew Robert Fitzroy who was the captain of the Beagle and had to endure Charles Darwin’s close company for 5 years also succumbed to the same fate . It looks today in 2015 that political unionism is following the Castlereagh’s example although one hopes not literally . Still its historical irony or perhaps de ja vu of a sort that Charles Darwin’s greatest ‘discovery ‘ is to this day not accepted by some /many of DUP followers and even MPs and MLA’s .

    Darwin thought Fitzroy a very strange creature indeed . He was apparently an enthusiastic Biblical devotee and never forgave Darwin’s (despite the latter’s Divinity degree ) lack of religiosity .

    Darwin got it right. The Castlereaghs got it wrong but they could’nt know it in advance could they .

  • Paddy Reilly

    Oh, that’s all right then.

    No apostrophe in Romans, please.

    The ancient Roman Gods did not lose credibility: they were just banished to the body, Outer Space, and Astrology, which is why we still have Venereal Disease and Martial Arts.

  • gendjinn

    Oh this old Unionist lie again. SF & IP received 717k votes to Unionism’s 257k votes.

    In the previous GE SF & IP held 73 seats to Unionist 17, in the 1918 GE SF & IP held 79 seats to Unionist 22.

    There was an overwhelming majority for independence in the 1918 election as there had been for the previous FIFTY YEARS. An overwhelming majority that had been ignored by the British state.

  • aquifer

    So you have retrospectively hijacked the votes of the moderate Irish Parliamentary party for independence, presumably at pistol point?

    Standard SF rewriting history stuff, but now there is wikipedia to check.

    Even awarding SF the votes of some independent nationalists, the total for separation was 484,270, less than half of the 1,015,515 votes cast.

  • gendjinn

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! Unionists and their zombie lies…. must have braaaaains.

  • congal claen

    Hi greenflag,
    If what I said is rubbish please point out any factual errors.

  • Greenflag 2

    Right Paddy -I should not have written ALL credibility . The pagan beliefs and mythic Gods continued to be worshipped , feared and or ritualised for hundreds of years especially by the peasantry and the not so educated . We still have holy wells and other sacred sites (Stonehenge/Newgrange ) which predate Christianity . You left out Homeopathy 😉

  • Greenflag 2

    Comparing Ireland’s case with Scotlands is simplistic and given the histories of both nations an apples v oranges comparison . Unlike Scotland Ireland did’nt get an Independence referendum 6 months before the 1918 GE . If they had who knows what would have ensued . They got instead the Black and Tans and we know in retro what that achieved .

    Churchill’s threat of a 250,000 army invasion never materialised either .

    Scotland will no doubt have another referendum . From what I understand it was the over 65’s who voted largely against independence and a small majority (1% ) among women voters . Scottish males 18 to 65 voted for independence by a large majority.

    Anyway Scotland is our neighbour .We should’nt interfere in their struggle for independence -regardless of what that actually means in today’s financial sector ruled world where democracy means rule by capital and corporation for themselves alone 🙁

  • Starviking

    For both (a) and (b) the answer is: people vote in elections for a whole range of reasons – for a big, and irreversible step, such as independence, referendums are required.

  • Tochais Siorai

    When exactly was the referendum asking us if we wished to join the UK?

  • Kevin Breslin

    He’s a “retrospective” leader of the Rising, but at the time he wasn’t really a leader he was more middle management. Collins wasn’t even a Cadet.

  • 241934 John Brennan

    Troubles –killing statistics

    Responsible
    party No.
    Republican paramilitary groups 2057
    Loyalist paramilitary groups 1019
    British security forces 363
    Persons unknown 82
    Irish security forces 5

    Total 3526

    Injured -47541 people.
    shootings -37000.
    Armed Robberys -22000
    Bombings – 16000 – 80 children murdered by the so called freedom fighters.
    644 civillens murdered by the so called freedom fighters. Total –
    2059 murdered by the IRA the freedom fighters.
    Loyalist murdered 1019
    The State murdered 369 people.
    Irish State murdered 5 people.
    Unknown murders 82.
    Given that the Povos murdered and maimed more Irish Nationalists and children than did all others put together their campaign was as Mallon says was ‘self defeating’ in all respects. Having shot down and shouted down the Sunningdale power sharing government, have we even yet, 30 years later, achieved ‘Sunningdale for slow learners

  • congal claen

    Hi Greenflag,
    “who knows what would have ensued”
    Exactly my point. So the 1918 election can’t retrospectively justify 1916 or what followed.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Honestly, when it comes to speaking about failures to stop people believing that the cause of the paramilitaries was wrong, the Alliance party was a failure. Attacking the SDLP is deferring responsibility.
    Its vote and presence completely collapsed in the West of the Bann, in the wake of the Hunger Strikes. Do you quit a challenge simply when it gets harder, or do you risk failure in order to suceed?

