Easter Rising Made Partition More Likely And Stronger

Brian John Spencer with a letter he sent to the Irish Times. Brian John Spencer is a cartoonist and writer.

  • I penned a quick letter this morning. The subject is something that has been swirling round my head for some time now. It's on Ronan Fanning, and his recent publication, Fatal Path'. The book has been repeatedly cited to show that since London would never hold faith to parliamentary means, violence was necessary. But, the book also said that partition was inevitable from 1912, the nature of which was an open question until the period of the war of independence. I can only draw the conclusion that the Easter Rising made the nature of partition stronger and more permanent.


It is repeatedly said that the historian Ronan fanning, in his work The Fatal Path has settled the question of Irish independence: London would never hold faith under constitutional means, therefore violence was necessary.

However, what is never said is what Ronan Fanning also wrote about partition. He wrote, "partition was inevitable, perhaps in 1912, certainly by 1914, but the shape of the partitionist settlement remained an open question until 1920."

The Easter Rising made the shape of partition firmer and more absolute. If the Ulstermen feared a Home Rule parliament subordinate to the supremacy of Westminster, how could they be reconciled to a fully independent sovereign Republic? The northern historian Eamon Phoenix said to Michael Portillo on 'Enemy Files' on RTE, "historians would now agree that the Easter Rising really made partition more likely."

John Redmond is still casually deprecated today, and over the Easter Weekend a large poster of him was defaced at the GPO. 

With history now written, two things are necessary. 

We need to acknowledge that, as Provisional IRA violence strengthened partition in the north, so the Easter Rising made partition more likely and made it stronger. 

We need to acknowledge that James Connolly, Pearse and every single Irish republican politician since that era has done no better a job at untying the Gordian knot of implacable Ulster resistance than John Redmond did, and if anything they have helped to tie it tighter.


  1. How do we know there wouldn't have been a shift to an even stronger feeling of Britishness in an Ireland without Republicanism?

    Even with an unaccountable, unrepresentative British government ruling Ireland there was a strong feeling of Britishness. It was the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland and many Irish unfortunates were dying in the British Army. After the First World War there could have been a shift towards this stronger feeling of Britishness. The same spirit that led many to spit on the Rebel prisoners could have taken off big time. If, that is, there was no Republicanism.

    If Republicanism did make Partition stronger the absence of Republicanism could have led to something worse. In my mind it is Unionism that made partition strong.

  2. The partitioning of Ireland had already been decided long before the Rising. The actual Rising itself only gave the British the right to be more vindictive into their policies towards Ireland. They were smarting at the Rebels audacity in threatening the empire and so close to home. The potential repercussions in other colonies could have been catastrophic for them while fighting in Flanders.
    If Collins had called their bluff when they threatened a more brutal reprisal if he didn't accept their partitioning solution what would they have done....partition Ireland!!

  3. The proclaimed All-Ireland Republic was unrealistic and unachievable in 1916 insofar as Unionists were trenchantly opposed to participating in any diminution of the status quo.

    That some Irish Republicans over several generations have failed to grasp this thorny truth ... that some still retreat into their self-righteous, immature ideological myth-making of a glorious Unitary Irish Republic is as pathetic as it is unsustainable.

    Save blaming the Brits for carefully fostered differences how did the 1916 leaders propose to address Unionism?

  4. "Save blaming the Brits for carefully fostered differences how did the 1916 leaders propose to address Unionism?"

    Well, Connolly hoped to unite Catholic and Protestant workers. Jim Larkin arguably had more support from the workers but even he was in favour of the Rebellion. This Labour movement had potential. This potential was untested save for a few united strikes before the Rebellion. Broken up with choreographed RIC violence and much help from the press.

    As for the original UVF they may have threatened violence against whoever threatened the status quo be they British or Irish. Catholic Ireland was cajoled into going to fight in the world war with the dream of Home Rule or money to send home to impoverished families. With the UVF also participating who knows why the Nationalists thought they'd get preferential treatment when it was over.

    The Rebel leaders may have underestimated the feelings of Unionism but with many Protestants supporting the Gaelic Revival and also the Rebellion maybe they thought winning hearts and minds was possible and if not surely it would be better than the loathed status quo.

