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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: April, 2015|
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly!
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly!
When James Molyneaux died (March 9th) the Dublin Establishment felt it ought to say something nice about him because it appeared to hindsight that he was as good a Unionist as a Unionist could be, but the Protestant North is still terra incognita in the official Southern mind and comment on it can only be stilted, as the alternative to being nonsensical.
For the Irish Times he was the "Stubborn but shrewd face of Ulster Unionism" (14 March). Ruth Dudley Edwards, who went through a phase of being an Orange groupie, preferred to be nonsensical. She says that both Governments were irritated by "his caution, his soft-spoken obstinacy, his elliptical language and his political inertia: Adolf Hitler and Ian Paisley" (S. Independent 15 March).
Molyneaux's one political action which affected the course of events is mentioned by neither paper. In 1972 he joined with Rev. Martin Smyth, leader of the Orange Order, to curb the mass protest against the abolition of Stormont that was led by William Craig.
Craig, basing himself on the opinion of a group of top lawyers in the 1950s-60s, held that Northern Ireland was not simply a Six County governing device existing in the service of Westminster, but had acquired sovereign rights by virtue of Westminster inaction towards it in the course of half a century. Such things are not decided by law under the British Constitution, which is entirely a matter of opinion backed by political action. If the Orange Order had backed Craig, Westminster would have been faced with a dilemma.
Those of us who had bothered to figure out what Northern Ireland was can only remember Molyneaux for what he did in 1972. The Dublin commentariat, not having bothered to figure it out, did not even notice what he did and therefore cannot remember it.
Having nipped in the bud a development towards 'Ulster nationalism', what did Molyneaux do then? Pretty well nothing. He had made the point that NI was an integral part of the UK, entirely under Westminster sovereignty, but he attached no significance to the fact that it was excluded from the functional part of Westminster politics.
He later indicated that he was a bit of an "integrationist", but all he meant was that he wouldn't mind if 'Direct Rule' continued. But all direct rule meant was having Whitehall Ministers at Stormont, who had no representative connection with the Six Counties, as distinct from having a subordinate government run by Six County representatives who were shut out of the political system of the state. He always opposed the incorporation of the Six Counties into the British political system.
Radio Eireann on March 9th carried a completely disparaging comment on Molyneaux by the Northern journalist, Eamon Maille, who said he was spineless, was duped by Thatcher, and was hijacked by Enoch Powell, under whose influence he "increased Nationalist representation".
He increased Nationalist representation (at Westminster) by increasing total representation. Six County representation had been cut back to 12 when the Northern Ireland system was set up. A minority Labour Government, dependent on Ulster votes, increased it to 18. This infuriated the SDLP MP, Gerry Fitt, causing him to bring the Government down by abstaining on a vote of confidence and providing Thatcher with a General Election.
But Maille conceded: "in fairness to him", that "he kept Paisley at bay for so long". He did not say what advantage there was in a sclerotic Party, which was incapable of making a deal, keeping at bay a party that was capable. But that is the kind of thing one has to say in the North if one is determined not to think about what the North is.
According to the Irish Times obituary,
"Molyneaux was at heart a traditional shire conservative. If he had come from any other part of the United Kingdom that would have been his political home…"
This is a very daring comment. It brings up the obvious question about the North, which the Irish Times has for forty years rigorously prevented from being raised in its columns: Why, when Britain partitioned Ireland, did it exclude the part that was to remain British from the party-political life of Britain—the only political life that exists in Britain?
Maille said: "He is a man who missed the tide of change that was occurring in Northern Ireland". Where would that tide have carried him if he had caught it? Maille does not say (Trite figures of speech keep journalists going. They mean nothing by them.)
The 1921 system, stabilised in 1922-3, broke down in 1969. There was no "tide" determining what would happen then. There were two obvious possibilities. The North would be taken into British political life, allowing latent Tories in both communities to be Tories and latent Socialists to be Socialist—the Labour Party was Socialist then, unbelievable though it seems now—or there would be a serious attempt to realise the sovereignty claim which the Republic asserted over the North then, and continued to assert for a further quarter of a century.
We chose the first option, and worked at it for 20 years. We found extensive support for it in the North, but it was opposed absolutely by the British political parties; by the Unionist Party, the SDLP and the Alliance; and by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Irish Labour, the Irish Times, the Irish Independent and the Irish Press; and care was taken to prevent it from slipping through in RTE's Questions And Answers. And when it did once almost slip through, John Bowman, the guardian of the gates, snuffed it out with a flip remark about them liking to do things in their own way there—i.e. this bigoted feuding is what they like doing and the only thing to do is let them carry on while quarantining them.
