What Cannot Be Forgiven 97


Thirty thousand orangemen marched in Belfast yesterday to the statue of Sir Edward Carson. He was the vicious lawyer who hounded and destroyed Oscar Wilde for his homosexuality, as well as a thug who openly promoted violence in politics.

The effects of history on today’s politics are fascinating, and dangerous when perceived historical injustice or heroism becomes an obsession, as with the Orangemen. I had not fully grasped the significance of the fact that the largely Scots Oramgemen called their pledge of 100 years ago a Covenant. Which reminds me of another anniversary, next month is 300 years since the birth of Montrose.

The Unionist campaign in the Independence referendum has seen a continuing wooing by New Labour of the Orange Order in Glasgow, which occasionally emerges into the mainstream media. BBC Scotland is completely New Labour controlled and a bastion of pro-Unionist propaganda. I found this tendentious report particularly amusing. Note how is skates round the fact that Matheson was at the Orange Order meeting, instead allowing him to spin on precisely what he had said about relaxing restrictions on Orange parades. Note the total lack of difficult questioning. New Labour even went on to give public money to Orange Order parties for the Jubilee – while peaceful young student protestors I know personally were violently arrested for holding anti-monarchist placards in a park.

New Labour in Scotland have not only reached out to the Orange Order, but decided to adopt neo-con policies and attack the SNP from the right. They are greatly approved by The Daily Telegraph and the Tory think-tank, Policy Exchange. The policy appears to be for New Labour to join the Tories and Lib Dems in blaming the SNP for the strain in public services caused by Tory cuts to the Scottish government’s services.

As a strategy to build a united Unionist coalition it make sense, except it is a coalition entirely of the right. I am not sure New Labour can any longer count on tribal loyalty in Scotland’s cities for their voters to follow this neo-con lurch. Of course, the Orange Order are big on tribal loyalty. Maybe that is why New Labour feel so comfortable with them at the moment.


97 thoughts on “What Cannot Be Forgiven

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  • Munsterman

    “It was certainly a tragedy of history that Ireland was divided, and as a result Eire missed out on the proper representation of other political and religious strands that might potentially have made it healthier, I agree.” – Craig

    You make the partition of Ireland sound like some unfortunate accident that happened while on the way to the shop.

    The British Conservative party had openly encouraged the unionists in Ireland to break UK law and “to use all means necessary” to oppose the implementation of Home Rule in Ireland under UK law.

    When finally, the people of Ireland were given a chance to vote their way out of the UK in 1918, they did so – overwhelmingly – by a stunning 75% majority.
    In spite of this, London forced the Partition of Ireland against the democratic will of the majority of people in Ireland in an effort to keep a part of Ireland for Britain’s own strategic interests. “A tragedy of history” as you put it. Indeed.

    “What a fool I was.
    I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party in to office “. – Edward Carson, 1921

    Carson – the fool he admits he was – himself had been duped.

    Incidentally, you use “Eire” incorrectly – this is same as using “Suomi” for Finland or “Sverige” for Sweden in English. If you wish to distinguish the Republic from the North when discussing Ireland, then please use the terms that we use here, namely the Republic and the North (yes, there are other names used too…but let’s keep those for another day :-)).

    There is no doubt that an independent Scotland would have implications for the unionists in the North of Ireland – and that point has not been lost on them. Incredibly, some Ulster unionists have even been demanding the right to vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

    No matter, Ireland will certainly be Re-United one day and then “the proper representation of other political and religious strands” will come into play.

  • Craig P

    Suhayl Saadi @ 30/9/12 4:18

    On a purely historical note, and not really relevant to today. But I am not sure that the original 17th c Orange Order could be described as progressive, any more than the owners of Virginia plantations could. Both groups were hot on their ‘laws and liberties’ but there were to be no ‘laws and liberties’ for anyone outside their own peer group.

  • thatcrab

    “London forced the Partition of Ireland against the democratic will of the majority of people in Ireland”

    If the British Isles – had a vote on ‘re-unification’ and the majority of people overall willed it so. Would Ireland have to accept that and rejoin?
    The same with Europe, if the majority of europe willed unification, would minority countries that objected have to accept the majority will of the larger block?

    I dont know how you justify such claims, except unjustly – by arbitrarily drawing borders around desired land.

    Ireland will be ‘re-united’ when a majority in the north wants to rejoin, or when it is strategically defeated and forced to.

  • Munsterman

    Thatcrab :

    “London forced the Partition of Ireland against the democratic will of the majority of people in Ireland”
    You can call white black – and black white – all you want. The facts remain.

