Problem of Northern Ireland

John Hume

John Hume was an absolutely unique force in politics in the North of Ireland. He stood head and shoulders above every other constitutional nationalist politician in political ability. He was indispensable to the Peace Process and its success and the achievement of the Good Friday settlement. His community was very fortunate it found a man of his calibre to lead it through very difficult times to a position of equality. But his actual political skill and talent could not be explained properly by those charged in writing his obituary.

John Hume, the Derry schoolteacher, first came to notice through some articles he wrote for The Irish Times during May 1964. These were published under the heading ‘The Northern Catholic’. In the series Hume questioned what he called “traditional nationalist attitudes” toward ‘Northern Ireland’ which he saw as having run their course, after a generation of failure. From the time of Partition the Northern Catholic community had aspired to make itself independent of the statelet it had been marooned within and to live in its own social framework in readiness for a future transference to an all-Ireland state. Hume urged the alienated Catholic community to give up on its boycott of ‘Northern Ireland’ and to play a fuller part in its political and economic life, to demonstrate to the unionist community that nationalists could be trusted and that discrimination was unnecessary.

The Nationalist Party, which had been disorientated by Taoiseach Lemass’s sudden order to enter Stormont, attempted to lure Hume into its ranks, but he would have none of it. Hume had made up his mind that Eddie M’Ateer’s party was dead wood and determined upon developing a new form of politics that the reluctant, “stuck in its ways,” Nationalist Party was incapable of. Hume, however, went along with Lemass’s fantasy that what was needed in the North was an opposition at Stormont to the Unionist Party. It was this that generated the frustration among Catholics that led to the streets, after the Stormont opposition proved a charade, as it impotently confronted the reality of permanent Unionist government and its resistance to nationalist demands.

Hume maintained a distance from the emerging Civil Rights Association until the end of 1968, when it began to gain momentum. He had refused to endorse the famous Derry march, fearing violent confrontation. Others, however, calculated that violent confrontation was just what was needed in the circumstances to break up the Unionist regime. One thing led to another and the August 1969 explosion in Derry and Belfast was the result.

Hume gave his verdict on the Civil Rights Association to Eamonn Gallagher of the Republic’s Department of External Affairs in September 1969. It was so sensitive Hume’s name was redacted in the state papers. Hume said “the Civil Rights policy had succeeded where an overt nationalist policy had not but the ultimate objective was the same”. (NAI, TSCH 2000/6/657)

That rather confirmed what Unionists had been saying about NICRA so it was decided not to have it attributed to Hume.

In the immediate aftermath of August 1969 John Hume determined on a policy of first trying an internal accommodation between Unionists and Nationalists at Stormont, in which ‘British’ Unionists were split from the Ulsterish bigoted element and a coalition of moderates formed from the two communities. If this proved impossible he was in favour of a period of Direct Rule to force a left/right realignment in politics.

This was impossible, of course, outside the politics of the State, and it also ran into the problem that Westminster was determined to maintain the 1920 devolved structures to keep the province at arm’s length if at nearly all costs. Only something new and of great vigour could shift Britain from this policy, and that had to be provided by the Provisional IRA, rather than the SDLP, which once formed followed the routine of the Nationalist Party it replaced at Stormont. Hume and his new colleagues, led by Gerry Fitt, went through the charade of forming an “official opposition” and Hume condemned proposals for Direct Rule as bringing about “evils that might be worse than at present” in which NI became “a mere outpost of London” (Irish News, 5.1.70). Whilst Fitt led the party, once British Labour let the province be in its communal quagmire, Hume quickly came to direct it as  instrument of his own policy taking the important decisions.

In June 1971 Brian Faulkner, the most able Unionist leader, made an unprecedented offer to the SDLP of committee chairs in Stormont. This was significant after 50 years of exclusive one-party Unionist rule. It was a moment of truth for the SDLP – was it interested in an internal accommodation with Unionism? Hume initially welcomed the offer as a measure of the changed situation in which a deal could be done, only to suddenly backdown after a couple of youths were controversially shot in Derry by the British Army. The SDLP leader, Fitt, was appalled at Hume’s about turn, which shot down the chance of an accommodation with Unionists and his public declaration for Direct Rule, against party policy. Hume’s rejection of Faulkner’s offer subsequently gave great momentum to the Provos’ stated objective of “Smash Stormont” and their bombing campaign accelerated, leading to Faulkner adopting a military solution, internment, to the problem. Conflict escalated greatly.

With Internment and Bloody Sunday the Provos determined the course of events. Hume led the parallel civil disobedience campaign and established and became President of the Alternative Assembly at Dungiven. The Attorney General, Basil Kelly, was asked to consider whether this was a serious attempt to form an illegal underground government but concluded it was a harmless farce that would disappear if it were ignored. He was right.

From the underground administration, via the Irish Times, Hume called for a public declaration by the British Government in favour of Irish unity that would break the “Unionist ascendancy.” This was the genesis of his policy of the next decade, that urged upon Westminster the breaking of the “Unionist veto” on “progress” which could be meant to mean reform, but which actually inferred an active united Ireland policy that Protestant Ulster had no right to obstruct.

After the January massacre in Derry Hume took the British Government to the United Nations, when Dublin thought better of the idea, after its experience of a year and a half previously. He was, of course, rebuffed as Britain had the UN stitched up, but it was the first incidence of Hume going international to manoeuvre against the British Government.

The Provos’ Bloody Friday massacre enabled Whitelaw to get the SDLP back into the realm of constitutional politics and Hume was used to tip off the IRA before the 23,000 Motorman assault. Prime Minister Heath had advised his commanders that up to 100 deaths were acceptable in the recapture of the no-go areas but the Provos decided to retire and live to fight another day. With the military ascendancy being lost to the British this enabled the SDLP and Hume to regain ground and take centre stage again in negotiations.

The details of the Sunningdale Agreement and Executive need not be gone into here. Suffice to say Hume and the SDLP overplayed their hand in a situation of declining Republican military power. Hume underestimated the power of the Protestant working class, which was considerable in the days before Mrs Thatcher destroyed Ulster’s industrial base. Hume demanded that the British Army suppress the Ulster Workers Council strike and “call the Unionist bluff” but Protestant society, which Hume and the other SDLP leaders, had little understanding of, showed its power and that it was a separate nation in Ireland. Coupled with the bungling of the new Labour Government the suicidal behaviour of the SDLP, which misconstrued Faulkner’s reasonableness for weakness, lost the chance of an internal settlement. Hume had to think again.

After the fall of the Executive Hume fell out with Dublin. He demanded that Dublin and the British force power-sharing on the Unionists. Hume fell hook line and sinker for the withdrawal propaganda issued by the NIO as a cover for the British Ulsterisation policy and began to urge Dublin and London into more and more fantastic schemes for repressing the loyalists through military force if necessary. Dublin’s will was, of course, broken by then and it was becoming clear to Hume that the Northern Catholics were on their own. At this point Hume decided to take over direct control of the SDLP from the expendable Fitt.

Around this time Hume came up with the terminology of the “two traditions” to magic away the national division that was apparent and undeniable in the North. The word “tradition” hardly does justice to the complete absence of collective feeling between the Unionist and Nationalist communities. It was a deadly national division that had pre-existed the War and which had been exacerbated by the construction of ‘Northern Ireland’ and the War it had ultimately generated. Hume devised a policy that involved an intricate juggling of words and which was articulated in a form that became known as ‘Humespeak.’ It involved not quite saying something but being heard by some people as if one thing was being said whilst others heard something else as being said. It aimed to bamboozle the more simple-minded and straight talking Unionists.

In 1977, with nationalism at a low ebb and the SDLP falling apart, Hume decided that a fundamental shift was needed to rejuvenate ‘Constitutional’ Nationalism and alter the situation. He diagnosed the problem as being “intransigent Unionism” and the inaction of the British government. Hume reckoned that the problem needed to be taken out of the purely British context by reintroducing the reluctant Irish government into the political process and getting London and Dublin to work together to advance a political settlement in ‘Northern Ireland’, despite the Unionists. The objective was to get the British and Irish governments to impose new political structures over the heads of Unionism to create a whole new ball-game. This was sometimes referred to as ‘the totality of relationships.’ It was a tall order but Hume stuck to his guns.

Hume removed the focus on trying to achieve an internal settlement with Unionists who were determined to hang on to their majority in a new sub-government. Along with this Hume went to the US and Europe to cultivate relationships with important people that could be employed in the future against Britain and the Unionists. Particularly important in this were the links developed with Irish-America. This was an important characteristic that Hume shared with Republicans – the ability to open up new fronts when progress on the battlefield was halted by Unionist or British resistance. It was something which the rest of the SDLP, including the previous leadership lacked.

Hume’s strategy was clever because it took things outside the 1920 Act, employing forces that were beyond the confines of ‘Northern Ireland’ to which Northern Catholics were confined. Gerry Fitt’s British horizons were inadequate to a breakout due to Westminster’s insistence that ‘Northern Ireland’ remain in its own political quarantine lest the virus in its politics spread to the British body politic.

One result of this clever strategy was the elevation of Hume into the role of ‘statesman’ – the first ‘statesman’ without an actual state to represent. This injected a new vigour into Irish diplomacy in relation to the North, led by Hume, which the diplomats and political representatives of the actual Irish State were dragged into. This had an important result with regard to the relationship between the two parts of the Irish Nation in that as Dublin lost its vigour with relation to the North it was taken up by Hume, determined that the Northern Catholics would not be let down as they had been in 1970 and previous times by the South.

However, the SDLP was in the doldrums from 1975 until 1981 and it was only given a new opportunity through the Republican rejuvenation brought about by political fall out from the Hunger Strikes.

Hume’s great achievement, The Hillsborough Treaty of 1985, came about not as a result of his efforts through the New Irish Forum but because of the political crisis that saw Sinn Fein emerge as an electoral force and a military crisis brought about by the Brighton bomb, which encouraged Mrs Thatcher to do something she was very reluctant to do. As a result of this crisis the British attempted to undermine the Republican political and military expressions through a deal with ‘Constitutional Nationalism’. The ‘Out! Out! Out!’ episode nearly shattered the ‘Constitutional’ Nationalist bulwark Britain relied upon and something had to be done by Britain to re-balance things (and Thatcher was bereft of an alternative policy). The British knew the central importance of Hume in any deal with Dublin but also that if an acceptable agreement was not produced there was the danger of losing the SDLP altogether. Senior figures in the British State persuaded a reluctant Thatcher to do business with Dublin.

After the signing of the Hillsborough Treaty Hume told the Irish Times (23.11.85): “We arrived where we are without the assistance of Sinn Fein and we shall not require their assistance in the future.” 

How wrong he was proved on both counts. And he, himself, proved it.

The Irish negotiator from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Michael Lillis, later revealed that Dublin only took in Hume into their confidence during the negotiations with the British. The rest of the SDLP was not trusted, because they would have let the cat out of the bag in their desire to taunt the Unionists, until just before the bombshell at Hillsborough. The Unionists were to be overridden by something that would take them by surprise and which they could not touch. The negotiations that resulted in what happened at Hillsborough had to be conducted behind closed doors because the Unionists were a substantial community who could not be sold out by an “ascendancy” element – something which the community was often characterised as consisting of by Nationalism. Hume took himself outside the country for months to avoid his colleagues.

This was the moment when the SDLP was understood to be a busted flush by all important players. From then on it was merely John Hume’s catspaw.

Interviewed on BBC Radio’s ‘File on Four’ on December 3rd 1985 Hume said that the Treaty would be of little value if the Unionists did not come out in substantial opposition to it in order for their opposition to be faced down by Britain. It was Hume’s view that the Unionist mind could only be changed after a decisive conflict had occurred with their government at Westminster which the Unionists would lose: “once that boil is lanced, then you will find the Unionist population for the first time in a position where they must talk to their neighbours.”

Hillsborough certainly traumatised the Unionist community like nothing else – much more so than the IRA campaign. But it failed because it did not provide Thatcher with a defeat of the Provos and security actually deteriorated as a result. She rowed back from a fuller implementation of it, seeing meagre advantage, much to Hume’s frustration.

It is sometimes suggested that Hillsborough was a success. The only thing that could be said for it, however, was a thing that its advocates did not want to say for it: it softened up the Unionists for a devolutionary settlement. And when the Unionists came out of the wilderness to the SDLP eager for a devolution deal Hume pulled the plug! This was the vital moment at Duisburg that has all but been forgotten.

There was by then another game in town as well as the Hillsborough Treaty. What is known as the Peace Process had its origin in the late 1970s when sections of the higher command of the Republican movement began to draw the conclusion that military victory was impossible and the conflict was going to end at the negotiating table. The objective of the Republican high command was a difficult one: to pursue a political strategy that led toward an acceptable peace, short of the formal objective, whilst maintaining Republican military capacity at an effective level.

The sequence of the Peace Process as it developed during the mid-1980s should be stated clearly: It started within the Republican command, around Gerry Adams; it availed of the unique figure of Charles J. Haughey to kick-start it; it was facilitated by the Redemptorist Priest, Fr. Alec Reid; it then took in John Hume, who blocked his party from the devolutionary course it had set itself upon. It finally began to take in other elements of Fianna Fail and the SDLP, before utilising the important force of Irish-America against the British State.

The policy instituted by Thatcher and Taoiseach Fitzgerald at Hillsborough ultimately failed in its stated objectives and Hume decided to give way to the Adams/Fr. Reid Peace initiative that Haughey was facilitating. In conjunction with the Republican leadership around Adams another direction for political development was then carved out which aimed at a more comprehensive and enduring Peace settlement that would finally end the Ice Age in politics that had been brought about at Hillsborough. This prospect was irresistible for Hume.

For a long time afterwards it was presumed, and the SDLP Leader was of the belief, that his talks with Gerry Adams had begun the Peace Process rather than, as really happened, it originated through the Adams/Fr. Reid/Haughey axis. Hume had been ‘protected’ from this information for his own good at the time, lest his party colleagues and others in Dublin should learn of the tentative growth and ruin it all. It all remained hidden from the SDLP and from those outside of Haughey’s close circle to prevent it being assailed by the mainstream of ‘Constitutional Nationalism’ and destroyed, until Fr. Reid was instructed, by Haughey, to make tentative contacts with Hume, who was felt trustworthy enough to be let in on what was going on. Hume had been taken into Taoiseach’s Fitzgerald’s confidence prior to Hillsborough and had remained water tight-lipped about it to maintain the element of surprise against Unionists.

