Hardline Irish-America often declaims, 'England out of Ireland!' There is huge irony in this.
Scott MacMillan, in Slate Magazine, wrote:
"It is a telling irony: Working-class loyalists directed their rage not against their traditional enemies, Catholics who favor unification with the Republic of Ireland, but against the symbols of the United Kingdom to which they are supposedly loyal."
Ulster unionists are famed for their antipathy towards the English and English ministers, bordering on an anglophobia. Think of the unionist response to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. But it's more subtle and enduring than just this spontaneous outpouring of fury.
A.T.Q. Stewart wrote in ‘The Narrow Ground - Aspects of Ulster, 1609-1969’ (1977):
"Whereas the English believe that compromise is the answer to all disputes, Ulstermen believe the opposite. The resulting mesentente leads Ulstermen and Englishmen to despair of one another."David McWilliams wrote:
"Northern Ireland… its fraternal brothers, the Scots, in a union with the ambivalent English. There has never been the same cultural affinity between the English and the Northern unionists."Christopher Hitchens wrote:
"When I first visited Belfast as an Englishman… I was struck not so much by the fact that I seemed to be in a foreign country (the past, as we know, has always been another country) as by how multiply foreign it was. In the nationalist areas, the telephone boxes could be as red as you liked but one was, inescapably, in Ireland. In the Brown Bear on Shankill Road, where I came the closest I have ever come to being roughed up on account of my accent alone, Englishness was at something of a discount. Certainly, any Englishman who had been brought up to think that the saving flavour of irony had something English about it would have been in a similar quandary. (Was it `Go back to Britain’ or `Go back to England’ that certain loyalist banshees yelled at Prime Minister Blair on his last visit?) One seemed to have wandered into an irony-free zone where, in a way that might have been reassuring but was somehow not, everyone honestly meant exactly what they said."
George Bernard Shaw wrote at the East Belfast playwright St John Ervine:
"Mr St John Ervine’s Fabian political apprenticeship in London could not wash out of him the Orange dye of his native Belfast… But call Mr Ervine an Englishman and he will knock you down."In 'Sir Edward Carson and the Ulster Movement', St. John G. Ervine wrote in 1915 of Edward Carson, who he called the "Dublin playboy":
"Were it not for the question of Home Rule, many, the majority, of the Nationalists would proclaim themselves to be Tories, and many, the majority, of the Unionists would proclaim themselves to be Radicals. I shall make a more elaborate reference to this probability later in this book. My purpose now is to insist that in the end of all Ireland contains only Irishmen, that the Ulsterman is as fiercely in love with his mother Ireland as any man in Connacht or Leinster or Munster."John G. Ervine made a response of sorts to 1916 in his 1917 novel, 'Changing Winds', in full here. He wrote about an Irish unionist, Mr. Quinn:
"Mr. Quinn, the younger son of a poor landowner in the north of Ireland, had practised at the Bar without success. His failure to maintain himself at the law was not due to ignorance of the statutes of the land or to any inability on his part to distort their meaning: it was due solely to the fact that he was a Unionist and a gentleman.
His Unionism, in a land where politics take the place of religion, prevented him from receiving briefs from Nationalists, and his gentlemanliness made it impossible for him to accept briefs from the Unionists; for if an Irish lawyer be a Unionist, he must play the lickspittle and tomtoady to the lords and ladies of the Ascendency and be ready at all times and on all occasions to deride Ireland and befoul his countrymen in the presence of the English people. “I’d rather eat dirt,” Mr. Quinn used to say, “than earn my livin’ that way!” He contrived, however, to win prosperity by his marriage to Miss Catherine Clotworthy, the only daughter of a Belfast mill-owner: a lady of watery spirit who irked her husband terribly because she affected an English manner and an English accent.
He was very proud of his Irish blood and he took great pride in using Ulster turns of speech. Mrs. Quinn, whose education had been “finished” at Brighton, frequently urged him to abandon his “broad” way of talking, but the principal effect she had on him was to intensify the broadness of his accent. “I do wish you wouldn’t say Aye,” she would plead, “when you mean Yes!” And then he would roar at her. “What! Bleat like a damned Englishman! Where’s your wit, woman?” Soon after the birth of her son, she died, and her concern, therefore, with this story is slight. It is sufficient to say of her that she inherited a substantial fortune from her father and that she passed it on, almost unimpaired, to her husband, thus enabling him to live in comfortable disregard of the law as a means of livelihood. He had a small estate in County Antrim, which included part of the village of Ballymartin, and there he passed his days in agricultural pursuits."Ian Paisley said in 1974 during the Ulster Workers Strike:
"Mr Merlyn Rees is a Welsh-English politician. He does not understand the Northern Ireland situation at all and he is very foolish to make pronouncements."Ian Paisley said:
"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."He also said:
"I say from this platform, that Mr. [Harold] Wilson is the best support the IRA could have!"He said (24m) on another occasion:
"If the British security forces are going to join up with the IRA to kill protestants, then we will be in conflict with them."
