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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: April, 2019|
|Parliament Rebels Against The People
The British Parliament is refusing to enact the decision taken by the British Electorate to withdraw from the European Union. Parliament put the matter to the electorate for decision but then refused to enact the decision that the electorate made. No conditions were put by the Parliament on what the electorate might decide. The choice was Leave or Remain, to be decided by a simple majority.
This was done on the assumption that the electorate, when freed from the constraints of party-politics and given a fundamental matter of state to decide—not just choosing a domestic Government from two parties which are 99% identical—would know what was expected of it and toe the line. It didn't.
When it didn't, Parliament went behind the vote, speculating on what the electorate really wanted and discounting what it said it wanted, for the purpose of setting aside the Referendum result and restoring the representative system.
The minority group in Parliament, chiefly Tory, which had, for about 25 years, been advocating British withdrawal from the EU, and which now urged that, in accordance with the Referendum result, there should be a simple Brexit, were denounced by the majority as "Extremists".
Party-politics then came into play. The Labour Party became entirely obstructive of the attempt of the Government to negotiate terms with the EU, which would bring about something less than a simple Brexit. While declaring that Brexit without a deal would be absolutely catastrophic, and having no agreed policy of its own that did not mean in substance staying in the EU, it voted against the terms negotiated between the EU and the Government, declaring those terms to be catastrophic too.
The term "vassal state" was coined by the Tory minority that supported the Referendum result to describe the condition that Britain would be in under the Deal agreed between the EU and the Government. There was some exaggeration in that description, but the term can be applied squarely to the policy of the Labour Party as far as we can find a policy in its various utterances. It is that Britain should remain in substance within the Customs Union and the Single Market, while complying with the Referendum result by withdrawing from the decision-making bodies of the EU. Britain would then be under the EU, not in it.
Wages and working conditions are the legitimate concerns of the working class, and therefore of the Labour Party. Beyond that it is out of its depth. National concerns are the business of the other party. The problem is that the other party is in two minds about itself, and that the working class did not appreciate in the Referendum that it is not its business to interfere in higher politics. That is the mindset of Labourist politics.
Europe in the post-post-War generation is now confronted with naked British democracy for the first time and is astonished. The founders of the EU—having lived through the British collaboration with Hitler in the 1930s, the sudden volt face of August 1939, the demonisation of France for trying to make terms for ending the War into which it had been led by Britain after it was defeated, etc —knew about British democracy and excluded it from European affairs for a generation. The following generation, lacking direct experience, and with the actual history of the preceding generation having been made unthinkable, lived in what can only be described as a toytown democracy when it is compared with the British version that is the real thing. But it is also an exclusively British thing. It is a development in the home base of a World Empire. It might be dated in substance from the 1880s. It has stood firm ever since, creating mayhem all around it.
If the EU is to have the future it hopes for, it must stand firm against British democracy, and disillusion itself about British democracy.
History Ireland, a magazine sponsored by the academic Establishment, has a picture of Sean Treacy by Sean Keating on the front cover of its March/April issue, along with the title, "Soloheadbeg". But inside all that is to be found is a brief comment by Martin Mansergh. It is possibly a very daring article, given that Mansergh is a member of Micheal Martin's Fianna Fail, and Fianna Fail in Martin's hands has become the anti-History party.
The title of the article is Physical Force Or Passive Resistance? The sub-title is a statement: Soloheadbeg—vindicating a democratic mandate for independence. It is illustrated with a photograph of Nicholas Mansergh, a British Imperial civil servant and academic who owned property in Co. Tipperary close to Soloheadbeg. The caption on the photo reads "Nicholas Mansergh—'History was forged in sudden death on a Tipperary by-road'."
There is also a photo of a 'Wanted' poster, offering a thousand pounds reward for information leading to the capture of Dan Breen, who had a "sulky bulldog appearance" and "looks rather like a blacksmith coming from work".
The article opens with a quotation from Nicholas Mansergh for which no reference is given:
"History was forged in sudden death on a Tipperary by-road as surely as it ever was in meetings at Downing Street or for that matter at the Mansion House in Dublin, where the Dail met coincidentally but fortuitously that same day, 21 January 1919."
It is not explained either by the Editor or the author of the article what Nicholas Mansergh was, except that he was the father of the author. It seems that saying what he was is too delicate a matter to be attempted. And it is not explained what it was that happened at Soloheadbeg that put it on a par in the forging of history with decisions taken by the Government of the British Empire or by the Dail at the Mansion House.
