A century since Markievicz MP – are we much further on?

In the lead-up to the Assembly election I looked at the potential gender representation of the cohort returning to the Hill.

A record 27 out of 90 Assembly members (30%) were returned.

From looking at the 18 constituencies there are 12 seats that will be not be filled by female candidates. This is due, in most cases, to the almost certain re-election of incumbents or that the nearest challenger is another man.

Countess Markievicz was of course the first woman elected in a Westminster election in 1918 for the constituency of Dublin St Patrick’s. It wasn’t until 1953 that another woman, Patricia Ford, was elected in a Westminster election this side of the Irish Sea.

Since then there have been just 7 female MPs – Patricia McLaughlin, Bernadette Devlin, Margaret Ritchie. Michelle Gildernew, Iris Robinson, Sylvia Hermon and Naomi Long.

Gender balance within the Assembly has been put under the spotlight more and more in recent years but less so when it comes to the 18 MPs. Is this due to the fact that the public see the Assembly Members as their ‘primary’ representatives? Perhaps.

Nonetheless the current percentage of female MPs – at 11% – is abysmal.

In this election there is only one female candidate relatively assured of election – Sylvia Hermon in North Down. The only other incumbent is Margaret Ritchie who faces a strong challenge from Chris Hazzard in South Down.

There are just 4 other constituencies where women have a chance to be elected. Obviously Michelle Gildernew is the best placed of those, needing just a slight swing to regain Fermanagh and South Tyrone from the UUP’s Tom Elliott.

Emma Little Pengelly and Alliance’s Paula Bradshaw are in the hunt for that most diverse of constituencies South Belfast. Naomi Long is fighting to regain East Belfast from Gavin Robinson and Elisha McCallion is challenging to overturn the SDLP’s strongest seat held by Mark Durkan in Foyle.

Shockingly it is not outside the realms of possibility that only one female MP is elected next month. The best outcome possible is 28%.

None of the main parties with MPs have been very focussed on gender representation within their teams. Perhaps they will consider standing more female candidates in safe seats next time around?

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  • Abucs

    On a more serious note, how many left handers will get elected?

  • Dan

    So, Mr McKay, do you recommend the electorate vote for Ritchie of Sdlp, to ensure the female voice is heard in Parliament, or Hazzard of Sinn Fein to ensure they have no representation?
    I think we should be told.

  • aquifer

    In the Assembly it is better at maybe 16%. PR voting may help gender balance.

  • Granni Trixie

    What I thnk is most shocking is that some parties apparently don’t seem to get why they ought to take action to address lack of female representation. This state of pkay begs questions concerning party culture and selection system.

    You would have expected after last Assembly election the offending parties (you know who you are) would be embarrassed into doing something to rectify the situation. Apparently not.

  • Ciara 007

    It will be a decade before the issue is adequately addressed

  • Brian O’Neill

    Interestingly six of the United States’ last seven presidents where lefthanded: president Obama, President Clinton, President George H.W. Bush, President Reagan and President Ford.

  • Granni Trixie

    Perhaps. But every time I see pictures of say DUP or UUP leadership I am reminded of a problem. Why do their “advisors” not tell the leadership this problem requires some intervention. It is in their own interest to appear representative of society. Just shows however that having a female as leader is not the answer.

  • james

    As opposed to Trump, who is merely cack-handed..

  • Abucs

    I think your ‘less favoured hand’ language is offensive and symptomatic of our Rightriachal society.

    Thanks for the info anyway.

  • Ciara 007

    It goes far deeper than that in my view. Gender equality needs to be pumped from the bottom up rather than the top down. This will take time, quite a lot of it. It would appear that all parties including Unionism have a fair amount of bright youg females at the start line of their ranks. The focus therefore in my view is for all parties to introduce measures which act to help prevent young woman falling outside the group when ‘life’ gets in the way.

  • Nevin

    “Countess Markievicz was of course the first woman elected in a Westminster election in 1918”

    Women in the House of Commons

    I spotted a report of this meeting of the Bushmills Suffrage Society in 1913:


    A very well attended Suffrage meeting was held in Bushmills on the 27th inst., under the auspices of the Bushmills Suffrage Society, affiliated to the Irishwowan’s Suffrage Federation.