What is apparent is that the primary objective of many within the SDLP, particularly the high-profile figures outside of Hume, was to use Hillsborough as a lever on Unionists to establish a return to devolution with the 1985 Treaty acting as a kind of fall-back device pinning the Unionists into some form of power-sharing with the SDLP.

This account is not meant to relegate Hume’s role in the Peace. Hume was absolutely indispensible to it. However, the standard account of Hume’s role is false. Hume’s crucial contribution to the Peace was in scuppering what the British and Dublin had intended for the SDLP at Hillsborough and in throwing his weight behind the other process that was developing through Adams, Fr. Reid and Haughey. That made all the difference to what subsequently was to occur in 1998. The moment where Hume accomplished this was in the obscure goings on at Duisburg.

One of the chief British objectives in agreeing to the Hillsborough Treaty was to lure the SDLP into a devolved government with Unionists that would replace Direct Rule. The British saw Hume as the main obstacle to such an internal settlement and 6 months before the Hillsborough Treaty was revealed, they sounded the SDLP leader out in a meeting where he was assured about the concessions Britain was prepared to make.

The moment for Hume and the SDLP to fulfill their part of the bargain arrived 3 years later at Duisburg, after the Unionists had been made, at last, pliable. However, whilst the SDLP had been hooked (like a 3 pound trout?) Hume refused to take the bait.

The British had invested considerable political resources, including the unprecedented Hillsborough concession itself, to bolster Hume and Dublin against Sinn Fein and now Hume betrayed that faith and went over to the Republican Peace process. This set everything on a path that Britain never intended and which the SDLP never expected.

Currie, McGrady, Hendron and Mallon had wanted to see a devolved power-sharing government established within ‘Northern Ireland’ on the basis of Article 4 of the Hillsborough Treaty. Hume let the devolutionists go through the motions before he calculated, after his talks with Adams, that an all-Ireland settlement which included Sinn Fein should be held out for rather than surrendering the position hard-won at Hillsborough.

Hume saw that the Treaty of 1985 had failed in its objectives and would, at best, only lead back to the situation of Sunningdale in 1974. That was good enough for many in the SDLP, but not for Hume any more, especially since he became aware of the wider peace initiative that involved Haughey and the Irish Government. Hume decided to bank the main gains attained at Hillsborough with its all Ireland component and the Dublin’s role in ‘Northern Ireland’. He then focused his efforts on the all-Ireland settlement which included Dublin and Sinn Fein. The devolutionists were shot down and shoved aside where the remained in disgruntlement but preserving their careers.

Hume’s adaption to a pan-Nationalism with Sinn Fein to achieve a wider settlement beyond devolution, won out through the powerful combination Haughey had enabled. And this was a watershed. If it had just been the SDLP, without Hume, there would have been no Peace Process and Good Friday Agreement. It was a product of the Republican Leadership around Adams, with Haughey’s facilitation, plus the strategic vision of John Hume. A confluence had been achieved of two separated rivers than now became a powerful force.

What Hume achieved through his alliance with Adams in the Peace Process, and then under the GFA, was to undo the separation of physical force and constitutional nationalism brought about by the Arms Crisis. The sudden Volte face by the Lynch Government in 1970, under pressure from the British, had shattered the potential emergence of a slightly-constitutional nationalism behind the barricades which would have kept the Catholic community united with the power of the Southern State behind them. Hume and Adams repaired the damage done by Lynch’s retreat from the North. The Northern Catholics began to punch their weight.

Former IRA Volunteer, Anthony McIntyre, commenting in his blog, The Pensive Quill, on Hume’s passing noted:

“The Good Friday Agreement made sense for him and he was consistent in driving for it because it was the outworking of what he believed. For republicans it was a mockery of everything they fought for. Hume’s pre GFA politics made the GFA logical. Republican pre-GFA politics made the GFA illogical. Ultimately, the GFA was not worth one single death. Point is Hume didn’t take one single life to obtain it.”

In an ideal world what came about in 1998 could have come about through an evolutionary reform. However, ‘Northern Ireland’ was as far removed as you could get from an ideal world. The unfortunate fact of life in Westminster’s political slum was that Hume would never have achieved the Good Friday Agreement without others being prepared to take life to alter the situation they found themselves in.

In essence what separated Gerry Adams and John Hume from others within the ranks is that they had, through the political experience of two decades, developed an understanding of the continuum that existed between Constitutional and non-constitutional Nationalism. This included an awareness of the limitations of both. They appreciated that a combination was essential for the progress of their community and were prepared to ditch the dogmatic positions held by others.  That was the secret of what happened.

And that was the greatest political achievement of John Hume.

Hume was a very effective politician who was always ready and able to improvise. When he made mistakes and his policies failed he was able to avail of new circumstances created by other forces outside of his control to push his own political agenda forward. He always maintained, from the beginning, that the key to success for his community was to split Unionism whilst unifying his own, less powerful community. He achieved this objective in 1998, doing a deal with Trimble which brought about the Good Friday Agreement and the current position. Skilfully he maintained the SDLP behind him, whilst nullifying his colleagues devolutionary proclivities that would have led down another dead-end.

He put his community before party, and Dublin, and rightfully so.

Published in The Irish Political Review September 2020

Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland

Bobby Storey: First Among Equals

The funeral of Volunteer Bobby Storey has created something of a palaver. Palavers, of course, are not unusual in the weird political construct of ‘Northern Ireland’. They are the very stuff of the communal grind and they gain extra purchase when they occur within one of the two communal blocs rather than between the two. Condemnations of a Republican show of force at a funeral are nothing new from Unionism. The interesting thing is the reaction within the Catholic community.

The view that has been expressed within the media by some ordinary, decent, right-thinking Catholics, and given extensive publicity, is that some people are more equal than others. For months relatives have had to put up with harsh restrictions in burying their loved ones, due to the Covid restrictions, and been instructed by the Executive, including the Sinn Fein leader of the North, to desist from normal practice associated with grieving. Seeing Sinn Fein flouting the directives given to the masses and doing its own thing with its own has angered a section of the community and this anger has been extensively aired in the media and latched on to by those who wish to do Sinn Fein ill, for various reasons.

The anger is understandable at a personal level. But surely, at the political level it is a case of first among equals rather than some being more equal than others. The sending off of Bobby Storey had every appearance of a State Funeral, a special event that had a status above the temporary circumstances which now regulate ordinary behaviour for individuals. If H.M. the Queen or another important Royal were to die would the restrictions imposed on the masses be applied? I very much doubt it. And there is little doubt that Bobby Storey was very special indeed in relation to the achievement of the current position of the Catholic community and the resurgence which brought it to a position of equality within ‘Northern Ireland’.

Bobby Storey was the most vigorous of spirits within that resurgence – ordinary in so many ways but special all the same. He was the embodiment of the struggle in most of its forms. From when he joined the IRA, during the high point of the Republican offensive, between Internment and the fall of Stormont, he was in the thick of the action – fighting gun battles with Crown forces, attempting to spring comrades from gaol in helicopters, serving nearly 20 years in gaol himself, organising the Great Escape of 1983, directing large and flamboyant operations like the taking over of Belfast docks by volunteers, when fleets of lorries were brought from South Armagh, to offload the captured goods to be taken south, and directing intelligence operations in the crucial period after 1998.

Could anyone within the demoralised and beaten community of the early 1960s imagine such things? Their occurrence helped demoralise the Unionist political class and their ascendancy over the Catholic community and forced the real Power in the Land to exact structural change that equalised relations between the two communities.

I have seen Bobby Storey compared to a number of figures by the political adversaries of Gerry Adams. Ed Moloney of Boston Project infamy called him “Gerry Adams’ Beria” and “Luca Brasi with brains” after the character from The Godfather. All very predictable from Moloney. Former comrade, Anthony McIntyre, compared him to Richard Mulcahy “an IRB and subsequent IRA leader who became a key player in the violent enforcement of the Treaty against those who maintained fidelity to a republican project.”

McIntyre described Storey as “an immensely courageous and determined IRA volunteer who invariably led from the front… A man of immense practical intelligence coupled with a tactical verve and… remarkably bereft of all political and strategic acumen… It is not that Bobby Storey abandoned everything he ever believed in. Politically, there was extraordinarily little he did believe in other than the IRA… His politics were those of armed resistance to the British state. When that ceased he was left with no politics… he became an enforcer for the Adams political career project.”

McIntyre rejected comparisons with Michael Collins made by some, founded on Storey’s role as Head of IRA Intelligence. Actually comparisons with Collins are very instructive. Certainly Storey was more of a fighter/soldier than Collins and spent much more time in British gaols. An argument could be made that he was an even more effective director of intelligence than Collins within the situation he operated. But his great attribute was actually the fact that he left the politics to others and then implemented agreed decisions to great effect. If Collins had left the politics to DeValera in 1921, and not engaged in statesmanship himself, on a unilateral basis, would the movement have been split by the British in the way it was? And if Collins had left the fighting to his men in the countryside and not indulged in reckless bravado in West Cork he would have preserved himself as the indispensable element for his stepping stones to freedom.

Bobby Storey had an immense task entrusted to him when he was released from prison in 1998 after the Good Friday Peace settlement. It was to organise the Republican Army’s retreat from the battlefield in the transition from war to politics. Retreating from the battlefield whilst maintaining your forces in good order and discipline is one of the most difficult of military manoeuvres. Britain, which is the most martial state in history, is well aware of how armies have been destroyed, whilst being formerly undefeated, in such a manoeuvre. Micheline Kerney Walsh described it well in her masterpiece, ‘Destruction by Peace: Hugh O’Neill after Kinsale’ and Cardinal O’Fiaich, who wrote the preface, surely communicated its lessons to Charles Haughey and Fr. Reid and Gerry Adams, who were at that time developing a new peace with the British State. Germany in 1918 was also a good case in point, for a more recent British achievement.

There were two problems in successfully performing such a manoeuvre. Firstly, the British State and its various and myriad agencies naturally wished to destroy the force that it had failed to defeat in war and which now confronted it politically. Secondly, there was always the problem of the Republican forces fragmenting and being torn apart by Republican diehards who wished to maintain the traditional position and found it impossible to accept the prospect of a political transition to the final objective, for which the war had been fought. This element was bolstered by the fact that Republicans had maintained a hostile disposition to many of the things Sinn Fein began to embrace to secure the secondary objective of the war – the equalising agenda – in the transition to the final objective. And there was a long experience of “sell-outs” through participation in the systems that were pointed to in order to preserve the core of the movement from the virus of the political process.

If the British State had got the better of the Republican movement in this process the resurgence would have been rolled back and the community position of equality squandered. And there were certainly some within the ranks, and outside, who would have been happy at this and to have said: “I told youse so!” 

There was therefore a shadow war which had to be organised by Bobby Storey against the British in the IRA’s fighting retreat. Storey established a meticulous intelligence gathering operation with assets in many important places, and he ran sleepers in significant positions within key institutions. This shadow war comprised obscure events like the Castlereagh break-in, the Northern Bank Robbery, the Stormontgate spy ring etc. It was never quite clear who was involved in these mysterious events but they were probably combinations of British/Republican activities: British Intelligence attacks on the Republican position which were warded off by very competent responses directed largely by Bobby Storey. What was proved was that the IRA remained a fighting force, not to be taken lightly by its former foe, as it metamorphosed “from a caterpillar to a butterfly, and flew away”, in Bobby Storey’s imaginative phrase.

It would have given Bobby Storey great pleasure to have seen the Republican movement take control of an area of East Belfast, in alien and hostile territory, to complete his passing. It was an operation that he would have organised himself if he had remained at the helm, and he surely would have smiled at what was accomplished in his absence.

Irish Political Review August 2020

Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland

Meanwhile in Ireland…

Irish Political Review Editorial of April 2020 

Sinn Fein And The Fog Of Party Politics

The Treaty parties have run out of steam.  They were rejected individually by the electorate, and they were rejected even as a pair.  They were rejected because they became a pair.  And they became a pair when Fianna Fail rejected its heritage as the anti-Treaty party and became a Treaty party.

Martin Mansergh, one-time adviser to Fianna Fail Taoiseachs, made the going in this development.  Now, reviewing the outcome in his column in the Irish Catholic, he remembers that Fianna Fail came out of Sinn Fein and he envisages reunification.  That would be entirely against the grain of the development which he helped to set in motion, and it is hard to see where in Fianna Fail the political capacity survives to attempt such a thing.

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has given a firm understanding not to collaborate with Sinn Fein under any circumstances.  Irish Times columnist Pat Leahy says “there is no way that Martin can or will change his mind on this”, and that his position has been bolstered by the statement “from Garda Commissioner Drew Harris agreeing with the assessments of the PSNI and the British government that the Provisional IRA’s army council still oversees Sinn Fein” (Feb. 22).  Harris is, of course, a British political policeman, drawn from the PSNI, who was put in control of the police force of the Irish state.  But Martin’s intransigent stand had nothing to do with British influence.  It was all his own idea.

Conor Brady, a former Editor of the Irish Times, writes in the British Sunday Times that “Sinn Fein Can’t Shrug Off Security Risk Fears, and that

“Embedded links to the IRA and its violent past will continue to haunt the party’s ambition to enter government in the Republic”  (March 1st).  And the Irish Times of March 7th has an editorial entitled, “Sinn Fein:  Getting Used To Scrutiny”.

Sinn Fein is the most scrutinised party there has ever been in Ireland.  Its whole life has been lived under close police scrutiny, accompanied by a continuous propaganda barrage directed against it by all other parties and by the established media.  That it was the war party in the North was known to everybody who voted for it and made it the most popular party in the South.  And the fact that it is part of the combination Sinn Fein/IRA has been rammed home every day for fifty years.  There is no secret past to haunt it.

What must be haunting the Treaty parties is the mess they have made of the business of governing the country by undermining themselves as a viable party system.

If they persist in their present stance of refusing to phase Sinn Fein into the business of governing the South—or, as Leahy puts it in his hysterical way, if they “will not crawl away leaving the stage to MacDonald”—the outcome is likely to be another Election with a significant increase of Sinn Fein seats.  And, if it wins a majority of the Dail seats, what then?  It has been widely described as Fascist by members of the Establishment.  Can a Fascist party be admitted to power in the state just because it wins an Election?  Is that not said to be the great mistake made in Germany in 1933?