    I suppose 100 years ago Protestants were represented in Republicanism much more than could be imagined today. Maybe this support and that for the Labour movement warped their thinking?

  5. I’m not sure I understand Spencer’s position. He seems to agree with Fanning that partition was inevitable. How, then, could any event, the Easter Rising or whatever, make an inevitable outcome even more inevitable? Or, for that matter, how could the various republican and nationalist politicians named by Spencer make implacable Ulster resistance even more implacable?

    These problems aside, if we take Spencer’s position on the Rising and partition at face value, it can be seen to represent a broader unionist stance on nationalism and republicanism. Spencer mentions two historical episodes, the Rising and Provisional IRA violence, that he claims bolstered partition. This is a common political argument used by unionists (and revisionists). It should be noted that there are many other developments, including non-violent ones, that unionists and their supporters claim only strengthened partition: the civil rights movement, the New Ireland Forum Report, and the Anglo-Irish Agreement, to name but a few.

    This kind of “reasoning” is part of a larger unionist narrative asserting that any opposition to the existence of the border only strengthens partition. The kernel of the unionist argument is this: the only way nationalists and republicans can stop strengthening partition is to cease their opposition to unionism’s constitutional claim and accept the border as a permanent settlement, which will, of course, solidify partition.

    Spencer’s argument, and the unionist narrative of which it is a part, requires that nationalists and republicans cease being nationalists and republicans. This argument should be rejected for the self-serving sophistry it is.

  6. HL

    Its unlikely they underestimated the depth of feeling of Unionists. Just under 1/2 million of them had clearly indicated their intentions when they signed the Ulster Covenant three and a half years previous to The Easter Rebellion . The Rebel leaders clearly took account of the implications of all that when they expressly curtailed any chance of confrontation in the North by ordering Volunteers westwards to fall in with Mellows.

    I'd contend the leaders must have well understood Unionism's hostile and entrenched opposition to any possible political change that didn't include partition in some shape or form. The leaders appreciated all that and yet proclaimed a sovereign and indefeasible Republic. I'd propose they knew well the likelihood of partition.

    You say this may suggest their thinking was warped. I don't known that but their proclamation and actions begs questions as to what strategies or formulae, if any, did they have for bringing a united Ireland about.

    Maybe their thinking was warped or else perhaps its those who have over the years sustained the simplistic narrative and rehashed the Irish Republican myth whose thinking is warped. Those who continue today either to swallow the myth whole or to act from such a position could certainly benefit from more of those warps being straightened or hammered out of our history. Indeed all of society would benefit if the myth of the Irish Republic was de-constructed. To this end the leaders' hopes, intentions and plans for Unionists deserves further scrutiny.

  7. Its mean spirited to suggest the few that heeded the call crucially enabled what they opposed. The real strength of partition isnt measured by its resistence to those that actively oppose it, but by its ability to enforce the illusion of its permanency on the (passive) majority. Also,if violence strengthened partion, why did the united forces of occupation seek to establish their monopoly so vehemently?

  8. DaithiD,

    why would it be mean spirited? Even if it is wrong it does not follow that it is the intellectual output of meanness. In this case I think it is a comment on the law of unintended consequence. People are not being mean merely because they scrutinise the claims we make on behalf of our cherished projects.

    I think the balance of forces in the theatre made it highly improbable that anything other than partition was going to result. I doubt armed campaigning against it changed the material reality of partition. I do think it hardened the mindset of those in favour of partition. Overall, I would suggest that the armed campaigns did not reinforce the partition of the island but reinforced the sectarian partition within the North in that they helped polarise: even as a by product rather than as a specific policy objective. Armed struggle also tempered the desire for unity across the island as a whole. But these are factors not central to the point made by BJS.

    As to the illusion of its permanency it has been in a permanent state for almost one hundred years. The real illusion was the one republicans laboured under: that its removal was a straightforward matter.