    The chair was taken by Mr Greer, and after a short speech by Miss Eva Macnaghten, the following resolution was proposed by the Honorable Malcolm Macnaghten, and seconded by Mr. James Torrens – “That in any representative assembly forming part of the constitution of the Ulster Provisional Government women should not be disqualified by their sex from voting for the members of such assembly.”

    The resolution was carried without any opposition, and the meeting closed with an amusing dialogue admirably given by Miss Stack and Miss Newcombe, expressing the views of the working woman on the merits of woman’s suffrage. .. Belfast News-Letter 30 August 1913

    There was no mention of female representation in the UPG.

  • Granni Trixie

    I totally agree with your point about retaining new activists to climb the ladder. However whilst I also agree about pressure frobottom I think leadership from the top can accelerate change – different to being slowly dragged to inevitable change.

  • murdockp

    It is not as simple as man v woman.

    The system is geared towards election of time served career politicians. Most have time served bag carriers, activists and researchers.

    It is almost impossible for Joe public to become an MP/MLA unless they put the party time in which means people with proper jobs, in particular the self employed or families can’t do it.

  • The worm!

    That’s nothing. I have yet to see a woman emptying bins or recycling boxes either in my own area or on my travels around our lovely wee country.

    When are councils going to take action to redress this obviously discriminatory situation? Also equally disappointed that we never hear of any group or campaigner highlighting it.

  • Gaygael

    If we wait for organic progress from the usual suspects it will 21?? something before we have equal representation.
    We do not yet live in an equal society. Therefore the argument of meritocracy is a non-starter. We must legislate for quotas.

    Structural inequality against women and minorities exists in all parts of our society. We must address it.

  • Pete

    I don’t understand why this matters. Surely gender is irrelevant.

    Around 10% of nurses are men. Is that a “problem”? I don’t think so.

  • Pete

    Yeah, how about a quota for a minimum proportion of female prisoners?

    Or how about a quota for a minimum number of female refuse collectors? I don’t see too many of those.

  • Granni Trixie

    There are a few groups focused on training women for non traditional occupations.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Pete, gender has always been “irrelevant” to men, unless its the other gender.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “There was no mention of female representation in the UPG.” Nor, Nevin, would there be!

    While the UUC had to be very careful about how they approached the highly politicised women of 191-14, when Home Rule was in the balance, they could relax with their feet firmly under the political table in1920/22, and representation of women in their statelet would reflect this. Only one woman was elected in the first two elections, Dehra Chichester, another Dinah McNabb in the third, and Dehra (now Parker) was back again in the fourth. Both of these women were Unionists, and conservatives whose ideas could be relied upon not to challenge the “boys club” Unionism was then. The fifth election saw Dehra returned and given a safe ministry (Health) and in the sixth election (1945) Dehra and a returned Dinah were joined by a progressive independent Irene Calvert. The Seventh election saw four women returned, the previous three and Eileen Hickey, another progressive independent.

    While the south was hardly a beacon of progressivism in these years, the female representation in the Dáil, and especially the Senead contrasts dramatically with the turgid record here.

  • Granni Trixie

    It’s about an absence of representation of the population. Look how the UUP, governing in a single party state, ended up – a failure of politics.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The answer to your question is a clear yes, they absolutely should be looking at gender representation – not only looking at it, doing it. Outcomes on gender matter, not just fair process. We made 50/50 Catholic/Protestant a recruitment rule when we rebooted the police force – if the end is important enough, and it’s not going to happen otherwise, it is perfectly justified to set such a rule.

    Gender balance has so many benefits for society, it is worth prioritising getting the best outcome for society rather than getting tripped up by the supposed “fairness” issues. The current approach to gender fairness and representation overall patently isn’t working, so let’s change it.

    If people are doubtful about going that route, just ask yourself what kind of representation of women in politics we ideally want, ask yourself whether current processes are producing that, and if they aren’t, are we happy accepting failure? If so, why?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    We’re talking about a male-dominated working environment, designed by men and based around the way men want to organise working life, where it seems to get ahead as a woman you need to adapt to a male template. That is obviously going to be off-putting to many women, including very able women. Their talents are being lost to political life and our politics is diminished considerably by their absence.

