February 15, 2016

In revolutionary Ireland Protestants were overwhelmingly unionist andanti-Home Rule


It is quite often said that many protestants filled the republican ranks in revolutionary Ireland. This is true to a degree. There are examples of protestant republicans, however these oft-recounted individuals were outliers. The overwhelming majority of protestants were unionist and anti-Home Rule. Ronald McNeill wrote in 1922, 'Ulster's Stand For the Union':

"An additional cause of offence, moreover, was that he was at that time trying to persuade credulous people in England that there was in Ulster a party of Liberals and Protestant Home Rulers, of which he [Lord Pirrie] posed as leader, although everyone on the spot knew that the “party” would not fill a tramcar."
Edward Carson wrote in 1912:
"I know there are some Protestants, not many I think, who are Home Rulers, just as there are some Catholics, a great many I think, who are not Home Rulers."
James Connolly wrote in 'Ireland, Karl Marx and William' (1910):
"In passing, let me remark that the names cited by Comrade Walker but confirm my point. We do not care so much what a few men did, as what did the vast mass of their co-religionists do. 
The vast mass of the Protestants of Ulster, except during the period of 1798, were bitter enemies of the men he has named [Wolfe Tone etc.], and during the bitter struggle of the Land League, when the peasantry in the other provinces were engaged in a life and death struggle against landlordism, the sturdy Protestant Democracy of the North was electing landlords, and the nominees of landlords, to every Protestant constituency in Ulster. When Comrade Walker is doing propaganda work in Belfast he does not fail to remind his hearers of their remissness in such matters. Why, then, does he mount another horse in his letter to Forward?"
Just as the history books speak of protestant republicans, so they speak of catholic unionists. Each as unrepresentative as the other. Alex Kane said:
"It seems like only five minutes ago that I heard senior Ulster Unionists say: "Sure look at Sir John Gorman, isn’t he a Unionist MLA and a Catholic, too!""
In response to the Northern Ireland Loyalty Survey of 1968, Professor John Coaxley wrote in June 2014:
"The extent to which Irish electoral behaviour in the nineteenth century was structured by religious affiliation is well known, and forms an important backdrop to the debate on the constitutional question: Irish identity became increasingly identified with Catholicism, leaving little space for a Protestant presence (Elliott, 2009: 20-50). Associated with this was a growing demand among Catholics for Irish self-government, triggering passionate Protestant defence of the union with Great Britain. While we lack survey data before the late 1960s, there is sufficient evidence from elections and enough commentary from observers to confirm the closeness of the relationship between religion and politics."
Roy Foster wrote in 'Modern Ireland':
"To be a protestant or catholic in eighteenth-century Ireland indicated more than mere religious allegiance; it represented opposing political cultures, and conflicting views of history."
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