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|From: Church & State: Editorials|
|Date: January, 2021|
Nationality Real And Imagined
|Nationality Real And Imagined
The Irish Times editorial of July 3rd was on the subject of Defining A National Identity. It informed us that three members of the English soccer team contesting the European Football Cup "are products of the Irish diaspora; two of them even played for Ireland under-age level", and, on that basis, it appealed for Irish support for the English team. But, surely, if they once played for Ireland but now play for the senior English team, that must mean that they have chosen to be English when they had a choice in the matter?
Nationality, as a sentiment, is a matter of little practical concern for men who live in the financial stratum of professional footballing, especially if their language is English.
Professor Roy Foster, hailed as a master-historian by the Establishment of the Irish State a generation ago, told us that England gave us "the priceless gift of the English language". So it did. And it wouldn't take NO for an answer!
Winston Churchill, after he lost the British Empire by continuing the War on Germany after England had lost both the will and the power to prosecute it with its own resources, and who had won only by bringing Communism to dominance in Central Europe as the only Power capable of defeating Nazi Germany, then set about raising up a world force against Communism under the rubric of "the English-speaking peoples".
But the Irish were an English-speaking people which had refused to behave as such in the War, and which refused to subscribe to the Churchillian vision after the War for a whole generation. What it has become during the past generation is uncertain. The Irish national body has now rejected so much of the developments that went into its making, and has moulded itself so closely on the Amnesia advocated by Professor Foster, and the subversive Nihilism preached by Eoghan Harris and practiced by Micheal Martin, that the only thing for it to do now—the only prudent thing—is to give up the ghost.
It might be that that would be what Edmund Burke, the philosopher of prudence, dismissed contemptuously as "reptile prudence". But surely that is the form of prudence that is appropriate for reptiles.
If the Irish Times has become an Irish newspaper—and it is now widely regarded as being the foremost Irish newspaper—then the following paragraph in Burke's Regicide Peace may be taken as applying to the relationship between Ireland and England now:
"The rules and definitions of prudence can rarely be exact; never universal. I do not deny that in small truckling states a timely compromise with power has often been the means, and the only means, of drawling out their puny existence. But a great state is too much envied, too much dreaded, to find safety in humiliation. To be secure, it must be respected. Power, and eminence, and consideration, are things not to be begged. They must be commanded: and they who supplicate for mercy from others can never hope for justice through themselves. What justice they are to obtain, as the alms of an enemy, depends upon his character; and that they ought well to know before they implicitly confide…"
In this passage Burke is not referring to relations between Britain and Ireland. There was no Irish state then. There was a Protestant Kingdom of Ireland, set up about a hundred years earlier, on the foundations of what Mitchell called The Last English Conquest Of Ireland. Perhaps. It had an independent Parliament, attended and elected by members of the Church of England in Ireland, which was called the Church of Ireland. Burke wrote a well-known account of the Penal Law system established by that Parliament against the Irish.
""It was a machine of wise and elaborate contrivances, and as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degration of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man" (The Works Of Edmund Burke: With a Memoir, p84, 1835).
His description of the Penal Laws has been subjected to quibbling criticisms. The system was not rigorously enforced. But was that a point in its favour? It was genocidal in principle, and it was applied with enough rigour to degrade the populace by depriving it of property, education, and representation in political life, while tolerating furtive religious observance. It was continued in one way and another from the conquest in 1690 to the 'Famine' in the mid-1840s.
In the course of a hundred and forty years the conqueror failed to hegemonies the conquered population. For most of that period he did not wish to hegemonies them, seeing them as a helpless subjugated population to be exploited economically for the building of aristocratic mansions.
Purposeful political development began in the populace only at the end of the 'Famine', which reduced the population by half—a progressive measure according to English political economy—and stimulated the Young Irelanders to engage in reform by playing the measures of English political economy against it.
Then, only about seventy years after Gavan Duffy's Independent Party got a degree of representation in Parliament—which was promptly corrupted from under him by Whitehall—there was an Irish state: a state which the famous, and representative, Dean Inge of St. Paul's saw as a bewildering fact which disgraced the name of England.