Ian Paisley, then Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said in his speech to the DUP’s Annual Conference in 1993:
"I must tell John Major and Patrick Mayhew and the British Government that Ulster men and women will never surrender to the IRA the murderers of their kith and kin.
For your dirty deals behind our backs. Enter into cahoots with Taoiseach, Tanaiste, Cardinal and every other offspring of the IRA Republican beast.
Sell out loyal Ulster to those who have already committed genocide amongst us. Destroy our democracy. Dislodge the Union. Forswear your Privy Councillors oaths. Turn your back on your friends. Embrace our enemies. Enter into the assembly of the wicked. Stain your hands in the congregation of the murders..."
He also said, "Winston Churchill, the British Bull Dog and at one time no friend of Ulster." Ian Paisley said when he first sat down with Martin McGuinness:
"We don’t need Englishmen to rule us. We can do that ourselves."
Ian Paisley wrote in the News Letter, September 28 2012:
“In total 471,414 people signed Ulster’s Solemn League and Covenant. It was a confident and determined man in the person of Sir Edward Carson who put pen to paper first. The Covenant does not make for easy reading, and its pledge did not leave room for light-heartedness. The business of maintaining the Union without the partition of Ireland, had caused Sir Edward Carson to state in 1907:
“If you (the British Government) are not prepared to govern Ireland according to the ordinary elemental conditions of civilisation that prevail in every country, then go out of Ireland and leave us to govern ourselves.”
Indeed, the long succession of Secretaries of State we lived through during Direct Rule gives us a deep understanding of that sentiment! Even yet, Ulster is nothing more than a rung on the ladder for English politicians whose heart knowledge of this Province is a void, and their head knowledge of what makes us tick a mere thimble’s worth.
Happy will be the day when Secretaries of State are surplus to requirement.
Edward Carson was a life-long Irishman, as well as being a life-long unionist, and that made all the difference.
He was in politics because of Ireland. He cared about the welfare of all classes and creeds, and believed that Ireland was at its best as one unit within the United Kingdom. That prize would not be his and as we know, partition became the reality."
His wife Eileen said:
"Typical English, you just don't understand Northern Ireland."
Theresa Villiers said in her Speech to the British-Irish Association conference, September 5 2014:
"We have no power to force the unionists back to the table. Anyone who thinks that Ulster men and women meekly do the bidding of London knows very little about the last hundred years or so of our history, and not a great deal about being Northern Ireland Secretary either!"Terence O'Neill said in the House of Lords in 1974:
"One of the extraordinary facts, my Lords, is that in the old days so many Protestants said to me, "Of one thing we can be sure. We don't trust the English hut, by God, we can depend on the Scotch!"
He also said:
"I fear that what the month of May has shown is that any proposal made by anybody in London is subject to a Protestant veto and that is something which we cannot ignore in the future. They are prepared to exercise this veto even to the extent of wrecking their own economy."
"If you (the British Government) are not prepared to govern Ireland according to the ordinary elemental conditions of civilisation that prevail in every country, then go out of Ireland and leave us to govern ourselves."He also said:
"Government either by the Imperial Parliament, or by ourselves [Government in Ulster]."V.S. Pritchett wrote a review of ‘The Life and Writings of Forrest Reid’ (1875-1947), published February 1981. He described his encounters with the most resolute of unionists, the orangemen:
"Early in 1923, when I was a very naive and untrained newspaper correspondent in Dublin, it was my duty to take a regular trip to Belfast and to find out what was going on politically in that depressing and bigoted city of linen mills and shipyards. The Orangemen were contemptuous of the Southern Irish and had a blustering condescension to Englishmen like myself."Michael Collins understood the unique nature of the North, it wasn't English, but nor was it Irish. It was something altogether difference from the South and East. He said:
"Who would visit Belfast or Lisburn or Lurgan to see the Irish people at home? That is the the unhappy fate of the north east [of Ireland]. It is neither Irish nor English."
James Winder Good wrote in ‘Partition in Practice’ (1922):
"The signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December, 1921, confounded English Die-hards and Northern extremists alike. All their schemes appeared to have been brought to naught, and for the first time those elements in the Six Counties whose interests demanded a cessation of the insensate strife were able to exercise pressure upon their leaders. The heads of the commercial community had tolerated, and indeed encouraged, the confusion so long as there seemed a chance of making political profit out of it; but they were shrewd enough to see that it could not continue interminably without fatal results to themselves. Made painfully aware by experience that while the Act of 1920 established Partition in theory, in practice it could be enforced only at a ruinous cost to the Six Counties, they decided, not without reluctance and many misgivings, to take the first step towards a peaceful settlement of the issues in dispute with their fellow-countrymen. The Craig-Collins pact of January last was never given a fair trial. Though the Belfast boycott was promptly withdrawn by Dail Eireann, Sir James Craig failed to fulfil his obligations. I do not believe that this was due to conscious bad faith on the part of the Northern Prime Minister. There is little doubt that he was genuinely anxious to settle, but he had placed himself at the mercy of forces which declined to listen to reason; and as bad luck would have it, events in the South gave these forces a great accession of strength at a critical juncture.
