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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: May, 2019|
|Some Political Blind Alleys
Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair, writing as former Taoiseach and former Prime Minister, have written a joint article in the Irish Times (April 15th) against the British EU Referendum: There Must Be A Second Vote On Brexit. It is hard to see what effect it could possibly have on British opinion. The Irish Times does not even appear on news-stands in Britain anymore.
They wrote as the men who, "with the hand of history" on their shoulders, acted with "personality and resolution when surrounded by uncertainty" and put together "a new powersharing agreement", "releasing from prison people who had committed horrendous crimes" in order to do so.
We find we cannot recall which horrendous criminals were released by Ahern.
And the 1998 Agreement was not for power-sharing but for power-dividing.
It worked because it recognised that there were two electorates in the Six Counties, not one, and arranged that the representatives of each should take it in turn, the order determined by votes cast, to choose Ministries to run, with no Cabinet supervision over them.
We can assume that Blair has chosen to forget the detail. Ahern probably never knew.
They say that they felt the hand of history "pushing us to the start of a process, not signalling the end of one", and that—
"the people of Ireland, North and South, have been signing that agreement every day since. Because it is the everyday actions and interactions of people, businesses, civil society, politicians and governments that enable a lasting peace."
They must at least be given the credit for not saying that the Good Friday Agreement guaranteed an all-Ireland economy and that Brexit is therefore in legal conflict with it. Blair must have been advised that the GFA did no such thing and this is the nearest he can get to going along with the idea that it did.
It was the joint entry of Britain and Ireland into the Common Market that took down the commercial border between them. And the introduction of free trade had nothing to do with bringing the War to a close. The War began when there was a commercial border and continued for 26 years after it was taken down.
Dublin had little or nothing to do with ending the War. Well, Charles Haughey had something to do with it, but the Haughey Government while in power was repudiated by the Dublin Establishment. And Ahern, who was made by Haughey, joined the elitist mob against him.
The "peace process" was set in motion by the Adams group in the IRA, the isolated figure of John Hume in the SDLP, and the isolated figure of Haughey in Dublin. And Blair, in the moment of his omnipotence, put the cap on it, browbeating Trimble into submission.
Dublin, after Reynolds, has been a drag on it.
The event needs to be recognised for what it was: a War caused by a particularly perverse form of undemocratic government. But the word war is not mentioned in their article. What is mentioned is "horrendous crimes". And yet the Agreement of which they boast set up the horrendous criminals in Government offices!
That encourages the legalistic feuding that continues unabated in the North. Official recognition of the fact of War alters the perspective in which incidents are experienced. But it is Dublin that is most resistant to such recognition.
Living In A Continuous Present?
'History' should be cherry-picking—not recording what was the case.
That is the view of Fr. Seamus Murphy SJ, who is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University, Chicago:
"Leaving the dead to bury their dead, the living need to choose what in the past is serviceable for the current challenge of building a new Irish political community" (Nationalist Ireland Almost Universally Condemned The Soloheadbeg Killings As Murder, Irish Times, 15.1.19).
Yet the robbery of dynamite at Soloheadbeg—
"started a chain of events that brought not just one, but three, civil conflicts. These were fought primarily between Irish people: Protestants and unionists vs. Catholics and nationalists in Belfast, the Bandon valley and elsewhere; Sinn Fein and the IRA vs a nationalist 'establishment' of the Irish Parliamentary Party and the RIC ; and, eventually, the Civil War over the Treaty…"
All of that followed quickly from an armed robbery at Soloheadbeg that was almost universally condemned as murder when it happened!!
It set the fashion in murder, did it? People were shocked by it for an instant, but it gave them a taste for murder, which they indulged freely over the next few years!
And the Imperial Parliament was not involved. (Or did Professor Murphy just forget to mention it?)
What is now generally understood to have been a war between an elected Irish Government and an unelected British Government of Ireland was really a series of faction fights—"civil conflicts"—between Irishmen.
Is that what Professor Murphy is saying? Or is he saying that that is how it should be presented as commemorative history, in order to encourage people to forget about it so that they can begin living in a present that has no past?
