Editorial from Irish Political Review, May 2005

The Northern Ireland Election:—
Ballot Wars

Ian Paisley in his moment of victory reasserted the classical Unionist position that there could be no deal until the war was won. But the winning of a war which is not being fought is problematical. And that is the Unionist dilemma. The practical alternative to crushing in war an enemy who is not fighting is to find peaceful means of humiliating him. Because the enemy remains the enemy. He is not the enemy because he fought. He was the enemy before he went to war and he remains the enemy after he reverts to a peaceful mode of existence. War has nothing to do with it. Such is the position of the movement for which Northern Ireland was created.

Dr. Paisley added that in any other country Gerry Adams would be locked up. And so he would be in this country—or is it these countries—if Ministers of Justice believed some of the things they say they are certain of. He is the head of a criminal gang, the organiser of bank robberies, the supervisor of torture, and yet he remains scot-free in Belfast and Dublin.

Paisley takes in earnest what Michael McDowell says is the case. He did not need McDowell to tell him it was the case. But when he sees McDowell repeating what he has always said, and yet doing nothing about it, has he not grounds for his belief that Fenians are all tarred with the same brush and that the Ethiopian cannot change his skin? McDowell, despite his best efforts to walk in the path of righteousness and become a West Brit, remains an Ethiopian and a leopard with spots.

Republican, Nationalist, Free Stater—what's the difference? What Ulster Unionism arose against was a mild measure of Home Rule within the empire under Westminster supervision. By comparison with that evil which brought Ulster Unionism into being, the Free State was wild raving Republicanism in a world gone mad. And the Free State, christened a republic by McDowell's hereditary party, remains the fundamental evil against which Ulster must be perpetually on guard. Wars within Ulster are transient events. They come and go, but the Fenian danger is present in peace no less than in war. And the Free State is always in the grip of a diabolical compulsion to interfere.

When C.C. O'Brien was born again he joined a Unionist Party in proof of his conversion. But, alas, it was only a movement of the intellect accompanied by a gesture of good works. The will remained unregenerate. And the intellect cannot always be watching itself. One day the old Conor escaped from the supervision of the new and made a remark which horrified the Unionist spirit. Whereupon a senior Unionist commented: "That's what comes of having a cuckoo in the nest". And it was not a Paisleyite who said it, but one of Trimble's moderates.

The main feature of the election campaign was the deployment of the entire propaganda apparatus of two states, with RTE and the BBC at its core, in support of the SDLP, and the attempt to turn the pub brawl in which Robert McCartney was killed into an IRA murder for the purpose of collapsing the Republican vote. The pretence was made that Sinn Fein was the oppressor of the Northern Catholic community rather than its creation and representative, and it was hoped to implant this as a false memory. The ideologists who work in broadcasting live in the world of 1984—and the British Ministry of Information, which was based in the BBC during the 2nd World War, was actually the inspiration of Orwell's novel. Our broadcasters have no more concern for factual truth than Dr. Goebbels and they have an even greater belief in the suggestive power of propaganda.

One of the buzz-words of the revisionist establishment of the Celtic Tiggers just now is "reinterpretation of memories". This is a nicer way of saying false memory. Re-inventing is another way of putting it. Inventing Ireland is the title of one of the anti-historical works of ideology in recent times. You re-invent yourself, reinterpret your memories, and derive yourself from a world that never existed. When the Republic was suddenly deluged with 8 billions from Europe ten years ago there was a mushroom growth of a new, mindless, middle class. Modern money must circulate because if it doesn't do so it doesn't exist. The Celtic Tiggers are in substantial part a product of the necessary circulation of that money. There is undoubtedly a widely-dispersed entrepreneurial spirit in the South (there always has been)—but it was not what produced the deluge of money. That was the product of Charles Haughey's European statecraft. The necessary circulation of that money threw up a large new middle class for whom the continuity of life, with its sense of social reality, was broken as effectively as if they had all been transplanted to Hollywood. These people, who are the citizens of Invented Ireland, are the Celtic Tiggers who have reinterpreted memories appropriate to their exalted but inexplicable, not to say undeserved, status. The North is absolutely beyond their ken. And every Questions & Answers audience on RTE appears to have been carefully selected from them.

They are greatly embarrassed by the persistence of real memory amongst the Northern Catholics, with whom they still retain some residual sense of affinity. And they cannot understand why somebody doesn't do something about it.

Well the broadcasters did their best. They depicted a fantasy world, a kind of soap opera world, in the hope that in this age of soap opera it would displace the actual world. But it had the contrary effect, if anything.

During the grand illusion of the McCartney propaganda a Queen's University Professor, Liam Kennedy, placed himself at the head of the proclaimed revolt of the people against Provo oppression by standing against Gerry Adams on an all-out programme in West Belfast. Adams had invited the Taoiseach, if he believed his own propaganda, to stand a candidate against him. But the Taoiseach, for all his bluster, is wise enough in his generation, and he declined the challenge. So it was left to Professor Kennedy to raise the revolt. The outcome was that Adams increased his vote by a large multiple of what Professor Kennedy got in total.