Conor Brady is an Appeaser.  He assumes that Sinn Fein will be allowed to govern.  But—

“The night before Sinn Fein ministers are given their seals of office… the night skies over the garda depot in the Phoenix Park would not glow with burning files—but only because the data systems are now computerised.  It is certain that great volumes of sensitive data would be dumped, wiped or hidden away.  By definition, the relationship between the government and the state’s security agencies would be altered.  Garda and military chiefs would have more than a little difficulty relating to new masters who insist on referring to the Republic of Ireland as ‘the Free State’ or ‘the south’ and to Northern Ireland as ‘the six counties’.”

This is with relation to 1932, when Fianna Fail—the Anti-Treaty Party—won the election against the Free State governing party, which had been directing a draconian “law and order” policy against it.

Fianna Fail was then regarded by Free Staters as being little more than a front for the IRA. And the IRA was seen as being Communist.  It would have been a serious matter indeed if the Free State party had refused to concede state office to the Dail majority.  The IRA had revived strongly since the defeat of 1922-3 and the electorate had freed itself from the spell of the Free State terror of that period.  So, rather than revive the Civil War on unfavourable terms, the Free State party gave way to the Dail majority and relinquished office to Fianna Fail.  But, before doing so, they destroyed the documentary evidence of what they had been up to for ten years.

Fianna Fail governed with the support of the Labour Party for a year.  In 1933 it went to the country again and gained an outright majority.  The Free State Party (called Cumann na nGaedheal) then remade itself as a Fascist Party (Fine Gael), under the leadership of General O’Duffy, for the purpose of saving Ireland from Communism.  Leading academics supported it with learned books about the imminent danger of Communism under Fianna Fail.  But Fianna Fail stabilised the situation by winning every General Election until 1948.

Fintan O’Toole is made of sterner stuff than Conor Brady:

“What Sinn Fein has to confront, sooner rather than later, is that it can’t continue to legitimise the ‘armed struggle’ of the Provisional IRA without giving exactly the same legitimacy to every other gang that puts a different adjective before those three sacred letters:  continuity, real and new.  Shouting ‘Up the ‘Ra’ is not a performance by historical re-enactors—it is a live device, primed to explode into contemporary reality”  (Sinn Fein Has To Stop Legitimising Terror.  Irish Times, Feb 25).

To admit Sinn Fein to the legitimate politics of the South before it has somehow de-legitimised the means by which it brought about a functional settlement in the North confers a general right to make war on any group which cares to assert it.  Is that not the meaning of O’Toole’s tortuous paragraph?  And does it not follow that preservation of the legitimate order of the State requires that Sinn Fein be kept out of Office by whatever means are necessary?

Sinn Fein is in the Northern Government—insofar as there is Northern Government.  It got there by making war on the State.  That war was legitimised by the peace settlement which ended it.  Northern Ireland is more settled under that settlement than it ever was before.

What is now demanded of Sinn Fein by the Irish Times is that it should de-legitimise itself as a successful war party in order to fit itself for admission to government in the South.  How might it do this?

And there is another difficulty.  The State on which the IRA made war, and with which it made an advantageous peace settlement, having established its credentials in a long war, was not a legitimate State in the view of the Constitution of the Irish state in which Sinn Fein has now become a major party.

We know that very well because we picketed the Department of External Affairs in Dublin, early in the Northern war, with a demand that the sovereignty claim over the Six Counties in the Irish Constitution should be repealed as a contribution to peacemaking in the North.  No party in the Dail supported that demand, nor did any TD except Jim Kemmy, nor did any newspaper (including the Irish Times).

The only State the Provisional IRA has made war on is the British State in the Six Counties, which was illegitimate according to the Constitution of the Irish state.

During the War the Courts of the Irish State, in accordance with the Constitution that bound them, rejected extradition warrants from the illegitimate British regime in the North.  And, when the Dublin Government, in 1973, signed an agreement with Britain which seemed to recognise the legitimacy of the British State in the Six Counties, it was taken to Court for acting in breach of the Constitution.  The responsible Ministers were Garret FitzGerald and Conor Cruise O’Brien.  Their defence pleading in Court early in 1974 was that they had only made a de facto agreement with Britain which left the sovereignty claim over the Six Counties intact for any future Government to implement.  The Court accepted this defence, but made it clear that recognition of the Northern regime as legitimate would have been unconstitutional.  And that was what undermined the first power-sharing arrangement in the North, the Sunningdale Agreement, which Ulster Unionists had entered into on the understanding that Dublin had withdrawn its sovereignty claim over them.

When a State de-legitimises another State that is a subversive act against the other state, to put it mildly.  When the British State declared that it did not regard the Syrian regime as legitimate, that was a deliberate act of subversion.

The Treaty regime recognised British sovereignty in the Six Counties, but it did so with a bade grace, and only because the British Government would not otherwise have established it in power in the 26 Counties.  When the Anti-Treaty movement came to power ten years later it revoked that sullen submission to British sovereignty in the North and the Treatyites did not challenge it on that ground.  The new Constitution, adopted by referendum a few years later, specifically asserted de jure sovereignty over the Six Counties.  When Fine Gael eventually came to power in 1948 it launched a great propaganda offensive against the illegitimate British regime in the North.

The legitimacy of the State on which the new IRA declared war in 1970 was not recognised by the Irish State until the IRA had fought its way to a basic and orderly restructuring of the British system in the North in 1998.  It was only then, and with the permission of the IRA, that the subversive sovereignty claim by the Irish State on the British State in the Six Counties was repealed.

Britain recognised as being legitimate in fact—as having been necessary—the party that had made war on it.  It would have gone further in that direction if Dublin had entered into the spirit of the 1998 Agreement.  But Dublin was more concerned with fig leaves than with political facts, and its Establishment has now suffered accordingly.

Sinn Fein was a war-party in the war against the British State in the Six Counties.  The Constitution of the 26 County State declared that the British State in the Six Counties on which the IRA made war was illegitimate, and was a usurpation of Irish sovereignty.  It held that position throughout the Northern War.

The IRA did not declare war on the 26 County State, and the 26 County Courts interpreted the Constitution as entitling IRA members who had been active in the North to take refuge in the South from the British justice system in the North.

The Provisional IRA did not make war on the Southern State.  The Official IRA did so to some extent, and it contemplated revolution against the Southern State, and it condemned the Provisional IRA for being purely national in its outlook and basing itself on the nationalist community in the North in its efforts to free itself from the stifling conditions the British State had imposed on it.

Official Sinn Fein never became a serious electoral force in the South but it was given major influence against the Provos in the Dublin propaganda apparatus.

There are no clear Constitutional grounds for the decision of the Dublin Government to treat the Provisional IRA as being in rebellion against it when it made war on the Constitutionally illegitimate British regime in the North.

It might be that its reasoning was that the assertion of de jure sovereignty over the Six Counties by Article 2 of the Constitution, though its implementation was suspended by Article 3, still gave it the authority to decide whether there should be war on the illegitimate British regime, and that the decision did not lie with the actual nationalist community in the North, which suffered from the illegitimate British rule.

No Dublin Government ever explained what it thought the combination of Articles 2 and 3 meant in practice.  But the Courts decided that it meant something, and interpreted it in favour of the IRA.

The IRA was not in any ordinary sense a war party against the Southern State.  It looked to the Southern State, in the light of its Constitution, to be a place of safe retreat, and the Courts upheld it in that view (until very recently when it extradited a republican to Northern Ireland in respect of action taken a generation ago).

But Sinn Fein is now being treated as having been a war party against the Southern State, and therefore being ineligible for taking part in Government.  That is the current position of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

And that position seems intelligible to us only if the assumption is that the nationalist community in the North owed allegiance to Dublin and that the Northern decision to make war on the British regime, which the Constitution of the Southern State said was illegitimate, was an act of treason against Irish sovereignty, because Dublin Governments did not authorise it.

But we doubt that there was any reasoning at all on this question.  Dublin Governments, in anything seriously involving Britain, have been afraid of their shadows.

And there is at any rate no serious comparison to be made between Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail in 1932.  Fianna Fail had made war on the Free State and not at all on Britain.  And the Free State Government had committed war crimes against the anti-Treaty movement if that term had any meaning at all.  And nothing of that kind exists between FG/FF and Sinn Fein today.  FG/FF are just lost in the ideological fog in which they concealed themselves during the Northern War.

Fintan O’Toole lives in a world of sensationalist journalist abstraction.  So he writes about a newly-elected Sinn Fein TD, who won against all the odds:  “Shouting ‘Up the Ra!’… Is a live device, primed to explode into contemporary reality”?

How can that be?  Because the Provos—a hastily-formed group—asserted in 1970 the right to fight a war in the North, and they fought it to a negotiated settlement, and they took Government Office in the negotiated settlement, and they refuse in retrospect to brand themselves as murderers.

Therefore anybody who utters the magic slogan :  “Up the Ra!” can do in the South what the Provos did in the North, make war?

This is the world of Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves.  The slogan there, as far as we recall, was Alka Shazam!, which caused the rock to move.

This ‘Up The Ra’ magic is a “toxic tradition” O’Toole says.

Ferghal Keane (the one who is “a senior foreign correspondent with the BBC”) describes it as “the most toxic political word in the state” (Irish Times, March 17).  He says “the IRA past is not history, at least not in the sense of something that has vanished into an unmarked grave”.

How could it be when the state itself is a product of it, as Keane acknowledges.  And he looks hopefully to Mary Lou to exorcise the magic, to purge the poison:  “Her performance… has been surefooted, and she is surely in a strong position to set in motion a critical examination of the past.”

There was a moment when Mary Lou seemed very willing to disown the past and treat the state brought about by IRA action as worthless, and open the way for a comprehensively bland and nondescript future, such as would meet with the approval of a Foreign Correspondent of the BBC.  But that moment seems to have passed.

In case it hasn’t, here is Keane’s helpful advice to her: 

“She could become the first republican leader in Irish history to say that we must speak all the truths of war and not just those that damn our enemies.  This period of centenaries reminds us well of the absence of honesty in the wake of the War of Independence and the Civil War.  Our new state groaned under the weight of suppressed trauma and buried lies…”

It seems to us that “our new state” dealt with its conflicts (most of which were imposed by Keane’s State) openly and vigorously, first in war and later in politics, and, instead of being weighed down with an overstuffed unconscious filled with traumas, appears almost to have no unconscious but to exist entirely on the surface.  Freud is reported as saying that the Irish could not be analysed for lack of a problematic Unconscious.

They could now do with a bit of history.  And what history is there is the past half-millennium if resistance to British subjugation by the “Ra” is left out of it?

Keane’s ideal of Irish normality is of course West Britain.  He hails from Kerry but is by profession a British propagandist.  The BBC is a British State institution.  The issue was put to the test in the North when Vincent Hanna, then the presenter of Newsnight, got the notion that the BBC was an independent Guild of broadcasters and broadcast an interview with Martin McGuinness and Gregory Campbell, contrary to Government instruction, and was sacked—and the Board that authorised it was purged.

The rule that the BBC was obliged to be “impartial” but was forbidden to be “independent” was enforced on the dissident propagandists.  The meaning of “impartial” was that it had to act within the parameters set by the Government and the Official Opposition, giving expression to their views but not going beyond them.

With a bizarre debating point, Keane OBE has aligned himself against the IRA that brought its war to an orderly conclusion, by citing the fragment of it that resigned in order to continue the war to a bitter end.

David Cullinane, on winning the Waterford seat, reminded us that a Northern Hunger Striker, Kevin Lynch, had contested it in 1981 and lost.  Cullinane’s victory demonstrated how opinion in the South had moved towards the IRA which had fought the war in the North to an orderly conclusion.  He reflected that this may be of some consolation to Lynch’s family.  So, Up the Ra!

Not at all!,  says Keane OBE.  The Hunger Strikers rejected the settlement made in 1998.  The Provo leaders sold the Hunger Strikers down the river:

“Recalling the hunger strikes of 1981 and the memory of Bobby Sands, he [Cullinane] spoke of Sinn Fein’s electoral triumph as a “fantastic moment” for Sands’s family if they were watching.  Not quite.  The Sands family’s most prominent voice is Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, who has publicly denounced Sinn Fein’s pursuit of electoral politics.  At Bobby Sands’s mother’s funeral in 2018 Sands-McKevitt turned on the Sinn Fein IRA leadership, accusing them of breaching the family’s trust.  To the bitter enders of the dissident movement, the sight of David Cullinane shouting ‘Up the Ra’ will have been obnoxious, for very different reasons than those felt by the victims of the IRA…”

In wars there are victims on all sides, and war is the most permanent and universal feature of all public human activities.  And the State which Keane OBE serves as a propagandist has made more wars than any other in the last few hundred years.  But the relevant matter is not the victims but the participants.  The non-belligerent victims of Hiroshima were killed in order to exert pressure on the Japanese Government to make an unconditional surrender and save some American military lives.  Their killers have never bothered their heads about them, but the killing at least had an identifiable purpose—unlike that of the Dresden fire-bombing when the War was all but over.

The opinion of participants are what are relevant to the matter under discussion.  Adams and McGuinness persuaded most of the leaders of the IRA that a functional settlement could be made which would transfer the momentum of the War to politics, and this was carried through.  A minority regarded this as treason.  Many of them were induced by Official IRA member Lord Bew, and by journalist Ed Moloney, to take part in an exercise intended to discredit Adams and damage the Agreement.  They were interviewed on record at Boston College.  The tapes were supposed to remain secret until they became politically irrelevant, but Moloney could not contain himself and drew attention to them.  The State prosecution then demanded access to them and got it.  And the witnesses against Adams found themselves being prosecuted on the basis of what they said about themselves on the tapes.

What they said against Adams was dismissed by the Courts, because it was said in response to leading questions by the interviewers and there was no devil’s advocate.

Lord Bew’s Boston College escapade at least had the merit of demonstrating the political acumen of the opposition.

O’Toole reflects sententiously:

“The most awesome acts—the irreversible annihilation of human beings—require a much lower standard of authority than the mundane day-to-day business of governmental administration.  The mandate for murder is much more cheaply purchased than the mandate for fixing potholes.”

