April 24, 2014

Remembering Ireland's "patriot dead" of 1916. Forgetting Ireland's unionists.

GPO in ruins after the Easter Rising in 1916
Edward Carson said that the ideals and ambitions of Ulster should be clearly understood by the people of England, Scotland and Wales.

I want to make something very clear - The ideals and ambitions of Northern Ireland unionists and Protestants should be clearly understood in Southern Ireland. For they are each and all, "fellow countrymen."*

Being a Protestant unionist does not preclude that person from being Irish. John Hewitt said it. Nick Laird said it. Sam McAughtry said it. Loyalist Gusty Spence said it. Edward Carson was Irish. He was British. He was an Irish Unionist. An Irish man who simply wanted to be Irish and remain part of the social, political and economic infrastructure of the British Empire. As he said:
"We’re both [Tom Kettle, Home Rule nationalist] Irishmen, and that is what matters."
Edward Carson, who opposed Home Rule was an Irish unionist and wanted Ireland united. In a
speech in Torquay, 30 January 1921 he said:
"There is no one in the world who would be more pleased to see an absolute unity in Ireland than I would, and it could be purchased tomorrow, at what does not seem to me a very big price. If the South and West of Ireland came forward tomorrow to Ulster and said – “Look here, we have to run our old island, and we have to run her together, and we will give up all this everlasting teaching of hatred of England."
Conor Cruise O'Brien said in states of Ireland (page 79):
"Catholic ireland, up to 1912, was in general barely conscious of the exitence of an ulster problem at all... it was a problem which they had a very strong political interest in minimising... Silence and ignorance have their own dynamics. Most of the people of catholic Ireland, outside ulster itself, knew little or nothing about the real situation in ulster. Their political leaders, who did know, did not tell them... The longer the existence of the problem was suppressed, the harder it became to beak the news. The conviction of the catholic people, that there was no Ulster problem - or at most a spurious 'artificially created' problems - became part of the environment of evey nationalist politician. It has remained so, though in modified forms, into our own day."
He said on page 89:
"Our school histories do not seriously discuss te ideas and politics of the men of 1916 in relation to the Protestants of Ulster."
He said on page 99:
"The problem of 'what to do about Ulster' cannot have presented itself with any urgency to the men in the General Post Office in April 1916."
He said on page 140:
"[At school] we had one Ulster Protestant teacher, Dr. J. J. Auchmuty, and I learned from him, at the age of seventeen or so, the interesting fact that Northern Ireland had a Protestant majority. Most Irish Catholics are left to find this out for themselves: some, I believe, never do find it out."
Tom Hartley, Sinn Féin strategist, said:
"In a way we made them [Unionists] a non-people... We didn't even see them as part of the problem, never mind as being part of the solution."
John Hewitt is a Northern Irish and Irish poet who wrote from the planter tradition. He explained the multi-identities and loyalties of the northern Protestant and unionist. Tony Kennedy of the John Hewitt Society said:
"John Hewitt is known well in Northern Ireland. Less well known in the rest of the island and this is a source of some disappointment to us, because we see the work he does as fundamentally important… What the society would love to do is get across this idea, not just on a Northern Ireland or Irish level, but throughout Europe. Because these are constant issues still about what people’s identities are, and how we live together, of course we can live better together if we can honestly explore and discuss things."
And the unionist tradition is not a construct, it is not going anywhere. It is as strong as ever. As Henry McDonald said in 2011:
"The unionists remain unionists. Although some commentators have been excited over Presbyterian ministers addressing Sinn Féin conferences of late, the overwhelming majority of northern Protestants are still politically, culturally and socially attached to the union. If you doubt that, take note of one of two major centenaries taking place next year. Not the one about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 – on which Belfast is currently trying to capitalise in terms of tourism projects – but the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant that saw the Protestants of Ulster unite against Home Rule. Only a world war two years later prevented this crisis turning into a civil war in Ireland. This anniversary, rightly or wrongly, will see that section of this island’s population rededicate themselves to the union and the United Kingdom."
As Conor Cruise O'Brien said, protestantism is almost inextricably tied to unionism. It was even so in the south.
"Politically, Protestants, however liberal, were generally Unionist by tradition and symbolic habit."
Just as Garrett Fitzgerald said, you cannot bomb a million protestants into a united Ireland. You have to win them over. Sell unity to them. Sir Edward Carson said, February 13 1914:
"I don’t mean that ulster should be made a pawn in any political game. There are only 2 ways to deal with ulster. She cannot be bought, and she will not allow herself to be sold. You must force her or by showing that good Government under Home Rule is possible, try to win her over. [Then facing John Redmind] You will gain nothing by coercion. One false step in relation to Ulster will render a settlement impossible. I tell the government, and I tell nationalists, my fellow countrymen*, that they never tried to win over Ulster."
Most critically, Carson said to John Redmond, his fellow countryman*:
"They never tried to understand Ulster’s position. If you want Ulster go and take her; go and win her. But you don’t want her affections; you want her taxes. It will not be my fault it resistance is necessary, but on my conscience I shall no refuse to join it."
Even Eamon de Valera knew this. He said in March 1 1933:
"The only policy for abolishing partition that I can see it for us, in this part of Ireland to use such freedom as we can secure to get for the people in this part of Ireland such conditions as will make the people in the other part of Ireland wish to belong to this part."
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