    Believe me when I saying it failed is a lot more generous than accusing it of giving up.

    Alliance took its own brave steps: from Lord Alderdice shaking Mayor Alex Maskey’s hand and being the first non-nationalist party based in Northern Ireland to enter talks with Sinn Féin to backing the Anglo-Irish Agreement … it’s a big enough, confident enough party to deal with people from nationalist backgrounds young or old having the impression that the IRA were a group of freedom fighters, or at least should be!

    Ian’s version of Irish History is up for debate, from my own point of view there is a valid arguments around “Southern driven partition” that put control of land and people before the cherishing of all the people.

    Whether it’s the Siege of Derry, the Easter Rising, the invasion of Cromwell, the Troubles or any other violent historical event … there are failures there, not just violent minds but good people doing nothing too.

    If History has one purpose, isn’t it to learn from failure?

  • tmitch57

    I can speak directly to his references to the American Revolution. The Continental Army was answerable to the Continental Congress, which was made up of representatives from each of the colonial legislatures of the 13 colonies. And it first met in 1774–before Lexington and Concord. After the Battles of Lexington and Concord the Congress met again and authorized the formation of the Continental Army with George Washington as its commander. The Congress in 1776 authorized the formation of a committee to draft a declaration of independence. This Declaration of Independence was then approved by a vote of the Continental Congress as a whole.

    Greenflag, stop using your ignorance of history as a justification for terrorism. If you want to claim the justification and legitimacy of the French and Russian Revolutions be my guest. Considering their results I wouldn’t be too eager. In regard to the Irgun Zvai Leumi you are correct–and as a result the associated Herut Party that came out of it suffered at the polls for decades as a result. As a recent study of the British mandate and the Jewish Revolt makes clear, the British decided to turn the problem over to the UN in 1947 because it was clear that the conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs was destined to continue whatever the British did.

  • Barney

    Greenflag’s point stands simply because the slave owners revolt started before the Continental Congress (it did apply a retrospective mandate) Unless you can provide some evidence of a pre existing mandate his point is valid.

    The theme of the show is whether it’s possible to apply, retrospectively, a degree of democratic legitimacy as Mr Mallon said.

    Do you consider the lack of a mandate by the ANC delegitimises the Black liberation movement? The rebirth of Poland lacked a mandate, the Ukrainian ss republic (1917 version) didn’t have a mandate before they were sold to Russia by the Poles, there was no mandate in Kenya etc.

    Clearly it is possible to apply democratic legitimacy retrospectively.

  • John Collins

    It also involved the promise of Catholic Emancipation, a promise immediately broken

  • John Collins

    Hold on. 25 of the 104 constituencies were not contested in 1918. These were the constituencies with the biggest Sinn Fein support. That is why they were not even contested by the Irish Party. If they had been contested it is almost certain over 50% support would have been achieved by the separatists country wide. As regards intimidation the ballot box was available for those voting in 1918, unlike the elections conducted in the earlier landlord days when people had to vote openly and suffered if they did not ‘vote the right way’. I think this ‘intimidation in the 1918 election’ story is a nonsense. The Irish Party representatives contested several elections afterwards with very little success indeed.

  • John Collins

    How many Unionists have been elected to the Dail?

  • John Collins

    Have you ever researched how the ‘Act of Union’ was achieved.? Anyway independence was achieved by conquest as many GB representatives have justified taking over several foreign lands.

  • John Collins

    And GB reneged on promises made to the Scottish electorate the following morning as they did at the time of the Act of Union election here. No wonder the SNP swept the boards at the GE.

  • aquifer

    John you are undone. The Irish Parliamentary Party were not for separatism a la Sinn Fein, so presumably they, and any Unionists standing, would have hoovered up even more non separatist votes if the seats had been contested, making SFs mandate even more questionable.