And now this Irish state does not quite know what to do with itself.
Almost fifty years ago it joined the European system. If it had done so of its own volition, as an independent act which would put it on firmer ground against England, that would have been all to the good. But it joined Europe in association with England and in search of an escape from an existential crisis which had overtaken it.
It asserted a right of sovereignty over the Six Counties which were retained within the British state. By doing so it de-legitimised British authority in the eyes of the large Nationalist minority in the North, but it did so without having any earnest intention of ever doing anything to make its sovereignty claim effective.
Britain, when conceding statehood to the greater part of Ireland, retained six counties within the British state but did not allow these counties to function within the actual democratic life of the state, which was party-political. It set up a subordinate system of government in those Counties and insisted that they must have a separate political system of their own, apart from the state system.
The only way that arrangement could work out was by the governing of the large local and Nationalist and Catholic minority by the Unionist and Protestant majority. The Unionist population had to return a majority at every election in order to remain within the British state, and meanwhile they had to govern the Nationalist minority in the local hot-house set up, in which there were no real functions of State to be carried out. All the vital services of State were supplied by Whitehall. It was a diabolical arrangement, and the aggravation it caused led to an anti-Catholic pogrom in 1969 and a Republican Declaration of War on Britain in 1970 in support of the Southern sovereignty claim over the North.
The Dublin Government panicked. It would neither withdraw the sovereignty claim nor work out a modus Vivendi with the Northern minority that was acting in an attempt to give effect to it.
The opportunity to escape from its dilemma presented itself in 1972. It joined Europe in company with Britain, and it was said that the Irish national conflict would be somehow dissolved in the medium of an imaginary European post-national culture.
Ireland joined Europe as part of a pair with Britain. The European arrangement was supposed to be based on an agreement between a small number of clearly delineated states which shared some degree of common culture.
But the Irish state was not clearly delineated from the British state. The Irish state asserted a right of sovereignty over a region of the British state, and declared Britain to be an Occupying Power which usurped legitimate authority in that region. And the War which had been declared on the British state in that region, in the name of Irish sovereignty, continued for twenty-six years after both states had joined the EEC.
Britain, which always has many irons in the fire, did not make an issue of that anomaly. It needed to get into Europe for reasons that had nothing to do with becoming European. Its purpose was to hinder the development of Europe as a united force.
When the European project was launched after the World War, Britain—which still had a vast Empire—refused to participate in it, and expected it to flounder. When it flourished, with American backing, Britain applied to join it. Its application was rejected by France and Germany on the grounds that Britain was not a European state and that its interests were hostile to European development.
General de Gaulle knew from his wartime experience just what Britain was with relation to Europe, as did Chancellor Adenauer who had been a close observer of British policy towards Germany and France between the Wars. But the next generation of European leaders, who were rather bookish in their understanding of politics, admitted Britain in a spasm of idealism—and Ireland along with it.
The Irish State, which had armed itself against Britain as best it could in 1939 to ensure that it was not forced into Britain's second War on Germany—the one which brought Communism to central Europe and divided the world in two—should have had a degree of understanding of European affairs comparable to that of De Gaulle and Adenauer. But in 1972 the Irish state was in a panic over the War that had been declared in the North against the Occupying Power in support of the sovereignty claim, and it was incapable of thought.
It joined Europe to escape from itself, and subjected itself to a long course of Anglicisation as Britain's second voice in Europe.
Then Britain left the EU, when it judged that a situation had arisen in which it could damage it more effectively by leaving than by remaining.
As Ireland was joining the European project, an article by Raymond Crotty of Trinity College was published in the Times (3 July 1972). The gist of it was that nationalist Ireland had been debilitated economically and cultural by "the establishment of an independent Irish state", which "put a political boundary through the British Isles resource market". Britain ought to take Ireland in hand again. Military reconquest would be out of keeping with the spirit of the time but intellectual conquest was feasible as Irish society was "the most sheepishly conformist in the world", and was dead intellectually.
Crotty went on to found the anti-European Irish Sovereignty Movement with Anthony Coughlan of the "Connolly Association". Britain responded to his appeal, and the era of a revisionist writing of Irish history in the English interest began.
