Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Physical force Unionism

I found these comments interesting from Joseph Lee, Professor of Modern History at University College Cork, in his book The Modernisation of Irish Society, 1848-1918. It's taken from the chapter on 'Physical force unionism':

"It is true that (John) Redmond was prepared to make what he considered generous concessions towards Scotch-Irish susceptibilities, virtually amounting to 'home rule within home rule', as long as the Ulster unionists acknowledged ultimate allegiance to the sovereignty of a Dublin parliament. But Redmond forgot that it was not equality, but superiority, the orangeman claimed as his birthright. And home rule, however generous the 'special considerations' for unionists, certainly threatened a fatal blow at the master-race syndrome. This was the essence of the Ulster question, and as long as the Scotch-Irish were prepared to fight in defence of their ascendancy no peaceful solution was possible. Occasional deviations from the straight and narrow of unionist orthodoxy - like T. H. Sloan's Independent Orange movement - on which nationalists and socialsits seized with pathetic determination to rescue unionists from their deluded selves, were more likely to represent reactions against official unionist 'softness' on Catholics than the reverse. (p. 134)

"On 28 September 1912 nearly a quarter of a million Protestant men pledged in the Solemn League and Covenant to resist home rule by any means. The Scotch-Irish yielded nothing to nationalists in the tenancity of their historical memories. The document was modelled on a sixteenth century covenant, the traditional Presbyterian technique of reminding God whose side he was on. Clergymen of all Protestant persuasions played prominent roles in organising the covenant, for however much ministers might appear to dominate their congregations they, like their Catholic counterparts, had to follow their flocks or be left stranded.

"The fundamnetal unionist objective was to preserve not only Ulser, but Ireland, from home rule. Compelled to abandon this objective, they next demanded the exclusion of the nine counties of Ulster from the bill. Reminded that Nationalists had a majority in five of the nine counties, they then decided to claim as much of Ulster as they could be sure of holding, reassured by the silly but widespread belief that Southern Ireland could not survive economically without the north-eastern counties. Partition schemes were tossed about, mainly by English liberals struggling to escape from the dilemma...The nationalists, refusing to contemplate partition at all, had no contingency plans, and ignored the opportunity for effective manoeuvre on the precise location of the border in their refusal to concede the principle. They thus squandered the possibility of a four-county border, as proposed by the Liberal Agar-Robartes in June 1912, which Carson, if only for tactical reasons, accepted. (p. 135/136)

Your thoughts?


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