  9. AM,you are correct, the mean spirited comment is more to do with my reaction to the proposal than an actual facet of his analysis, so I wont try and defend it further!
    Your middle paragraph would be correct if you suppose polarisation and partition to be mutually supportive, I would see polarisation as the necessary first stage to unilaterally removing partition.
    Its removal isnt a straightforward matter, but It can be simplified. I first read on this site the concept of secession of Nationalist parts of the North (like Derry).No need to build 32- county momentum, no need to spread resources on a national scale. Polarising small segments, achieving small but measurable victories that can be codified and reproduced elsewhere. Imagine MMG campaining for Derry to remain part of the UK, it poses so many interesting scenarios.

  10. DaithiD,

    but polarisation of that order was never an objective of republican armed campaigns. And the type of strategy you discuss is not being strategised about. It is probably considered heretical by most republicans. At present the strategic horizon only permits us to see, via such a strategy. a repartition of the island rather than an end to partition.

  11. AM

    indeed such 'all or nothing' thinking is symptomatic of the ideologue and essentially limiting. Its constrains development and advancement of new ideas and thinking.

  12. AM, from what I can see most people with titles roles in Republican org's are quite content to play the long game, identifying safe targets such imperialism,capitalism, racism(!) etc.
    Who really thinks an Irish Republicans first duty should be tackling the world financial system? Are they going to sell that idea in town halls on Lettermullan? Im glad the idea might be heretical in that context, orthodoxy got here.

  13. DaithiD,

    the problem for heretical ideas is the mountain they have to climb to escape their marginal status. To an orthodox republican mind the idea of any form of repartition is as anathema as going into Stormont, maybe even more so.

  14. Henry Joy,

    intellectual promiscuity is invariably a good thing

  15. HJ, do you have any thoughts on the seccesion idea?

  16. Promiscuity all the way ... much more fun :-)

  17. DD

    it has quite a bit of merit, especially so as when compared to current endeavours by Republicans. The potential rewards I doubt would come from actual results but rather from the necessary reappraisal of identity and aspiration such action might provoke.

  18. Thanks HJ, yes and at least the results will be measurable, and best of all, with decentralised power structures ,market forces could compel nationalist areas to the best of practice, rather than as at present, a nationwide org's momentum being conditional on all areas being in sync. And all using same parameters effectively set by the GFA . Yes much merit in this, I didnt realise that Republicans would (probably) rank this as comparable to sitting in Stormont though.Perhaps this is why it hasnt been pursued more visibly.

  19. That unionists were hostile to separation from Britain does not mean the rest of the country should have bowed to their threats. Regardless of the realpolitik or what were the balance of forces at the time, to argue they should have, as the revisionist Henry Joy suggests now on a regular basis, is to cower before the right of force. That aside, to insinuate the nature of the financial system would be of little concern to republicans could only come from an understanding of republicanism that attributes to it a strictly nationalist impulse. In reality Irish republicanism is about much more than that.

  20. DD

    the challenge as AM rightly points out would be getting such a radical departure from traditional dogma out of the foothills. The idealogues regardless of outcome possibilities will only allow it done their way. They can't see past their broken tablet of The Proclamation. When ideas are perceived as written in stone progress tends to get stifled.

  21. Sean, you prove yet again you cannot follow a thread that isnt about yourself. My understanding of Republicanism certainly isnt the same as yours, but then you are very sketchy on what 'you think you think', there have been (at least) three threads this year where AM and HJ walked you through OIOV in really really basic terms, highlighting what for most would be fatal flaws in the concept. At first I thought you were evading the obvious, then I realised you just didnt get it.
    Another thread reverts to calling out HJ on things he used to believe.It might be of comfort to you, being on familar ground, few (if any) others actually care about it. Its what thinkers do.

  22. HJ,

    "I don't known that but their proclamation and actions begs questions as to what strategies or formulae, if any, did they have for bringing a united Ireland about."

    Maybe their strategies were limited. They struck at a moment of desperation. Opportunity knocked. Maybe it was only a grand gesture, against the Empire and for what they saw as the right of a small nation to govern itself. In a way that favoured equality rather than class. Their pro-women stance was admirable and on balance way ahead of its time.

    Maybe they were a crowd of idealists who decided action was better than omitting to act? An omission that may or may not have seen Home Rule. May or may not have seen an increase in Pro-British sentiment. Home Rule would have necessitated partition also.