Mr. de Valera’s campaign against the Treaty was hailed by the Orange extremists as a proof that the Provisional Government was beaten before the fight began and that the Free State would never be permitted to function. Armed with this argument, they assailed the Pact all along the line, and unfortunately developments in the rest of Ireland appeared to play directly into their hands. I know it is held in some quarters that the Pact was a device engineered by England to secure recognition of Partition by the South, while at the same time freeing Sir James Craig from any responsibility for delivering the goods. It is impossible to square this explanation with the fact that the Six Counties were seething with the fiercest resentment against Great Britain for her betrayal of the Orange cause. The British National Anthem was barred; the toast of the King was ostentatiously omitted at public dinners attended by members of the Northern Government; England and all things English were damned with a heartiness that few uncompromising Republicans could equal. Had it been possible for the rest of Ireland to take advantage of this mood, not only could differences with the Six Counties have been amicably adjusted, but the worst of the stumbling-blocks that bar the path towards Irish unity might have been rolled away."
Animosity for England from Northern Ireland is also expressed on the sporting field, particularly rugby. The Economist magazine wrote:
"The Irish rugby team... has always represented the whole of Ireland, in defiance of the sometimes bloody political history between them. Proud Ulstermen, loyal to the British crown, have for decades been happy to pull on the green jersey of Ireland and shed sweat, and sometimes blood, for the Irish (sporting) cause.
No one seems quite able to explain why. Some say it is a question of social class, that the “Troubles”, as the sectarian fighting of the late 20th century was euphemistically known, were always more of a working-class concern. Rugby, with its middle-class roots, rose above it."Ken Maginnis, or Baron of Drumglass as he is known by his peerage title, was a rugby player in his youth and a committed fan his whole life. He was schooled in Dungannon Royal and played for the first XV. After school he was in the front row at Stranmillis College. He finished his amateur rugby career by captaining Dungannon Fourths at the age of 28. He spoke with Keith Duggan of the Irish Times at the Ulster Unionist Party headquarters, with their interview published February 10 2007. He said:
"Because I grew up within a rugby ethos that predated the Troubles, I never felt disloyal to Northern Ireland to go down and stand in Lansdowne Road when they were playing The Soldier’s Song.
I never felt it was disloyal to talk to Charlie Haughey, or whoever the Taoiseach might be. I saw those weekends in Dublin as a sort of an escape. And it meant that you talked with people - the Garda, politicians and business people and you got a sense of what they were. That sort of contact was great when you were surviving in a very difficult political world. Rugby provided that…
Oh Lord, aye. I don’t think that is a North-South thing [Ireland playing England in rugby]. Anyone who is Irish wants to beat England. There is not much pleasure in it now because everyone does it. See, the pleasure is in beating them when they expect to win. Aye, it’s not as much fun now that we always expect Ireland to win.”Terence O'Neill said the same thing in 1965. Asked in an interview in 1965 with Telefís Éireann:
"Prime. Minister, when Ireland is playing England, in a Rugby International for instance, what do you feel, as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, as somebody from Northern Ireland?"Terence O’Neill responded:
"I think we all feel the same and we all cheer for Ireland and we always have done."The interviewer John O’Donohue continued:
"You don’t find any awkwardness in questions of allegiances when Rugby is being played?'"Terence O’Neill returned:
"No, certainly not."Ed Moloney wrote:
"But loyalty is a tricky word to use when discussing the world of Loyalism and it is really impossible to understand Loyalism without also grasping the simple reality that Northern Protestant loyalty to Britain is far from being unconditional. In fact it is entirely conditional on Britain being loyal to Protestants.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that deep inside the breast of every Orangeman beats the heart of a nascent Irish republican. It just means Loyalism is a complex phenomenon.
I came across a compelling, and to me entirely novel example of this conditional loyalty while reading a preview of Gareth Mulvenna’s fascinating exploration of early 1970’s Loyalism, ‘Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries: The Loyalist Backlash’, which will be published this September.
Mulvenna refers to the sense of betrayal at the hands of the British felt by returning UVF soldiers in 1919 and 1920 when they discovered that as a consequence of the political deals done with their leaders by Lloyd George, three counties of the historic province of Ulster – Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal – were to be ceded to the new, ‘independent’ Irish state.
An angry song was written about all this and I was able to find it on YouTube (below). Listen carefully, dear reader, to the words. Especially the last verse. Enjoy:
So, come gather round my comrades all, this First of July morn,
When Ulstermen are proud and glad of the land where they were born,
And we’ll never more be led away for to fight in a foreign land,
Or to die for someone else’s cause, at an Englishman’s command.
Or to die for someone else’s cause, at an Englishman’s command."