    The country of Ireland was annexed by Britain in 1801 – not the West of Ireland, north-east of Ireland, the south-west of Ireland and the East of Ireland. Ireland voted itself out of the UK of Great Britain and Ireland in 1918 – the unionists lost. That’s called democracy. A workable compromise could have been worked out – but unionists reached for the gun and were supported by their buddies in London.

    Using your logic, if the unionists lose the Scottish independence vote, then unionists can simply stay in the UK by opting out of the new independent Scottish state in those regions of Scotland where they are in a regional majority. So, in other words, according to you there is no vote on Scottish independence – only a vote of which areas of Scotland can secede from the UK.

  • thatcrab

    ..That is a fair rebutal Munsterman. The border was not completely arbitrarily choosen/desired. Ill remember that. Was it certainly a coherent nation of Ireland which was annexed then? – To be treated as a block of national identity now and as it was then -was it something that by ALL rights should be returned to? Its not a completely arbitrary point and concept in history, but you cant ignore that it is now history.

    The workable comprise required today, tomorrow, is to work today and tomorrow, not 200 years ago. If major concentrations of population in scotland disagree enough with the majorities choice in a scottish referendum, well then borders can be and sometimes are redrawn to best fit present wishes of people in place.

  • thatcrab

    I expect so CD

    @Munsterman If Britain were to be annexed by Europe, and then 100 years later won a referendum leave again, but for example Wales wanted to stay in Europe. Would that be tough luck “Democracy”? Since the rest of the old unit won the referendum -its no fair reaching for arms if you dont agree with your new state. Then in the name of Democracy, the unwilling region is shot up and bombed for decades, for trying to resist…

  • pictishbeastie

    CD:

    “If Scotland votes for independence will the blue be removed from the Union Jack?”

    When we vote for independence I actually believe that the blue will remain in the Union Flag as Westminster will be in major denial about the fact that we’ve voted to free ourselves from their oppression. After all isn’t that horizontal red cross in the Union Flag the cross of St. Patrick? SAOR ALBA!

  • Nextus

    The Partition of Ireland was indeed a tragedy, not an accident. (Tragedies are the result of human failings, as Shakespeare’s canon will confirm – they’re not natural disasters.) But it may even have been the lesser of two evils.

    In the 1910s it was abundantly clear that including Ulster in the Free State would have resulted in civil war in Ireland. The UVF was well staffed and well armed. The Irish Volunteers prepared to take them on. It would have been a bloodbath. The British government faced a dilemma. King George V gave a famous speech in favour of Anglo-Irish reconciliation, but attitudes were too hardened by that stage.

    This is the context of the decision. Eamon de Valera delegated negotiation duties to Michael Collins, who was notoriously stubborn and committed. But Collins was aware that the IRA was only days from comprehensive defeat: there was no time left to bargain. He made what seemed to be an agreeable compromise. The script of the movie captured this well:

    I would plead with every person here—make me a scapegoat if you will, call me a traitor if you will but please, let’s save the country. The alternative to this Treaty is a war which nobody in this gathering can even contemplate. If the price of freedom, the price of peace, is the blackening of my name, I will gladly pay it. Thank you.

    Ulster was granted a temporary opt-out, initially for 6 years, but the Orange Order rallied popular resistance against the possibility of ‘Rome Rule’, and partition would remain the only viable political solution – for a while, at least. Collins paid the price of Partition with his life: he was assassinated by the Anti-Treaty IRA.

    Read the Wikipedia entry on the Government of Ireland Act 1914 for the historical background.

    The Ulster Covenant had a strong rationale 90 years ago, but the subsequent clampdown laid the foundation for the Troubles. But let’s not pretend that Irish Unity is the panacea for all political ills. It’s worth noting that a recent poll found that only 7% of NI Catholics were in favour of immediate unification (48% in total, including a 20 year delay). The debate is becoming more economic than sectarian. Polls in the Irish Republic (during the Euro boom) showed strong opposition to unification, even amongst the politicians: they were well aware they couldn’t afford the burden.

  • thatcrab

    Its well that someone knows what has gone on.
    Im such a loudmouthed airhead, yet i brandish my slivers of relevance!

  • Munsterman

    Thatcrab :
    You’re not a loudmouthed airhead – you have your views as we all have but the crux of the matter is that the North is 100% a Unionist construct and the Nationalist population were forced in 1920 into a state to which they never would show any allegiance, then or now. There is no way there is any kind of “Northern Irish nation” – how can there possibly be when almost 50% of the population have no allegiance to the entity but see themselves as part of the Irish nation.