Molyneaux is criticised for not having acted more positively in the flux that Northern Ireland had become in the 1970s. The critics do not tell us what he should have done. If compelled to speak to the point, they would no doubt deliver a lot of abstractions: tolerance, sympathy, inclusiveness—all those things which have no place in democratic politics. Democracy is a system of all-out conflict between parties to determine which of them shall govern the state for a number of years. That is what was never possible in Northern Ireland. It was designed so that there could be no coherent object to the conflict of its parties. Its party conflict was futile at best, and for a third of the population it was an incitement to rebellion.
When the rebellion eventually happened, it was encouraged at the start by all political parties in the South. But the Southern Establishment was soon persuaded to retreat from its initial engagement by British diplomatic pressure backed by British bombs in Dublin. It began to issue formulaic condemnation of Northern violence—but it didn't revoke the assertion of sovereignty. And no Southern party adopted a policy which said clearly to the Nationalist third, or two-fifths, of the Northern population that the 1920 Act had set up a fine system for them and they should stop complaining about it.
Fine Gael put the knife into Jack Lynch for the British Ambassador in 1970, in order to make him drop his active Northern policy, but it did not then go on to tell the Northern nationalist community that it had no serious grounds for complaint.
Tony Blair told Middle East Arab leaders to stop complaining about the way they were treated by the West. He told them it was no use condemning violence if you also told the people they were victims of injustice, because feeding the sense of injustice is feeding the source of violence. Fine Gael kept on feeding the sense of Northern nationalist injustice while condemning the violence mindlessly.
All three Southern parties did this. But now all three carry on as if they had nothing to do with the Northern rebellion and had always regarded it as mere criminal activity. They are all in denial, deep into deception about themselves. And they are in a panic because the Northern nationalists survived he Dublin betrayal of 1970, took their cause into their own hands, fought Britain to the negotiating table, brought about a structural alteration in the North which keeps the peace while a new development evolves, and have entered the party politics of the South—i.e., its democracy—and have raised the practical possibility of Sinn Fein being in government throughout Ireland in 2016.
Professor Ronan Fanning of University College Dublin, who last year published a very nationalistic account of the Home Rule Crisis while keeping his mind off what it led to in the North, has become a political propagandist in protest against the resurgence of Sinn Fein in the South. He has joined Eoghan Harris, Mairia Cahill etc. on the Sunday Independent:
"Rooted in The North, SF Isn't Fit For Office In Republic", says his headline. And the blurb: "This island has been partitioned since 1921, and to pretend otherwise is just delusional". And: "Adams' speech was peppered with references to the IRA's long war in the North".
The article begins:
"Gerry Adams's remarkable speech at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis… demonstrated that in the last analysis he is the Northern leader of a party irrevocably rooted in Northern Ireland and, as such, utterly unsuited to aspire to a place in the government of this State. Indeed, so much was apparent in the choice of location for the ard fheis: Derry. What other party bidding for power in next year's general election would even contemplate holding its final party conference outside the boundaries of the State in which the election will take place? 'Partitionism' I can hear the serried ranks of Sinn Fein squeal in response. So let me dismiss that accusation for the nonsense it is from the outset.
"This island, like it or like it not, has been partitioned since… 1921. To pretend otherwise is to ignore political reality and to engage in the aspirational futility of a political dreamland seen through green-tinted spectacles. That kind of delusional politics, to the enduring shame of the political parties in the Dail, survived in this part of the island until and through the 1950s, when it spawned the IRA's vain bombing campaign of 1956-62. Those were the days when it was the norm in this State always to speak of the Six Counties and never Northern Ireland.
"Sean Lemass was the first Taoiseach to recognise reality, a reality spelt out when Ireland became a signatory of the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973…" (S. Independent 15 March).
Alas for "reality". Humankind cannot bear very much of it, as Eliot said, and some kinds of it can bear less than others. Doesn't Professor Fanning know that there were two versions of the Sunningdale Agreement which said different things, and that the version agreed for Dublin did not recognise the legitimacy of Northern Ireland? Doesn't he know that Kevin Boland, through a High Court action, brought it out that Garret FitzGerald and Conor Cruise O'Brien had tried to perpetrate a fraud on the Ulster Unionists, and that their legal defence was that Sunningdale changed nothing constitutionally?
