Thursday 22 October 2009

Devolution is Home Rule

But Home Rule, our great-grandparents were told, meant Rome Rule. So why did unionists cause a generation of political strife a hundred years ago to block it, when they are now advocates of it?

In 1886 Gladstone tried to introduce the Irish Government Bill, 1886 (aka the First Home Rule Bill), but was defeated by a coalition of unionists and their supporters. This started a long and painful period of struggle, opposition, and disruption, during which the 'Irish Question' took up much time and energy in Westminster. As a result of the hardening of opinions on both sides, the informal Irish Unionist Party led to the Ulster Unionist Council in 1905, and moderate nationalist opinion, as expressed via the Home Rule League and Parnell's Irish Parliamentary Party, was overtaken by the more radical voice of Sinn Féin (also founded in 1905).

A Second Home Rule Bill was introduced in Westminster, where the unionist dominance of the House of Lords ensured that it was rejected. Tempers grew worse, and extremists on both sides grew stronger. Only in 1914 did a Third Home Rule Bill pass, thanks to the intervening neutering of the Lords – but the First World War blocked its entry into force. Then 1916, 1918, 1919, 1921 and 1922 happened, and the rest is, of course, history.

So unionists essentially provoked a hardening and an embittering of the 'Irish Question', rather than allow its resolution. And for what? The 1886 First Home Rule Bill envisaged a settlement where Ireland would have:
  • A unicameral assembly consisting of two 'Orders' which could meet either together or separately – the first Order was to consist of the 28 Irish representative peers plus 75 members elected through a highly restricted franchise. It could delay the passage of legislation for 3 years, and the second Order was to consist of either 204 or 206 members.
  • Executive Powers would be possessed by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whose executive would not be responsible to either 'Order'.
  • And the UK parliament would reserve the powers over a range of issues including peace, war, defence, treaties with foreign states, trade and coinage. Britain would retain control of the Royal Irish Constabulary until it deemed it safe for control to pass to Dublin. The Dublin Metropolitan Police would pass to Irish control.
Despite the passage of over 120 years, these arrangements look strikingly similar to the current arrangements in Stormont! Right down to the delayed transfer of policing powers.

And yet now we have the leader of the largest unionist party proudly stating: "Let me say from the outset that I am a full-blooded devolutionist", and the second party of unionism stating that: "Ulster Unionists believe that standing up for Northern Ireland means securing devolved government for this part of the United Kingdom".

What has changed since 1886, apart from the unionist position? Certainly not the content of the 'home rule' package – despite two world wars, the discovery of penicillin, the internet, and space travel, that little package has come though virtually unscathed.

The big thing that has changed, and the reason why unionists have done a 180° turn-around on home rule, is simply that home rule is only being proposed for a small part of Ireland in which they have a local majority.

Their opposition to home rule, it seems, was not based upon principle – because the package is the same, so their opposition should be the same. Their opposition was based purely upon prejudice – they did not want to share the administration of the home rule package with nationalists (or, to be more honest, with Catholics). Nothing about the packages on offer in 1886, 1893, or 1914 would have made them 'less British' than they are today. None of the previous packages included compulsory Irish or passport controls. In 1886 they would have remained in 'the Empire', kept their 'pound', their flag, their army and their Imperial Preference. The home rule government would have been a glorified County Council with almost no real powers. And yet unionists were prepared to unleash bloody war to avoid it.

Only to become avid supporters a few generations later!

If proof were ever needed that unionism is merely the politically-acceptable face of religious bigotry, the story of home rule and devolution provides it.

35 comments:

andrewg said...

You are assuming that Unionists of a hundred years ago and Unionists of today share the same motivations, despite circumstances being totally different. You are also disingenuous in omitting a hundred years (on and off) of political violence from your handy recap.

Horseman said...

andrewg,

On the 100 years of on-off political violence - yes of course I left it out. Otherwise the post would have been a mile long. The question, though, is whether it would have ever happened if unionists had accepted then what they support now.