We do not know what the source of Crotty's article in the Times was, but it seems highly probable that it appeared by prior arrangement. The Times was still central to the British Establishment in those days and it would not have published such an article just because it got it through the post and found it interesting.
The idea that Irish sovereignty needed to be won from Europe with British assistance appears bizarre on the face of it. The converse was the case. British influence on Irish life remained strong half a century after an Irish state had been set up. Irish money was English money with a green overprint, and the Irish Budget was in many ways a dependency on the British Budget. The banking system was geared to depositing savings in London.
If the Irish State had been motivated by a national will to increase its independence, membership of the European project would have greatly enhanced its power to do so. (And, when Irish money was eventually made independent of sterling, it was done in the context of the European project by the only really European Taoiseach there has ever been: Charles Haughey.)
(The notion of a European threat to Irish nationality is the weirdest of all bogeys. It was played by the British Government over two centuries ago, shortly after the Act of Union, when a French conquest was still on the agenda. Walter Cox, a United Irishman in the 1790s, who was the moving spirit in a new national development after the Act of Union, dealt, in his Irish Magazine in 1871, with the alleged danger to Irish national development that would be posed by a French occupation of Ireland in the war with Britain. He did this in the form of an imagined Address by Napoleon to an Irish Parliament:
"England viewed Ireland as a rival. And Ireland was sacrificed, not to cruelty and ambition alone, but to jealousy and avarice… France never considered Ireland a rival. The total dissimilarity in extent, nature of productions, numbers, and consequent political strength, preclude the possibility that any growth of Ireland could ever amount, in the eye of France, to a dangerous rivalry…
"Look at the speech of the minister Howeick, where he openly avows the English policy of taking off the danger to England, by wasting what he calls your superabounding population. At this instant, then, England avows her safety can be maintained but by the destruction of your offspring."
"A reason, which may appear paradoxical, exists, why the lot of Ireland, even as a province, would be ilder under the government of any other country, than it has been under the government of the glorious constitution of England. It is the total dissimilarity of laws, customs, and language, between the other countries of Europe and Ireland. Many of the evils which have fallen upon Ireland, have been owing to the similarity between her and England in these particulars, which, having been gradually introduced, have been at length established. To this similarity has been owing that the hours of peace have, for Ireland, been almost as wasteful as those of war…" (Napoleon's Address To An Irish Parliament was reproduced in a pamphlet published by Athol Books in 1996, Wolfe Tone: Address To The People Of Ireland (1796). The publication is available from Athol Books, £5 postfree.)
We don't know if Professor Crotty was in consultation with Desmond Greaves of the British Communist Party and the Connolly Association when making his appeal to the British Establishment to take nationalist Ireland in hand. But Greaves's apostle, Anthony Coughlan (a Trinity-based sociologist) continues the themes of both Crotty and Greaves, though denying all knowledge of the Communist Party. He advocated an Irish exit along with the British exit, and is an honorary member of the Brexit movement.
Greaves's position on the European development was entirely coherent, given that he was an active member of the British Communist Party under Moscow direction. The world was divided in two as a consequence of Britain's blundering second war on Germany. Communist Russia defeated Germany after Britain had entirely failed to do so. In order to defeat Germany it had to drive the German Army back home, occupying territory along the way.
It organised the stretch of Eastern Europe which it occupied in accordance with its own system. The American did likewise with the stretch of Western Europe which it managed to occupy before meeting the Russians. Then Western Europe, on French-German initiative, organised itself under American auspices into what evolved into the EU.
It was in the Russian interest to obstruct a coherent development of Western Europe against it. And Greaves, as a member of the Communist Party, was committed to the Russian interest. And, if he encouraged the idea that West European development was a threat to Irish nationality, it is reasonable to suppose that he did so because of his position on the international situation.
But that was then. The situation now is altogether different. The Soviet system collapsed thirty years ago. The Irish State is in a stronger position vis a vis the British State by virtue of its membership of the EU—but the strength of its position is largely external to it, and cannot be effectively availed of because of the drastic decline in national will that it suffered during its forty years as Britain's second voice in Europe.