History has been described as just one damn thing happening after another. And so it is. Roy Foster set out to change that, as not being the best way of seeing things from his viewpoint. He set out to abolish "narrative" and replace it with "themes". But abolishing sequence in time proved to be beyond him.
Einstein may have said that all time exists together, but not many people are capable of living in the timelessness of mathematics. In the temporal world it is a case of one damn thing after another, and by reason of the other, today, just as it was in 1919. And what happened by reason of Soloheadbeg that was on a par with what happened by reason of what was done in Whitehall and Westminster, or in the Mansion House?
The current position, set by the Anglo-Irish Times, is that Soloheadbeg—an armed robbery of a delivery of industrial dynamite—pre-empted a Constitutional development that was on the cards, which would have got national independence without the use of force against Britain, and started a war instead—which, of course, made it more difficult to confer independence on nationalist Ireland, because, as everybody knows, Britain does not give way to terrorism.
The quotation from Mansergh senior does not actually say that Soloheadbeg started an unnecessary war, but it does not contradict the view that it did.
The comment by Mansergh junior is:
"To accept that the Soloheadbeg ambush represented the start of the War of Independence is not quite the same thing as saying that it started it. While Dan Breen claimed that Sean Treacy and he wanted to start a war by killing as many policemen as possible, other participants in the ambush did not accept that the killings were deliberate."
We consider ourselves to be reasonably literate, but we must admit that the statement that the robbery "represented" the start of the War, though it may not have quite started it, conveys no definite idea to us. It strikes us as being a slippery formulation, without meaning, which enables the author to keep in with the Irish Times fashion without being accountable for it.
An armed robbery is different in kind from a war, even if the robbers had it in mind to use the gelignite in war if there was a war. And this was what they had in mind, because what they did with the gelignite was bury it deep out of harm's way.
Mansergh jnr. comments that the ambush "seemed an isolated incident" until one of the robbers fell into the hands of the British law four months later and was rescued by his colleagues. If a robber is rescued by his colleagues, is that so unusual that it constituted war?
Soloheadbeg was entirely an IRB affair. The Irish Republican Brotherhood was a Republican conspiracy, always at war with Britain if one considers that kind of thing to be war. It never recognised the Dail as the sovereign authority. When the Dail set up a Government—and Local Government bodies around the country transferred allegiance from Dublin Castle to it, and war began—the IRB ran in parallel with it, never declaring allegiance to it. And, in December 1921, Michael Collins cleared his agreement with Lloyd George with the IRB before breaking up the Dail with it.
The authority for the Soloheadbeg Ambush was the IRB, not the Dail. And the possibility of waging a war in defence of Irish independence lay entirely with the Dail.
On the other hand, armed robberies carried out in harassment of British rule in Ireland are nothing to get excited about. And, going on Redmondite precedent, IRB conspirators had good reason to be sceptical about Constitutional initiatives until the Dail met, appointed a Government, and showed itself to be in earnest about defending itself.
Mansergh jnr., who locates the origin of the Irish state in the IRB deal with Lloyd George in 1921-2, is disparaging about the Dail:
"The Declaration of Independence passed at the Dail's first meeting was more polemical and less high-minded than the 1916 Proclamation.
The Dail's 'Message to the Free Nations…' spoke of 'the existing state of war between Ireland and England'. Whether this referred back to the conscription crisis, the last few years since the Rising, the last few centuries or to everything since 1171 is unclear. The 1918 Sinn Fein election manifesto, echoing the Ulster Covenant, pledged 'making use of any and every means available to render impotent the power of keeping Ireland in subjection by military force or otherwise'. It is very difficult to argue that the ambush or its outcome was in contradiction with the position of Sinn Fein or the Dail at the level of principle, as opposed to the opportuneness of its timing and tactics…"
The Ulster Covenant, and everything connected with it, was an event within British politics, supported by half of the British membership of the House of Commons. The Unionist half of the Commons stood squarely and openly in support of the arming of 'Ulster' and the Curragh Mutiny.
Ireland outside of the Unionist part of Ulster was being governed by a predominantly Unionist Government as a conquered country in 1918. For a generation under Redmond it had the appearance of having submitted to conquest. That submissiveness was disturbed by immersion in the World War as an obligation to a dead-letter Home Rule Act that was certain never to be implemented. This led to the 1916 Insurrection and to a re-conquest that only stimulated the independence movement.
In 1918 Ireland was governed as a conquered country in a way that it had not been for a considerable period before 1914. It was so governed in the aftermath of the Insurrection, which was an act of war. It voted itself independent and an elected Government was established. And there was no support at all within British politics for that Government. The comparison with the Ulster Covenant affair is indecently absurd.
