50 Years of the Trojan Horse

The Gerry Adams slip that described the Sinn Fein equality agenda as a Republican Trojan Horse has, says Unionism, let the cat out of the bag. Mike Nesbitt, the UUP leader, said that the Sinn Fein leader “has taken what we all politically assumed was a core value and part of the vision for the future of a new Northern Ireland, namely equality, and he has turned it into a weapon.” (‘Trojan Horse jibe will haunt Adams’, Belfast Telegraph, 26.11.14)

A “new Northern Ireland” – now that would be a fine thing! A Unionist vision for equality – now that would be a fine thing!

But now that “the mask has slipped” with the Adams slip and Republicans have been proved to be… well, Republicans, after all, Mike has changed his mind and the “new Northern Ireland” of equality that he so dearly wanted to give to everyone is off. So there!

“The next time a senior Sinn Fein member talks about equality the first image that springs to mind is going to be a Trojan Horse. It is clear he views equality as merely a tactic” said Nesbitt of Adams.

The Unionist Party leader it seems, will see a Republican now when he sees a Sinn Feiner.

Unionists, those sensitive souls – including the bastards that Republicans would have to break – are appalled it seems at this shocking revelation at who they have been dealing with all these years. They are nothing but unreconstructed Republicans, after all, as Unionists have been telling everyone for years. And now proof from the horse’s mouth, at last!

Well, that’s finally it. We will be taking our toys home. You will not be getting our “new Northern Ireland” and you will go to supper without your supper!

Are Unionists such slow learners that they did not know about this weapon of Nationalists already? Or Has the horrible thought just dawned on them that equality is a weapon because Unionism has been seen to be unable to live with it without combusting, even when they are proclaiming that “the Union is safer than ever” and a “new Northern Ireland” is finally available?

Gerry Adams has been accused of many things in recent years but he is certainly not one of the architects of the Trojan Horse. We must inform Unionists, if they have forgotten everything they have been whinging about for half a century, that It began life 50 years ago when Big Gerry was still a wee lad.

50 years ago, in January 1965, the Taoiseach Sean Lemass had his famous meeting with Stormont Prime Minister Captain O’Neill. He then urged a shocked Nationalist Party to take up the role of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in the Northern Parliament. Just a few years before Eddie McAteer, leader of the Northern Catholics, had said that such a thing would be tantamount to “taking the soup” and he would have none of it. However, the Taoiseach let it be known that the Patriot Game was over and it was time for Northern Catholics to participate in “the Northern state”.

The Northern Catholics had held themselves apart from this “state”, which they knew was not a state, since it was set up in 1921. They preserved themselves apart from it and awaited deliverance from it by the main part of the Nation to the south. And then Lemass let it be known to them that deliverance was cancelled.

So what were they to do? Looking for equality within this ‘state’ was their only option for the future.

And so the Trojan Horse was born.

The Trojan Horse was not a thought out plan of Sean Lemass. It is doubtful if he had a plan at all with regard to the North. His daughter Peggy later said that he indeed had the plan to unfreeze the North through Catholic participation and open it up for a new thrust at the Border. And the Irish archives from late 1969 reveal that the Lynch Government felt that was his great achievement after the miracle of August and they looked forward to exploiting the situation that Lemass had carved out through his wise and novel innovation in policy. What was described was the Trojan Horse.

Lemass did not advise Civil Rights but that is where participation naturally went after Opposition proved futile and demeaning, as McAteer knew it would. So The Northern Catholics had nowhere to go but to the Civil Rights strategy after the Taoiseach had re-directed their efforts into a cul-de-sac. There was luckily a man with a plan on hand for this and his name was Desmond Greaves. Greaves had established relations with the Republican movement and given them a plan for re-opening the Border question through the Trojan Horse of Civil Rights. Demand more than O’Neill could concede was the advice and it worked a treat.

Greaves plan was fantasy, of course, in its belief that Civil Rights would free the Prods up for a re-embracing of the Republican heritage of their 1798 forefathers. But it provoked the miracle of August 1969 from which all things were thought possible, right across the Nationalist spectrum.

A famous Derryman was very impressed with the success of the Trojan Horse and he told the Irish Government’s man in the North so. The Irish archives have blanked out his name in the report but the present writer presumes it was “you know who” who described the Civil Rights Movement as a magnificently successful Anti-Partitionist Trojan Horse. And he certainly learnt a lesson or two from it if his subsequent efforts and mode of operation are anything to go by.

That is why it is surprising to see the SDLP criticise Sinn Fein for seeing equality as a mere tactic rather than a principle and objective in itself. But perhaps not as they still wonder what went wrong.

The reason why the 1960s Trojan Horse was successful was because the ‘Northern Ireland state’ could not deliver equality, even though there seemed to be no reason why it could not as a region of a state that proclaimed itself in the vanguard of progress in such things. But ‘Northern Ireland’ was incapable of such progress because of its peculiar character. It had an inbuilt majority whose main and eternal function was maintaining itself in a dominant position and having the semblance of democracy on the Westminster model its governing party relied on the votes of a mass base which insisted on an unequal relationship between the loyal and the disloyal. If the government did not maintain this it would produce others that would.

Equality, even though it seemed easily something that could be conceded by Unionists to strengthen the Union by giving “British Rights to British Citizens” was not conceded.

And so, after the Trojan Horse drove the Unionists berserk in August 1969, it produced the Catholic Insurrection, the 28 Year War and the peace of 1998. And it was Westminster that had to concede what Unionists proved incapable of conceding from the confines of their ‘state’.

The Good Friday settlement, that the Unionist leader Trimble signed his community up to, has turned into something of a nightmare for Unionism. It produced an equalising of political power between the two communities but left enough unresolved issues to preserve room for further Catholic advance toward equality, and some Sinn Fein momentum in the North (most momentum has been in the thrust across the Border, something Taoiseach Lemass would not have imagined possible in his wildest nightmares).

The Trojan Horse lived on “bearing to the Trojans death and fate” as Homer said.

The fact that the Good Friday Agreement equalised power in the North but there is still unfinished business within it to absorb political energies tends to suggest that the fundamental problem of ‘Northern Ireland’ remains unresolved. That is to say that while ‘Northern Ireland’ exists it exists as a problem. So the problem seems to be ‘Northern Ireland’ itself.

At the same time Westminster has signalled that the only direction ‘Northern Ireland’ can go in is toward the Republic. So the basis of politics since 1998 is a Catholic drive for equality within ‘Northern Ireland’ against a Unionist rearguard action in favour of marginal inequality – until the majority Catholics vote everyone into a United Ireland.

Malachi O’Doherty says in the Belfast Telegraph: “Gerry has been saying for years that Northern Ireland can only be shored up by inequality and injustice and that when these have been dealt with the border will go. We may question whether he believes that or ever believed it, but the point is made in practically every book he has written.”

That sounds very like the Greaves/Stickie project of the original Trojan Horse. Has Gerry returned to being a Stick for the revived Trojan Horse by any chance? Will the circle be unbroken?

The most significant part of Gerry Adams speech was not the Trojan Horse slip or the “breaking those bastards” utterance but that terrible question for ‘Northern Ireland’ that has haunted Unionism for 50 years: “Who could be afraid of equality?”

This Article was originally published in The Irish Political Review of November 2014

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