June 05, 2016

The Irish republican fight is with with Irish monarchists, not England

The Mad Bull (James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon and Michael Collins) by Sir John Bernard Patridge (1922)
I previously looked at the anglophobia of unionism on this blog, and on Slugger O'Toole. Here I look at how republicans misunderstand unionists, as typified by what David McKittrick wrote: "If it weren’t for the unionists, [the British] would leave right away." 
Lord Loreburn was a leading English Liberal politician who served as Lord Chancellor between 1905 and 1912. He tried to resolve the Home Rule crisis, making an appeal to all sides:
"Is there… really nothing that can be done except to watch the play of irreconcilable forces in a spirit of indolent resignation?”
He called for a conference, yet Lord Loreburn’s hopes were dashed almost immediately.

Leading unionist, Captain James Craig MP, said in an interview with The Belfast Evening Telegraph:
"The suggestion of a conference is simply another desperate expedient put forward to delay the fatal hour or to inveigle unionists into a false position… Even if there could be found one man in any responsible position, which there could not, who would be prepared to confer with a view to compromise, he would stand absolutely alone and he would be repudiated by the people."
Leading Nationalist politician William Redmond MP said:
"I see no use in a conference unless the Unionists accept the principle of Home Rule and an Irish Parliament. I would approve a conference on details if Home Rule is accepted as a basis of the meeting. The Home Rule Bill must go through."
Unionists and the pro-Union community are not deluded lackeys, they do not suffer an identity crisis or false consciousness as “fostered by an alien government”, as the Irish Proclamation erroneously proclaims.

Irish monarchists hold views as strong and legitimate as Irish republicans, and vice-versa, as guaranteed by international treaty. John Hume expressed this emphatically in his famous 1964 article in the Irish Times:
"Another positive step towards easing community tensions and towards removing what bigotry exists among Catholics would be to recognize that the Protestant tradition in the North is as strong and as legitimate as their own…. We must be prepared to accept this and to realize that the fact that a man wishes Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom does not necessarily make him a bigot or a discriminator."
For Irish republicans, their fight is not with the Queen, or England, or the British apparatus in Northern Ireland. Their fight, through policy and debate, is with ordinary native Irish men and women in Northern Ireland who are pro-Union and pro-Monarchy.

Trevor Ringland spoke with IRA men in the Maze. The prisoners said they wanted to drive the British into the sea, but the British in Ireland is more complicated than an armoured Saracen vehicle, as Trevor explained:
"I said ‘that’s me’. They said ‘we don’t mean you, Trevor’. So who do you mean? The English? Most of them are only here because of you. Buy me a pint and talk to me about it but don’t shoot me."
There are many Irish people who are also British .They are part of the scaffolding of Irish life. They cannot be removed, their roots are deep, the bones of their forebears are in Irish turf.

When I say unionist people are Irish, I’m expressing my own personal view, and the traditional view, as Brian Walker wrote in 2008:
"One hundred years ago most unionists in Ireland, north and south, regarded themselves as Irish. Of course, most also saw themselves as British citizens and were very keen on ulinks to the Crown and to Great Britain.”
People who fail to understand the Ulster question and unionist people, make two other mistakes.

Firstly, the British have been working for nearly a century to extricate and disengage itself from Ireland. As David McWilliams wrote:
"It is my view that the British were on their way out of Ireland from the mid-1860s. London was actively trying to disengage and promote the Home Rule movement."
McWilliams continued, explaining that the stumbling block to Irish independence were the Irish themselves, Irish men and women from Ulster:
"The only flies in the ointment were apparently the Ulster Unionists… 
This grand design – the gradual British pull-out – was going according to plan pretty well up to the time the Ulster Volunteers said no. Once the Ulster Covenant was signed and it became clear that the Ulstermen would fight, the notion of some sort of partition became a reality. This was what John Redmond feared most."
The fight for Irish republicans is with fellow Irishmen, not Englishmen. British Prime Minister Lloyd George pushed for unity, as he said to Conservative Party leader Andrew Bonar Law on January 12 1918:
"This is the opportunity for Ulster to show that it places Empire above everything. If the little protestant community in the South, isolated in a turbulent sea of Sinn Feinism and Popery can trust their lives and their property to the majority there, surely the powerful community of the North might take that risk for the sake of the Empire in danger."
Roy Foster wrote:
"More and more evidence shows that well before 30 January 1972, the trend of British policy was to seek disengagement."
Peter Hitchens wrote:
"The paradox is that this discrimination was the result not of a British desire to hold on to Northern Ireland, but because of an unstated hope in London that Northern Ireland would one day somehow become part of an all-Ireland Republic."
During the Home Rule crisis, while Ulstermen wanted Empire, it is clear London for the sake of Empire wanted Home Rule.

The tale of Britain in Ireland over the last century, has for nationalists, been of pain and calamity and wrenching heartache. Yet, the tale is not of premeditated and committed malevolence, but a tale of trying to deal with wildly passionate Irishmen of diametrically opposite aspirations.

Secondly, Irish republicans also misunderstand another aspect of the unionist mindset – deep mistrust of the English politician, bordering on an Anglophobia.

Ian Paisley said to a French journalist during the Ulster Worker’s Strike of 1974:
"We’re in the hands of our English masters. And we understand they are not our friends. They would like to destroy us. So that’s our only fear, but we’re not wandering about in fear of anybody."
English writer V.S. Pritchett remembered his trip to Belfast in 1923:
"The Orangemen were contemptuous of the Southern Irish and had a blustering condescension to Englishmen like myself.”
Irish republicans, listen to Diarmaid Ferriter, who wrote:
"As Winston Churchill had written… from an imperial point of view there was nothing the British would have liked better than to see North and South joined together."
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