    Peter Robinson has – bravely – recently tried to point out the writing on the wall, i.e., that Nationalists will decide the destiny of the North. By 2030 (perhaps even earlier) the Nationalists will be in a majority. This will not mean automatically a Re-United Ireland – but it will signal a fundamental shift in dynamic and I suspect the North-South mechanisms in place under the GFA will proceed at a much faster pace. Incidentally, just out of curiousity, let us suppose we are in 2030 for a moment – could you give us your “shopping-list” to keep unionists (Ulster Prod / British Irish / British Ulster Irish /British Northern Irish) on board in the event of
    talks on possible unity starting up.

    Nextus :

    You conveniently ignore the crucial role played by the British Conservative Party and the British Army in aiding and abetting the Unionists to arm themselves and threaten civil war.
    “Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right” – Randolph Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Bonar Law strongly supported the unionist cause to thwart Irish independence “by all means necessary” – including subverting the British Crown.
    Would the same have been allowed to happpen in Britain ?
    I very much doubt it. It was basically open treason against the British Crown – but because it was over in Ireland (a colony)and they were “our terrorists” they thought nobody would notice and they could get away with it.

    De Valera knew well (in correspondence with Lloyd George long before the Anglo-Irish Treaty was finally signed) that a 32-county Republic was not possible – THAT is why he sent Collins. Dev did not want to be the messenger bringing home the bad news (a Partitioned semi-autonomous Ireland rather than a 32-county Republic) so he sent Collins.
    Collins well realised that the Treaty fell short of full Irish Nationalist aspirations but gave Ireland “the freedom to achieve full freedom”. He knew that he was singing his own death warrant in signing the Treaty – but as a pragmatic military man he also knew that a 32-County Republic was just not possible at that stage. He also knew that a civil war was a very strong possibility on account of the terms of the Treaty -however, the British were not much bothered about that.

    The Parition of Ireland was a disaster for all parties involved and unnecessarily poisoned Anglo-Irish relations for the best part of a century.
    It is a pre-requisite for democratic politicians to negotiate settlements – and as Master Sun advises us very wisely, war is to be only used absolutely as a last resort. Unionists – aided and abetted by their Empire supporters in Britain – pulled the gun as a first resort in 1912-13. One should bear in mins that the only discussions on the table at that time were for Home Rule – a glorified county council – for Ireland WITHIN the UK. The supreme irony – lost on most Orangemen – is that Unionists – by pulling the gun as a first resort in 1912-13 – radicalized Irish Nationalism – and the Rising in 1916 was a direct result – and subsequently the overwhelming vote to leave the UK in 1918 followed. Ultimately, in a desperate attempt to undermine Ireland’s efforts to gain even a modest form of self-rule,(compare Finland’s status of autonomy in the 19th Century as part of the Russian Empire) the unionists lost Ireland for Britain.

    “Polls in the Irish Republic (during the Euro boom) showed strong opposition to unification,even amongst the politicians”

    ==> can you provide a link to these particular polls in the Republic including the names of the political parties and politicians who are opposed to Irish unity, as you claim, please ?

    I am not aware of any political party in the Republic opposed to Re-Unification nor am I aware of any political leader in the Republic who is opposed to Re-Unification.

  • JimmyGiro

    “I asked how a choice would be made and was told that the first thing was to look at the names of schools attended – any with the words Saint/St. would be binned!!!! Shocking, but true. In the 20th Century?.”

    Yeah, in these civilised times, they bin any application that contains the title ‘Mr.’.

  • JimmyGiro

    “I think that the Catholic Church has had particular problems with sexually predatory priests targeting children is well documented, though of course there is no monopoly on such behaviour. You are probably right in saying that it (the Catholic Church’s particular problem) is linked to the strange notion of celibacy. But why do you say all this as if it were not something we already know?”

    You may ‘know’ it, but is it legal to understand it?

    Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone points out that there was a high proportion of homosexuals involved in the scandals. It would follow that a culture of celibacy would attract lesbians and gays to the Catholic church as Nuns and Priests respectively.

    Although by secondary association, the Catholic church is seen as causal to ‘paedophilia’, the truth is closer to understanding the primary cause which is homosexual pederasty, especially when viewed in proportion to numbers of Catholics that also abuse children, compared to numbers of homosexuals that also abuse children.

    But as I mentioned, it is illegal to make the statistical association, as it would be ‘homophobic’ to make the initial suggestion to test.