    Your point about the secret ballot is an interesting one, suggesting that SF may also have benefitted from an unusual swing from voters ‘let loose’ from landlord supervision, new voters without a clear view of the consequences of voting for a revolutionary junta. Important then to hijack the democratic process before voters had second thoughts.

  • aquifer

    Will ISIS also remember 2013? Awarding cultural and religious fanatics with firearms legitimacy sounds dangerous to me, and just invites the next bunch of strange losers to intimidate eachother into acts of theatrical atrocity, and the rest of us into obesiance and submission. If the Scientoligists took to using car bombs, should we take them more seriously?

  • John Collins

    Well if the IPP and the Unionists were so sure of their ground why had they not they the guts to contest the election in these constituencies.
    Your comment about people who you make out were not intelligent enough to vote is just absurd. Before 1918 only men over 35 had a vote and no woman had a voter.
    As you might say yourself ‘You are hopelessly undone’.

  • congal claen

    Very few. Some representing Trinity perhaps? I seem to remember a quote from one of them to a Donegal TD complaining about the constituencies being redrawn so as to remove them. He complained that he thought it ironic that the td for the most uneducated part of Ireland wanted the abolition of the seat representing the most educated.

  • congal claen

    Yip. Bribery and corruption mainly. As was the order of the day throughout the land. However, the Catholic population was mainly in favour as they thought they’d be better treated by Westminster. Grattan’s parliament being a bit of an embarrassment to Westminster at the time.

  • congal claen

    Hi John,
    Regardless, the SNP did not win the referendum, despite winning the majority of the seats in Scotland at an election 6 months later. So, there is no guarantee Irish Nationalists would have won an independence referendum in 1918 despite winning the majority of the parliamentary seats in Ireland. We simply don’t know what the result would have been.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Neither Grattan’s parliament nor the Act of Union had anything to do with democracy or the wishes of the people.

  • Tochais Siorai

    ‘….Awarding cultural and religious fanatics with firearms legitimacy sounds dangerous to me….’
    .
    Spot on, Aquifer. In just a single sentence you’ve summed up British rule in Ireland for centuries.

  • John Collins

    Well I have researched the newspaper reports of speeches made by IPP candidates during the campaign and they hammered home the point that a vote for Sinn Fein was a vote for separation from the Union and yet they failed to impress the electorate. In the early days of the Free State some Unionists stood for election and they were roundly beaten also.

  • John Collins

    Yes indeed. And when the proposal was put to the peoples representatives of the day, the year before in 1799, it was defeated. The Act of Union was wrong ab initio.

  • John Collins

    Well actually the few prominent RCs that were asked about the issue split about 50/50. But as you contend in other areas how do we know how the vast majority of RCs felt as had no vote but they had a reasonable level of support from some of the Protestant Ascendency in Grattan’s Parliament for Catholic Emancipation and this is probably why they were such an embarrassment to Westminster.

  • John Collins

    As regards constituencies being redrawn to put out certain people both the Southern and Northern administrations have done this to their own advantage. Did anyone ask this TD if he had done anything to further the education of the people in the ‘most educated part of Ireland’. After all Protestants in Ireland had a University since 1583 and it was 1909 before Catholics had theirs.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘So the 1918 election can’t retrospectively justify 1916 or what followed.’

    I never said it did . The later importation of the Black and Tans (the demobbed neer do wells short of a bob if the price was right for a killing ) is what cemented the 1916 Rising in the minds of the people .

    Ultimately it was’nt the then IRA military actions that won independence . It was civil disobedience and non recognition by the population at large of British institutions of State and administration that finally persuaded the then British Government to withdraw .

    You can imagine -its not going to happen of course – if British Government institutions In NI were totally ignored by 80% and up to 100% of the population in some places and instead people went to their own newly established institutions .

    Boycott works or at least it did back then but then people on all sides were I think more committed to their Covenants and Oaths than people might be today . Just as well one supposes/

  • Greenflag 2

    The RC Hierarchy had been promised Catholic Emancipation if the Act of Union was passed . By the mid 18th century the Governments ( both Westminster and the Dublin Parliament ) and the Established Church had accepted that Ireland was going to remain overwhelmingly Catholic despite Penal Laws (truthfully in spite of them most likely ) . It all became too impractical , unwieldy and even to most Protestants at the time counter productive etc . Thus the RC Church was allowed to have Maynooth founded 1795 and RC churches were being built all over the country. The slaughter of 40,000 people in 1798 mostly in Ulster and Wexford was to an extent due to the loss of the American Colonies . Upset Georgy Porgy no end . No way was he going to lose Ireland as well.