    If you want political parties to do better on that, you need them to actively take account of the male-biasing effects of the status quo. That is, you need to ask deeper questions of the system you’re operating if it ends up with gender results like this. Stop blaming women for not wanting to take part, start making the parties into something women want to take part in. It’s a paradigm shift in thinking that is needed.

    And making sure in the short to medium term there are as many female role models in politics as possible is an essential part of that. If that means a few aspiring men miss out, so be it. Men have hardly had the shi**y end of the stick in politics thusfar, have they?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but there is a gender issue too

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Sadly there is a lot of social conservatism in N Ireland and the laissez-faire on this works unfairly against women.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    If no one’s read this piece by Ashitha Nagesh (for Metro, of all things) from last year, read this – nails it on how women are talked about in politics and is (for me at least) laugh-out-loud funny – the lines about Chuka Umuna and Alex Salmond are just brilliant: http://metro.co.uk/2016/09/04/shocking-expose-reveals-that-these-politicians-do-not-have-children-6109099/
    Keep an eye out for Ms Nagesh, rising star.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Unionism has a proud history of mass female engagement of course with the Ulster Unionist Women’s Council – proportionately the largest women’s political organisation of its time in the British Isles (numbers of members estimated at up to 200,000 back in the WW1 era). My other half has been researching it for her next book and she was flabbergasted. Would be great to see that kind of engagement revived for the modern era.

  • Nevin

    Were women initially overlooked when the Ulster Covenant was proposed?

    237,368 men signed the Covenant and 234,046 women signed the corresponding women’s Declaration, totalling nearly half a million signatures. .. PRONI source.

  • Gaygael

    Do you have any understanding of gender inequality?

  • Pete

    I believe steongly in equal treatment for men and women.

    If you are going to start calling for quotas, then you need to be consistent.

  • Pete

    Not sure what you mean.

    I have no issue with men being “overrepresented” in politics.

    And furthermore, I have no issue with women being “overrepresented” in nursing.

    I am logical and consistent. People who only have an issue when men are overrepresented are hypocrites.

  • Pete

    Male politicians can represent female constituents.

    Blaming the decline of the UUP on gender is taking clutching at straws to a new level!!

    Are you insinuating that female nurses don’t look after male patients as well as female patients?

  • Gaygael

    I’m focused on the levers of power. Women have never had equal access to those. Men had exclusive access to teaching, university and nursing.

    You are being a pedant to try and prove a ridiculous point.

    Do you believe men and women are equal? I believe, but live in a society where it is not yet actualised. And I will stand behind my sisters to make it happen.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t know the history of that, rather shamefully, my partner being something of an expert on it. What I take from that is a big negative and a big positive. Negative: women were not seen as the equal of men, but in parallel with lower status. Positive: at a time when women didn’t have the vote, it was a remarkable mass participation in an act of democratic protest for its time – the fact the numbers of women signing was more or less the same as the men is itself amazing for that era.

    It also shows how passionate people were generally about the Union in Ulster and just how ludicrous it was thereafter to try to apply Home Rule to the whole island, in the face of that utter rejection of it in the province. The 1918 election just confirmed how divided the island was. The unity of Ireland did not extend to issues of sovereignty – and still doesn’t. The island is, at the end of the day, no more united on that question now than it was then. There is no prospect of such unity arising in the future either.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes because clearly men are up against it in the workforce – so tough being a man out there …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “On a more serious note” – reads a bit like you don’t take this issue seriously …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Female politicians can represent male constituents too – somewhat better indeed – if they’re given the chance to do so.

    Eric Pickles among others was talking about this on Radio 4 a few weeks ago and he conceded the average performance of female MPs is higher than male MPs: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/29/sir-eric-pickles-female-mps-better-men-bbc-radio-4-interview
    He conceded there was a massive glass ceiling.

    Gisela Stuart put it nicely on the same programme: “My definition of equality, I always jokingly said, but there is some truth, when there is as many useless women in the House of Commons as useless men, then we have achieved equality.”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you seem to think men are hard done to – but have you seen the figures on this?