If I saw any evidence that unionists of 1886 and 2009 had different motivations I'd certainly comment on it. But I don't. Then they were more blatant in their bigotry ('home rule is rome rule', etc), whereas now that is seen as a little crass. But the unionist antagonism to all and every expression of Irishness even within their 'safe' union tends to show that that leopard's spots are still the same.

hoboroad said...

Reading a book called Killer in Clowntown by Martin Dillion. And it says George Bush's son telephoned Joe Doherty in his prison cell, and publicly supported him. Joe Doherty was wanted by the British for shooting an SAS officer in Belfast. I wonder which son it was?

andrewg said...

whether it would have ever happened if unionists had accepted then what they support now

Well, that's all hypothetical - and there are hypotheticals in the opposite direction too. What might have been possible if republicans hadn't taken up the gun in 1969, for example. But history is what it is, and such discussions have been flogged to death.

To get back to the point, you have rightly mentioned that in the 19th century Unionism more readily used the religion issue. These days, it is cultural and identity issues that generate the most heat. These weren't controversial in the 19th C - Unionists still self-described as "Irish" until the retreat from Irish Unionism into Ulster Unionism and the subsequent abandonment of "Irish" identity.

New times, New approach said...

Horseman - You say that 'Nothing about the packages on offer in 1886, 1893, or 1914 would have made them 'less British' than they are today.'

That is true inasmuch as the initial terms of Home Rule kept Ireland well within the umbrella of the United Kingdom, but then so, to a large extent did the terms of the treaty which founded the Free State (Dominion status, Commonwealth membership, executive authority vested in British king through a Governor General etc.)
Collins nonetheless knew that the opportunity should be seized and put it well when he said that it was 'a stepping-stone, the freedom to achieve freedom'.
I am sure that the Unionists who fought against Home Rule (and then subsequently demanded partition) understood this too and had a lot in common with those of today.
The key difference is that devolution now does not present that first stepping stone towards a democratic government in Ireland.

As regards your point that 'If proof were ever needed that unionism is merely the politically-acceptable face of religious bigotry, the story of home rule and devolution provides it'
Yes base religious bigotry was and is still a driving force, but it is not the primary one. If all of the N. Irish Catholics were to be 'saved' overnight it wouldn't make a button of difference. They would still be culturally Irish and as such still very much beyond the pale for the paid up Unionist.

Horseman said...

New times, New approach,

I accept your point about HR being the first step on the slope to full independence (cf today's SNP). But that assumes that full independence was actually in people's minds then - and remember that even Sinn Féin's founder supported a 'joint-monarchy' solution. I suspect that the desire for full independence grew as unionism blocked HR. If unionism had gone along with HR, then maybe we would never have seen the gun in modern Irish politics, maybe there would have been no Sinn Féin, no DUP, TUV, etc.

Maybe modern Ireland would be very similar to Canada, New Zealand or Australia.

I think that the role of late 19th C unionists in the creation of all of our problems - still 120 years later! - is underrecognised these days. Yes, they were bad bigots, but their poison still affects us today, and unfortunately it is up to modern unionism to remove the poison. No-one else can do it for them. So far they've failed.

Malestripper said...

How would the poison be removed? Are you suggesting all Irish Nationalists should be expelled from The UK?

New times, New approach said...

Horseman - You are very probably right in saying 'I suspect that the desire for full independence grew as unionism blocked HR.'
This was reflected in the lines from probably our most famous poem, 'Was it needless death after all, for England may keep faith for all that is done and said. Enough to know that they dreamed and are dead'
There is a clear inference that 'England keeping faith' i.e. implementing Home Rule post WW1 would have rendered the rising and the subsequent kangaroo court trials and executions unnecessary. Consequently the firm objective of complete independence must only have grown over the following few years.

Anonymous said...

> removal of poison

Oh, I don't know. Perhaps the BNP can help. They're strongly in favour of the rights of indigenous peoples in the UK and of the repatriation of immigrants.

This must mean that should they come to power the immigrants in ulster, sorry the 6 counties, can expect to be sent back home, no?

