January 27, 2018

The creation of Northern Ireland and the Free State gave Home Rule to all of Ireland

'All right—who else can steer?' O’Neill and Chichester-Clark drowning in a cartoon by ‘Mac’, Daily Sketch, 1 January 1971. (British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent)

The Ulster Proclamation of Provisional Government of 1913 signalled the intent of unionists to form their own administration in the nine northern counties of Ireland if Westminster handed powers to a nationalist parliament in Dublin.

It was issued the year after almost half a million people in Ulster signed either the Solemn League and Covenant or Declaration in opposition to Home Rule and as tens of thousands joined the original Ulster Volunteer Force in preparation to resist the move by force. The crisis was overtaken by the outbreak of World War One and a nine-county government was never formed.

In a recent post I noted that the creation of Northern Ireland left the destiny of Irishmen and women in the infamous six counties of the north-east in the hands of Irishmen - and it was the Westminster Convention of non-interference that tells us that. George Bernard Shaw often railed at the irony of this situation:
"Can she [Ulster] consistently elect a separate Ulster Parliament at all? Is she not bound by all her vows and covenants to boycott this abomination of a Home Rule Parliament: nay, of two Home Rule Parliaments? And yet if she does, Labor will jump the claim."

Carson also:
"If it [the Government of Ireland (and effectively the fourth Home Rule) bill] passes, the only part of Ireland which will have a parliament is the part that never asked for it."
Ireland finally had Home Rule - Irishmen alone were governing Ireland. And as Carson had asked, if Home Rule for the men of the south, why not for the men of the north?

So what was wrong with Northern Ireland? It was Irishmen governing Irishmen. And it was regular Ulstermen, not aristrocrats or autocrats from London, who were administering the province. As Neil C. Fleming of Cardiff University wrote:
"The aristocracy were certainly at home in Northern Ireland but they did not exercise the untrammelled power their forebears once had. Successive phases in the growth of democracy had curbed their influence in both town and countryside, and meant that only those who were able to successfully adapt could survive as politicians. 
With many having achieved this within Ulster unionism, it is not surprising that members of the landed élite should be found in the provincial government alongside men representative of other wealthy and powerful interest groups. They were present, therefore, but landed influence was limited. The Northern Ireland cabinet, like Stormont, was overwhelmingly middle-class in composition, with working-class and upper-class Unionists largely confined to the relatively powerless senate, or ornamental positions such as governor and speaker. Aristocratic status failed to help Sir Basil Brooke, later Viscount Brookeborough, in his attempt from the early 1950s to move away from the strident loyalism he had previously espoused—he soon gave up, following howls of protest from militant Unionists and evangelical preachers. And aristocratic status, despite the claims of some critics, had little to do with the appointment of Brookeborough’s successor, O’Neill, whose victory over a rival reflected the latter’s unpopularity and O’Neill’s reputation as a technocrat and moderniser. If any ‘class’ benefited from O’Neill’s premiership it was the recently enlarged middle class."
An anonymous man from Cork and a unionist said in 1921 (via Wilfred Ewart):
"Everybody’s taken a step to the left. Your old Nationalists have joined pacifist Sinn Fein; pacifist Sinn Fein has become active Republican; we Unionists take our stand on the old Nationalism. Although, Dillonism is dead."
What was wrong with Home Rule from Stormont?

Perhaps it had a lot to do with atavistic hatred and mistrust of the vengeful hibernian, the type William O'Brien referred to:
"Those exhortations to give “a dose of the old medicine” to “our hereditary enemies,” the “rotten Protestants,”  and “ the blackblooded Cromweliians” with which Hibernian oratory had for melancholy years resounded."
Or as George Bernard Shaw also wrote:
"When people ask me what Sinn Fein means, I reply that it is the Irish for John Bull."
And this is telling, from Mr Shaw again:
"You may buy a common an not ineffective variety of Irish Protestant by delegating your powers to him… You would have a ten-times better chance with the Roman Catholic; for he has been saturated from his youth up with the Imperial idea of foreign rule by a spiritually superior international power, and is trained to submission and abnegation of his private judgement. A Roman Catholic garrison would take in orders from England and let her rule Ireland if England were Roman Catholic."

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