    There is still an almost 14 per cent gender pay gap in favour of men:

    No one’s saying quotas for everything. But this defensive ‘men are hard done by too’ stuff misses the big picture – men do just fine overall. It’s just another excuse to do nothing about the disadvantage for women in the world of work.

  • Nevin

    I note that the UWUC was formed in 1911. This would have been after yet another side deal between the Liberal Party and the Irish nationalist party so that the Liberals could get into power.

  • babyface finlayson

    Do you think it is a sinister conspiracy?

  • Nevin

    Greer in that article would have been Thomas Macgregor Greer whose daughter had the same first name as the Countess: Constance. Constance married Ernest ‘Complete Plain Words’ Gowers. Thomas’ legal practice in Ballymoney is still visible in Greer, Hamilton and Gailey and the Greers had a house in Ballycastle called Kenmara.

  • john millar

    I suggest you check the exact history of “Countess Markievicz” before you use her as an “example”

    “In the Rising, Markievicz fought in St Stephen’s Green, where on the first morning—according to one account—she shot a member of the (unarmed) Dublin Metropolitan Police, who subsequently died ”

    An claimed immunity on the grounds that she was a women. hardly the stuff of heros

  • Granni Trixie

    I agree that men can represent women’s concerns/issues and other way round. However women often bring a different experience and perspective to the table – plus they are half the population. Fir this reason too we have to aim generally at more diversity.

    As to the decline in the UUP, their paucity of women is symptomatic of the broader problem.

  • Paul Hagan

    I just find it bizarre that anyone, let alone nationalists who idetnify as republicans, would refer to her as “Countess” Markievicz

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes she was certainly no hero. Deeply involved in one Irish history’s darkest chapters.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Me too – least we can do

  • Pete

    The difference in average pay is due largely to different choices men and women make.

    You could just as easily say there’s a “gender prison gap” because more men are in prison. That too is due to different behaviours of men and women, in this case that men commit more crimes!

    If you want to address the gender pay gap, then tell women to start prioritising careers over families.

    I personally would never do that, men and women are free to make their own choices.

  • Pete

    And what statistics and evidence did he use to back that up?

    If anyone made a claim the other way around, there would be a national uproar over the “sexism”.

  • Pete

    How don’t women have equal access to power? They can get involved in politics just like men can.

    Women are underrepresented in politics. Men are underrepresented in universities.

    You are the one being sexist, by claiming that one of these is a problem and the other one isn’t.

    As I believe in equality, evidently unlike yourself, I do not believe that either of these is an issue, given that men and women are free to get involved in either as they so choose.

  • Abucs

    Nothing wrong with your comprehension skills Mainlander. 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think it was his own evaluation based on working as a senior parliamentarian and whip for many years.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    how about male politicians (and career animals generally) take more of the responsibility for their families?

  • Gaygael

    I note that you dodged the face that until pretty recently, women were excluded from teaching, universities and health professions.
    I think you also and probably quite deliberately disregard the thousands of years of subjection of women.
    You make a sterile out of context assumption that everything is just dandy now. It’s not. When men are denied the right to vote, or to hold property, or to exercise their own freedoms, then I will give some consideration to those things you point out.
    Meanwhile I’m busy spending my energy standing behind my sisters as they strive for equality. If you have better evidence than the sum of Internationally respected bodies the world over, I will listen to you.
    I eagerly await it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The fact that you’re not sure what I’m saying pretty much explains what I’m saying. We are living in a grossly imbalanced society, and an inability to see the glaringly obvious facts of how this blind spot about patriarchal values effectively cripples the lives of all of us is the default position for this imbalance to continue. A knee-jerk hitting out at feminism (and liberalism) out of encoded “mannish” social conditioning simply permits this socially destructive state of affairs to flourish.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As usual MU numbers can disguise things. The UWC had a number of strong suffragists, I know, but it did not even begin to attract any of the progressive movements in Ireland, as Nationalism did. The dominant role by the Gentry such as Lady Londonderry and Lady Duffern and Ava along with the conservative upper middler classes ensured a most conservative social policy at the helm which compares very poorly with the energised support for nationalism by Alice Stopford Green and Hanna Sheeny-Skeffington, say.