He seems to advocate living in an exclusive present, guided only by beautiful ideals—in other words, Existentialism.
But a blank present is not easily established. Human understanding, as cultivated in this region of the world at least, insists on causation in time, which is History. It insists on having some notion of how it came about. Is Professor Murphy suggesting that it should be fed with fantasy history?
But isn't that what Communist Russia was accused of attempting to do, and roundly condemned for attempting it?
Stringent Protestantism did produce a kind of history-free existence in this world by means of another world which determined, by means of continuous interference, every single thing that happened in this world. Everything was predestined by the Creator at the moment of creation, and the Creator was continuously active in causing all those things to happen which he had predestined to happen.
They did not happen through secular causation within this world but through Divine management of this world from another world.
But Roman Catholicism insisted from the start that free-will operated in this world and that the Creator in the other world only passed judgment later on how individuals had acted in their freedom… History, therefore, was real in the Catholic view of things. And the European culture of almost two thousand years was the product of the intertwining of a particular strain of Christianity with the utterly secular and historical Roman Empire.
It is true that Irish Christianity only became structurally Roman Catholic in the 19th century, but long, long before that it had its own history. Escape into an empty present, where life will be guided only by fancy, will not be easy to consolidate, though that seems to be what the situation is just now. If Ireland ceases to be historical on its own it will be reabsorbed into British history.
Irexit: a cunning plan for Irish Unity!
The National Platform EU Research And Information Centre, Director, Anthony Coughlan, has issued a Statement On What Was Supposed To Be The UK's 'Brexit Independence Day' (March 29). It says:
"If the leadership of Sinn Fein had stuck by the EU-critical principles which the party upheld in Ireland's EU-related referendums… and backed Brexit in the UK referendum, there probably have been a majority in the North for Brexit. There would also have been a whole new dynamic between Sinn Fein and the DUP for they would have been on the same progressive side.
"If a Northern majority had consequently voted for Brexit, Sinn Fein and the DUP together could then have turned to the Dublin Government and political parties and called on them to follow the UK out of the EU, thus preventing an EU external border being thrown across Ireland and putting the Southern Establishment politically on the spot.
"That might have encouraged some Northern Unionists to think of the possibly progressive role they might play in a future All-Ireland State, side by side with Republicans…
"Having missed that opportunity, it is truly a sad situation that the current Sinn Fein leadership now finds itself aligned with the most reactionary anti-democratic forces in these islands and internationally that seek to scupper Brexit in the interests of EU supernationalism…"
The Press Release is accompanied by an article of C. Desmond Greaves of the British Communist Party, published in his Irish Democrat of March 1977: Thoughts On Socialism, Nationalism And Partition Today.
Coughlan was a member of the Connolly Association, a front-organisation of the British Communist Party conducted by Greaves, but was not a member of the Communist Party. He was later a member of the Irish Sovereignty Movement founded by Professor Raymond Crotty. Professor Raymond Crotty had an article in the London Times, appealing to the British Establishment to take Ireland in hand once again, as it was entirely unable to do its thinking for itself. (See February 2012 Irish Political Review for a reprint of that article and commentary on it. Editor)
Crotty's Sovereignty Movement was directed against the EU as the great threat to Irish sovereignty.
The reason why the Irish Establishment became seriously incoherent, and its political life became erratic, and it began to jettison its history, was that it would recognise neither that the Ulster Protestants were a different people from the nationalist Irish nor that Northern Ireland was a system of undemocratic government, different in kind from the political system of the state which contained it.
It denied that the Ulster Protestants were a distinct people It held that they were part of the Irish national body but failed entirely to draw them into the political life of the Irish national body. In fact it never made any serious attempt to engaged with the Ulster Protestant community, except by the most superficial debating points whose only effect was aggravation.
If it had asserted national territorial rights over the Ulster Protestants, acknowledging that they were a different people, that would have been intelligible. But, in defiance of all the evidence, it insisted that they were the same people
(Greaves once described the difference between the Irish and the English as resembling the difference between cats and dogs. That comparison would be much more credibly made between the Ulster Protestant Irish and the other Irish.)