    However we can only imagine a different historical path, such as one without Republicanism. We can only work with the history we have. Not some pie in the sky imagined utopia when the British or industry start treating people fairly or as equals. Look at the Empire. It wasn't a benign one. Just ask the Mau-Mau or the slaughtered innocents elsewhere. The tortured in the torture camps post second world war.

    Look at the intolerable way the contemporary landlords and industrialists treated the people. William Murphy may have won the 1913 Lockout but Larkin's legacy endures.

    Desperation can lead to decisions otherwise inexplicable.

    Perhaps the threat of Unionism wasn't important enough, although it was powerful, to put then off the insurrection. We can't blame them for their actions as we don't know what else would have happened.

  23. Hedley,

    if we cannot blame them then the freedom to praise them is also removed. We should be free to either blame or praise people who make decisions that impact on the lives of others. If they had no choice then they made no choice and can hardly be blamed or praised for their actions. They would be just flotsam carried along on the waves. I think there is much more to them than that.

  24. David, I have read your right-wing understanding of both republicanism and the financial system long ago don't worry, both of which fit in with your later assertion that austerity was not a means to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich. Your idea of republicanism is certainly not the same as mine, of that you can rest assured and will find no quarrel here.

  25. Hedley

    there's a difference between casting blame and questioning a narrative. This nuanced differentiation becomes all the more important when that narrative achieves mythical status and still culturally holds pervasive sway in so many domains; still generating enough verve for a few to justify the killing of a public servant working in a young offenders centre in Belfast last month.
    Most states and organisations will tend to have a foundation myth, one which functions positively in forming a collective identity and ideally continuing to usefully serve a cohesive purpose over time. My criticisms are not of the actions of the men and women of 1916, not even of the rousing motivational rhetoric that accompanied it but of the retention, veneration, literal interpretation and blind adherence to what was after-all a rallying battle-cry. None of that dismisses the significance of the valour of the men and women who participated in the Rising. They were right to give it a go. Their efforts coupled with the heavy-handed responses of the British, the preceding efforts of those involved in the cultural revival and the fortuitous threat of conscription immediately prior to the 1918 election led to partial independence and the never avoidable partition of the country. All the evidence suggests 13/16 rather than the full loaf was all that was ever on. To deny the evidence is either deceitful or delusional. Enough of the denial, delusion and deceit ... its caused enough pain, suffering, jail-time, death and injury. Enough, enough, enough!

    It beholds all those who persist in denying the inevitability of partition to offer a cohesive and sustainable explanation as to how this mythical All-Ireland Republic was ever to come about. They must present a reasonable counter-narrative if their argument is to hold any substance. If their counter arguments rely solely on 'Bad Bwits' and 'Cruel Free-Staters' themes and fail to address the issues of Unionism and consequential partitioning of the country most reasonable and thinking observers will see it for what it is ... just more of their juvenile whining.

  26. HJ
    "if we cannot blame them then the freedom to praise them is also removed."

    I meant we can't blame them for partition. Or blame them with arguments based on alternative, imagined histories. There were any number of likely outcomes many involving partition or stagnation.

    For Republicans I suppose they can praise them as their actions were based on shared ideology. For Unionists I guess they can blame them for upsetting the apple cart. For daring to not support the King nor Empire.

    There is a wide Spectrum of blame or praise. We can blame them for what they did but we cannot blame them based on any supposed alternative history which we necessarily don't know. We can judge them on the past and present. And in that sense you are right. We can't praise them based on imagined evidence either.

    It is unlikely that Republicans will buy Brian's argument that the rebels harmed chances of a real United Ireland or a 32 county Republic. Modern day Republicans arguing that the 1916 Rising actually strengthened partition? Perhaps it wasn't the rebels at all but unionists that strengthened partition? Unionists who didn't need any encouragement.

  27. Much as it bothers you Sean, you are not the boss of these boards, you can keep score of things people of said and keep repeating them back to police people, but you are missing the point of the site : its to explore new ideas, not to shame others for thinking differently.