And he gets paid good money for that!

There is no standard of authority for making wars.  War is a lawless activity.  Laws of war were supposedly established by the United Nations but they have only ever been applied by victors against vanquished.

On O’Toole’s view the Provos were a murder gang.  The nominal authority for killing in the Six Counties was the British Government.  It did not commission the Provos to kill.  It reserved the right of killing to itself.  The Dublin Government, which asserted de jure authority, did not commission them either.  The Provos did it on their own authority.  And if they had the right to do that, then everybody has the right to do it, and therefore everybody can do it.  And therefore things will fall apart in the world if Sinn Fein does not recant, and does not condemn the IRA as a murder gang, and thus repeal the anarchic right of everybody to make war, which they asserted fifty years ago!

*The regime under which the British State has been governed for a little over 300 years was founded by an act of war in breach of law.  Edmund Burke, the most constitutional of British political philosophers, admitted that this was so, but he thought it was not a fact to be dwelt upon and extrapolated into a precedent.  Revolutions do not result from precedents.  And wars by a people against a regime are not caused by principles, good or bad.  And if a people rebels against a powerful State, and the war is carried through to a successful outcome, that fact is of itself proof that there was sufficient reason for it.  The  particulars of situations are what matter.

EU Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland

Brexit And Northern Ireland

Editorial, Irish Political Review, March 18

The strange British device called Northern Ireland was based on an antagonism of two stable populations with fixed ideas, which we described fifty years ago as two nations. One of those populations ruled the other in local Six County affairs then, while the basic services of state were laid on by the Westminster Government, in which neither of them was ever represented.

That arrangement led to a war, and it had to be scrapped as a means of ending the War. It was replaced by a local system of government in which there was no central body of the kind that is usually meant by the word Government. Departments of government were shared out between the two populations to be conducted independently. They were not Departments of a general Government conducted by a Prime Minister. Each population had its own Prime Minister, called a First Minister. There were two First Minister—formally a First Minister and a Deputy First Minister, but the Deputy was in fact a Second First Minister, and was in no way subordinate to the First First Minister.

That 1998 Agreement abolished the pretence that there was a general Six County body politic on which a general Six County Government could be based.

We supported it in 1998 as a means by which the antagonism of the two stable populations could be transferred from war to peace. What we supported was the letter of the Agreement. There were others who supported it for what they said was its spirit, which was a spirit of reconciliation.

Twenty years later it is being said that the Agreement failed because it clearly has not reconciled. If there was anything in the letter of the Agreement that could be reasonably understood as having the purpose of reconciling, it might be said that it has failed But there isn’t.

The Agreement worked because its actual arrangements were based on acceptance of the fact of irreconcilable antagonism. Devolution got a second innings on that basis. It failed when a couple of parties to it became discontented with its successful operation in accordance with its letter and opposed it on the ground that it was not achieving what was not achievable.

The devolved system has now been out of operation for a year. The BBC story is that Sinn Fein brought it down. In fact it was the SDLP that brought it down.

The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, had mismanaged her Department very badly in an administrative matter, some years earlier.

The Second First Minister, Martin McGuinness, did not want to make a great issue of this. He wanted to fudge a way through it—which could be said to be in the spirit of the Agreement. It was the SDLP that made a great issue of it. The SDLP had lost out to Sinn Fein in the Nationalist sector of the electorate because John Hume’s successor, Seamus Mallon, did not seem to know just what the Agreement was that John Hume had played a large part in negotiating. He lost his way in a private republican fantasy of his own. Sinn Fein, whose military wing was the main force that compelled changes to be made, then displaced the SDLP as the major Nationalist Party and it made a working arrangement in accordance with the letter of the Agreement with Paisley’s DUP.

The SDLP, relegated to secondary status in the Nationalist electorate under the Agreement, rejected the letter of the Agreement by forming itself into an Opposition within the Agreement system. The Ulster Unionist Party, which had similarly lost out to the DUP, did likewise. The two losing parties then combined against the Agreement system as an Opposition and refused to take up the Departments under it which their vote entitled them to and which the spirit of the Agreement required them to do. And the tiny Alliance party followed suit.

The implication of the SDLP stance was that the Agreement should be scrapped and replaced with a voluntary Coalition under a general system of Government. It therefore made a great constitutional issue of Arlene Foster’s mishandling of the wood-burning affair, making it inadvisable to Sinn Fein to fudge a way through the crisis.

The SDLP knew fine well that, if the Foster/McGuinness co-operation was brought down, setting up a replacement after an election would be problematical. So it was. And so it is. And the SDLP itself has not profited at all from what it did.

An Irish Language Act is now the issue. The London and Dublin Governments thought that, by coming to Belfast, they could overawe the locals and hustle them into agreement. They had not learned from half a century of experience that hustling just doesn’t work in the Six Counties.

It seem to have just clicked with Unionists that the Irish language issue is not a piece of nonsense on a par with Ulster Scots.

Forty years ago we were conducting a vigorous campaign to bring the Six Counties within the democracy of the state of which they are a part. What that meant in practice was getting the parties that govern the state to organise and contest elections in the Six County region of the state. One meeting at which this was discussed was attended by Ken Maginnis, the personification of bluff Fermanagh Unionism. He said that if he agreed to this project he just could not return to Fermanagh and face his Catholic constituents after he blighted their hopes.

He was not the only one who took it that, if the democratic politics of the state came to the Six County region of it, that would kill off Nationalism. We couldn’t see that at all. But it was enlightening to hear from a solid Ulster Unionist that he was concerned that the Catholic population in the North should continue in the rut established for it in 1921.

Dublin Governments were intended to provide back-ups for the Nationalist community under the Agreement, while the Government of the Union state reassured the Unionist community.

But Dublin refused to play its part. The basic reason for this that it refused to admit to a special relationship with the Nationalist community and insisted that its concern was with the entire population of the North. This was its official stance, even though everyone knew that the Unionist community refused any association with Dublin.

Until 1998 the Southern Constitution asserted that there was a single national community in the whole of Ireland, and it could be said that Dublin Governments were therefore prohibited from being guarantors of one of the national communities in the North against the other. But in 1998 that provision of the Constitution was repealed. Its repeal was a condition of the Agreement. That left Dublin free to take up what was in fact its natural alignment in the internal affairs of the North.

Its failure to do so was connected with the rise of Sinn Fein as an effective political party in the South as well as the North, and Sinn Fein was a painful reminder to both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail of where they had come from. In 1998 they had both been working on a denial of their origins for about a quarter of a century. That was their way of coping with the War in the North. They were in denial about social realities in the North. And they could not admit that what led to the War in the North was the communal structure of subordinate government outside the democracy of the state, that the British Parliament imposed in 1921.

Shrinking minds could not bear the weight of the thought that Britain itself, the Mother of Parliaments, was responsible for the War in its Irish region. Britain had to be excused, except perhaps of some secondary negligence. So what was the cause? History was the cause. And history was the movement for national independence. History had to be re-written, and the North kept out of mind as far as possible.

The concern about the North that has sprouted up during the past year is spurious. It is only displacement activity connected with Brexit.

NB: The brief Haughey period is an exception to what is said above.

Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland

Brexit and the war of the worlds

Editorial from The Irish Political Review December 2018:

The 26 County Government says it will not tolerate the restoration of a Border between the part of the island which it governs and the Six Counties in the North which are part of the British state. It means that it will not tolerate a Customs barrier.

In a bygone era it denied the legitimacy of the Irish region of the British state. Its Constitution asserted de jure sovereignty over the whole island. It repealed that assertion of sovereignty in 1998, after the IRA ended the War that it declared on Britain, on condition that the system of British government in the Six Counties was altered substantially in the interests of the large nationalist minority in the North.

The Dublin Governments had not in any sense been a party to the War between the IRA and Britain. This war was not in any sense a resumption of the Anglo/Irish War of 1919-21. It was a war declared by a new IRA, born out of the undemocratic, sectarian system of British government in the Six County region of the British state. Every Dublin Government during those 28 years condemned the War that the IRA declared and waged on its own authority.

The legitimacy of that authority as stated can be disputed, but the reality of support for the War by the undemocratically-governed nationalist populace is a fact beyond reasonable dispute. And the terms on which the War was settled were a substantial alteration in the British system of undemocratic government in the Six County region.

Dublin Governments throughout the War were disapproving onlookers, except for Charles Haughey and Albert Reynolds, who acted as intermediaries towards a settlement.

The Northern War of 1970-1998 owed nothing to Dublin Governments. They had no part in it. The terms on which it was ended demonstrated that it was—as this journal had maintained throughout—a British affair caused by the undemocratic mode of government that Britain chose to impose on the Six Counties as a means of enacting Partition.

Dublin Governments, while condemning the IRA for waging war on Britain on the issue of Northern Ireland, kept the clause in the Constitution which denied the legitimacy of British government in the Six Counties. And then they repealed that assertion of de jure Irish sovereignty in the North after the IRA agreed terms with Britain for ending the War—just as if they had been a party to the War.

Repeal of the sovereignty clause in 1971, when we demonstrated at the Department of External Affairs building to demand it, might have made a difference to the course of events in the North. Repeal in 1998 was at best an empty gesture.

There were grounds in the pre-1998 Constitution for action against a British border within Ireland. Article Three suspended action to give effect t to the sovereignty assertion of Article 2. Enforcement of sovereignty was left to the discretion of Governments.

In 1974, when the Government was charged with breaking the Constitution by signing the Sunningdale Agreement, its legal defence was that it did no more than recognise the fact that there was a British government in the Six Counties. Doctors C.C. O’Brien and Garret FitzGerald, the Coalition spokesmen on the North, said that their merely factual acknowledgement that there was British government in the Six Counties did not prejudice the right of any future Government to act to enforce Irish sovereignty.

The Constitutional assertion of sovereignty over the North was repealed, to no useful purpose in 1998. British government was recognised as legitimate. So what Constitutional grounds would there be for action by a Dublin Government to prevent Britain from establishing Customs posts along its Border?

The Border did not cease to be a Customs barrier because of any Dublin pressure on London, or any Anglo-Irish Agreement. It happened as a by-product of Ireland joining the EU following Britain in a British Isles sort of way. The sense of national purpose in the state was at a low ebb when it happened. The Establishment middle class of the nation had trivialised itself. It was shamed by the War in the North and it sought refuge from itself in Europe. And, apart from the fiercely resented Haughey period, it was cannon-fodder for Britain in its long, largely successful, campaign to divert the EU from its original purpose.

. . . And Now!

In its negotiations on Brexit, Britain has found itself in a novel position: in the past it has negotiated ‘unequal treaties’ with other countries—treaties in which its own force and might are brought to bear on the other party to secure arrangements to its own advantage and the disadvantage of the junior party. On this occasion the balance of power lies with the opposing party, and Britain must rely on its wits and statecraft to extract the best deal it can.

Ireland is, for the first time, on the stronger side in the negotiations. However, that advantage can be dissipated if it handles Unionist susceptibilities in its usual uncomprehending manner.

After Brexit there must be a comprehensive political, legal and economic barrier between Britain and Europe. The question is whether this division will occur between mainland Britain and the island of Ireland or run across the UK Border with the EU—the old Irish Border with Northern Ireland.

Tory MEP Charles Tannock has called for a referendum to be held in Northern Ireland, to allow for continued membership of the Customs Union and the Single Market after the UK leaves the European Union. At first sight this seems an attractive option: to seek democratic endorsement for the Special Status for Northern Ireland, which the EU negotiators—including Ireland—are seeking to extract from Westminster. The EU is demanding this Special Status, as one of the ‘Red Lines’ upon which agreement must be agreed before negotiations proceed to the next stage, the trade relationship between the UK and Europe.

Given that Prime Minister Theresa May is constrained by reliance on DUP votes to maintain her party in power, this is a way that Special Status for Northern Ireland could occur. Unionists are opposed to Special Status as creating a barrier between themselves and the UK, while it is universally advocated on the Nationalist side. But they could hardly withdraw from the ‘Confidence and Supply’ agreement with the Conservatives on the issue of giving the Northern Ireland democracy a say on a matter of such crucial importance—particularly as Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in the UK referendum of June 2016.

However, is such a referendum on Special Status desirable?

In a Special Issue in January 2017, this magazine took the view that, rather than relying on constitutional novelties, people in Northern Ireland should be allowed to experience the reality of separation from the EU—the ‘hard border’ in Ireland—before being asked to vote on Irish unity.

However, that is a cumbersome approach in the sense that Ireland—as the EU country with a land frontier with the UK—would be required to erect an expensive Border apparatus on the island, an infrastructure that would not be required if a majority in Northern Ireland decided to remain in Europe.

That said, however, Ireland will undoubtedly have to regulate an EU external Border with Britain, regardless of whether it falls across the island or in the middle of the Irish sea.

Some years ago Athol Books published The Economics Of Partition, which showed that Northern Ireland formed part of the British capitalist market and concluded that there was a corresponding political expression of that interest. Things have changed a lot since then: the heavy industry which characterised the North, an industry for which the British market was an essential, has been decimated. The Northern Ireland economy is now tailored to the larger European market: agriculture springs to mind here, but there are also other areas. Undoubtedly any new edition of that book would see a very different picture.

The essential point remains that the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to vote on whether to remain in the EU—and thus leave the British polity. Such a vote may overlap the national division in the North but it also transcends it. Many European nationals have made their homes in Northern Ireland and there may be sections of the Protestant nationality which see their interests better served in Europe.

A Border Poll—as provided for under the Good Friday Agreement—should be held not long after the UK has formally left the EU.

While there may be diehard Unionist satisfaction at new barriers being erected against the Republic of Ireland, that emotion is matched by Nationalist anger—low-key at present, but bound to rise.

If an arrangement for this division to be measured by objective voting is not made now, there is likely to be civil unrest in connection with Brexit. Chris Hazzard, the Westminster Sinn Fein MP, has predicted that any attempt to impose a ‘Hard Border’ across the island of Ireland will be met by civil disobedience. In response, Unionists point out that such a movement in 1969-70 led to armed struggle.

While a full-scale war about the EU/UK Border looks unlikely at this stage, there is no doubt that things could get messy if no avenue of political remedy is provided to those who are being subjected to the constitutional injustice—as they see it—of eight DUP MPs creating a Hard Border in Ireland.