What "spawned" the 1956 campaign was the great Fine Gael Anti-Partition propaganda after it returned to Office in coalition with a recently retired Chief of Staff of the Anti-Treaty IRA. The Northern nationalists, having learned a hard lesson about the Free State in 1922, stayed quietly at home while the invasion force sped through to North Antrim and was rounded up. And, when they made their own rebellion in 1969-70, there was nothing delusional about it. The rebellion was a response to the reality of the Northern Ireland system of the Six Counties—a reality which Fanning, the historian, chose not to see.
As to the Ard Fheis being held in a foreign city—is it still a foreign city? We recall the Fine Gael propaganda about the gerrymandering that was needed to keep it British and keep it Londonderry. And this is the first Ard Fheis we can recall that was not held in the South.
And how about Sinn Fein being a constitutional party with a war behind it? Isn't it the third such party in the history of the 26 Counties? The Free State party had fought two wars—one against Britain and one as its agent. Fianna Fail likewise had fought two wars—one against Britain and the other against a British proxy. Both of these were offspring of Sinn Fein, and were at their most effective while they still remembered that. And now we have a third Sinn Fein party made effective by war against Britain.
Fanning could have made the point that Sinn Fein could not have been shaped democratically in the North because the North was always an undemocratically governed region of the British state. But that is a dangerous fact which he prefers not to see.
And it is obvious that Sinn Fein in the North learned at least as much about democracy through being institutionally excluded from it as other parties learn through being immersed in it and seeing its language being reduced to mere banter.
"Unfortunately for Mr. Adams, the true colours of the Shinners we know became apparent within days of his speech…" He then relates some of the rape propaganda by means of which the three Free State parties—the parties which very recently have become vigorously Partitionist—hope to bring about a Sinn Fein collapse.
As Sinn Fein encompassed the bulk of the Northern nationalist community, it naturally had within it the normal proportion of sexual deviancy. But it was not a party in a normal state and therefore it found itself dealing with civil matters which political parties in normal states are not required to deal with. It was under popular pressure to do so.
Then it brought the War to and end and began a transition towards normal practices in these matters, which could only be gradual. There was a tendency which wanted to continue the War to the bitter end, instead of settling for a points victory in a transitional arrangement. This tendency tried to disrupt the implementation of the 1998 Agreement by recording evidence against Adams, the traitor, on tapes at Boston College (USA), organised by Official IRA man, Professor the Lord Bew. When British journalist Ed Maloney, an associate of Lord Bew in this matter (and an old acquaintance of his from the Peoples Democracy anarchy of 1969-70), used this material for a book on The Secret History Of The IRA, the British Government demanded access to these tapes, and some of the die-hards who had sought to damage Adams, the peacemaker, found that it was themselves they had damaged.
That was when the diehards hit on the tactic of branding the peace-making Provos as paedophile rapists. And they went into alliance with the Dublin Establishment for this. The first to hit the big time was Mairia Cahill who turned against the Provo leadership when it recognised the legitimacy of the reformed Northern police. She is now a Sunday Independent journalist.
The signs are in late March that this tactic is falling flat too—though it still excites Professor Fanning—because the Irish Times/Sunday Independent propaganda has eased off.
(It should also be noted that Anthony McIntyre, the die-hard Provo opponent of Adams and the Peace Process, who collaborated with Lord Bew in the Boston Tapes operation, hasn't decided to take a break as Lord Bew apparently has. He appeared on Radio Eireann in a long interview on 11th March in the guise of an expert commentator on Peace Process Sinn Fein. His most memorable utterance was that these Provos are in the grip of "the ingrained instinct of the Roman Catholic Church".)
At the same time there has been a startling development in Southern politics which has nothing to do with the North. Fianna Fail sold off a big chunk of the national airline, Aer Lingus. The Coalition has been preparing to sell off the remainder to British Airways/IAG, with Fianna Fail consenting. Only Sinn Fein was against. But suddenly a group of substantial capitalists, thinking economically, have declared against the sell-off—and the Sunday Independent in its editorial of March went over to the Sinn Fein line! Under the title of Beware Of Gifts From IAG it wrote:
"…The IAG Trojan horse had been accompanied by far words and fine flattery. But, in a chilling warning, the respected Independent senator and transport economist Sean Barrett unveiled the harsher reality of IAG's appalling track record when it comes to developing its non-core UK business. IAG… has developed no North Atlantic services from Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh or Belfast. It has a track record of minimal interest in routes to Ireland and none at all in the Irish regional airports.
