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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: October, 2016|
The Brexit Stimulus
|The Brexit Stimulus
The future of the North is in the news again. It is put there by events and circumstances—chiefly by the shock effect of Brexit on superficial Anglophiles who were brought to a realisation that their England was a delusion. They are angry at having been deceived—but who was it that deceived them? They did it themselves through their refusal—or their honest inability—to come to terms with the fact that nationalist Ireland has achieved substantial existence in the world as a state and that relations between states are different in kind from personal relations and that professions of friendship between them can never be more than a diplomatic pretence.
Nationalism is a recent occurrence in the history of the world. There are grounds for saying that England invented it. It remained nationalist, even when it became the biggest Empire the world had ever seen, and came within a whisker of establishing itself in world dominance.
For about half a century before it launched the Great War it had an idea of itself as a new, and better, Roman Empire, which was systematically transforming the world into "Greater Britain". But in practice it remained nationalist state with conquests. It never became Imperial in the authentic sense. And that is why it could lose its conquests—after the two Great Wars that were intended to consolidate them—and still be itself.
After 1945 Britain approved of European countries coming together in a kind of association. That was something that English foreign policy had opposed for three centuries. But Europe had been made such a mess of by Britain's last World War—with the ultimate enemy, Communist Russia, in possession of half of it and having strong support in the other half—that Churchill gave his blessing to West European Union, but on the strict condition that Britain itself should not be part of it.
Though he had lost most of the Empire through his insistence on continuing the War after 1940 by means of spreading it throughout the world, Churchill still had Imperial hopes. The European mess to the west of the Communist states from East Germany to Yugoslavia and to the east of the stable Fascist regimes of Spain and Portugal (which were still performing what Churchill saw as the progressive mission of Fascism) should unite as an entity in the Cold War. But England should hold to the unique destiny it conceived for itself in the age of Elizabeth—which was also the age of the genocidal poet, Edmund Spenser, who is hailed as the major Cork poet in an anthology compiled by people who have not yet caught up with Brexit.
The association of West European states proved to be unexpectedly successful under the ideology of Christian Democracy—an ideology that baffled the English mind. England had to get into Europe in order to stop it. The founders of the EU, who had experienced Britain's conduct towards Europe in the two World Wars and in the the interval between them, locked it out. But, when the British returned, a generation living in the illusions of United Nations ideology let it in. And now, having diverted the EU from the course set for it by its founders, Britain has decided to withdraw from it in order to pursue its separate destiny.
This puts the North back on the political agenda, from which it had been thought to be removed by the combination of common membership of the EU and the Good Friday Agreement. The North voted to remain in the EU, and the population balance in the North on the national issue is now close to parity. Sinn Fein is pressing for a triggering of the referendum on unification which the 1998 Agreement provides for. It argues that setting a date for such a referendum would trigger a debate which would clarify the issues at stake. That is what happened when a date was set for the Scottish Independence Referendum.
Negotiation on the Border has been made unavoidable. The Fianna Fail leader, who has for a number of years been indulging in ignorant and irresponsible criticism of Sinn Fein's performance in the Stormont devolved government, suddenly announces that the party would begin contesting elections in the North. And Martin Mansergh, who had been shifting Fianna Fail electorally onto a Treatyite basis, delivers the eulogy at Kilcrumper on Liam Lynch, the ultimate anti-Treaty hold-out, whose mystique was such that, if he had not been killed, the carrying over of the substance of the anti-Treaty position into the formation of Fianna Fail would have been seriously damaged.
Suddenly Irish history is alive again. The evasive euphemisms no longer serve. Thee must be some thinking about facts—a thing which Eoghan Harris thought he had abolished.
But now John A Murphy, Emeritus Professor of Cork University, who stopped thinking a long time ago, tries to save the day by saying there is still no need of it because "there are two nations in the island of Ireland".
When acknowledgement of the two nations in Ireland might have averted the Northern War—that is, around 1970‚Professor Murphy—who was then a Professor in place and not a mere has-been—was staunchly silent on the subject. He was a silent one-nationist on the Fianna Fail verge of being Stickie in 1970 and for very many years afterwards.
He appeared to have a suppressed intellect which told him the two-nationists were describing something that existed but he lacked the character that could have stood the unpopularity that saying it would have incurred.
In his Irish Times letter (Sept 5) he writes that "nationalists should belatedly accept that there are two nations on the island of Ireland". But his own acceptance of it was way beyond "belatedness".
He berates Gerry Adams as "an uncompromising separatist" gripped by "a visceral hatred of England". But Adams gave effect to the two-nations analysis long ago by enabling the Good Friday Agreement to come about, and by making it work when the 'constitutional nationalist' SDLP made a mess of it, while Has-been Professor Murphy still broods on the sweeping aside of the Stickies by the Provos away back then.
Acceptance of the two-nations analysis, whether timely or belatedly, is only acceptance of a fact that exists. It is not a policy. It is a fact for policy to cope with..
We proposed in 1969 that the Dublin Establishment should recognise it as a fact so that they could establish a medium of possible communication with the Ulster Protestant community—which simply would not listen if it was told that it was part of a common Irish nation. The Dublin Establishment, headed by Taoiseach Lynch and including Professor Murphy, refused. And so there was War.
The Has-been Professor now writes:
"Mr. Adams suggestion of 'interim and transitional' arrangements are old de Valera hat. By their very expression they intensify suspicion, and ignore the central fact that what the unionists want is not a special position within a united Ireland but a guaranteed British position outside it."