EU Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland

‘Northern Ireland’ and Democracy

Editorial from Irish Political Review November 2017:

Brexit seems to be going ahead, but there is no Northern Ireland Government to tend to Northern Ireland interests in the process of it. The two Governments are worried by this and they are urging Northern Ireland to get a Government so that it can tend to the interests of Northern Ireland. What does Northern Ireland have an interest which could be tended to if it had Government?

Northern Ireland is an empty formula: a Constitutional abstraction which does not reflect a political or social reality. It is transcendent. It exists beyond reality. In the reality of things, Northern Ireland today, as ever, exists in two incompatible parts. Until 1972 one part held free dominance over the other. Since 1998, because of a War that was fought in the interim, the two parts became independent of each other. Its new form of government, established under the 1998 Agreement between Whitehall and the IRA, and a subsequent agreement between Ian Paisley—”Ulster Says No!—and Martin McGuinness—the Republican war leader—consists of two groups of autonomous Ministries, each representing one of the parts, which pull in opposite directions.

It is perhaps fortunate for Northern Ireland, as a transcendentent constitutional abstraction, that it does not have a Government at this historic juncture. It would aggravate the antagonism of the parts without having any power of decision.

The parts decide in the light of their own particular interests whether to form the subordinate Government of discordant parts or not. That right of decision Is all that exists in the way of democracy in the Six Counties.

Those in Dublin and London who berate Sinn Fein and the DUP for not agreeing to form that unusual form of government just now do so for concerns of their own. Neither Dublin nor London has any representative in connection with the North.
The Irish Times—the Southern Unionist paper chosen by Fianna Fail to be the national paper of record—Editorialises (October 19) that—

“the people of Northern Ireland are being denied the benefits of a properly functioning government. Tribal politics and sectarian-style considerations are threatening to overwhelm the commitments to peace, diversity and compromise that formed a basis of the Belfast Agreement. It does not have to be like this. Northern Ireland’s leading parties have more to gain from compromise than they have to lose… Last week, it seemed that agreement might be reached… Michelle O’Neill appeared willing to fudge…”

There is no evidence that Michelle O’Neill was willing to trample on her electoral commitments. And the “sectarian-style tribal politics”—what we described as a national difference forty years ago—was what the Good Friday Agreement was based on and gave official structure to.

The Irish Times then proceeds to hold the Northern parties—but essentially Sinn Fein—responsible for the—”recent cuts… A functioning Executive would be in a position to disburse the additional funding secured by the DUP” in return for giving its handful of votes at Westminster to the Tories so that they could form a Government.

Northern Ireland is never without a Government. And the Government is always Whitehall, regardless of whether a subordinate façade exists at Stormont. Westminster has absolute power of government in the North. “Recent cuts” were brought in by Whitehall against the wishes of the subordinate Government, overriding the authority devolved to the subordinate.

Whitehall has always had the authority to govern the North in any way it pleased. The main services of the state have always been run by the appropriate Whitehall Departments. And, since 1998, there has been specific provision for a Whitehall Department that can function as the devolved Northern Ireland Government when the Northern Ireland parties—which exist only because the British governing parties have always boycotted their Northern Ireland concoction—cannot be got to form a subordinate government and take the blame.

There have been calls for the Six County parties to live up to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. When this cry was first raised in 1999, we pointed out that it had no spirit. To have a spirit it would have had to be negotiated between the two national communities in the North. It was never that. It was negotiated between Whitehall and the IRA after a 28 year War that Whitehall despaired of winning. John Hume of the SDLP (but not the SDLP) and Charles Haughey of Fianna Fail (but not Fianna Fail) acted as influential intermediaries. Hume was hated in the SDLP and Haughey was hated in Fianna Fail. And David Trimble of the Unionist Party let himself be intimidated by Tony Blair into letting it be thought that he had signed (though we were assured that he didn’t), and then, advised by Lord Bew and Eoghan Harris from the Official IRA, he prevented it from functioning for a couple of years.

We now find our view of the Agreement—or at least some of it—being expressed by an Irish Times columnist in contradiction of the Editorial. Newton Emerson used to be a not funny or biting Loyalist satirist but he has evolved into a straight commentator who is worth reading.

On October 19th, in a column headed “Varadkar tears up the Belfast Agreement”, he ridiculed the notion that the Agreement had a spirit, and commented:

“Leo Varadkar has torn up the Good Friday Agreement in unionism’s favour and ended up doing nobody any favours.”

In 1920 Ulster Unionism did not want the Northern Ireland system. It wanted to be governed, without devolution, within the British system of state politics. That was its programme in the 1918 Election. Historians, in a remarkable instance of Gleichschaltung—as the Nazi system of ‘co-ordinating’ the expression of public opinion was called—have all agreed to delete that indisputable political fact from recorded history.

They were persuaded to have separate ‘Home Rule’ as a Whitehall device that would help to confuse the Sinn Fein movement of the time
But the Six County Partition was their own choice. That gave them the security of a two-thirds majority.

But political life in Unionist Ulster ceased with the establishment of the Northern Ireland system. This put the Unionists in the position of being able to be part of the British state in everything but its politics by bringing out the Protestant vote at every election. And it obliged them to bring out the Protestant vote at every election so that their communal majority would be clear.

Northern Ireland had no political life of its own into which the large Catholic minority might be drawn. That community would certainly have been drawn into British politics if British politics had not been excluded from the North. It was put in an intolerable political position, and that acted on it as a stimulus to find a remedy. It remained steadfastly Anti-Partitionist, not because it was fanatically nationalist, but because British Constitutional politics was closed to it. War was the only way of producing movement towards Irish unity and therefore a war was fought, and was persisted in even when the Southern Establishment—which asserted de jure sovereignty over the North—lost its nerve and tried to back away. The outcome of the War is that Republicanism has gained a secure, officially guaranteed, base within a restructured Northern Ireland system and Sinn Fein has grown into the second or third party in the Republic.

Social progress occurs in conjunction with wars. Britain has often told us so, and has blamed what it sees as Irish backwardness on the Irish refusal to support its wars. But there is a refusal to accept the fact that there was remarkable progress in the Northern Catholic community during its long war with Britain, and that the War to which it was driven was good for it.

The Protestant community opted for the routine of the status quo that was imposed upon it almost a century ago. It drifted along, without politics, as an annex of the British state, and atrophied. The majority-rule system at Stormont was struck down by Whitehall even before it lost its majority. The security of its two-thirds majority in its chosen Six Counties has now melted away. And a majority against it in a Partition referendum is now on the cards.

But the Taoiseach wants to change the goal-posts. He says he won’t accept the Six Counties into the Republic on the basis of a simple majority. He wants to ward off the evil day by requiring a 70 per cent Six County vote for unity before agreeing to accept the return of the Fourth Green Field. The Fianna Fail leader has long been saying things to that effect.

The way things are going it will soon be demanded by these Parties—whose only Northern policy for 60 uears was Anti-Partitionism—that there must be a majority within the Northern Protestant Community for Irish unity before the Dail can allow Partition to end.


The current issue of the Jesuit quarterly Studies is on the theme of Democracy In Peril? It begins with ancient Athens and comes down to Brexit, touching lightly on many things along the way. There is an article on The State Of Irish Democracy by Stephen Collins of the Irish Times. It does not touch at all on the Six Counties, though they are the only part of Ireland where there has been a real problem about democracy since the Treaty Oath ceased to be a condition of entry to the Dail about 90 years ago. In fact the North is not mentioned at all in this pretentious publication, except obliquely by Fianna Fail’s Northern expert, Martin Mansergh.

Democracy, in its minimum practical meaning established by Britain, is the government of a state by a political party which, in a contest with other political parties, gains a majority of seats in Parliament in an election in which the electorate is the adult population. On those terms Northern Ireland is an undemocratically-governed region of a democratic state. The parties which contend for the right to govern the state have always excluded it from their sphere of operation but they govern it when they win an election in the rest of the state.

If that description, which we have repeated over forty years, is inaccurate, we would welcome a refutation of it. Or, if it is held that undemocratic government has no effect on the governed, we would be interested to see a case made for that view.

Mansergh writes that in 1918 the Bolsheviks dissolved the Constituent Assembly in which they failed to gain a majority, but Sinn Fein won an “overwhelming electoral mandate that also covered retrospectively the Easter Rising, but made Dail Eireann the centre of their legitimacy”. Can democracy act retrospectively to cover an action which in its time was undemocratic? We have argued that (leaving aside the scale of the franchise) there was no democracy in 1916. The Westminster Parliament suspended it for the duration of the War in 1915 and continued without an electoral mandate. But there is little doubt that the Redmondites would have got a renewed mandate in 1915 if they had resigned and re-fought their seats, instead of supporting the suspension of democracy by the Liberals and Unionists.

The Rising was carried out in a democratic vacuum. There is no need to seek a mystical democratic validation for it by retrospective democratic action. When democracy was eventually restored in December 1918, Sinn Fein won the election because of the great change of popular opinion brought about by the Rising.

Mansergh continues:

“History is not a simple morality tale… it would, of course, have been preferable if peaceful constitutional evolution had not been so contested that it remained stalled for nearly half a century. It is possible to argue that an Independent Ireland in twenty-six counties would never have come into being without the resort to force in Easter 1916 or the subsequent War of Independence”. [In fact, the War of Independence was subsequent in the fullest sense, to the Election, as the Election was subsequent to the Rising.] “But it is also necessary to acknowledge the cost—not just at that time but with a long afterlife—of validating even for a short period, a conspiratorial militarist tradition that claimed a superiors legitimacy to any elected body, no matter how negligible its electoral support.” [What conspiratorial militarism claimed superior legitimacy to in 1916 was electoral politics which said that independence should be sought only through a Parliament which had repeatedly declared that it would never concede it to anything but force.] “Nearly twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement the process of exorcism is still far from complete, not just because of the residual activities of dissidents but also because of the persistent proselytism for the view that the Provisional IRA campaign has the same legitimacy as the earlier struggle for independence. The historical theorising behind this is highly contrived, indeed absurd, but what cannot be denied is that it took from 1922–98 and beyond to create a political settlement… that could win the consent of the people in Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

This is all over the place, with one thing spilling over into another. The War in Northern Ireland was not, after 1922, a phase in the Anglo-Irish War, although there was some attempt around 1998 in Dublin to claim it as such. It had its own specific causes in the undemocratic structure given to the North by Whitehall which could only result in the communal policing of Catholics by Protestants.

On the comparison of the 1919 War and the 1970 War, this journal has argued that the position of the Northern Catholics, under routine communal humiliation and without access to Constitutional politics, was more difficult and more intolerable than that of nationalist Ireland as a whole after the 1918 Election. There was going to be self-government of one degree or another for the greater part of Ireland, with the “self” of the self-government being the vast bulk of the populace. Independence, as warranted by the Election, could not be got without being fought for, but failing to fight for it would not have led to anything like the position in which a third of the Six County population was placed by the establishment of the Northern Ireland system.

War may not be pleasant. But Britain is a war-fighting state, as Tony Blair often reminded the Labour idealists. And it generates war around it. We were not advocates of war in the North—the Fianna Fail newspaper was. But we saw that there was sufficient reason for war if it could be fought with the possibility of some success. And we can see that it brought considerable success to the community that sustained it—while Fianna Fail remains in denial about the fact that it was a war.

PS The Irish Times of October 25th carried an article on the Catalan crisis and made complicated debating points about it that we could make no sense of, but which possibly make sense to the Ulster Unionist mind which is fiercely Unionist with regard to symbolism, and was once Unionist with regard to the political life of the Union state, but what it cals Unionism now is a “connection” with the Union state and excluion from its political life.

Thirty years ago it was as fiercely opposed toour campaign to bring British politics to the North as it was to the unification of Ireland.

Emerson, the author, is of the opinion that “the UK appears as a model of accommodation” when compared with “the Spanish state”. We cannot say that we have kept up to date with Spanish affairs since the Fascist regime arranged for an orderly transition to democracy. Now it might be that Catalonia was excluded fromn the democratic political life of the Spanish state, as the Six Counties were from the British state when Westminster invented Northern Ireland. But if that was the case, we are sure we would have heard of it. So we are reasonablysure that Catalonia was not excluded from Spanish state politics, and was not confined in a system of subordinated sub-government in which one conmunity dominated another, and in which the only remedy available to the dominated community was war.

Westminster, though its perverse statecraft, is solely responsibvle for the 1921 Northern Ireland system and all that it led to. As far as we know, Catalonia was democratically governed within Spanish democracy, but nevertheless very large numbers of Catalans came to conceive of themselves as a distinct nationality and they wish to se cede from Spain and cease to be Spanish, as England wishes to secede from the EU and cease to be European—not that it ever was European in earnest. But England is forcing Scotland and Wales to leave along with them, and we don’t know that the Catalan nationalists are forcing any other people to go with them.

Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland

The Reformation

‘The Reformation In Ireland’ is the editorial in Church and State Autumn 2017:

On the 500th anniversary of Luther’s attack on mainstream European Christianity, the Irish Times asked: “at the risk of being parochial…: why did the Reformation fail in Ireland?” There is of course no risk of the Irish Times becoming parochial—not Irish parochial at any rate. It qualified its question:

“It must be said at the outset that the Reformation was not a complete failure on this island as it gained followers in Ulster and Dublin”.

Did the Reformation really gain followers in ‘Ulster? Or was it that Ulster was colonised by Reformationists? We never heard of the mass conversion of the Ulster Gaels to the theocratic rigours of Calvinism. We are sure that they had no more taste for it then than they have now.

Trinity College seems to have known more about Ireland 80 years ago than it does now. In the extensive history of the Church of Ireland that it produced (under the Editorship of Professor Alison Phillips) in response to Fianna Fail and the Eucharistic Congress, it has a chapter entitled Puritans and Planters.

The bogus English Reformation—which was only a Government institution—provoked authentic Reformationism beneath it in the form of Puritanism. And the Puritans, feeling oppressed by the Government religion in England bought freedom of religious development as Planters in territories conquered by the new English Empire that was established in conjunction with the breach with Rome. They were the people of God in the world and in their main sphere of action, North America, they laid waste all other forms of human life, and created the U. S. A.