    When Catholic Emancipation failed to be enacted due to KIng George’s unwillingness to sign the bill British Prime Minister Pitt resigned and Lord Cornwallis who favoured the Bill due its said to the loyalty and fighting prowess of the many Irish soldiers who were Redcoats in the American Revolution . Cornwallis sanctioned the first St Patricks Day Parade in NYC .

    The KIng had his way and as with the laws of physics the equal and much greater reaction to the King’s blind bigotry came with the arrival of Daniel O’Connell . And we know the rest don’t we .

  • Greenflag 2

    True but the local Irish Parliament did provide relief for the earlier famines in 1816 and in the 1740’s . Some historians state much more so than Westminster in the 1847 Great Famine . Perhaps they were physically closer to the action i.e the hungry/starving etc whereas Westminster was too far away .

  • Starviking

    It was waiting for the Kingdom of Ireland in mid-19th Century Switzerland – about 50 years after the Act of Union.

  • congal claen

    It had more to do with democracy than Easter 1916, which is the theme of thread after all.

  • congal claen

    It should be noted though that the American Irish of that time were mainly Prod.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Westminster is undemocratic.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    great to post the stats and I quite agree
    One slight amend: the state killings by UK and Rep of I security forces respectively are better described more generally as ‘killings’ as not all were murders. Extra-legal deliberate killings are murders for example, but killings during shoot-outs with terrorists, or genuinely accidental deaths from police actions during riot control, wouldn’t be, for example. But pretty much all the terrorist killings were murders, even in the strict sense.

    I usually think roughly in terms of no more than half of deaths caused by state forces to be murders, the other half or more, though tragic, within the law. It might seem cold to hear them described in that way, but it isn’t – and indeed it’s humane and fair. The context was one of tens of thousands of potentially lethal attacks on the security forces, very few of which resulted in them using lethal force in self-defence. But I don’t have the figures on that.

  • Tochais Siorai

    You might have to expand on this a bit…..

  • John Collins

    You should research how support for the Act of Union was achieved in Ireland, after it had initially been rejected. Then you night see just how ‘democratic’ it was, mar a dearfa,

  • Starviking

    So? We were talking about whether elections should be taken as independence referendums.

    The Act of Union was over 200 years ago, Standards have been evolving since then.

  • Starviking

    How can you have a referendum in 1801, when they were invented in Switzerland in the mid-19th Century?

  • Gingray

    Eh?

    Is this attack on the 1916 revolutionaries or on the PIRA?

    Context is of course everything. Britain had invaded, conquered and colonised Ireland. They had oppressed the language culture and religion of many on the island, and circumvented democracy to prevent home rule for a people who clearly opposed the war loving British empire.

    Their legitimacy stems from a long tradition of fighting against British rule in Ireland. It rarely worked but in its time it was the standard appropriate response.

    IS also stem from British misadventure abroad. Initially largely made up of former iraqi soldiers, they resent majority rule by the Shia, and after early success dipped their toe in Syria – where yet again Britain was dipping it’s toe in, providing support to the rebel factions (in conjunction with their undemocratic fascist Arab allies).

    So impunity exists for nation states that go around the world attacking, conquering and undermining other nations but if someone uses the same means to oppose colonialism then they have no legitimacy?

  • John Collins

    Well yes. I was pointing out that in 1918 in the constituencies that were contested, especially in what is now the Republic, the argument was strongly made that leaving the Union would have all sort of terrible consequences for the country. However the electorate, now consisting of all adults, male and female, decided overwhelmingly to support a separatist line. In a few subsequent elections Unionists candidates put themselves before the electorate but were roundly beaten. This would suggest that the people were at peace with the outcome of the ’18 election. I was referring to the Act of Union and further back to the breaking of the Treaty of Limerick as the points at which trust between GB and Catholic were almost irretrievably damaged. Thankfully normal neighbourly relations have been resumed in recent years

  • John Collins

    Well and good, but when the issue was put to the then peoples’ representatives in 1799, the previous year, the proposal was rejected. (Perhaps there is a lesson for the Scots Nats here). BTW when O’Connell had massive peaceful rallies in support of the Repeal of the Act in 1843 they were put down with the threat of brutal force.