Adams' great achievement—which he brought about in alliance with John Hume and Charles Haughey—is that interim and transitional arrangement. To describe the 1998 Agreement as something outer than interim is comparable to denying the fact of two national bodies in 1970.
The Unionists have no "guaranteed Britishness" in their political life. They are rigorously excluded from British political life. The accepted exclusion under Whitehall pressure, as a manoeuvre against Sinn Fein in 1920=21, but they have since embraced it. And British identity within the British state, but excluded from the vigorous political life which constitutes the greater part of that identity, is a curious thing. It is a kind of wraith preserved nostalgically from the time when Protestant Ulster actually was British, and was recognised as being British by the British.
Today Ulster Britishness is seen as something distinctly odd by the whole range of British party-politics. And Britain knows no other kind of politics than party-politics. It excluded Northern Ireland from its party-politics when setting it up as a subordinate Constitutional entity, for an ulterior purpose, in 1921, and therefore it now finds Ulsterish Britishness alien.
Murphy writes as if the only issue with regard to the North was Partition. This journal has been arguing since 1974 that the issue which gave rise to the War and kept it going was not Partition as such but the system of communal devolved government, outside the democracy of the state, by which it was enacted.
Professor Murphy kept silent on the issue of Two Nations at the time when it required to be spoken about. He still keeps silent on the question of what Northern Ireland is and why it was set up. The Irish Times would not allow the Two Nations to be discussed in its pages when it was a relevant issue but is now happy to let Murphy blather on about it irrelevantly But if he wrote to the IT about the structure and meaning of Northern Ireland he would not be published.
Murphy's letter is a reply to an IT article by Ronan O'Brien (Aug 30) entitled Why Redmond And Adams Have Much In Common, with the sub-heading "An all-island solution has been off the table since 1916 but is the key to the 'Irish problem'".
The article discusses Lloyd George's attempt to set up a Home Rule Government in the immediate aftermath of the Rising in 1916. O'Brien says that he made "considerable progress" and made an "outline agreement" with Nationalists and Unionists that it should include Partition. The agreement was reached "by virtue of a fudge around whether the exclusion… was to be temporary or permanent… The scheme was ultimately brought down by the English Tories", who did not allow the fudge to pass. But "Constructive ambiguity was not the plan's weakness, it was what made it possible at all…"
Well, it made the plan possible, but made its implementation impossible. Home Rule with Partition which was both temporary and permanent could not be implemented.
The relevant thing today about that plan is not the duplicity by which Lloyd George made it appear for an instant that he had settled the Irish Question, but that the Partition for which it provided did not include a Northern Ireland, still less one excluded from British democracy. It was to be Partition with the Counties excluded from Home Rule remaining an integral part of the life of the British state.
If that had been implemented, if his belatedly beloved Redmond had agreed to it, there would not have been the Northern War which has so upset Professor Murphy.
And if, in 1919, the newly democratised British Parliament had conceded independence to the elected Dail, with Partition but without Northern Ireland, there would have been no IRA. Or, if it had conceded Free State independence in 1921-2, with Partition but without Northern Ireland, there would have been no 28 Year Northern War, though there might have been a little military flurry at the start.
The cause of the War was the internal structure of the North outside the democracy of the state. That is what we asserted continuously, after giving Sunningdale the opportunity of proving us wrong in 1974.
And, when peace was achieved, it was by the interim and transitional basic alteration of the structures of Northern Ireland—which remains inherently unstable and is maintained by expertise and not by democratic routine, and therefore must lead to something else.
Murphy's Two Nations assertion at this juncture seems to be designed to cut short discussion on the ending of Partition now that it threatens to become a practical issue.
It appears to think that conceding national status to the Ulster Unionists gives them the right to decide the future of the North, even when they become a minority. But the Ulster Unionists chose Six Counties as their arena, and chose political detachment from the democratic system of the state, believing that their communal majority would last for ever.
They chose their ground and must abide by their choice.
The Brexit Stimulus. Editorial
Of War And Famine And Suppressing The Record: one day in the life of the Irish Times. Manus O'Riordan
Trinity College and 1916. Philip O'Connor
Press Release: Appeal In State Papers Case . Barry Keane
Casement Weekend Ballycastle. Pat Walsh
Casement. Wilson John Haire (Poem)
Shorts from the Long Fellow (Corporate Power; Irish Industrial Policy; Evolution of Irish Industrial Policy; Morality and National Interest; The Apple Case; Political Context to Decision; Ireland's Appeal; Allocating Corporation Taxes)
"Famine scholarship". Jack Lane
Hubert Butler: The DVD. Julianne Herlihy (Part 2)
A Sniper from an Ivory Tower. Pat Walsh (Part 2)
Brexit—Land Grabs, Hard Borders, and NEuros. Sean Owens
On the Blanks on my own lovely Lee. Jack Lane
A Murder Of Crows. Wilson John Haire (Poem)
Biteback: Neo-Redmondism. Dave Alvey. Casement & 'Armenian Genocide'. Pat Walsh
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (Auditors and Accountants; Constitutional Amendments)
Apple And Tax Justice. Brendan Howlin (Press Release)
Labour Comment: Thomas Johnson and the 1916 Rising
The Refugee Crisis—and the real villains of the piece. Michael Robinson
Foreign Affairs Refuse to Reveal Details of US Military Use of Shannon. Shannonwatch Press Release