    And although it endured to 1940 (as I remember) it had little meaningful effect on Unionism after the boys in the UUC had gained power as the negligible numbers of women in the new Government of NI shows. Of these, one was a patrician conservative (Dehra Parker) and the other (Dinah McNabb), a “housewife” whose Lords Day Observance interests are still remembered alongside her bitter opposition to O’Neill in the 1960s.

  • SeaanUiNeill


  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, you are still projecting pick and mix impressions gleaned from later perceptions backwards into what was a rapidly unfolding process with considerable change in how people regarded one another and how they were motivated. That the attitudes of Unionists, Nationalists and seperatists in 1911 were notable different to their attitudes in (even) 1914, 1916, or by 1918.

    In 1911, Unionism across Ireland was striving to stop a very mild form of political devolution, the Third Home Rule Bill, entirely and the later idea of partition was not even on the table. It was not separatism which was being rejected, but at most, the kind of government within the Empire which the dominions were then experiencing. What people in the north were “passionate” about was either Orange inspired anti-Catholicism or a fear of the taxation of local businesses by a Dublin Parliament, which were the strong themes in the propaganda. The Union as such was for most people thinking and writing in the north at this time an entirely pragmatic option to protect what was seen as their local self-interest, and to maintain their perceived dominant position.

    By 1920 the pattern of group and individual politics and motivations across Ireland was entirely different to that in 1911. With such dramatic changes occurring during these years the broad generalisations of your second paragraph simply cannot be meaningfully sustained.

  • john millar

    “I note that you dodged the face that until pretty recently, women were excluded from teaching, universities and health professions.
    I think you also and probably quite deliberately disregard the thousands of years of subjection of women. ”
    Relatively recently? wtf was that ?

  • Gaygael

    The oppression of women continues throughout the world.

  • john millar

    I suggest you move to -say Saudi- and petition for equality.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    How does a “side deal” differ, Nevin, to a normal voting arrangement between parties agreeing to support one another’s issues in parliamentary votes? Is this sort of agreement not what representative democracy is actually composed of?

    Are you suggesting with the “side” deal quip that the Third Home Rule Bill was somehow not an accurate expression of majority representation in parliament, and that Unionism was somehow justified in opposing the democratic will of the people of these isles with their own recourse to violent resistance? If this is the case, if one is being consistent, are not others accordingly equally justified in similar recourse to violence? Personally, I’d avoid any such “cherry picking” and fully oppose all recourse to political violence………but local Unionism of any hue must historically carry this reckless choice to turn away from constitutionalism as its own personal “albatross” and no amount of prevarication can avoid the reality that NI only exists because of the threat of violence in 1912-14.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, no such side-deal was on offer in 1905 when the Liberal party didn’t need one; it was only on offer to get into power. The ‘peoples of these isles’ weren’t invited to give an opinion. Those you’ve identified with were a tiny unrepresentative minority on the island of Ireland of no consequence whatsoever.

  • John Collins

    You are engaging in the usual nonsense. Countess Markievich did not claim ‘immunity on the grounds that she was a woman’ as the record of the trial shows
    Judge Wiley, the man who saved De Valera and possibly Collins from execution, just made that story up.

  • Nevin

    More about Constance and her sister, Eve.

  • Gaygael

    I’m busy here. Saudi is terrible yes. Let’s not pretend that we are free from sexism. We have still a lot of work to do.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    But this political alliance in 1910 WAS the expression of the majority vote in Great Britain and Ireland at that time. The people of the British Isles were invited to give an opinion, at the election itself. It was not as if the policy of Home Rule and Liberalism were somehow strangers in 1910. After the defections of the right wing of the old Whigs to the Conservatives and, in Ireland, to Saunderson’s Orange Party Home Rule was a Liberal aspiration and anyone voting in 1910 could not have been in ignorance of this plain fact. So I find it odd not that you should cherry pick, but

    In Ireland Liberalism was closely engaged with the IPP in this Home Rule project, although it obviously still ran its own candidates at times. There was a strong liberal wing within the IPP which Redmond recognised would be the core of a renewed Irish Liberal party when Home Rule was operative. But this pooling of interest certainly produced the three quarter vote majority in Ireland, something which can hardly be described as “a tiny unrepresentative minority on the island of Ireland of no consequence whatsoever.” Irish Liberalism and the IPP could certainly field an entire body of highly intellectual, progressive thinking in the Ireland of their day in a way Unionism simply could not even begin to match. But perhaps the most important thing is that it is with Unionist failure to recognise the clear will of the majority vote of Great Britain and Ireland and the consequent constitutionalist defeat they suffered that the gun enters modern Irish politics, something which with their all too ready championing of the politics of sectarianism for entirely private economic ends has created the political climate which we have endured for a century.