"Ireland's history means we should be acutely aware of the dangerous consequences of surrendering your independence to become a mere province. Significantly, Donald Trump, the US billionaire, has strongly advised the Taoiseach against selling the State's shareholding in Aer Lingus…
"…Ireland is an island… air connectivity for us, in terms of tourism and attracting multinational investment of similar importance to naval power for 19th-Century Britain.
"…all that glitters is not always gold… All of the sweet-talking in the world by Willie Walsh should not blind us to the reality that he is responsible to unknown shareholders rather than Irish citizens… the scenario surrounding the sale of Aer Lingus is becoming ever more equivocal. The Fine Gael wing of the Coalition appears to be much more susceptible to seduction, while the trade unions also appear to have decided that sometimes fine words can butter parsnips…"
In the North another British Election is about to be held. None of the British governing parties contest Six County seats, but the election must be contested there in order to preserve the flimsy deception that it participates in British democracy.
The Protestant parties have made a pan-Unionist alliance. They will not stand against each other in a number of constituencies. The UUP is standing aside in both North and East Belfast in favour of the DUP. In return the DUP is encouraging support for UUP candidates in Fermanagh/South Tyrone and Newry/Armagh. In North Belfast the DUP is under pressure from Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly, while in East Belfast the DUP hope to regain the Robinson seat from the Alliance Party. Sinn Fein narrowly holds both the Fermanagh and Armagh seats. In these two constituencies there is a possibility of taking the seat from Sinn Fein if the SDLP splits the Catholic vote.
The SDLP is the kind of delusional party Professor Fanning describes Sinn Fein as being. Dublin hoped it would flourish under the 1998 Agreement, instead of which it withered. Though nominally Anti-Partitionist, it confines itself to the Partition area, within which political talent is destroyed. It doesn't organise in the South. It wouldn't know how.
Its leader—did you know that he Alasdair McDonnell?—has declared virtuously that he will not make "sectarian pacts". The practical meaning of this is that the SDLP will stand against Sinn Fein in three constituencies which it hasn't a hope of winning, and possibly gain enough votes to give the nominees of the Pan-Protestant "sectarian pact" a chance of winning two seats and retaining another.
This is in a situation in which, if the British electorate returns a thoroughly hung Parliament, the Unionists at Westminster may be providing necessary support for a Government of Tory austerity. So, in effect, the SDLP—the"sister party" of British Labour—will be in de facto alliance with the Tories if the Unionist election strategy works out.
What does M'Donnell get from this? Well, his South Belfast seat is not safe. But, as we go to print, the Unionist "sectarian pact" is not to be applied there. As in the past, if the Unionist Parties stand against each other, M'Donnell has a good chance of holding the seat.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly! Editorial on Irish Politics
Charles Haughey on Social Partnership. Original Document, introduced by Philip O'Connor
Central Bank Governor Bounce Checked. Sean Owens on the the Banking Enquiry
Aer Lingus. Report
Juncker Loses The Plot. Jack Lane
Pseuds Corner-Boys. Donal Kennedy (No. 4: Sir Simon Jenkins and Sir Harold Evans)
Rent Cap Debacle: Alan Kelly should learn from Angela Merkel. Philip O'Connor
Referendums On Presidential Age And Same Sex Marriage. Report
Shorts from the Long Fellow (Government Unpopularity; Sinn Féin; Quantitative Easing; The German Model; Irish Income Inequality; Newspaper Circulation; New Book on The Irish Times)
Fianna Fail And Irish Development. Tim O'Sullivan; Nick Folley; Eamon Dyas
Cork University Notices The AFIL. Brendan Clifford
Descendancy? Jack Lane (Review of David Fitzpatrick book)
The Yellow Limousine. John Morgan, Lt. Col. (retd.) on Béal na mBláth
Remembering The Armenians. Pat Walsh
Biteback: Commemorate those killed by Redmond's call to war. Manus O'Riordan. The Irish Times and Home Rule. Philip O'Connor. War or "Emergency"? Philip O'Connor (Unpublished letters)
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (James Dillon; 1916 Commemorations; Fianna Fail and its 1916 Commemorations; Parity of Esteem—Inclusiveness; Watch and learn how Britain does things)
If You're Irish Come Into The Funeral Parlour. Wilson John Haire (poem)
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Free Citizen? Seán Ó Riain