The slogan used to be ‘Brit’s Out’. It marked a gross misunderstanding of the people of Northern Ireland. As Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote of the Easter Rising:
“Irish-Ireland wrote and talked as if it assumed that the battle would be over once Dublin with its garrison of dentists’ wives had surrendered.”
The “British” of Northerm Ireland are the several hundred thousand people loyal to the Crown, not the Crown forces.
While the “Brits Out” slogan is no longer daubed, the toxic worldview remains. Many Republicans still see the argument as between themselves and Britain, and not between Irishmen with opposite aspirations.
TIME magazine wrote about Sir James Craig:
“Sir James Craig has been reviled and praised by Irishmen more than any other denizen of the Emerald Isle. Of course, the Irishmen that do the reviling will not admit that Sir James or any of his admirers are Irishmen, while the Irishmen that do the praising stoutly affirm that they are every bit as Irish as those who revile him…”
Those with a loyal mindset are seen as foreign; they are inimical to authentic Irishness, republicans say. But you can be loyal and Irish, Irish and loyal; as everyone from Gusty Spence to William Ennis have attested.
The republican movement’s fight is with Irish and Ulster natives who are loyal to the Crown, not with the Queen and English politicians and bureaucrats.
Repeatedly republican’s talk of Lloyd George as Ireland’s opponent, instead of James Craig and Ulster unionism. Lloyd George wanted an all-Ireland settlement but Ireland’s Ulster unionists objected absolutely, as I note below.
The 12 year old Reece Kilbride from Dublin recently wrote a letter to the Queen asking for Northern Ireland back. His request represented a catastrophic and dangerous misinformation, with either or both his parents and school responsible. (I wrote a rebuttal here, admonishing the anglophobic curriculum and culture that exists in Ireland, not the boy.)
Reece should have written his letter to all those unionists who voted pro-Union candidates.
The Irish Proclamation erroneously proclaims that unionists are deluded lackeys suffering a false consciousness “fostered by an alien government”. This is a serious assertion, and not once have I seen this erroneous proclamation addressed in this centenary year.
And of course, we are all familiar with the tinsel patriots of Irish-America who drawl, “England out of Ireland.”
Unfortunately the taciturnity of unionism has allowed the IT’S ALL TO DO WITH THE ENGLISH/ IT’s ENGLAND’S FAULT myth to stand and perpetuate.
Irish monarchists hold views as strong and legitimate as Irish republicans, and vice-versa, as enshrined in international treaty. John Hume expressed this emphatically in his famous 1964 article in the Irish Times:
“Another positive step towards easing community tensions and towards removing what bigotry exists among Catholics would be to recognize that the Protestant tradition in the North is as strong and as legitimate as their own…. We must be prepared to accept this and to realize that the fact that a man wishes Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom does not necessarily make him a bigot or a discriminator.”
Not only should Reece and republicans be writing letters to loyal Irishmen and not to the Queen, they should note that unionists have no love for England or the English. If anything, unionism has an anglophobia as great if not greater than republicans do. As George Bernard Shaw wrote:
“Mr St John Ervine’s Fabian political apprenticeship in London could not wash out of him the Orange dye of his native Belfast… But call Mr Ervine an Englishman and he will knock you down.”
Time after time unionists have viciously defied England.
Time after time unionists have decried and slandered English politicians.
This basic omission in understanding was perfectly illustrated in 1965 – Terence O’Neill was asked in an interview with Telefís Éireann:
“Prime. Minister, when Ireland is playing England, in a Rugby International for instance, what do you feel, as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, as somebody from Northern Ireland?”
This shows how outrageously ill-informed republican’s can be, to think Ulsterman as pro-English. Terence O’Neill responded:
“I think we all feel the same and we all cheer for Ireland and we always have done.”
The interviewer John O’Donohue continued:
“You don’t find any awkwardness in questions of allegiances when Rugby is being played?'”
Terence O’Neill returned:
“No, certainly not.”
Unionists are not English and have no great love for the English.
Ken Maginnis, as truculent and obdurate a unionist as any, said:
“I grew up within a rugby ethos that predated the Troubles, I never felt disloyal to Northern Ireland to go down and stand in Lansdowne Road when they were playing The Soldier’s Song... I don’t think that is a North-South thing [Ireland playing England in rugby]. Anyone who is Irish wants to beat England. There is not much pleasure in it now because everyone does it. See, the pleasure is in beating them when they expect to win. Aye, it’s not as much fun now that we always expect Ireland to win.”
Think of the unionist response to the English action and dictat in Ireland – Sunningdale and the Anglo-Irish Agreement for instance. Ian Paisley said in 1974 during the Ulster Workers Strike:
“Mr Merlyn Rees is a Welsh-English politician. He does not understand the Northern Ireland situation at all and he is very foolish to make pronouncements.”
Ian Paisley also said:
“We’re in the hands of our English masters. And we understand they are not our friends. They would like to destroy us. So that’s our only fear, but we’re not wandering about in fear of anybody.”
He also said:
“I say from this platform, that Mr. [Harold] Wilson is the best support the IRA could have!”
He said on another occasion:
“If the British security forces are going to join up with the IRA to kill protestants, then we will be in conflict with them.”
Unionists are loyal to the Crown, not to England.
The Anglophobia is more enduring than those outpourings of fury noted above.
Terence O’Neill said in the House of Lords in 1974:
“One of the extraordinary facts, my Lords, is that in the old days so many Protestants said to me, “Of one thing we can be sure. We don’t trust the English but, by God, we can depend on the Scotch!”