  • Nextus

    @Munsterman:
    Bernadette C. Hayes and Ian McAllister (1996) ‘British and Irish Public Opinion Towards the Northern Ireland Problem’, Irish Political Studies, vol. 11, 61-82. Abstract

    In a 1996 Irish Times survey only 30% of respondents in the Republic wanted Northern Ireland to become part of a united; 29% wanted Northern Ireland to be linked to both the United Kingdom and Ireland; and 22% wanted Northern Ireland to become in independent.

    T

  • Nextus

    There is a significant difference between the romantic aspiration for Irish unity, and actually deciding to go ahead with it. It’s easy to state allegiance to an aspiration when there’s no possibility of it happening, as De Valera himself did, but when the actual prospect looms, the material consequences become more significant and the decision has to be made pragmatically – Dev delegated that part to Collins, as you say.

    Fionnuala O’Connor interviewed a number of Irish Politicians for her book “In Search of a State” (1994), and found a reluctance to absorb the political problems of the North and the harsh economic realities that unification would entail. Moreover many Irish citizens expressed a lack of shared identity with Northern Catholics.

  • thatcrab

    Thanks Munsterman for taking me well. And ive to thank Nextus once again for challenging me very interestingly on these things..

    Munsterman wrote, “just out of curiousity, let us suppose we are in 2030 for a moment – could you give us your “shopping-list” to keep unionists (Ulster Prod / British Irish / British Ulster Irish /British Northern Irish) on board in the event of talks on possible unity starting up.”

    Well, I can hardly start to imagine what such treaties look like, what can be done, having never read any; and I have sympathies for Unionists but Im not one and don’t know their business very well.

    Ireland has always been alluring to me and refreshingly different from americana and londinium. I listen to crackly RTE radio and Irish Today FM here in belfast instead of BBC and UTV.

    But, I dont think the core or wider unionist community will accept reattachment to Ireland until the memory and threat of past destruction and militarisation and paramilitarism has securely passed, even if they loose a clear local majority.

  • Nextus

    Overheard in a Belfast bar:

    “I’m all in favour of a United Ireland – provided we invade from the North.”

    I struggle to find an appropriate term for someone from that region. I think the term “Northern Irish” is a rather ungainly conjunction – a bit like saying “Northern Korean”. Conversely, the demonymic “Ulsterman” has partisan overtones. The term “Ulster-Scots” seems to be increasingly popular amongst organisations in the North East; I suppose it’s historically accurate, but also backward-looking.

  • thatcrab

    … we could flesh out our association with Israel and start with a few settlements.

    Call it ‘Nionism’ 😐

  • Munsterman

    Thatcrab :
    Enjoy chatting with you too.

    …”But, I dont think the core or wider unionist community will accept reattachment to Ireland until the memory and threat of past destruction and militarisation and paramilitarism has securely passed.”
    There’s a lot in that – on both sides, mind you. Nonetheless, huge progress has been made in 20 years and this look set to continue as the hard feelings and memories gently fade away. People will look back in 20,30,50 ( a very, very short time in the life of a Nation) and wonder what all the fuss was about.

    Look at the US experience – the Civil War is only a memory now. Finnish history too has many parallels with Ireland, including a very bitter Civil War just after independence –

    Getting back to the thread and Scotland/Britain – Scotland will be independent at some point and people will look at this as the most natural thing in the world – and perhaps only wonder why it took so long to come to fruition……

    Nextus :

    “I struggle to find an appropriate term for someone from that region. I think the term “Northern Irish” is a rather ungainly conjunction – a bit like saying “Northern Korean”. Conversely, the demonymic “Ulsterman” has partisan overtones. The term “Ulster-Scots” seems to be increasingly popular amongst organisations in the North East; I suppose it’s historically accurate, but also backward-looking.”

    Could not agree more.
    In the 19th Century Ulster Prods had no problem identifying themselves as Irish (and British) – witness all the Irish national representative teams in all the mainstream sports which were founded in the 19th Century. Even the Bangor, Co. Down (110% Ulster Prod town) coat of arms is in Irish Gaelic with a shamrock and red hands and the whole shebang.

    Overheard in a Belfast bar:

    “I’m all in favour of a United Ireland – provided we invade from the North.”
    HeHe. A 32 county Ulster ? Hmmmmm….certainly would shake up the comfort zone that the southern politicians operate within.

    There are no votes to be garnered in opposing Irish Unity in the Republic – quite the opposite, if any Irish politician went for election on a ticket opposing Irish Unity, they would lose their deposit.
    Both De Valera and Collins put their OWN lives on the line for a 32 County independent Ireland – that is the highest possible price that anyone could pay.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Scottish Labour have committed electoral suicide by allying with the Conservatives to oppose universal benefits and bus passes for pensioners – and purely due to their blind and irrational hatred of the SNP, which leads them to oppose any policy the SNP has, even if it was a Labour policy too. I’d hoped Johann Lamont would be a better leader of the Scottish party than Ian Gray was, because Labour has influence and could use it for everyone’s benefit if it was willing to , but she’s just a female version of Gray. Total numptie. And it turns out Milliband has slapped down a UK party front bencher for suggesting Labour might scrap universal benefits, which puts Lamont in an even worse position.