  • Nevin

    “It was not as if the policy of Home Rule and Liberalism were somehow strangers in 1910.”

    The Home Rule issue doesn’t feature in the 1906 and two 1910 Liberal manifestos; a side-deal was only on offer when the Liberal party needed it to get into government.

    “Irish Liberalism and the IPP could certainly field an entire body of highly intellectual, progressive thinking”

    It also featured the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Bishop O’Donnell faction. These elements put the miniscule ‘thinkers’ into perspective.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, why engage in this kind of whataboutery? Especially with such weak material to field in argument? Clearly Home Rule was recognised Liberal policy after Gladstone had firmly put it centre field, and was known by all voters to be a Liberal Party intention. The Alliance with the IPP simply brought it to the fore again at a moment when the legal restrictions regarding the House of Lords powers of veto made it possible to get it through, which was not the case in 1905, when the Lords clearly held an unquestioned veto. This is the december 1910 “manifesto”, not a document as it would be today, but simply a speech by Asquith:


    I don’t see much at all about what legislation he is going to carry out if elected! In suggesting that Home Rule was not a manifesto pledge you seem to be relying on readers thinking that a modern style detailed manifesto was on offer. No, the policies were put forward on platforms across the nations in a world where no-one spent money sending out manifestos by post and there was no electronic media to cover the country.

    Your weak attempt to belittle the progressivism of the Home Rulers offers a motley collection which pales into insignificance when compared with the party which drew its support from a century of Belfast sectarian riots against Catholics, the party of Hugh Hanna’s extremist wing of the LOI. Joe Devlin’s espousal of the AOH needs to be seen in the context of Orangism’s shift from pariah to mass movement under the patrician patronage of Unionist grandees when its popular rank and file were seen to provide cannon fodder against Home Rule. I seem to remember in an earlier response a while back you brought up the Castledawson business, which could easily be set against a score and more of far more destructive actions by the Orange faction in the north during the preceding decades. It was a truism of politics in the 1900s that sectarianism was a thing of the north east corner. A while back I’d recommended a pamphlet where many prominent Irish Liberals describe the absence of sectarianism in the rest of Ireland and in the IPP. I simply cannot think of such a document being at all possible in the context of northern Orangism and the UCC!!! I think that puts this into a much fuller perspective than what you’ve posted.

  • Nevin

    ” Especially with such weak material to field in argument?”

    There was no need of an offer to the Home Rule grouping in 1880 but Gladstone had to do a side deal with Parnell in 1885 to get into government.

    “Especially with such weak material to field in argument?”

    You mean like ‘especially with such weak material to field in argument?’ !!!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, oh dear! “Gladstone had to do a side deal with Parnell in 1885 to get into government.”

    Are you now suggesting that the Grand Old Man was dragged kicking and screaming to endorse something for which he personally claimed a fully conversion publicly? Gladstone, quite properly, saw Home Rule as a moral action to answer the genuine demand for limit self government which Parnell represented. In a situation where Orange sectarianism was seen as something fringe, the “Ulster problem” did not yet exist, as normal Tory/Whig politics had been evident in the province until this point. The creation of a Unionist opinion took some time, and was seriously facilitated by the endorsement by northern Conservatives of the until then struggling Orange Institution and the drumming up of sectarian fears throughout the province. You must not even begin to assume that Gladstone had a crystal ball and was acting in full knowledge of the storm of Tory recklessness which would develop a most effective “Project Fear” propaganda against Home Rule to create the sectarian nightmare we have all grown up in simply for short term electoral advantage! Out of such mean intent did our present general polarisation grow, but you should examine the political motivation of those opposing Gladstone rather more dispassionately to examine the extend of their quite obvious cynical intent rather than simplistically seeing his great moral crusade for justice for Ireland as a similar kind of short term political advantage to that which certainly governed his unscrupulous opponents.