The Reformation that came to Ulster in the form of a mass colonisation was conducted on the authority of the British Crown, but discontent with bogus English Government Reformation was not its driving force. That came from the authentic Reformation in Scotland, a few years after the British Crown was established by the succession of the Scottish Stuarts to the English (or Welsh) Tudor dynasty: the Union of Crowns in 1603.

The Plantation of Ulster—the main event in the Reformation in Ireland—began when the O’Dougherty lands were confiscated in 1608 and a large Protestant population was brought in from Scotland to fill the space that had been emptied. The Protestant presence in Ireland was increased greatly, and the new addition was soundly Protestant. It was fundamentalist, rather than merely opportunist—as so many of those who had changed their religion in the Ireland were.

Bishop Mant, in his impressive mid-19th century History Of The Church Of Ireland From The Reformation To The Revolution: With A Preliminary Survey, From the Papal Usurpation, In The 12th Century, To Its Legal Abolition In The 16th, praises James the First and Sixth for his care of the Church of Ireland, but he is in two minds about the Ulster Plantation:

“Notwithstanding… the regard… shown by the king for the well-being of the Church, and for the maintenance of the established religion, of this plantation there was one result deeply to be lamented, as disturbing to the Church’s peace, impeding her progress, and diminishing her power of promoting religious improvement. The emigrants from Scotland, who were a numerous division of the new settlers, brought with them their own peculiar prepossessions, and were attended or followed by ministers of their own, apparently sincere and zealous, though mistaken men, earnest in maintaining and disseminating their national opinions.

“These opinions for the most part consisted in hostility to the primitive and apostolical form of Church government by bishops, and a partial predilection for the Presbyterian model, recently invented by John Calvin at Geneva, and imported into Scotland by John Knox: in a rejection of that liturgical mode of worship, which has been transmitted from the earliest through all succeeding ages of Christianity, and was now continued in the British reformed churches; and in an attachment to the modern fashion of devotional aspirations, uttered under the supposed immediate dictation of the Holy Spirit; in a contempt¬uous repudiation of several decent and orderly, innocent and edifying and ancient, signs and accompaniments of divine worship, and a studied affectation of a bare, an abstract, and frigid simplicity in the service of God; in a condemnation of the aboriginal and hereditary sentiments, practice, and authority of Christ’s Catholick Church, as the interpreter of God’s holy word, and in the proposed reverence for that word alone as the guide to religious truth, not however independent of the freedom of private judgment, carried to an undue and dangerous extent, or of the system of some favourite reformer, who had acquired over their minds and opinions little less than a Papal control.

“Under the influence of such prejudices as these, congregations were formed by the new comers from Scotland in the northern counties of Ireland, opposed to the principles and provisions, and the estranged from the communion, of the Church.

“The settlement of the Scottish Presbyterians in Ireland was not agreeable to the former inhabitants, either to the earlier occupiers, or those of English extraction: and a special Act of Parliament was necessary to legalize it. For down to this period in the reign of King James, there was still in force a statute, enacted in the third and fourth years of King Phillip and Queen Mary, which prohibited the bringing in, retaining or marrying of Scots. This statute continuing part of the law of the land during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, adventurers of that nation were precluded from settling in Ireland. But, in the year 1614… this Act was repealed, and multitudes of Scots pass¬¬ed over into Ulster… At the same time there are came over three ministers from England, one a pupil of the celebrated Puritan, Cartwright, patronized by the Lord Chichester, then Lord Deputy, who had been a pupil of Cartwright also, and was a favourer and encourager of Puritans. These congregations were soon afterwards united into a system of mutual agreement and co-operation, and presbyteries formed in various districts.

“Schism was thus established among the Irish Protestants: a schism, opposed at the same time to all the principles and laws of the Church Catholick, and injurious to Christianity in general, but especially detrimental under the circumstances of Ireland, where a consentient, combined, and co-operating effort… by all the opponents of the papal errors, might have been a powerful instrument in God’s hand for correcting them; and where the want of such agreement and co-operation… served as a positive argument for confirming the Papist in his delusions” (Pages 365-368. Richard Mant was Anglican Bishop of Down & Connor. This book was not published by either Oxford University or Trinity College).

There were two Protestantism in Ireland. There was a Government one, which functioned as part of the apparatus of State and whose members live mainly by a monopoly of the professions and of land ownership and by exploitation of the dis-franchised Catholic population. And there was a religious one which was given confiscated Catholic land by the British State under its first Scottish king and which lived thereafter by its own resourcefulness.

Government Protestantism began to wither after the Act of Union as Westminster began to enact reform in the Catholic interest under pressure from the resurgent native population. The other Protestantism, not being an instrument of the State, continued.

The Anglican Church (Church of Ireland), claimed to be a continuation of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church, minus the Pope. There appears to be some substance in that claim. The English conquest of Ireland by Henry the Second was authorised by the Pope for the purpose of bringing the Church of Gaelic Ireland more effectively under Roman discipline. (The Normans were the secular arm of the Papacy.) But the more Romanised Church in Ireland between the Conquest and the Reformation seems to have been confined to the Pale.

A major circumstance in the Government-directed English Reformation was the privatisation of the Monasteries. The Monasteries in England were major economic institutions. The King gained revenue by selling them off, and at the same time created a class of gentry with vested interests in the consolidation of the new anti-Roman political order. The privatisation of those monastic institutions of the feudal system was the beginning of the bourgeois revolution. But the Christianity of Gaelic Ireland was organised differently.

Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland

The End Of An Era?

Irish Political Review Editorial October 2017

Northern Ireland is without a Government at the moment. It has been without a Government since before the last British General Election. Or, to put it another way, the Northern Ireland region of the British state is being governed by the Government of the state and that is not what the State wants.

What the State wants is to have a subordinate Government in its Six County region—a Government which has no power of its own, but whose flimsy existence at Stormont helps to conceal the fact that the British system of government in its Northern Ireland region is, and always has been, essentially undemocratic.

The Fianna Fail leader, Micheál Martin, is unhappy that Sinn Fein is not facilitating British policy by enabling the Northern Ireland false front of democracy to be restored. He says that Sinn Fein is falling down on its duty as a class party by giving priority to national considerations. He urges Sinn Fein to get back into harness with the DUP, restore the subordinate Government, and then undo the austerity regime imposed by Westminster.

We recall a time, not very long ago, when Sinn Fein, in the government at Stormont, was refusing to implement the austerity measures demanded by Westminster, and Mr. Martin condemned it for refusing to take the hard, unpopular decisions that Governments often have to take, and said that proved that Sinn Fein was unfit to take part in a Government of the Republic.

And Mr. Martin has forgotten—if he ever took enough interest in the North to have known it—that the austerity measures in question were imposed by Whitehall against the opposition of the subordinate Stormont Government, even though the authority in the matter lay with the devolved Government under the terms of the Agreement which was supposedly the Northern Ireland Constitution.

All the powers of state lie with Westminster. It set up a subordinate Six County Government to exercise some of them. But the Six County system has no sovereign authority at all, even within the sphere allocated to it. Whitehall can over-rule its decisions whenever it pleases. It has both legal power and the actual political influence to do so.

There is authentic devolution in Scotland. Whitehall would not dare to over-rule it in its exercise of powers devolved to it, as it did with the northern Ireland Government on the austerity issue. Devolution was conceded to Scotland in the hope that it would appease the Scottish Nationalist movement. It appears to have done so. But the measure of appeasement has conferred layer of actual authority to the Scottish devolution system that Whitehall would over- rule at its peril.

That is not the case with the Six Counties. The Northern Ireland system was imposed, in response to no demand for it, as British policy for handling the Irish situation as a whole.

The two national communities with conflicting interests that made up the Six County Area were bundled into the strange Northern Ireland adjunct of the British state. Neither of them wanted it, but Whitehall persuaded the Protestant Community to accept it, under the threat that otherwise they would come under an Irish Home Rule system. For half a century the Protestant majority ruled over the Catholic community, in exclusion from the political life of the British state, in the make-believe ‘Northern Ireland state’, with most of the services of State continuing to be provided by Whitehall.

Communal conflict—called “sectarian conflict” by superficial political commentators who did not trouble to see what the ground of it was—was what happened in the Northern Ireland political vacuum.

It was all that was there to happen.

The Protestant Community became addicted to the political system which it had not wanted but had agreed to rule. It called itself Unionist, but had agreed to operate a system outside the political life of the Union, and was damaged by that decision. It had no political purpose beyond turning out the Protestant vote at every election in order to keep itself ‘connected’ with Britain.

The Catholic community has been accused of refusing to participate in the Northern Ireland political system, but there was actually no internal political life within the system for it to participate in. It was routinely humiliated in the most casual manner by the rulers, and it was discriminated against routinely, but it was aware of itself as a politically detached segment of the Irish nation, which had formed a state through war with Britain, and so it had a political purpose beyond Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland it lived in its own life within its own culture and it grew despite discrimination and strong inducements to emigrate, and bided its time. After half a century it launched a War against the State and sustained it until the State re-ordered the devolved system in a way that abolished the majority of political status of the majority population. Throughout the War it grew in confidence as well as numbers.

A position has now been reached where Unionism is no longer a political majority. In the last Elections (Six County and state) the combined votes of the Unionist Parties was less than the combined votes of the other Parties. (The holding of Censuses was abolished sometime ago in order to conceal ‘Demographics’.)

Northern Ireland is without a Government (but the Six Counties isn’t) because of gross mismanagement by the DUP leader of the subsidised heating issue when she was a Minister. Sinn Fein under Martin McGuinness appeared willing to fudge a way through the crisis but the SDLP would have characterised it as a DUP stooge if it had persisted in the attempt, so it resigned from the Government when Arlene Foster would not stand aside while an investigation was being held.

The SDLP at the time was refusing to participate in Government in accordance with the spirit of the 1998 Agreement. It made an alliance with the Official Unionists in an attempt to break the Agreement and restore some kind of majority rule system. Sinn Fein, having been put under pressure to end collaboration with the DUP, was then criticised for not getting back into coalition quickly without any real change in the circumstances under which it was under pressure to resign.

The new SDLP leader, Colm Eastwood, having tried to restore SDLP fortunes by means of an anti-Republican pact with the Official Unionists, and come to grief in the Elections, has reverted to Republicanism. Sinn Fein has made a “stand-alone” Irish Language Act a condition of entering government again. The DUP insist that any Language Act must put on a par Gaelic and a variety of Scottish said to be spoken somewhere, but impossible to find.

Sinn Fein insists that there must be an Act that it is specifically directed for the revival of Irish, which has been seriously undertaken in the North ever since Partition. It points out that such an Act has already been accepted in two official agreements, which have never been implemented.

Official Unionist Reg Empey says that, if this is done, everyone will be forced to speak Irish, thus putting pressure on the DUP to maintain a hard-line stance. But the SDLP supports the Sinn Fein position—as does the Fine Gael-led Irish Government.

Fianna Fail says Sinn Fein should put nationality on the long finger and get back into government as a class party and reverse austerity.

When did Sinn Fein ever present itself as a class party? a Labour Party? It is a nationalist Party formed by the working class—the most working-class party in composition that there has ever been amongst the major Parties in Ireland or Britain, but a nationalist party. It treats social issues within the context of nationality—Just as Connolly did.

Fianna Fail seems to have lost itself under Martin’s leadership. He is going down the way prepared for Fianna Fail by Martin Mansergh who tried to obscure its origins in the War against Lloyd George’s one-sided ‘Treaty’. (And could it be that he is being advised by Ireland’s most blustering political commentator, Eoghan Harris?)

Fine Gael, however, seems to be changing in the other direction.

Fianna Fail has been ‘maturing’ towards the view that the Treaty State replaced the elected Republic in a democratic way in 1922-3, while Leo Varadkar has commented that the Treaty regime was established by means of war-crimes.

The crucial event leading to the crumbling of Republican morale in Fianna Fail was Jack Lynch’s prosecution in 1970 of members of his Government and Army for treasonable conspiracy when all they had been doing was carrying out his own Northern policy of 1969, and his prosecution of John Kelly, who had been his liaison with the Northern Catholic Defence Committees, which had been formed in response to the Unionist pogrom of August 1969. He did this under pressure from the British Ambassador, acting through the Fine Gael leader.

The court verdict in all cases was Not Guilty, and was strictly in accordance with the evidence presented. Respectable people in all three Irish parties, who had been routinely mouthing Anti-Partition slogans until then, were frightened out of their wits by the turn of events in the North, swallowed Lynch’s suggestion that either the jury had been packed by the IRA (which barely existed at the time) or had been intimidated.

Dermot Keogh, who was on the editorial staff of the Fianna Fail daily paper, The Irish Press, had a vision of Fascism while reporting the burning of the British Embassy in Dublin in 1972, in response to the administrative massacre enacted by the British Army in Derry on Bloody Sunday—not that the British regime in the North was Fascist but that the nationalist response to it in kind was Fascist.

It was arguable that the British regime in the Six Counties was Fascist. We never described it as such, but since it was obviously not democratic the idea that it was Fascist could not be dismissed out of hand. But Fascism is not the only kind of undemocratic government.

Keogh left the newspaper business for academia. He became an influential Professor in Cork University where he cultivated the notion that Northern Ireland was not an undemocratically governed region of the British state but was itself a state, and he wrote a hagiography of Jack Lynch.

No reasoning was ever brought to bear by Keogh on this matter. He did not review the institutions of state in the North and show that they were were not institutions of the British state, entirely under British sovereignty and administrative control. What he relied on was not reason but administrative academic control of commercial publishing in the circumstances where third level education was undergoing phenomenal expansion.

It was necessary for the frightened minds of the Free State Establishment in the Lynchite era that the plain fact that Northern Ireland was an undemocratically governed region of the British state should not be seen. If it was seen, then some thought would have to be given to the consequences of undemocratic government. And, judging by what was said with regard to other parts of the world, the conclusion must follow that war was a possible consequence.

In the era of general democracy, are the victims of undemocratic government in a region of a democratic state, who are deprived of the means of political remedy by Constitutional means, to be allowed to do nothing but suffer patiently?

War was the actual consequence of undemocratic government in the North. That seems to have been half-conceded in many quarters, which at the same time deny that it was a legitimate consequence. It is a nonsensical distinction which expresses nothing but an evasion of thought.