  • thatcrab

    “Both De Valera and Collins put their OWN lives on the line for a 32 County ”
    From what I understand from your and Nextus explaination, they put their lives on the line for peace, and were murdered not by the guns which the unionists had ‘reached for’ but by republican hard liners.

    “There are no votes to be garnered in opposing Irish Unity in the Republic”
    That was a very vague response to the percentages which Nextus supplied.

    “we invade from the North.”
    The idea of the North invading the South seems little more than a joke to me, the opposite has actually occured to some degree and had Ireland been equipped for an all out invasion of liberation or whatever, it sounds like it might have done – from how you describe times, Munsterman.

  • Nextus

    For more details on that survey (and loads of others), see:

    Thomas C. Davis, (2003). The Irish and Their Nation. Global Review of Ethnopolitics, 2(2): 17-36. Available as pdf.

    It’s a long article, mind you.

    @Thatcrab: You’re quite right: contrary to that facetious quip above, I’ve never heard any desire from Northern Protestants to take control of any Irish county (even the ones with close ties like Monaghan or Donegal). That’s hardly surprising in view of the history. The Protestant residents of Ulster have no ancestral ties to the South. They came from Scotland, invading the Northern counties in the 17th century when they were a relatively barren and uncivilised wilderness. These Presbyterians settlers resented the Catholic hierarchy imposed by the convert James II, and supported the invasion of William of Orange. When William acceded (as William III) the Protestants achieved a famous military victory against the Irish Catholics, and were granted a degree of autonomy. Since then, their defining objective has been to protect what they won, not to make further gains. They allied themselves to the English crown because they needed the backup against the local Irish militias, and the English Parliament regarded Belfast as a reliable HQ in Ireland (it was the bigger than Dublin at the time). It’s easy to fill in the blanks from there on…

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  • thatcrab

    “The Protestant residents of Ulster have no ancestral ties to the South. They came from Scotland, invading the Northern counties in the 17th century when they were a relatively barren and uncivilised wilderness.”

    I still think this is likely to be a misleading overstatement of historical account. Because Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland are not very different looking, besides some distinctive families – that is a bout familiarty not nationality. I would believe in the non-nativeness of this group to a small region of britain – if i could see it – in peoples faces, or on a genetic map. But i cant find even a genetic study which shows it, and a few statements to the contrary:
    Dr. Oppenheimer said genes “have no bearing on cultural history.” There is no significant genetic difference between the people of Northern Ireland, yet they have been fighting with each other for 400 years, he said.

    To call a group non-nat_ive is an implicit attack on their rights of nat_ionality. I would say those who arrived in 17th century ulster, were very close neighbours only carrying a newish and different religion and politic – perhaps a more local one than what differentiated them.

  • thatcrab

    “To call a group non-nat_ive” Sorry you didn’t Nextus. But ‘no ancestral ties’ would be an unusual separation and rather beg the expression, and others such as non-indigenous and alien, etc.

  • Nextus

    I was referring to ancestral history – i.e. genealogy (family trees), not genetics. The timespan is much more recent. (For sure, we’re all to some extent a mixture of Viking, Saxon, etc. – so what? People from opposite ends of the country may well have a common ancestor back in the mists of time: all you can deduce from that is that a genetic line diverged at some point. It doesn’t mean the communities intermarried.)

    Here’s a more relevant quote (from Wikipedia):- Segregation_in_Northern_Ireland#Inter-marriage:

    In contrast with both the Republic of Ireland and most parts of Great Britain, where intermarriage between Protestants and Catholics is not unusual, in Northern Ireland it has been uncommon: from 1970 through to the 1990s, only 5 per cent of marriages were recorded as crossing community divides.[15] This figure remained largely constant throughout the Troubles, though it has risen to between 8 and 12 per cent according to the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey in 2003, 2004 and 2005.[16][17][18] Younger people are also more likely to be married to someone of a different religion to themselves than older people. However, the data hides considerable regional variation across Northern Ireland.

  • Katz

    Many Irish Protestants are offspring of Irish Catholics who apostatised in order to hang on to their property and their livelihoods.

    A genetic explanation of the Troubles is less than persuasive.

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