  • John Collins

    Dark. But not as dark as the Cromwellian period, 1641 or The Famine era.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Indeed. None of them good let’s face it.

  • Nevin

    Except it was never about limited self-government – and side-deals were only ever done by the Liberals to get into government. The problem at Westminster, on occasion, was the ability of Irish nationalists to determine the government of the day.

    Is it not curious that you have a problem with the sectarian nature of the Orange Order but not with the ‘faith and fatherland’ sectarian Ancient Order of Hibernians? Both organisations acted as vehicles for their respective causes and both unionism and nationalism were broad churches, in the liberal and conservative senses. It would appear that the respective apologists can only see fault in their opponents and show little or no interest in cleansing their own stables.

  • SeaanUiNeill


    “Except it was never about limited self-government – and side-deals were only ever done by the Liberals to get into government.”

    Those are big claims, and would need quite a bit of support to become credible in the light of the overwhelming evidence to the opposite.

    For the first, the separatists had become a minuscule interest group without serious political influence in Ireland until Unionism dragged them centre stage again after 191. As endless written evidence of the time clearly testifies, Ireland had been almost entirely weaned from separatism by the success of Redmond’s IPP, and for anyone not carefully “cherry picking” from Unionist and Conservative propaganda literature alone, the natural trajectory of a Home Rule Ireland would clearly have been that of the other Dominions, Canada and Australia, where by now we would similarly be further away from Britain but peacefully, and entirely without any of the trajectory violence which Unionism brought to the table after 1911. This, and this alone which offered a template for seperatists and increasingly justified violence throughout the population. You have to immerse yourself in the opinions and attitudes of the time, rather than projecting what transpired after Unionism’s reckless decision to fight.

    There is ample textual material to clearly show that Gladstone and his allies were entirely sincere in their recognition of the need for Irish Home Rule. Even their Conservative opponents recognised the same need and tried to undercut the Liberals by policies of endless concessions to Ireland, what is usually called “Killing Home Rule by Kindness.” It was only in northern Unionist circles that this clear need for self government was purposefully put down to “Liberal cynicism”, and that, only because it suited their propaganda for deluding the locals here, who should perhaps have got out more, and seen just how unthreatening the rest of Ireland had become. Unthreatening that is until they started pointing guns at it.

  • Nevin

    Unionists of a conservative or a liberal hue would have had no illusions about the intent of the ‘faith and fatherland’ sectarian 100,000 AOH Ireland membership:

    During his 1901 fund-raising mission, Devlin asked his New York audience ‘to give our movement a fair chance’, despite the presence of ‘many men in America who think the means which we are operating to-day . . . are not sufficiently sharp and decisive’. Devlin continued:

    ‘When equipped with comparative freedom, home rule, then would be time for those who think we should destroy the last link that binds us to England to operate by whatever means they think best to achieve that great and desirable end. I am quite sure I speak for the United Irish League on this matter.’ .. Joe Devlin, 1901

    This sectarian template wasn’t knew; it was clearly visible in the Daniel O’Connell Repeal campaign.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Cherry Picking, again, Nevin? We will never know for certain where Home rule would have led, but with a full quarter of the Dublin Parliament coming from the Protestant interest, and with endless safeguards for their concerns, in any multi-party system separatism would have been a difficult act to achieve! You should perhaps read John Redmond, and perhaps even wee Joe’s other well recorded opinions when he was not hyperbolically doing “a Carson” for the boys in New York.

    You are of course entirely blind eyeing Joe’s work with working class Protestants who were not tied to Unionism by some LOI oath. Are you at all familiar with the Newspaper Library behind Belfast Central Library? A bit of effort to actually examine the numerous reports there which show the actual political range of Wee Joe might relieve your anxieties about his attempts to use the AOH to counter the Orange use of the LOI. In this context, it’s interesting to perhaps bring up an anecdote about someone speaking at question time after a talk on the 1920/22 period I attended recently. He was going on about the “Brits” suppressing Republican activity in West Belfast during this period and I’d assumed he meant either the Army or the Specials. It was only with a few twists in his stories that I realised he was talking about Devlin and the AOH supporters of the IPP!!!