The realistic implications of the Irish Sovereignty Movement (and the Irexit movement) are Anglophile. They are pro-British, but rest on a false idea of what Britain is. And the Government is caught between European and Anglophile impulses.
De Valera had to choose in 1932 between giving practical priority to uniting the island and developing the state. If he had chosen to prioritise the ending of Partition, he would have failed—and he knew it.
There was only one way to unify the island and that was by rejoining the United Kingdom. It could not be done by force, because the force was not available. And it could not be done by appealing to a common bond of Irish national sentiment which was allegedly lurking in the British community in the North, because it did not exist, and everyone who looked closely at the matter knew it did not exist, though obliged to equivocate.
Professor Crotty said in effect that the Irish impulse of national development had exhausted itself, and he appealed to Britain to put things right. Britain supplied the rubbishing of Irish national history that is called Revisionism. It would have been infinitely preferable if Crotty had founded a movement for rejoining the UK, instead of the absurdly entitled Irish Sovereignty Movement. A strong case could have been made that the Irish national development damaged itself irreparably when, under Redmond's leadership, it put a minority Liberal Party in government, and helped it to carry contentious English measures against the Tory Party, in exchange for a legislative Home Rule Bill, which was certain to be met with strong Ulster Protestant resistance, and then relied on the British Army to carry it through.
(Redmond was warned about the likely outcome of this approach by the movement led by William O'Brien and Canon Sheehan (which has been written out of history). He pressed ahead regardless, causing two hostile Volunteer Armies to be raised, and only avoided a military outcome of that approach by throwing the movement into an alternative military adventure: the British war of destruction on Germany.
That was the position of things which he bequeathed to Sinn Fein, and in the excitement of the times Sinn Fein could hardly withdraw from it.)
The EU has clearly been damaged by Brexit. The purpose of Brexit was not merely to reassert complete British sovereignty. Damaging the EU was part of it. And the Irish Sovereignty Movement appears to be in sympathy with the British object of breaking the EU into its component parts.
The stability of the EU depends on Franco-German cooperation. It is essentially a Franco-German project. France and Germany recently attempted to move towards an accommodation with Russia. They were prevented from doing so by a number of states which had played no part in constructing the EU, including Ireland. The Irish Government was presumably acting in accordance with Washington's wishes when it helped to veto the rapprochement with Russia.
There was a time, not very long ago, when prayers were offered up in Churches in Ireland for the Conversion of Russia. Well, Russia has converted. It is Christian again, and capitalist too. But the Irish Government is still not satisfied with it. Could it be that Christianity is now the problem?
Then there is the problem of "the rule of law". Ireland has been sharply critical of Poland and Hungary for breaking the 'rule of law'. The Hungarians asked for the law to be pointed to them which they had broken. The Irish spokesman did not seem to understand the question. It was obvious to him that the Hungarians had broken the law because that was what was being said, and he would not quibble about pettifogging details.
The issue seems to be that Hungary has, quite constitutionally, introduced a law to prevent homosexual propaganda in schools and leaving heterosexuality to be considered in some way as normal.
It is not very long since the British Government brought in a law prohibiting homosexual propaganda in schools. There was no talk then of Britain having broken the European Rule of Law.
The British Government changed its mind later, and the situation now is that teaching about homosexuality is obligatory in schools. And Muslim parents who protest and want to make other educational arrangements for their children have been told sharply by the Labour Party that the law must be obeyed.
Is it this British change of mind that has led the Taoiseach to think that there is a European law in the matter which the Hungarians have broken?
Basic to the EU as formally established is the discretionary power of national Governments to make their own arrangements in matters like this. But the law, as worked out by negotiation and written down, is now being overruled by popular fashion in a number of states. And the Dutch Prime Minister has told the Hungarians that, if they don't like the new approach, they should leave.
The Irish Times editorial on English football concludes:
"Under the classy leadership of Gareth Southgate, the team embodies some of the traits the Irish people admire most about England and its people… As a collective, this multi-ethnic team represents the inclusive, open country many Irish people know and love. Many immigrants from Ireland and elsewhere in the EU have felt a chill in England of late. After five tough years since the Brexit referendum, when Anglo-Irish relations have come under strain and the British government has been captured by a narrow mean-spirited conception of Englishness, this team reminds us that the battle for a more progressive and generous idea of England is still being fought. In the long view, it may even be winning."