This state of mind of the Lynch era (which may now be approaching its end) was neatly summed up by Colm Toibin, in his function as a fiction-writer as distinct from a direct commentator. His early novel, The Heather Blazing, is one of the very few modern Irish novels that engages with politics and law. A Government advisor reflects:

“He had written a report for the government, which he presented early in 1972, on the ways in which the government should respond to a concerted campaign by the IRA… There were two chapters in his report…; no one, beyond those who were entitled to see the report, had ever read these chapters. He had been told several times that they had been influential and had helped shape government policy… He had warned never to allow public opinion to become inflamed… The north, he argued, must be presented as a different society, a place apart” (p177-8).

The Dublin Establishment sleepwalked through the war in the North, uttering phrases as a robot might do. Opinion surveys were arranged to show that public opinion had gone off the North and wouldn’t have it if it offered itself. And all the time the assertion of sovereign right over the north lay in the Constitution.

Keogh’s characterisation of the Provisional movement as Fascist was not seriously disputed by Important People. But the Fascists won—and they gave permission to the Dublin Establishment to repeal the sovereignty claim in the Constitution.

The 26 County State had no Northern policy between the time of the Arms Trials of 1970 and the Constitutional referendum of 1998. Its function under the Good Friday Agreement should have been to act as an advocate and guarantor of the northern nationalist community. But it could not do that coherently without recognising, at least de facto, that there were two distinct national bodies in the Northern situation and aligning itself with one of them. Under denial of the two nations reality that would be ‘sectarian’.

The Official IRA condemned the Provisionals as sectarian in 1970 because they acted within the social facts of the North. Micheál Martin has done the same with regard to Sinn Fein conduct of politics within the Agreement system. But what was the essential thing that this universally-applauded Agreement did? It gave Constitutional recognition to the fact that the population of the North was in fact two distinct populations which did not constitute a common body politic. We welcomed it at the time for what it was: an arrangement for the separate development as far as possible of the two communities, the two political bodies, the two nationalities—or whatever other name you prefer to call them, which amounts to the same thing.

The British Government had to concede a lot to get the Agreement. It then tried to get back what it conceded—that is what Britain normally does. Dublin Governments have, for the most part, been more British than the British on the matter. They have a degree of official standing under the Agreement but have not troubled to familiarise themselves with the mechanisms of the Agreement.

If, over the generations, they had tried to understand what Northern Ireland was, and to deal with it realistically, they would have had to understand what Britain was. The reality of Britain is not grasped by standard Anglophobia any more than by standard Anglophilia. Ping-pong between the two is all that there has been in nationalist intellectual or academic life. That is why Brexit was traumatic. The actuality of British political life lay beyond the understanding of both.

Political life within Northern Ireland under Brexit influence remains much as it was before Brexit: a process of attrition between two national communities. That is what it has been ever since 1921, whether in war or peace. Gerry Adams is hated no more on the Unionist side than John Hume was.

The British purpose in setting up the Northern Ireland system—unique in Constitutional history—can only have been to deter the independent development of nationalist Ireland by offering the illusory hope of unity if it conciliated the Ulster Unionists. Brexit, by raising the prospect of a land border in Ireland between Britain and the European Union, brings greater powers and complexities into play. The context of communal attrition within the North is changed, but we do not expect it to cease.

PS: What is said about the Dublin Establishment should be read as excluding Charles Haughey who, as Taoiseach, was very widely regarded in political circles as a dodgy intruder, and whose remarkable achievements during his few years as Taoiseach without a secure majority have never been consolidated in political literature into something that could be called a political heritage. His astonishing tour de force did not seem to be appreciated anywhere outside of Athol St.

Germany Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland Turkey and Ottoman Empire

The DUP/Tory Pact In Context

Editorial from Irish Political Review August 2017:

Ulster Unionism has come to the attention of the mainland. It is maintaining in Office, by support from the backbenches, a Tory Party that failed to win a General Election. It is feeling important because it is playing a part in the political life of the state, instead of sitting on the Westminster backbenches as spectators. But, if it has any sensibility at all, it must now be realising that mainland British politics, having been obliged by an electoral accident to take notice of it, regards it as essentially bizarre and alien. That is how it is seen, even by the Tory Party which it keeps in Office.

British political life is conducted within the familiar routines of a long-established party system, and its familiar party banter. It was shaped over hundreds of years as a system of two parties, with a third trying to break in. (The third party before the Great War of 1914-19 was the Labour Party. The Liberal Party, which launched that War, broke apart under the stress of it. Labour took its place as the second party of the state and Liberals have ever since been vainly trying to get back to where they were in 1914.)

In an attempt to include Ulster Unionism in the family, it has been said that the Tory Party used to be called the Conservative and Unionist Party, and that Ulster Unionism was part of it. But that story doesn’t sell—firstly because it is a tall story.
Go back a hundred years, and there was no Tory Party. From 1893 until 1922 what existed was the Unionist Party. The Unionist Party was a merger of the Tory Party and the social reform wing of the Liberal Party based in Birmingham and led by Joseph Chamberlain. The Liberal Party, Gladstone’s Liberal Party, was a laissez faire capitalist party, a free trade party. Social reform began in earnest in the 1890s under the merger of Tories and social reform Liberals in the Unionist Party after a Liberal split. Ulster Unionism was taken under the wing of that British Unionist Party but was never a leading influence in it.

The major reforms carried out in Ireland during the entire period of British rule were done by the Unionist Government of 1895-1905. Ulster Unionist resistance to some of these reforms were easily brushed aside by the Party.

From 1915 to 1922 there was Coalition Government in Britain. In 1915-16 it was a Coalition of the Liberal Party and the Unionist Party with some representation of the Labour Party. In 1916 the Liberal Party split again. The Prime Minister, Asquith, was thrown out and Lloyd George, left with a Liberal rump, became the figurehead Prime Minister of what was essentially a Unionist Government.

In 1918 this War Coalition, minus the Labour Party, fought the General Election as a unit. It won by a landslide, but it soon ran into trouble in its attempts to consolidate the expansion of the Empire gained by the defeat of Germany and Turkey. In the face of an effective defiance by the Turks in 1922 there was a revolt on the Unionist back-benches. The Coalition was brought down. Party politics resumed. From this point onwards the Unionist Party began to be called the Conservative Party, or, occasionally the Conservative and Unionist Party. But Ulster Unionism ceased to be part of it.

A new Government of Ireland Bill was published in 1920. It provided not only for Partition but for the setting up of a Home Rule Government in the Six Counties that were to remain within the British state (with a similar provision for Southern Ireland which remained a dead letter).

Up to this moment it was taken for granted that the part of Ireland that remained within the United Kingdom would be governed on the same basis as the rest of the state. The Ulster Unionist leader protested against the change. He said they had no wish to govern Catholics, but wanted all to be governed impartially within the political system of the state. The Unionist Government in Whitehalll paid no heed. Northern Ireland was set up in 1921 and the Ulster Unionists undertook to govern it, no longer as a region of the Unionist Party, but a separate Party. It was put to them that this would facilitate the anti-republican campaign in the rest of Ireland, and they agreed to it as a “supreme sacrifice” in the cause of Empire.

From that moment onwards Ulster Unionist Northern Ireland was a strange creature on the fringe of British politics, shunned by the re-born Tory Party and by the newly-born Labour Party.

The Tory Party acted as its protector at first, while keeping it at arm’s length.

However, there has never been any connection between the populist Democratic Unionist Party and the Tories. The connection was with the Ulster Unionist Party.
The Labour Party said it supported a United Ireland, and that was its excuse for boycotting Northern Ireland (refusing to accept members), but in Office the Labour Party promptly forgot its United Ireland policy.

The Ulster Unionist Party governed the strange Northern Ireland constitutional construct in the only way that such an inherently bad system could be governed. It was an undemocratic system in the basic sense that the election in it could play no part in the election of a party to govern the sovereign state. And it was profoundly aggravating and provocative towards the very large Catholic minority which was daily humiliated by a Protestant communal sub-government with the Orange Order at its core. (The Protestant community had no alternative but to operate this system if it wanted to maintain “the British connection”—so it was decreed by Britain.)

Eventually, under extreme provocation in August 1969, the minority rebelled, and there was a war. The war, latent in the system for half a century, was precipitated by Ulster Unionist action, but it was fought between the nationalist community and the Government of the state, despite attempts made by that Government to reduce it to a local Catholic/Protestant war.

This journal, during the 1970s and 1980s, took part in an attempt to bring the Six Counties within the operations of the British system of democratic party politics. It was opposed by the Ulster Unionist Party which had become accustomed to—addicted to—the role of local communal dominance organised by religion. It was also lobbied against at Whitehall by Dublin Governments, which opposed Partition but supported the local system of Six County Protestant dominance in preference to the British system of party government in which all in the Six Counties might play a part. (But Whitehall needed no persuasion from Dublin to maintain the system which it had established for its own purposes.)

We read in the London Times of June 28th that—

“David Trimble was a man of vision and courage who sacrificed himself and his Ulster Unionist Party to bring about the Good Friday Agreement… It was Trimble’s dream that mainland political parties would stand for election in Northern Ireland and give voters a real alternative to sectarianism, but though the Conservatives did, the Labour Party to this day refuses on the spurious grounds that the nationalist SDLP is the sister party…”

The writer of this article is Ruth Dudley Edwards, who was a nationalist historian forty or fifty years ago, and an admirer of Patrick Pearse, who is now generally regarded in British/Irish circles as a fascist. Edwards went on to become an Establishment figure on the British political scene, through political affinity combined with marriage. She is now best described as a British political commentator of Irish origin.

Trimble played no part whatever in the campaign to bring the Six Counties within the sphere of British party-politics. He began his political career as a Vanguard militant. Vanguard was a kind of fascist movement developed by William Craig, the Home Office Minister in the old Unionist regime, who came down heavily on the Civil Rights protesters in 1968. Craig asserted that the Northern Ireland system had, through custom, acquired a sovereign status of its own, independent of Westminster. In this he was supported by a group of senior Unionist barristers. When Britain decided that the subordinate governing system it had established in the Six Counties had become too much of a nuisance to tolerate any longer, it paid no heed to Craig’s argumentation. A Tory Government abolished the Stormont Government with the stroke of a pen in 1972. (If it had followed this up by taking the Six Counties back into the system of politics by which Britain was governed, the Republican war-effort would very probably have gone into decline.)

Craig responded to the abolition of the Stormont Government in 1972 with his Ulster Nationalist Vanguard movement, which was of a kind with the nationalist movement of the white colony in Rhodesia which had unilaterally declared its independence of Britain a few years earlier when Britain showed signs of negotiating with the black majority.

Trimble was the most prominent of the Vanguard militants.

Vanguard, after a great rally in Ormeau Park, went into decline when James Molyneaux and the Rev. Martin Smyth threw the weight of the Orange Order against it.

Trimble then became active in the Unionist Party. He next came to political prominence when he danced a jig with Ian Paisley after some little victory won in the great siege of Drumcree Church.

When he replaced Molyneaux as leader of the UUP this journal, which rarely predicts, predicted that the consequences for the party would be bad.

Trimble did not, in any meaningful sense, “bring about” the Good Friday Agreement. He submitted to it under duress applied to him by Prime Minister Tony Blair, and then, as a party to it, he prevented it from becoming operative. He might have gained advantage either from supporting and implementing it, or from opposing it outright and defying Blair. By submitting to it formally, in order to obstruct it from within, he got the worst of both courses and none of the benefits. His party was shredded by Paisley who opposed the Agreement, and who then made the Agreement operative when he had undermined the Unionist Party.

We don’t know whether Edwards made up the story about Trimble supporting the introduction of British politics to the Six Counties, or whether Lord Trimble, in his long retirement in the prime of life, has been dreaming of what might have been and spun her a yarn. But Trimble did not support British party organisation, and support of it was grounds for expulsion from the UUP.

It is also not the case that the Tory Party now functions in Northern Ireland. In the mid-1980s a group of Tories took the point that Northern Ireland was undemocratically governed because it was excluded from the party system of the state. The Party leadership let them understand that they would have no career future in the Party if they persisted in this view, but it offered them the face-saving gesture of admitting Northern Ireland residents to individual party membership. In real political terms this was an empty gesture.

More recently the Party has allowed its Northern Ireland members to contest elections, but the whole thing is treated as the empty charade that it is by the electorate. (Northern Ireland Conservatives felt particularly betrayed when Cameron established an electoral alliance with the UUP for an election some years ago.)

The Democratic Unionist Party began as a party organised around a Church—Dr. Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church. In any other part of the UK this would have been an absurdity. And it would not have happened. It happened in Northern Ireland, and it flourished, because the region was excluded from the political life of the state.

The purpose of Ulster Unionism was to be part of the UK. But it already was part of the UK. There is not much political mileage in the aim of being what you already are, to the extent that you already are it. It might have taken on the purpose of dissolving itself into the party system of the state and making Protestant Ulster once again what it had been when the Home Rule crisis began in 1886. But the Unionist Party wouldn’t hear of that.

Dr. Paisley did briefly take up that position in the seventies. But he dropped it. We assume that his reason for dropping it was that Whitehall persuaded him that this was something it would never allow to happen.

Sinn Fein had two substantial purposes that gave it political momentum. What fuelled the campaign was the profoundly undemocratic and provocative arrangements under which the Catholic community was compelled to live. On this ground it demanded an end to majority rule under the devolved system, and it won a fundamental restructuring of the devolved system after its military wing had fought a long war. And now it has the purpose of using its base in Northern Ireland to make progress towards the political unification of Ireland.

The reformed ‘Northern Ireland’ cannot settle down. It is inherently unstable. It is different in kind from Scottish devolution. Whitehall interferes with it in ways that it would not attempt to interfere in the Scottish system. It is incapable of internal evolution. Sinn Fein has a political purpose beyond it. But Ulster Unionists have locked themselves into it, and all they can do is try to delay the erosion of their position.

Ruth Dudley Edwards, who supported the demand for political normalisation of the North as little as Lord Trimble did, raged against new Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in her Sunday Independent column (July 23) for supporting an Irish Language Act in the North. She added to her unreasoned animosity against Sinn Fein the argument that it would be bad for the Irish language to have State support. She takes this to be demonstrated by the decline of Irish in the Republic. She maintains that enthusiasm for it was killed “by turning it into a political weapon”—or so her mother thought. And the language revival was already subverted in 1915 by “infiltration from the IRB”.