    For a slightly less work heavy schedule than reading the primary sources, A.C. Hepburn’s excellent “Catholic Belfast and Nationalist Ireland in the Era of Joe Devlin, 1871-1934” might fill you in on a rather more nuanced (to say the least) version of Wee Joe and the Hibs. And beside that there is a mass of textual evidence that before the 1911 Unionist recourse to arms, the only sectarianism in Ireland was clearly seen by most Protestants outside Ulster as being an entirely Orange affair. The IRB was (interestingly) seen as particularly un-sectarian by such people, a political organisation for separatism, certainly, but without any rancour against Protestants. It was considered to be self-consciously carrying on the “all creeds” ideals of 1798 and Young Ireland. You must try to avoid projecting these entirely anachronistic impressions back so inappropriately to the more complex patterns of even just a century ago, and perhaps refer to the history itself rather than selectively looking for support for the “Our Island Story” versions.

  • Nevin

    I’ll leave you to your waffling, cherry-picking and anti-unionist ranting, Seaan.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sorry to see you go Nevin, I’d really hoped you’d try and assemble some genuine challenges to what I’m saying.

    If you really believe what I’m doing is simply “anti-unionist ranting” then I’d be delighted to debate any point on which you can offer me a serious challenge, but really, simply drawing on the old rags of the Unionist “project fear” does not cut the mustard. I was delighted to hear a tiny piece on the Today Programme about half an hour back, as my coffee dripped through, where the reporter was complaining about the use of Hilary Mantel by students at the Cambridge colleges studying the early Tudors. Obviously the techniques of Post Modernism were a closed book to the reporter, but it is important when evaluating “representations” to be discriminating and not to begin to imagine that a fictional representation is anything other than a fictional representation, and to understand why people are stating things and the effect they hope to achieve, when handling any historical text. Unionism’s hyperbolic stance from the starting line in 1910 seriously curtailed their room to manoeuvre in the field of political honesty. So I’d see what I’m doing as not so much simply “anti-unionist” as forensically critical of Unionism’s reckless inflexibilities, which when faced with the need to negotiate after 1910 elected for violence and a refusal to discuss anything but their own demands in full. As much of where we have ended up is the product of their stance, I’d see it as something which cries out to be honestly critiqued.

  • Nevin

    ” I’d really hoped you’d try and assemble some genuine challenges to what I’m saying.”

    I have but they don’t penetrate your pseudo-intellectual anti-unionist diatribes. I take the view that unionists and nationalists are equally sincere in their political, religious and cultural stances; that they can be open-minded on some issues and deaf to reason on others.

    Challenging your ‘honest’ critiques puts me in a position of being misrepresented so I think it preferable to discontinue these exchanges. Anyway, I’ve got far more interesting stuff to do in the realms of genealogy, history, politics and governance, not least in exposing a potential miscarriage of justice.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bless you Nevin, do you really imagine your responses actually answered any of my points? I’m certainly not questioning the great number of different motivations which are always behind why people espoused (or espouse) any political issue, but the broad popular structural argument of Unionism from 1910 was a “straw man” argument that Home Rule would somehow mean simple Catholic confessional dominance over Protestants, while the Liberal pluralism of the IPP, and even the later practical record of the Free State on such issues, clearly showed that the confessional issue was not ever this white hat/black hat issue in practice. Unionist propaganda was at root utterly dishonest, and those decent people involved in it always had to leave their critical faculties “at home on the peg” when supporting the UUC’s pernicious nonsense.

    What I’d suggest is that such things require a conscious recognition before any current injustice can be properly understood structurally. Until this anti-constitutionalist “signature” to our entire communities political mindset, encoded by Unionism’s own key tropes, is fully unpacked, in any genuine search for justice (which Disraeli perceptively called “Truth in action”) we are all simply bailing out a very badly leaking boat……….

  • Nevin

    Condescension doesn’t work either.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You’re not addressing my points……..

  • Nevin

    I’m leaving you with your deep-seated prejudices; they’re not my responsibility.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Go in peace with my blessing Nevin, but don’t forget Aesop:

    “Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked ‘Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.’ “

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Not wanting to start another long exchange Nevin, but have you encountered this interesting book?


    I inherited a copy myself.