Does the Irish Times really believe that anything but the desire to be a winner motivated the English to accept the 'lesser breeds' into its football team? In all England's Imperial wars down the generations, they have always accepted foreign auxiliaries in subordinate capacities. But the fruits of those wars were never shared with the Irish, Indian etc. foot soldiers deployed. Winning the game was what mattered. And it was always an English win. Never a multi-cultural one!
Anglo-Irish relations were put under strain by Brexit because the Irish State, after forty years in Europe, found it difficult to be European without Britain.
And it has looked for new friends, not in the core European countries, but amongst British look-alike countries: the Scandinavians and the Dutch.
Within British politics, mean-spiritedness is much more in evidence in the Labour Party, led by a Remainer who is floundering in his efforts to find a new orientation, than in the Brexiteer Government, which has notions of nursing Britain back to the status of an independent World Power. In English history, broadness of spirit has usually been an Imperialist attribute.
It is because of Empire that English society is "multi-ethnic" to some degree. The British State, as an Empire, dedicated itself to destroying viable states around the world, which it did very effectively, and remaking their populations in the English image. And the English population put so much effort in this project that its own national self-sufficiency ended. It even ceased to reproduce itself as it became increasingly wealthy, and it came to need large-scale immigration for both demographic and economic purposes.
England in the course of the Imperial development exterminated many peoples in the cause of Progress, and it was proud of it. It disabled others politically and culturally and used the populace as a labour force. In Ireland it embarked on a course of genocide but, for one reason and another, it never carried it through to the extermination of populace, which it used as a labour resource instead. But when other states do to subject populations what England did in Ireland, it is often described as genocide by British Governments.
When England as an Empire governed Ireland, it banned Irish sports by law, but did not apply itself thoroughly to rooting them out. And, as an Empire, it sought to establish English sports as world sports.
The Irish Times makes the point that English clubs have many followers in Ireland. They appear to have followers all over the world. But these clubs ceased long ago to have any organic connection with the places they are named after. They are clubs in England, run by international finance, rather than English clubs. And there seems to be parallels between them and sporting activities in the later days of the Roman Empire.
It is a sad state of affairs for the Irish Times when it looks to an English victory in the Euros as the last hope of consolidating an Anglo-Ireland relationship outside the EU.
Denis O'Brien—one of the very few Irish national-capitalists (and roundly hated by the Anglo Establishment)—proposed a few years ago to set up an Irish newspaper in place of the Irish times. His proposal was to employ the staff of the Irish Times to produce it. Overnight they would carry the paper out of the shadowy world of secret Oaths and mysterious financing left behind by the Union and give it a clear national existence.
They refused. How different their position would be today if they had agreed.
It was a strange expectation on the part of the Irish Times (2.7.21) that success of a "multi-ethnic" football team in Europe would run counter to the "narrow mean-spirited conception of Englishness" expressed by the Brexit Government, and would contribute to "the battle for a more progressive and generous idea of England". Success was certain to have added glory to Brexit. Winning is all that matters.
"Taking football as a proxy", it was somehow arranged that all the vital England games were played at home. The home crowd booed the rival national anthems, and shone a laser into the eyes of the enemy goalkeeper in the game with Denmark—and yet the final was still played at Wembley. And England got through to the final by means of a multi-ethnic dive that was awarded a penalty.
England, since it asserted itself as an Empire, has been effectively assimilative of elements which it has drawn to itself from other cultures which it has broken, and has been effectively destructive of forces in the world which resist it.
It remains to be determined whether the post-1945 European development, which it joined in order to subvert, and then left under the pretext that it had somehow been been conquered and oppressed by it—and in order to help it to fall apart—will be able to succeed without it and against it.
The leader of Fianna Fail, the Party which gained under five per cent of the vote in the Dublin Bay South By-Election, has declared for England against Europe in the final of the European Cup. That is the kind of generosity which England appreciates and sees no need to reciprocate.