February 15, 2020

Advanced republicans desire to expel or resettle Ulster's unionists

In 1987, four years into his 34-year tenure as president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams said:
"Anyone unwilling to accept a united Ireland and wishing to leave should be offered resettlement grants to permit them to move to Britain, or assist them to move to a country of their choice."
J Bowman wrote in his essay, ‘De Valera: did he entrench the partition of Ireland?’:
"On the second day of the convention de Valera returned to the theme of northern policy and put forward a suggestion which he was also to voice privately to diplomats and to a group of Irish historians in the 1960s. Perhaps in the speech he is revealing an important aspect of his attitude to the Ulster unionists. He suggested that a transfer of populations between Irish emigrants in Britain and those in Northern Irland who described themselves as British might provide a solution to Partition. De Valera’s ambivalence and inconsistency is manifest on this, as on so many other topics. Along with stating in parliament in 1951 that ‘no matter how the world goes, these people and ourselves are going to live on one island here’, he also hankered after what had been his earliest prescription, the expulsion of the Ulster Unionist from the island of Ireland. 
He had first advocated this in 1917-1818. In 1943, he confided to the American minister in Dublin David Gray that a statesmanlike settlement was available 'especially since the precedent for the exchange of populations has been established’. Gray was not impressed: the idea was 'about as practicable as expelling the New Englanders from Massachusetts’. After the war, de Valera spoke in a similar sense both in Ireland and on his American tour in 1948. He was also questioned specifically on this point by a group of historians in 1964. 
De Valera told them that a comparison with Cyprus - as it then was - would be instructive. The minority citizen be he Turk or Ulster Unionist 'must decide his priority: land or allegiance. If the former was more important, then he must accept subjection to the political will of the majority of the island; if being Turkish or British was the more important, then he sould return forthwith to the favoured country, Turkey or Britain’. 
That the proposal to expel the Ulster unionists with compensation should recur in de Valera’s thinking between 1917 and 1964 may help in answering the question raised in this article. Is this not an indication that essentially de Valera hankered after an Irish-Ireland State based on so narrow a concept of Irishness that the Ulster Unionists should be either expelled, absorbed or merely tolerated as an un-Irish minority? In fairness to de Valera we should emphasise that he was working in an Anglophobic political culture and in a period when political or religious ecumenism were not only not espoused but were not even discussed. 
Yet, that said, there remains a considerable contrast with today’s broad consensus in the south on the need for a self-critical approach to the south’s policy on unity, epitomised - despite many interparty differences - in the Report of the New Ireland Forum. Although appropriate genuflections are made in his direction, de Valera’s successors as leader of Fianna Fail have all rejected his concept of a narrow Irish-Ireland State."

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