  28. Hedley,

    I think you mean to reply to me not HJ

  29. It is hardly a founding myth of any state, group or whatever that six Irish counties in the north-east of our country are Irish and a part of Ireland. Neither is it myth that Britain partitioned this country against the wishes of the Irish people. What has been going on here is no different to the Nazi's seizing the Sudetenland and yet we have some above contend the fault lies with those who won't concede its inevitability. How wrong of them. All this repeated nonsense about 'Bad Bwits' is just that: nonsense and irrelevant when all's said and done. The issue in Ireland is the right of the Irish people to self-determination and the denial of that right by a foreign government. It was ever thus and will be ever thus. It's not whining but an expression of reality and all the brow-beating in the world will not change that.

  30. HJ
    Do you really believe the men and women of 1916 were "right to give it a go"? They used violence to get a 32 county republic without the support of the Irish people (just like in 1969). Their actions led to Civil war, Rome rule and years of emigration and decline. They can't have known that at the time but they would have known that the consequences for the whole island could be serious. I personally believe they were very wrong to give it a go, to use violence on behalf of a people that didn't want violent change.

  31. Try and contain yourself David. You suggest orthodoxy got us here but where is that and what is this 'orthodoxy' you quote? You seem to miss that change in Ireland throughout the years - giving rise to this 'here' you now enjoy - has been a direct result of republican campaigning, much of it armed in nature. The 'here' you reference has been its direct beneficiary so what you're saying simply does not add up, there is no logic to your comment - not that that has concerned you before now. For the record republicanism is easily understood: it demands that the right of the Irish to self-determination be realised in a sovereign, all-Ireland republic. That might seem 'sketchy' to you but to most I'd venture it's clear as crystal.

  32. Peter

    come down of that high horse before you fall!

    Set in the larger historical context of long subjugation and an unnecessary famine still fresh in the living memory, set in the so called second city of the Empire which has many of its citizens living in maybe the greatest squalor in Europe, set in the war torn environment of its time where combative responses were the norm, set in the political context of usurpation of the democratic and parliamentary processes that Unionism claimed to be so attached to, what were they to do? Follow Redmond's misguided call to fight for the Colonial Master? No thank you.

    Read the whole thread again Peter, read the totality of what I'm attempting to communicate to Hedley. I'm disappointed that you zone in on this narrow point in what is a much broader theme. Scratch a Unionist and we still find a supremacist?

  33. Peter

    did you not get your 'Goldilocks' porridge this morning?

    "They used violence to get a 32 county republic without the support of the Irish people (just like in 1969)."

    You can have a go at winding HJ up if you wish but you know only too well what led to the eruptions in '69.

    We all need to face our demons Peter. Don't try to exonerate yourself from Unionism's collective responsibility in all this with David Trimble's euphemistic metaphor about 'cold houses' either.

  34. A supremacist? Trying to exonerate myself? Really? How do manage to read all that into my question?
    In the context of how society functioned in 1916 I simply wanted to know if you thought the risk to the island of declaring war on a super power without the support of the people was worth it.

  35. Maybe I misread you Peter but it sure seemed like a prod to me.

  36. HJ,

    "Read the whole thread again Peter, read the totality of what I'm attempting to communicate to Hedley."

    HJ, your communication skills are fine.

    I found Peter's argument against the Rising the most succinct and persuasive yet from a Unionist.

    Although I wouldn't agree with and see many flaws in his argument it is much above par considering the others I have heard. He also said it with a cool head and measured tone.

    However, as you pointed out there was much death and emigration during the nineteenth century. The economy mightn't have prospered in the Republic of Ireland post independence but globally very few colonies prospered after independence.

    As HJ pointed out the Nationalist people in 1969 were pushed a little too far and things spiralled out of control.

    However, Rome Rule however unforseen has to be seen as the most weighty downside of the Rising. Understandable though with the Republic having an overwhelmingly Catholic population.

    The abuse of power in the Church and by the gombeen governments since partition in the South ruined a potential success story. If you read any of the Rising leaders' writings or speeches you can see those who came after ruled without the spirit or letter of 1916. That is a big downside and also one the rebels warned against.