The statement that—
"It is very difficult to argue that the ambush or its outcome was in contradiction with the position of Sinn Fein or the Dail at the level of principle, as opposed to the opportuneness of its timing and tactics"
is bewildering—but revelatory. The Dail was an elected body mandated to establish a Government: the IRB was a conspiracy. Is there no difference in principle between defensive military actions authorised by the elected Government and an armed robbery committed by a conspiracy?
You disappoint us, Mr. Mansergh.
"England Out Of Ireland"
Simon Coveney, the 26 County Minister for Foreign Affairs, complained about the Sinn Fein Leader, Mary Lou Macdonald, appearing at a St. Patrick's Day event in New York, standing before a banner saying England: Get Out Of Ireland! Did it not occur to him that he says the same thing in effect, and more forcefully, with the Backstop to the Backstop?
His complaint was taken up by BBC's Radio Ulster, i.e., Radio Six Counties, whose Holier-than-Thou commentator, Stephen Nolan, began ranting—under a flimsy camouflage of impartial interviewing—about Republican "murder gangs".
The next day the furore was repeated over boxer Michael Conlon, who entered the ring in a New York fight to the accompaniment of the the singing of a traditional Wolfe Tones song, which included the line, Ooh ah up the 'RA. This set Stephen Nolan off on another rant about Republican murder gangs.
The British Army, after about ten years of "the Troubles", announced with astonishment its realisation that what it was doing in 'Ulster' was fighting a war with an organised and disciplined military force with competent Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence services.
Such a condition of things could not have come about without sufficient reason. And the fact that there was sufficient reason for the War in the way Northern Ireland was governed was tacitly admitted by the Blair Government in 1998, when it changed the Six County system and encouraged the murder gangs to take part in the new system of government that their murder campaign over 28 years had brought about.
A further measure required by the 1998 settlement was an Act of Oblivion for all that had been done in the course of the War (which had occurred in some previous British conflicts). The indications were that Blair would have done this if the 'Constitutional Nationalist' SDLP and the Constitutional Nationalist Dublin Government had not been utterly opposed.
Admission of the reality that what had been going on for 28 years was not a murder campaign but a war, would have devalued the futile, self-righteous constitutionalism of the SDLP and Dublin.
The constitutionalist self-righteousness was spurious. The Six Counties was not governed constitutionally. Northern Ireland, at the outset, was placed outside the political system of the state, which is the only British Constitution. And neither the SDLP nor the Dublin Government recognised the Northern Ireland Government as legitimate.
The 26 Counties had a Constitution and it claimed sovereignty over the Six Counties, thus delegitimising the system against which the IRA made war. (And now the 26 Counties is committed to holding the Six Counties within the EU when Britain leaves—the action complained of when done by Britain to Ireland in 1922!)
Because of the Constitutional Nationalist humbug that prevented what was obviously a War from being officially recognised as a War, the War has been followed by thirty years of civil feuding. But one would have thought Simon Coveney had more useful things to do at this juncture than poke his finger into it.
Parliament Rebels Against The People. Soloheadbeg. "England Out Of Ireland". Editorial
Another Foster Inaugural! Jack Lane
A GAA Debate In The Shadow Of Brexit. Dave Alvey
Readers' Letters: Balancing Guilt With The Gingerbread. Donal Kennedy (The Welfare State And Britain's Emergencies)
A Professor's Slur. Jack Lane (Letter sent by the Aubane Historical Society to R.F. Foster)
LEST WE FORGET (4). Extracts from Irish Bulletin. This issue lists British Acts Of Aggression, 2nd May - 7 June 1919 (ed. Jack Lane)
Es Ahora. Julianne Herlihy ( Clair Wills and the Story She Tells (Part 10)
The Centenary Of Dail Eireann. Brian P. Murphy osb (Definitions of English rule in Ireland as 'usurpation' with some reference to Brexit)
Corrections To March Irish Political Review
Money Creation. John Martin (The debate continues . . .)
The Treaty War And Two Treatyite FF-ers. Manus O’Riordan
The Russian Revolution. Brendan Clifford (Part 15)
Mindless Liberalism. Pat Walsh
Israel And The 'Song Of Bernadotte' . Donal Kennedy
An Open letter to Simon Kingston, West Cork History Festival. Jack Lane
Biteback: Boycott Eurovision In Israel. Zoe Lawlor, Betty Purcell on behalf of Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (British Parliament in Action)
Two Poems. Wilson John Haire (LibFib, Left Bereft. Drill Music)
Labour Comment: Democratic Programme of Dail Eireann