  • Tochais Siorai

    The colonial Irish parliament of 1799, a body confined to a fraction of a fraction of the population i.e. the Protestant gentry cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as the people’s representatives.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Fair enough and of course democracy as we know it is a relatively recent phenomenon.

    But tell us, in the absence of Swiss style referendums what was the legal basis for the centuries of British rule in Ireland? Was it the regular mass killings (in the case of the Tudor Conquest, Desmond Wars etc probably genocide) or the cultural imperialism? Maybe it was the universal land dispossession backed up by apartheid type laws. The forced transportation of political convicts to the other side of the planet was effective as indeed was mass emigration. Regular famines helped too of course.
    .
    In a nutshell, no need for popular support when centuries of extreme violence have done the job. Now there’s retrospective democracy for you.

  • John Collins

    Oh absolutely but it was they, who when adequately coerced , lied to and bribed, subsequently voted the measure through. Oh course they were not representative of the peoples wishes

  • Greenflag 2

    I’m not justifying or trying to justify what is called ‘terrorism ‘ Had George Washington been defeated and he would have been without the French Naval Blockade which prevented Cornwallis from being resupplied – he would have been hanged as a traitor along with the other independence signatories -they did’nt use the term terrorist back then . Colonial Americans were not ALL in favour of independence which is why the Revolution took 10 years ? plus . About a third were strongly for independence and a third (the Empire Loyalists ) were for King George and merry England and the other third sat on the fence and got on with the harvest or moonshining .

    The American rebels won because they had the right idea for their circumstances at the time and their revolution juxtaposed itself with the new ideas emanating from the then European Enlightenment . Alas some of those ideas have yet to penetrate into parts of Europe some not too distant from here 🙁

  • Greenflag 2

    Standards may have evolved -Political unionism in Ireland hasn’t. Which is why it’s extinct over most of the country and is heading for the same fate where it’s still extant

  • Greenflag 2

    The RC Church hierarchy were generally in favour as they could see that the Act of Union would increase their growth potential , missionary outreach , empire building etc throughout the colonies . At the time the Anglican Established Church and other non RC denominations had given up on the myth that they were the Church of the “people ” HMG in London was very much aware and 1798 had given them a major fright . The idea of Catholics and Presbyterians uniting as Irishmen for freedom was a nightmare scenario for KIng George . Thus the Government ‘provocations ‘ of 1797 which were designed to out the rebels before they could get stronger or attract significant support from beyond Ireland .

  • Greenflag 2

    Both the French and Russian Revolutions each in their own way provide lessons for today’s western world and indeed beyond .
    When those in power -first ignore and then try to prevent necessary reforms to take account of the people’s demands for fair representation and democracy then the only response which delivers is actual revolution and a complete overthrow of the rulers by the ruled .
    In France iirc the Ferme Generale a large finance /tax gathering private firm was detested by the population . They were hired by the KIng to collect whatever they could anyway they could to keep Versailles etc in splendour .

    The Russian aristocracy simply ignored the emerging Russian middle class and kept the serfs tied to the land in worse conditions than medieval France or Germany .

    In both cases a minority of the people led the revolutions and these were primarily from the emerging educated middle class in these countries . What happened later in both France (the reign of terror -guillotine etc ) and in Russia (the Stalinist tyranny ) are examples of what can happen when necessary poltical and economic/social reform are delayed or stalled unduly .

    Ireland is a great example of this historical phenomenon . Northern Ireland probably would’nt exist today nor the Republic if KIng George had delivered on Catholic Emancipation shortly after the Act of Union and not delayed it until 1829 by which time it was all but irrelevant .

  • Greenflag 2

    Their hostility to King George and the English was probably the most extreme of all the various ethnic groups within the then USA . Many Irish and English in the redcoats -deserted (more after the American victory than before ) and never returned to Britain .

    Andrew Jackson later the first Democratic President may even have been born in Ireland according to some historians . His hostility to the British resulted from the killing of his brother and the death of his mother -he attributed both deaths to the Brits .

    A not unknown consequence of individual circumstances determining political outcomes decades later .

  • tmitch57

    Serfdom had been abolished in Russia in 1861–two years before slavery was in America. The Russian Revolution didn’t occur until 1917: 56 years later.

  • Starviking

    And yet NI seems secure in the UK.