    The argument citing no mandate is just as weighty yet it would have been nigh impossible to get such a mandate in 1916 with the might of the Empire, the poverty being alleviated by British Army salaries, unaccountable government and the press moulding opinion against any change in the status quo. The leaders were thanked by succeeding generations and that is their legacy.

    The one party government in the North had a bit of a democratic deficit too don't you think?

  37. Thank you Hedley. HJ was unusually tetchy today.
    I was not speaking as a unionist (though I am) but from the point of view of my dear father-in-law, a nationalist raised in the Lower Falls. He is very anti-republican and believes that in those times such treason without the support of the people was madness and could only have resulted in bad outcomes for the island. As Ruth Dudley Edwards pointed out today in the Tele the British were very lenient on the rebels in the context of the depth of their treason in those times. Right wing theocratic governments and mass emigration may have been avoided had Home Rule been given more time and partition may not have become so entrenched.
    I take issue with what you said about 1969, again on behalf of my father-in-law. Not all the nationalist people were pushed too far, a large majority wanted nowt to do with the Provo campaign or indeed any sort of violence, even in the face of extreme provocation like Bloody Sunday. In '16 and in '69 only a small minority of nationalists embarked on armed campaigns against the wishes of the majority and on both occasions the island suffered as a result.

  38. Peter,

    "a large majority wanted nowt to do with the Provo campaign or indeed any sort of violence". True, but the pressure was nonetheless there from the rejection of genuine grievances and from many being chased from their houses. I know this happened to both sides but Nationalists suffered disproportionately.

    I am not sure Ruth Dudley Edwards is on the ball with that one. Sixteen executions, internment and a devastated city? The devastation in question coming from fires caused by the shelling rather than from the rebels whose weapons would scarcely have dented a wall. It looks like collective punishment rather than leniency.

  39. Peter,

    Come on. If you served in the UDR you would have been well aware of the level of support the Provos had.

    The campaign that they mounted was sustained and of a degree of sophistication that logic dictates that a quite sizable percentage of the populace gave at least some support to them.

    No armed grouping can do ANYTHING without a significant support network behind it.

  40. Peter

    you're spot on. I am feeling tetchy at your remarks which seemed to me to minimise the contribution that Unionism made to the conditions of conflict which have blighted our island and collective history.

    As pointed out in an earlier post it was Unionists who usurped the democratic and parliamentary processes with their 1912 Ulster Covenant and the threat of violence. They didn't have the support of the Irish people nor did they have the support of the British people. Like the Rebel leaders they didn't have a mandate. They did have power and privilege on their side though.

    Likewise you'd need to revise your timeline and attribution of first actors in the last phase of conflict too. Never mind '69 lets go back to April '66 and look at the petrol bomb attack on Holy Cross Girls Primary School two days before Terence O'Neill was due to address a Protestant and Catholic reconciliation meeting. Quickly followed up by another petrol bomb attack on a Catholic owned bar in the Shankill district (one fatality, a Protestant widow in the premises next door) and then on May 27th the UVF declaration of war on the IRA. In the weeks following John Scullion was murdered and the Malvern Street attack resulted in three casualties,one fatal.

    And while your at it, have another look at Spring 1969 and the first bombings of utility services: carried out by loyalists but made to appear as the actions of republicans and ultimately with the intention to undermine O'Neill's conciliatory efforts.

    Perhaps yourself and your 'dear' father-in-law might factor all that in whilst deliberating on our sorry past. As I say Peter, face your own demons first. Then perhaps we might be able to continue our conversation on more equal terms and perhaps in more conciliatory tones.

  41. Steve
    They had considerable support in West Belfast, South Armagh and in various towns and villages but they were a minority within their own community. SF got around 11% of the vote in the 80s hardly a ringing endorsement for "armed struggle".

  42. HJ
    There is no need to get tetchy. I am aware of unionisms part in fomenting the Rising and the Troubles and would probably agree with you on most of it. My argument is that from a nationalist perspective there was no majority support for either armed action. The IRA started campaigns on behalf of the nationalist people that they did not have the right to do. I simply wanted to know you opinion.
    My father in law is a remarkable old man and lived an extraordinary life. He is very well read and a die hard socialist, nationalist and atheist. A great man to have a beer and chat with. Make light of that if you wish.