Horseman it would be good to get your views on the implications of the Pope's latest plot.

bangordub said...

Andy always gives himself away,
LOL

Anonymous said...

I think it shows the power of symbolism. Home rule, however watered down, was a symbol of independence from Britain and they didn't want that. They didn't want to lose power. Subconsciously the Unionists are afraid. They are afriad all the bad things they have done to Catholics over 400 years will come back on them. They are what a pyschiatrist would call a projectionist.

MaleStripper said...

It's the Irish who need psychiatrists judging by this blog..

Anonymous said...

The Irish are not the beleaguered articifial and dwindling majority with a siege mentality and a neurosis about their identity.

Anonymous said...

Horseman,
I hear Mr Griffin, on TV last night, wanting the rights of the indigenous peoples (English, Irish, Scots and Welsh) of these islands to be recognized.

Have you any idea of the BNPs policy in the north with this in mind?

Will the planters have to go home and if so, where will you go yourself?-----When the BNP get their absolute majority in the BHOC.

:¬)

MPG .....

Horseman said...

MPG,

Yes, I watched that too, and cringed a bit when he said that. The fact that he seems to include Irish people under his 'British national' umbrella is a bit odd when you see the people who BNP associate with in NI - ie the loyalists. His thinking seems to be a bit confused - if the rights of the 'indigenous' are importrant tpo him, then you'd expect the BNP to support the Irish epublican tradition.

Anyway, it's pretty certain that if the BNP ever do get close to power, that will contribute to a rapid break-up of the UK. Even so-called unionists might find their union' a bit hard to stomach.

hoboroad said...

Jack Straw's father was in prison during World War 2 for not fighting Hitler. Maybe Ian Paisley and Brian Falkner should have joined him.

MaleStripper said...

You'd have preferred conscription in NI then homoroad?

hoboroad said...

How come no conscription in Northern Ireland? Of course if the Unionists were so British they should have all signed up the day war broke out. But who could blame them for not wanting to fight some of them no doubt were the children of World War One veterans.

Anonymous said...

True hoboroad.

Indeed more men from the neutral Free State joined the British army than people from Northern Ireland.

And they fought well, too: 4 Southern Irish got the Victoria Cross. Only One man from Northern Ireland received the VC, a Belfast Catholic called James Magennis.

Meanwhile, Mr Paisley sat out the war in the comfort of his living room.

hoboroad said...

Yes and Mr Magennis was ignored when he came home to Belfast. Ended up moving to England to try and find work all very sad. The guy was a real hero unlike Mr Paisley.

Anonymous said...

Is it fair to consider the unionists as "immigrants"? They have been there for 400 years. In any case Ireland is only about 12 miles from Scotland. Its not like crossing the Pacific.

Watcher said...

Anonymous said:

"Indeed more men from the neutral Free State joined the British army than people from Northern Ireland."

And how many of these 'free state' heros were Irish Republicans?

How many were Unionists or the sons of Unionists?

How many were Protestants?

Do you have those figures available?

Also, could you give me the proportion of 'Free Staters' who joined The British Army and fought for The British Empire and the corresponding figure for Northern Ireland?

"Meanwhile, Mr Paisley sat out the war in the comfort of his living room."

Well, at least that was an improvement on The IRA animals who actively conspired with The Nazis, or De Valera who mourned Hitler's death. Irish scum.

Paisley's brother fought in The RAF. I've already published a list of Unionist politicians who have actively fought for the crown.

Watcher said...

hoboroad said:

"Yes and Mr Magennis was ignored when he came home to Belfast. Ended up moving to England to try and find work all very sad. The guy was a real hero unlike Mr Paisley."

What was sad about this guy moving to England? Haven't thousands of 'proud' Irishmen done the same down the years? The Irish created such a cess pit, that even they couldn't live there, preferring to move to 'cruel' England! You really couldn't make the Irish up...

hoboroad said...

William Joyce was a Irish Unionist who supported Hitler. He is of course better known as Lord Haw Haw.

Anonymous said...

Watcher said...