Republicans keep talking about the Orange veto, as if they were the only people who have to suffer it. As Terence O’Neill also said:
“I fear that what the month of May has shown is that any proposal made by anybody in London is subject to a Protestant veto and that is something which we cannot ignore in the future. They are prepared to exercise this veto even to the extent of wrecking their own economy.”
V.S. Pritchett described his encounters with the most resolute of unionists, the orangemen:
“Early in 1923, when I was a very naive and untrained newspaper correspondent in Dublin, it was my duty to take a regular trip to Belfast and to find out what was going on politically in that depressing and bigoted city of linen mills and shipyards. The Orangemen were contemptuous of the Southern Irish and had a blustering condescension to Englishmen like myself.”
Ian Paisley said in his speech to the DUP’s Annual Conference in 1993:
“I must tell John Major and Patrick Mayhew and the British Government that Ulster men and women will never surrender to the IRA the murderers of their kith and kin… Sell out loyal Ulster to those who have already committed genocide amongst us. Destroy our democracy. Dislodge the Union. Forswear your Privy Councillors oaths. Turn your back on your friends. Embrace our enemies. Enter into the assembly of the wicked. Stain your hands in the congregation of the murders…”
He also said, “Winston Churchill, the British Bull Dog and at one time no friend of Ulster.”
Ian Paisley said when he first sat down with Martin McGuinness:
“We don’t need Englishmen to rule us. We can do that ourselves.”
It was the same with Sir Edward Carson who said in 1907:
“If you (the British Government) are not prepared to govern Ireland according to the ordinary elemental conditions of civilisation that prevail in every country, then go out of Ireland and leave us to govern ourselves.”
Carson also said:
“Government either by the Imperial Parliament, or by ourselves [Government in Ulster].”
Ian Paisley said about this:
“Indeed, the long succession of Secretaries of State we lived through during Direct Rule gives us a deep understanding of that sentiment! Even yet, Ulster is nothing more than a rung on the ladder for English politicians whose heart knowledge of this Province is a void, and their head knowledge of what makes us tick a mere thimble’s worth.
Happy will be the day when Secretaries of State are surplus to requirement.”
Eileen Paisley said:
“Typical English, you just don’t understand Northern Ireland.”
Theresa Villiers said in her Speech to the British-Irish Association conference, September 5 2014:
“We have no power to force the unionists back to the table. Anyone who thinks that Ulster men and women meekly do the bidding of London knows very little about the last hundred years or so of our history, and not a great deal about being Northern Ireland Secretary either!”
Michael Collins understood the unique nature of the North, it wasn’t English, but nor was it Irish. It was something altogether difference from the South and East. He said:
“Who would visit Belfast or Lisburn or Lurgan to see the Irish people at home? That is the the unhappy fate of the north east [of Ireland]. It is neither Irish nor English.”
James Winder Good wrote in ‘Partition in Practice’ (1922):
“Mr. de Valera’s campaign against the Treaty was hailed by the Orange extremists as a proof that the Provisional Government was beaten before the fight began and that the Free State would never be permitted to function. Armed with this argument, they assailed the Pact all along the line, and unfortunately developments in the rest of Ireland appeared to play directly into their hands. I know it is held in some quarters that the Pact was a device engineered by England to secure recognition of Partition by the South, while at the same time freeing Sir James Craig from any responsibility for delivering the goods. It is impossible to square this explanation with the fact that the Six Counties were seething with the fiercest resentment against Great Britain for her betrayal of the Orange cause. The British National Anthem was barred; the toast of the King was ostentatiously omitted at public dinners attended by members of the Northern Government; England and all things English were damned with a heartiness that few uncompromising Republicans could equal. Had it been possible for the rest of Ireland to take advantage of this mood, not only could differences with the Six Counties have been amicably adjusted, but the worst of the stumbling-blocks that bar the path towards Irish unity might have been rolled away.”
The British have been working for nearly a century to extricate and disengage itself from Ireland. As David McWilliams wrote:
“It is my view that the British were on their way out of Ireland from the mid-1860s. London was actively trying to disengage and promote the Home Rule movement.”
McWilliams continued, explaining that the stumbling block to Irish independence were the Irish themselves, Irish men and women from Ulster:
“The only flies in the ointment were apparently the Ulster Unionists… This grand design – the gradual British pull-out – was going according to plan pretty well up to the time the Ulster Volunteers said no. Once the Ulster Covenant was signed and it became clear that the Ulstermen would fight, the notion of some sort of partition became a reality. This was what John Redmond feared most.”
The fight for Irish republicans is with fellow Irishmen, not Englishmen. British Prime Minister Lloyd George (as noted above) pushed for unity, as he said to Conservative Party leader Andrew Bonar Law on January 12 1918:
“This is the opportunity for Ulster to show that it places Empire above everything. If the little protestant community in the South, isolated in a turbulent sea of Sinn Feinism and Popery can trust their lives and their property to the majority there, surely the powerful community of the North might take that risk for the sake of the Empire in danger.”
Roy Foster wrote:
“More and more evidence shows that well before 30 January 1972, the trend of British policy was to seek disengagement.”
Peter Hitchens wrote:
“The paradox is that this discrimination was the result not of a British desire to hold on to Northern Ireland, but because of an unstated hope in London that Northern Ireland would one day somehow become part of an all-Ireland Republic.”
The Westminster convention of non-interference meant Northern Ireland issues could not be heard in the Commons, England distancing itself from the other island.
During the Home Rule crisis, while Ulstermen wanted Empire, it is clear London for the sake of Empire wanted Home Rule.
Brian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger.
Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here: http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/