The reason why the Irish Establishment would not recognise that, leaving Partition aside, the Northern Ireland system was a system of undemocratic government within the democratic British state, was fear that, if it was made an issue of, the region would be brought within the British democracy. Northern Ireland was devolved government combined with exclusion from the party-political life of the state.
Devolved government was not asked for by anyone in the Six Counties. When first proposed, it was rejected by the Unionist Party. The Unionists were persuaded by Whitehall to accept it.
Half a century later, when devolved Governments were set up in Scotland and Wales, in order to ward off independence movements, the parties of the state, the Tory and Labour Parties, continued to operate in Scotland and Wales. But the Six Counties were excluded from British party politics from the start.
There was no Ulster independence movement to be warded off. British politics would certainly have attracted people from both communities in substantial numbers. There would have been less ground for complaint about sectarian politics. But sectarian tensions kept the Border issue alive. That can have been the only reason why, when the introduction of Tory and Labour party-politics to the North was raised as a live issue, Dublin Governments used all their influence to prevent it.
The purpose of Dublin politics was to keep tensions over the Border alive, rather than do anything practical towards ending Partition. A "British withdrawal", which its formal position demanded, was not something it desired but something it feared. It would neither repeal the sovereignty claim nor do anything towards realising it. Its ideal was to keep the issue simmering while self-righteously condemning those who tried to do something towards resolving it. British sovereignty in the North was illegitimate, but it must not be challenged in the way illegitimate regimes in other parts of the world were challenged. It was sacrosanct though illegitimate.
This duplicity was inaugurated by Jack Lynch, advised by Saint T.K. Whitaker, in the Summer of 1970. It is plainly evident in Whitaker's correspondence with Lynch at the time, which was put in the public domain about twenty years ago.
Haughey And Pádraig Ó hUiginn
The other major civil servant of that era died recently—Pádraig Ó hUiginn. He was given a mean-spirited obituary in the Irish Times. He had been Haughey's civil servant, active in the making of the new Ireland—the Ireland of the Financial Services Centre and the Social Partnership—against the hostility of the political and media Establishment, including the Elders of Fianna Fail. And when he retired from the civil service he went into collaboration with Denis O'Brien, the national capitalist. These associations with Haughey and O'Brien were two mortal sins that must never be forgiven. The Lynch/Whitaker regime was the ideal Irish regime for Britain—which, after all, had been asked to resume the governing of Ireland, at second hand, by Professor Raymond Crotty (see Irish Political Review, Feb. 2012).
Haughey is still characterised as a gun-runner for the Provos. Our most distinguished historian, Professor Foster, continues to tell that tale, simply ignoring the Trial verdict and the evidence presented at it. And he brought corruption to Irish public life! Fintan O'Toole says there is no doubt that he was 'on the take'—though there is a question about "whether he gave anything in return" ! A bribe which is of no profit to the briber is still a bribe. And a gift of money can only be a bribe, because O'Toole cannot imagine anybody giving him a free gift in appreciation of his extraordinary services to the state.
Haughey assembled an authoritarian force within the administration of a limping democracy and forced the economy out of the pre-Keynesian doldrums into the finance capitalist era of credit. And he recognised the crucial point that the Ulster Protestant community is not an alienated part of the nation which could be won back by either blandishments or threats but is something in itself, and that the Northern Ireland structure is "not a viable political entity". That is why he sponsored no internal initiatives in the North—schemes which had never done anything but aggravate the Unionists—but treated the Provo War as a problem for the British State, to be resolved by a British accommodation with the IRA, which he took to be representative of the Nationalist community.
In 1920 Whitehall had intimidated the Ulster Unionists into operating the Northern Ireland system. In 1998 it browbeat the Unionist leader into submitting to a kind of two-nations federal re-arrangement of the devolved government which cancelled the majority status in politics of the Unionist majority. This was a de facto acknowledgement that what existed in the North was not democracy.
The IRA then gave permission to the Dublin Establishment to repeal the sovereignty claim.
The purpose—or the function—of the Good Friday Agreement was not 'reconciliation' but accommodation of hostile political bodies which could have no common politics because their difference was not policy but nationality.