  43. Millions of British people protested AGAINST the Iraq War Peter, and yet that never stopped Blair and the Brits heading there to loot and rape and pillage and murder - just like in Empire Days of yore. At least the IRA called off their campaign - the same can hardly be said for your lot, who when all's said and done continue to murder and lay waste to other people's countries regardless of voting percentages or how many endorse what they do. Syria? I agree with HJ, let's have a bit of perspective..

  44. Having just read your response to HJ Pete I wouldn't take it personally, your father-in-law sounds like a good man and someone worth having a conversation with. He's obviously had a bearing on yourself and thus your willingness to come here and exchange with those who see things polar opposite to how you do. Fair play to him and good luck to yourself. I still say there's a massive discrepancy in your position though, as you generally seek to defend - or at least exclude from discussion - the British Army, likely because you served in its rank. What of the lack of endorsement for their far more grievous actions in the like of Iraq, Libya, Syria and those areas they are currently engaged - it might not be Ireland but it is relevant no matter.

    The common ground we really need to be striving towards is that all of us, whether Catholic, Protestant or whatever, are equally victim of conditions that were created by an outside force to suit its own end. That there were Easter Risings and all the rest is a result of that, nothing more and nothing less. Why was it wrong that the Nazis annexed the Sudetenland but not that Britain annexed the Six Counties? That the Munich Agreement (as those relevant to here) legalised it hardly made it right and while Sudeten Germans may have been German it hardly gave them the right to take part of another country and join it to the homeland / mainland or whatever we might call it.

  45. Sean
    HJ flying off the handle for no good reason and a measured reponse from yourself. Is this some parralel opposite blog site??!! My old Da-in-law can still tell some cracking stories having lived in the Lower Falls throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s. He remembers Adam's da and didn't think much of him and can remember Adams junior pulling the pints. He says that the local IRA and the Paisleyites both agitated for violence that the people simply didn't want or deserve. He says there were good and bad in the RUC, some right bad bastards and some proper coppers but you were as likely to get a kicking from a Christian Brother than from an RUC man. He vehently contests the republican narrative on the start of the Troubles much like Malachy O'Doherty. He believes that throughout Irish history the Irish response to British crimes only made matters worse. He is totally against technology to the point of refusing to wear a hearing aid or carry a mobile phone otherwise I would encourage him to come on here and argue against you republicans for himself! He would do a much better job than me.

    I don't know much about the Sudetenland annexation but the Germans marched in in 1939 whereas the British were in Ireland since the Normans so had more right I guess. These conflicted sovereignty issues are extremely difficult to judge. Just look at the Russian annexing of the Crimea. We cannot change history so you can rail all you like about past crimes but we are where we are. The only effect we can have is on the future and the imperative to make sure violence does not return.

  46. Peter

    I'm not always a nice man, I do sometimes adopt a forceful debating style. I apologise for making light of your obviously fond and respectful relationship with your father-in-law. He does sound like a man I could sit down and have a pint with too.

    And thank you for acknowledging, not for the first time, the fomenting influence of Unionism.

    In a perfect or ideal world violence and war ought only be used as a last resort and only when legitimately mandated. In the real and lived world however very few conflicts are initiated from those criteria. What we might consider as idealised criteria for going war were probably not as well formed 100 years ago nor as ideally aspired to as they might be today.

    The Easter Rebellion did not fully meet those idealised criteria either but it came close enough to become woven into quite a compelling narrative and founding myth. Fuelled by a long and painful history of subjugation the potential for revolution was omnipresent. The Parliamentary processes of the time were not necessarily democratic either. Think here of the power of the Lords over the Commons and the trudge Irish parliamentarians had in overcoming the Lord's veto. Indeed it was the impending removal of privileged protection which brought the Unionists to arms. It that context the need for an explicit mandate would not hold the same weight.