The headline on her column some years ago was “Brave Israel Has Every Right To Bomb Hamas”. How did Brave Israel come to be in a position to destroy Palestinian “cockroaches” (as they were described by a Government Minister) with an attrition rate of 100 to 1. By being given, a hundred years ago, the title deeds to a Palestine which the Jews had vacated two thousand years before, by the British Empire—which was extending itself into the Middle East—and by enforcing a Hebrew language policy. Insofar as there was a spoken Jewish language in 1917 it was a variety of German called Yiddish. Yiddish was suppressed and was replaced by a dead language in the Jewish nationalist colonial conquest of Palestine.

Irish is an official language of the EU, but it seems that there is an under-supply of applicants for well-paid translator’s jobs. But “when post-Brexit English ceases to be an official EU language, the Irish will have to speak Irish”, says Ms Edwards. Well, if that happens, the Irish will be authentic European again for the first time since the 18th century.

With regard to Irish in the North: Edwards tells us that Lord Trimble now wishes that it had the normal political life of the state, but she doesn’t seem to have ever given a moment’s thought to the reality of living as a national minority outside the normal political life of a democratic state, in the era of universal nationalism and democracy, in a region of the state that was turned into a kind of Reservation, with no political life of its own, under the policing supervision of your sworn enemy. Or does she think that is an exaggerated description of what Britain made of the Six Counties in 1921?

There was nothing British for the Irish to be. The British dimension in public life was waving the Union Jack, loving the Crown, and standing for the National Anthem at the end of cinema performances long after the English had stopped doing it. So the Irish concentrated on being Irish. They will not now undo the development that was forced on them.

Edwards’ Official Republican colleague on the Sunday Independent, Eoghan Harris, also comes out strong against Minister Coveney on July 23rd. And he sings the praises of a forgotten man:

“Conor Cruise O’Brien was a prophet without honour in his own country… He correctly preached that John Hume’s pan-nationalist policy of using Dublin and London to pressurise unionists would end with the Sinn Fein/IRA wolf rampant inside the Irish Republic fold.

“Telling the truth has never been welcome in nationalist Ireland.”

James Connolly said that the only true prophet was the one who carved the future he announced. But O’Brien’s prophecy was one of doom and his obligation was to do something to avert it. What did he do? And when did he make the prophecy? Only late in the day, after he had helped the course of events along the line which he came to see as the path to doom.

After O’Brien became a prophet of doom we were described as O’Brienites in certain quarters. But he never agreed with us. He never had any contact with us. And he particularly rejected the proposal we made in 1969 that the Ulster Protestants should be regarded as a distinct nationality rather than as a sulking part of nationalist Ireland.

In the 1960s he was a professional anti-Partitionist. He was a specialist in French literature and saw the Ulster Protestants as colons, like the French in Algeria who declared UDI, and who might be repatriated. He gradually came to terms with the reality that the Ulster Protestants were here to stay, but it was a grudging concession, and was not accompanied by any realistic policy for dealing with the Northern situation.

He became a TD and, almost immediately, a Labour Minister in Coalition with Fine Gael and Government spokesman on the North. In 1974 the Faulkner Unionist/SDLP Power-Sharing Government was set up under the Sunningdale Agreement. The Unionists participated on the understanding that the Dublin sovereignty claim over the North had been withdrawn. Boland brought his legal action against the Agreement as being in breach of the Constitutional claim on the North. The Government pleaded that the Constitutional claim stood because there was no recognition in the Agreement of the legitimacy of Northern Ireland. But it emerged that there were two different forms of the Agreement.

The Power-Sharing Government at Stormont had been functioning for a couple of months at this pint, and it was not challenged. But an accompanying Council of Ireland body was due to be established three months later, in June. A group of Protestant shop-stewards responded to the Dublin Court action by demanding that the setting-up of the Council of Ireland should be delayed pending clarification of the sovereignty issue, or until the Agreement was ratified by a fresh election in the light of the Dublin Court action. And it gave two months’ notice that, unless one of these things was done, it would call a General Strike in mid-May against the Council of Ireland.

No heed was taken of the demand. The SDLP Ministers in the North met with the Dublin Cabinet for a photo-shoot. And a leading member of the SDLP said that the Unionists would be trundled into the Republic by means of the Council of Ireland.

The General Strike happened in May. There was a crisis that might have been resolved by deferring the Council. But Minister O’Brien came out against this. He said that too many concessions had already been made to the Unionists.
The SDLP too stood firm for the Council.

Support for Faulkner’s Unionist Party collapsed, and Power-Sharing with it.

The War continued and intensified. A quarter of a century later another Agreement was made. But this was not for Power-Sharing under a system of weighted majority in which Ministers were members of a Government headed by a Prime Minister and responsible to Parliament. It was for a system of division of Government Departments which were allocated to parties by a mathematical system proportional to their vote, and Ministers were not under the authority of a Prime Minister or responsible to Parliament: and Parliament was in effect two Parliaments in a kind of federal arrangement.

Helping to bring down Power-Sharing in 1974 was one of O’Brien’s major political actions on the North.

The other was banning nationalist culture on RTE in order to dry up support for the Provos. It was a remarkable exercise in totalitarian fantasy. Its predictable effect was to make Irish nationalist culture Provsional IRA culture.

After 1974 O’Brien quickly became little more than a British propagandist of the backwoods kind—a futile prophet of doom, whose only remedy was a total security clampdown on the Northern Catholic community that was obviously supporting the War.
He was idolised by a certain stratum in the Republic for about a decade, but when he joined a fringe Ulster Unionist Party, and was jeered at by rival Unionists as a cuckoo in the nest, they went off him.

But it is understandable that Harris, his identical twin in many respects, should remember him fondly.

The importance of the DUP in British politics is that it is enabling the Tory Party to continue in Office after failing to win an Election. Redmond’s Irish Party did that with the Liberals from 1906 to 1915.

Redmond got the illusion of a Home Rule Act in return. The Government was unable to implement the Act, and didn’t really want to, but the affair had profound consequences. The expectation of Home Rule enlivened nationalist feeling. The failure to implement the Act after it was passed, and the Army recruiting by Redmond for the wars on Germany and Turkey, in the hope that the Act might be implemented after the War, fuelled the Irish Insurrection of 1916.

It is unlikely that the DUP alliance with the Tories will change the course of events in the North as Redmond’s alliance with the Liberals changed the course of events in Ireland. It is a trivial alliance. Redmond’s Home Rule Party was closely involved with the Liberals in internal British party battles for two years before the Home Rule Bill was brought in in 1912, and during the next two years it became virtually a part of the Liberal Party.

The relationship of the DUP with the Tories is a piece of superficial opportunism. The DUP is not a continuation of the old Unionist Party, whose leadership continued to be Tory in sentiment after organic connections were broken in the 1920s. It is a product of the Paisleyism that destroyed the Unionist Party.

When the UUP collapsed under the leadership of Lord Trimble and his Official Republican advisers, many of its leading figures jumped across to the DUP which they had previously held in disdain. Much of the present DUP leadership comes from those UUP defectors and they have been busily trying to remake the DUP into what the UUP was.

The UUP might be described as imitation British in its attitudes. The DUP was forged entirely out of Northern Ireland materials. The UUP did its best to put a gloss of pretentious sophistication over the system of religious domination that Britain required it to operate. The DUP began as an uncompromising assertion of religious Protestantism, and it grew steadily from that source. Dr. Paisley did his own thinking on his own ground and dealt realistically with the surrounding reality. And, after he broke the UUP he made the 1998 Agreement functional by dealing with Sinn Fein as the other real element in the situation.

This was resented within his own party but he had the prestige to carry it through. The resentment was encouraged and supported by UUP defectors. Paisley retired in the face of growing opposition, but devolution based on a functional division of power was established as the normality of the system.

DUP intransigence over the Irish Language Act is in the UUP spirit. But the Paisleyite residue in the DUP, in the form of Edwin Poots, has begun to express itself on the issue. Poots says that “anyone who speaks and loves the Irish language is as much a part of Northern Ireland life as a collarette-wearing Orangeman”.

In the DUP relationship with the Tory Government there is nothing comparable to the Home Rule demand that the Redmondite/Liberal alliance was based on. The DUP has no constitutional demand which the Tory Party might satisfy—or the Labour Party for that matter. It might wish for some reassuring Guarantee, but it has no demand which might be legislated, as Redmond had. The UUP agreed in 1921 to be excluded from the political life of the British state, and to dominate a large nationalist minority in a makeshift Northern Ireland, in order to help Whitehall against the elected Republican Government in Dublin. It made “the supreme sacrifice” of itself to the Imperial interest. Self-sacrifice is not a political virtue in the democratic era.

There is no going back: that must be the message that Dr. Paisley got from Whitehall in the early 1970s when he proposed reintegration of the Six Counties into British political life. He never explained why he dropped the proposal. But very soon after, in the mid-1970s, he called a meeting of leading Loyalist militants and told them that evolution towards a united Ireland was now inevitable. It might be delayed, and certain developments might be brought about in the process, but there must be no attempt at a repeat of the 1912 stand: no armed resistance. That was our information from a reliable source at the time, and it was confirmed by Paisley’s subsequent conduct.

We were involved at the time in an attempt to bring the Six Counties within the sphere of British party-politics. A fair amount of headway was made for about fifteen years by the CLR and CEC in exerting pressure within both the Labour and Tory Parties. It was strongly opposed by the UUP, Dublin Governments, and the Official IRA, and was brought to nothing by elements who joined the movement for the purpose of changing it into a mere Ulster Unionist ploy. The main work of destruction was done by Labour MP Kate Hoey and her assistant, Jeffrey Dudgeon OBE, now a UUP Councillor.

A shadow of that moment still persists, maintained as a hobby by some of those who broke the CLR. Individual membership of the Labour Party for Northern Ireland residents was brought in as a meaningless concession to CLR pressure. The movement has been boosted by the Corbyn enthusiasm which is reinvigorating the Labour Party. Last month one of those individual members, knowing nothing about all of this, went on hunger-strike in support of a demand that the Labour Party should establish a proper party presence in the North. The event was ignored as a piece of eccentricity. Not even the CLR past is recoverable.

Seamus Mallon, a voice from the past, has accused Sinn Fein of failing to deliver on the 1998 Agreement. He says Sinn Fein doesn’t understand that its purpose was to bring about a reconciliation of Nationalists and Unionists.

We reported on the GFA in 1998, and analysed it closely. What we saw was a carefully arranged system of division and separation. The pretence that there was “a Northern Ireland community” was discarded, and arrangements were made for the reality of two communities, each of which was to have the status of a separate body politic. What it provided for was polite separation.

But Mallon, who took over the leadership of the SDLP from John Hume, did act in a spirit of reconciliation. He had opposed Hume’s hard-nosed negotiation of an Agreement in which Sinn Fein might function. He “reconciled” with David Trimble, and was led by the nose by him for a couple of years as Trimble prevented the Agreement becoming operative, and both their Parties went into decline.

Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland

Martin McGuinness RIP

Editorial Irish Political Review April 2017

Was Martin McGuinness a murderer who repented, promised not to do it again, and sought forgiveness and reconciliation with those whom he had mistakenly looked on as his enemies?

That is the impression BBC Radio 4 sought to convey to its listeners on the 7 am News on the morning of his death (21st March)—the main item on the bulletin being Jean McConville: followed by Peter Hain, who is now a Lord. What the Today programme says is of some consequence, as it reflects British ruling class thinking.

Lord Hain, interviewed on Radio Eireann about an hour later said that McGuinness and Gerry Adams had physically forced him into a corner at Stormont and threatened him.

What would have been the main item in the British News that morning if McGuinness had not died was an initiative taken by the Blairite Deputy Leader of the British Labour Party, Tom Watson, to wreck it rather than let it settle down under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership to be a Socialist Party once again. Hain, having helped to put the skids under his Party as a marginal Blairite, would not have been consulted by the media on the Party row. And the Party, absorbed in its own feud, would have had nothing to say about McGuinness. As a Party, it had washed its hands of Northern Ireland and cultivated ignorance of it.

Blair himself was interviewed about McGuinness around 8 am. And he brought a dose of reality into things. Martin was a military commander who became a statesman. What was astonishing about that? Isn’t it how the world works?

Maybe he didn’t put it quite like that, but by contrast with the sentimental waffle, that is what it sounded like.

Blair, for a brief moment, had been infinitely larger than the Labour Party. He had been bigger even than the Tory Party. He was a national statesman—the only one from the Labour side that has ever been since Ernest Bevin, who made it an enthusiastic warmongering Party in the late 1930s and then remade the British social structure during the War.

Blair reminded Britain that it was a war-fighting state. He set out to demonstrate that radical liberals could make war just as well as the Tories. Unfortunately he picked the wrong war to make and demonstrated only that the successful art of war-making is largely a matter of choosing the right war to make.

The amoral context in which he saw Northern Ireland deserted him when it came to Iraq. He reverted to abstract moralising about tyrants and came to grief. But his insight that war was normal for Britain, combined with the cult of personality by which he made the Labour Party a blunt instrument of his will, enabled him to deal realistically with the war-party in Northern Ireland and to negotiate a profound alteration of the devolved system—frankly intimidating David Trimble for the purpose.

So, violence pays, the BBC interviewer (John Humphries) said to him. He had the grace not to pretend to deny it

There was a War in Northern Ireland. Acts done in wartime are not equivalent to acts done in a democratic state in peace time. And wars are not fought within democratically-governed states—that is states governed by political means, in which the electorate can be as actively involved as it wants to be—from which it follows that Northern Ireland was not democratically governed.

Gerry Kelly was interviewed briefly on Radio 4. He said that McGuinness joined the IRA because there was no democratic means of reform available in Northern Ireland. The interviewer let the remark pass, rather than challenging it or agreeing with it.

It is very rarely that the BBC allows that fact to be stated in the downright manner that Gerry Kelly does well. And, when an embarrassing fact gets through in an interview, it is best to let it pass without comment. The implications of it are too awful to dwell on. And discussion of the point only makes it more memorable.

So, it is quite appropriate—if surprising—that the Irish flag was flown at half-mast over Leinster House in memory of the IRA military commander and statesman.