What has been going on since the GFA, as before it, is a process of communal attrition, but on a playing field that has been levelled. Anthony Coughlan's scheme for getting the representative bodies of the two communities to act together on some issue would not have the effect he supposes—and which he supposes only because he sees their difference as a mere policy difference.
Sinn Fein and the DUP have acted closely together—a thing which the SDLP and the UPP failed to do—without there being an hint of 'reconciliation' occurring.
If Coughlan's primary concern is Partition, then he should begin by searching out the cause of it—which is the establishment of an Irish state separate from Britain.
It was obvious from the time that O'Connell launched the Repeal movement in the 1830s that there was a coherent community in Ulster that was utterly opposed to separation from Britain. Ulster Presbyterians who had collaborated with him on the repeal of the Test Act (called Catholic Emancipation, but it was not only that: it had a Dissenter element) parted company with him on the Repeal movement.
Partition did not occur in the 1830s because there was no prospect of the Repeal movement succeeding. It occurred 90 years later, when Home Rule was finally implemented. It occurred when the British Government ceased to govern Ireland.
William O'Brien saw this coming. He saw John Redmond's policies as driving the situation towards Partition. In order to avert Partition, he proposed that something less than legislative Home Rule should be sought in the first instance, so that there should be some form of all-Ireland administration, however slight, that was not an institution of the British Government. He won 9 seats from Redmond's party on that issue in the 1910 Elections, but that fact has been deleted from published history.
Coughlan's cunning scheme for ending Partition by following Britain out of the EU is in effect a scheme to make Ireland a subordinate region of Britain. It is very unlikely that it would induce the Ulster Unionists to agree to the ending of Partition. But, if it was followed through by Ireland rejoining the British Union as it left the European Union, then, of course, Partition would end along with the Irish state.
But that is all in the sphere of an idealism detached from the reality of accomplished fact, as distinct from an idealism that might be a guiding influence within accomplished fact.
Desmond Greaves, as a senior member of the British Communist Party, saw the European Union from the viewpoint of Soviet interest. Coughlan is his literary executor. But the Soviet Union has long gone, and it is a shame to see Coughlan still being guided by its whip hand.
Some Political Blind Alleys. Editorial (Second Referendum; Living In A Continuous Present?; Irexit: a cunning plan for Irish Unity!; Haughey And Pádraig Ó hUiginn)
Constitutional Realities! Jack Lane
Brexit: the extreme danger from well-meaning interventions. Dave Alvey. (Brexit Summaries for March and April)
Readers' Letters: Cathal Brugha And Britain's Divide And Rule. Cathal MacSwiney Brugha
Empire Realities! Wilson John Haire
LEST WE FORGET (4). Extracts from Irish Bulletin. This issue lists British Acts Of Aggression, 21st July - 2 August 1919 (ed. Jack Lane).
The Times Calls For 'More Active Intervention', 15.4.19 (Report)
Es Ahora. Julianne Herlihy (Clair Wills and the Story She Tells, Part 11)
'Plus ca change........'. General De Gaulle Rejects British Accession to EEC
Worthwhile Insanity Evidence Lacking At Worth Library Casement Lecture. Tim O'Sullivan
Money Creation: The Story Of Bank Money. Martin Dolphim (Reply to John Martin in the ongoing debate)
A Jesuit Solves The Money Problem, Gaël Giraud! Cathy Winch
A Tale Of Two Seáns. Manus O’Riordan
Rexit! Wilson John Haire (Poem)
The Russian Revolution. Brendan Clifford (Part 16)
Some Thoughts On Fergal B. Keane. Donal Kennedy
A GAA Debate In The Shadow Of Brexit. Dave Alvey
Biteback: Israel's election and Palestine. Eamonn Meehan.
Foundation Of Israel. Conor McCarthy
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (The Norman Invasion in 1169 —(Not!)
Count John McCormack, James Connell, And "The Red Flag"
Labour Comment: New legislation Tackles Scourge Of Zero-Hour Contract.
Count John McCormack, James Connell, And "The Red Flag"