    Consider too that the Irish Revolution was almost unique insofar as the cultural revolution was long under way and well established before the uprising happened. Perhaps the success of the cultural revival could be interpreted as a de facto mandate of sorts? It hardly can be ignored.
    All that considered its still a fact that the Rising through the electoral success of Sinn Féin in the 1918 election can legitimately claim a retrospective mandate.
    And therein laid the bogeyman for the people of the island.
    This idea that actions could be legitimised through a retrospective mandate became part of the founding myth as did veneration of the Proclaimed Republic rather that what in reality had been achieved.
    Its as if the Proclamation ought be bowed down to ... if one is to consider themselves a Republican they have to believe that The Lord appeared unto Pearse in Connemara, manifested out of a burning shrub and delivered unto him the Proclamation carved in stone!

    My scribblings here are part of my own personal journey undoing for myself those toxic myths insofar as I see them as having residual relevance in my life or potential impact on those that are near and dear to me. Of course, collectively the Irish people have already done much of this through GFA. Whatever about mandates in the past, retrospective or otherwise we now have some clarity about the current wishes of the Irish electorates. Clear parameters have been laid down. The reality that we have to accept is that there's a few still tangled up in the old myth. What I've been attempting to challenge through this thread is the narrative that the Republic proclaimed was ever achievable. Though I don't necessarily concur with all of BJS's conclusions I do agree with his point about the inevitability of Partition and repeat Ronan Fanning on the same:

    "partition was inevitable, perhaps in 1912, certainly by 1914, but the shape of the partitionist settlement remained an open question until 1920."

    Clearly at the time of writing the authors of the Proclamation knew the inevitability of partition. To claim otherwise is a distortion. And I get tetchy when I recognise a distortion!

  47. Peter

    " SF got around 11% of the vote in the 80s hardly a ringing endorsement for "armed struggle".

    Do you honestly believe that all IRA supporters voted for the Shinners back then? I have read many books by former Volunteers and if memory serves even they said they had help from all walks of life, such as SDLP members in the North and Fine Gael MP's in the south.

    AM, am I going mad or did the Provo's indeed draw support not just from Republicans but from Nationalists back in the dark 70's and 80's?

  48. Steve,

    they did - even from Fine Gale types. But it is safe to say it was a very small number and shrank as the years wore on. At the end of the campaign the IRA found it very hard to get material support even from Sinn Fein voters. And if they are not going to help why would non-SF voters? The IRA campaign was never based on majority support but enough popular support to keep it going. The 1916 Rising will always be viewed differently from the Provo campaign given that 15% of the Irish people had the right to vote. British rule was based on violence and coercion in a politically violent culture. Britain had no right to an empire either in Ireland, India or anywhere else it plundered. As John Cleese once facetiously remarked, British troops are willing to give their lives to keep China British. Sort of nails the logic.

  49. AM

    I was thinking more of in the 70's and 80's but thanks for clearing it up. Britain was built on the back of invasion and occupation of that there is no doubt or argument. I just don't agree with Peter's assertion of little support. I remember only too well the 80's with many actions per night.

  50. Steve
    You are missing the point. Even if they got 20% of the vote it would still be a minority within the CNR community. The point I am trying (cack handedly as usual) to make is that at both '16 and '69 the IRA did not have majority support for armed action from their community, and that republican attempts to say they were right on both occasions are challenged from many people from within their own communities. I wanted to know HJ's thought on that as he usually is very enjoyable to read on exposing myths but on this occasion he took a pointy for some reason.

  51. Steve,

    there was substantial support but it was never majority nationalist support apart from perhaps 71-73 and before the SDLP seized the political imitative within nationalist politics.

    A few years ago I got into conversation with a member of the PSNI at a conference. He told me when he joined the RUC all he was ever told was that the IRA had no support and relied totally on intimidation. However, he said he quickly learned that this was an official myth and not something to be swallowed by the guys who had to go into nationalist communities where he found support for the IRA too much for the cops to be comfortable with.

  52. Peter

    if you want to be reductionist or just need to be right rather than address complexity in what I consider a more fulsome way then we must concede that they didn't have majority support.

    What about the Tan War then? It was I guess mandated.

  53. AM

    I guess that's why the cops only ventured out with Army escort then!


    You are assuming all IRA supporters/volunteers voted though. But as HJ and AM have pointed out, I am mistaken and have picked you up wrong.

    My bad, sorry.