"And how many of these 'free state' heros were Irish Republicans?"

Probably none! By the way, it's "heroes". This is one occasion where you DO put the "e" at the end. Not much fun being taught English by a "potatoe" muncher I'd expect.

"How many were Unionists or the sons of Unionists?

How many were Protestants?

Do you have those figures available? "

Probably quite a few. As an interesting aside, while we're on the subject, prior to the famine over 40% of the British Army was Irish- far more than their proportion of the popultion of the UK would warrant. In fact, there were more Irishmen in the British Army than Englishmen. The majority of these were Catholics. The Catholics in general filled the lower ranks, and did the fighting; Protestants were more likely to be Officers. Strange for a people you consider so cowardly, that at one point they outnumbered the English in the British Army!

"Also, could you give me the proportion of 'Free Staters' who joined The British Army and fought for The British Empire and the corresponding figure for Northern Ireland?"

I'm not sure what you're on about here. If you mean in WWII, 70000 joined from Southern Ireland, compared to 50000 from NI.

And your use of the term "British Empire" is also relevant here. In 1945, after the war was over and Britain was done fighting for democracy, the British Empire still had 700 million subjects, the vast majority of whom were being denied freedom & democracy by... the democracy loving British!

hoboroad said...

James Kerr a IRA man interned at the Curragh renounced the IRA to fight the Nazis. He joined the RAF as a rear gunner on a bomber. After the War he joined the IRA again taking part in the Border campaign. He later joined the INLA were he was a strong supporter of Seamus Costello. He was extradited from Switzerland to Ireland in November 1984 where he served a ten year sentence.

hoboroad said...

Sean Mac Stiofain conscripted into the RAF to do National Service in 1945 attaining the rank of Corporal. Later of course IRA Chief of Staff.

Watcher said...

Anonymous said:

"I'm not sure what you're on about here. If you mean in WWII, 70000 joined from Southern Ireland, compared to 50000 from NI."

Ye, that seems to hit the nail on the head. As a proportion of the general population, far more joined from Northern Ireland.

Watcher said...

hoboroad said:

"James Kerr a IRA man interned at the Curragh renounced the IRA to fight the Nazis. He joined the RAF as a rear gunner on a bomber. After the War he joined the IRA again taking part in the Border campaign. He later joined the INLA were he was a strong supporter of Seamus Costello. He was extradited from Switzerland to Ireland in November 1984 where he served a ten year sentence."

How did his IRA commanders feel about him joining The UK Armed Forces? Shouldn't he have been shot and dumped in an Armagh ditch?

hoboroad said...

INLA Deadly Divisions by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald page 236. Read it and weep Watcher.

deborah said...

Horseman it would be good to get your views on the implications of the Pope's latest plot.............................retard, what century are you living in lad

Anonymous said...

Is a BNP racist like Watcher not entitled to be banned? His racism against catholic Irish is pitiful in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

what about an all ireland home rule under the british crown say back to Gladstone's 1886 first home rule bill. problem solved take the wind out of sinn fein. its their worst nightmare.

Paddy Canuck said...

Watcher said...

"Well, at least that was an improvement on The IRA animals who actively conspired with The Nazis, or De Valera who mourned Hitler's death. Irish scum."

...and not to mention Carson and that cabal of Kaiser-kissing Lundys, the UVF. Irish scum.

dairishguy said...

ITS lovely to see how much unionist supported Carson himself from Dublin, and he didnt support the Split up of ireland when it came to the Final Act the man never sat in the Home Rule Parliament, the Split up of Ireland was Treason of the Highest Sort, people in the British Overseas Territories can be British Without even stepping foot in the United Kingdom, or even been ruled by the United Kingdom,
so why couldint Unionist?
they where to Bigited and Racist towards Catholics, and this Island is Still Suffering from the Treason of Protestants to Ireland.

Deport the Unionist if they want to be Part of the United Kingdom they can go to england and kiss there Queen Fanny and see if the English even want them.


UPDA REPUBLIC.

DOWN WITH VIOLENCE