Though Kennedy lives in Northern Ireland—or at least in Queen's University, which is geographically situated there—he comes from the Republic and he clearly brought the mental world of Dublin 4 with him to Belfast. His candidature demonstrated how little the people of Belfast feel oppressed by the Provos. Kennedy responded to the revelation in a graceless and spiteful tirade against Adams in his post-election address. One might admire him if he had directed his tirade against the electorate which failed to reinterpret its memories in response to his suggestion that it was oppressed.

The SDLP candidate was Alex Atwood, who was quick off the mark with support for the Chief Constable's statement about the Northern Bank robbery. His vote nosedived.

Although the Dublin Government would neither arrest the criminals who planned the bank robbery (according to their certain knowledge) nor sponsor candidates against Adams and McGuinness in their strongholds, it did sent two Cabinet Members North to canvass for the SDLP and solicit Unionist votes for it in a couple of other constituencies, helping it to gain South Belfast (which is a Unionist constituency) due to a split Unionist vote, and to hold Foyle (Derry), though with a reduced majority. (It is said that some Unionists voted SDLP to prevent Sinn Fein becoming the largest party in the North—though in the event there was no danger of that with the UUP being reduced to one seat to the DUP's 9. There was, of course, no chance of the Unionists winning Derry.)

The strange thing is that the SDLP went very Green for this election. And two Dublin Ministers, formally committed to a United Ireland went North for the express purpose of campaigning against the only all-Ireland party.

The SDLP gained one seat but lost another. It lost Newry & Armagh by a landslide to Sinn Fein's Colm Murphy, who was heckled and travestied on Questions & Answers recently. The seat it gained is likely to be lost the next time, because South Belfast is naturally a Unionist seat. The reckoning is that it would have been touch and go in Derry if a Sinn Fein candidate with IRA credentials had contested it. (Everybody agrees that Mitchell McLaughlin is exclusively Sinn Fein, even though the Taoiseach says that there is no such thing and that Sinn Fein is just another name for the IRA.) But there is one safe SDLP seat: South Down. The word 'tribal' is loosely and meaninglessly used by supercilious commentators to describe Northern Ireland politics but, if it has a proper application anywhere, it is to McGrady's seat in South Down. Or perhaps feudal would be a better word. Anyhow the McGradys are a power in the region and the seat is Eddie's as long as he cares to hold it. (Incidentally, his big vote might have been enhanced by some Unionist support.)

It has become the fashion among the egg-heads and other nitwits of 'constitutional nationalism' to draw a comparison between Sinn Fein in 1926 and 2005. They recommend that Gerry Adams should do now what De Valera did then. But they are remarkably ill-informed about what De Valera did then. He resigned from Sinn Fein after failing to win it over to his policies, and he not only left the IRA in being, but relied on its existence during the next seven or eight years as a physical counter to the coercive apparatus of the Treatyite Government. And he founded Fianna Fail as "a slightly constitutional party" (in Lemass's words). Fianna Fail entered the Free State Dail, taking the Oath of Allegiance to a foreign power with its fingers crossed.

What Gerry Adams is doing differs from what De Valera did in this way He has not resigned from Sinn Fein and founded a new party whose relationship wit the IRA would be similar to De Valera's—and also similar to the relationship of the two Unionist Parties with the Loyalist paramilitaries. He has stayed with Sinn Fein with the intention of bringing about a settlement in which the IRA would be disbanded.

Are the good people of 'constitutional nationalism' seriously suggesting that Adams should emulate De Valera? Or should we forgive them for they know not what they say?

Eamon Phoenix (a Northern academic historian of 'constitutional nationalist' outlook) was particularly eloquent and particularly ignorant on the historical comparison on Hearts & Minds (24.2.05). He said that De Valera, who was in the political wilderness as a result of his rejection of the Treaty, might have stayed there indefinitely—

"had it not been for the intense pressure exerted by the Government of the day… led by William T. Cosgrave, who forced De Valera and his political supporters into the Dail and eventually they became the Government in 1932. It took De Valera… a mere five years from abandoning violence and taking the hated Oath of Allegiance in 1927 to becoming the Government of the Irish Free State."

And now:

"Bertie Ahern has thrown down the gauntlet to Sinn Fein as Cosgrave did to De Valera in 1927."

The situation in the 26 Counties in 1926 was that the Treatyite wing of Sinn Fein, which was established in power on a British mandate and with British arms in 1922, had discarded the strategy of its founder, Michael Collins. Collins had gained support for the Treaty, which dismantled the Republic, by undertaking to use the institutions established under the Treaty as "stepping stones" back to the Republic. He undertook to use the Treatyite institutions to subvert the Treaty. His colleagues discarded that strategy after his death and became Imperialists.

The electorate voted for the Treaty under the influence of the British threat of "immediate and terrible war" in 1922-3. But, as British power fell into confusion and the prospect of a new British conquest receded, and as the Treatyite party became Imperialist, the voters began to elect Republicans in large numbers once more. But the Treatyite Government used the Treaty Oath to keep elected Republicans out of the Dail. They could only take their seats after taking an Oath of Allegiance to Britain.

Where was the democracy in that state of affairs? The voters might elect a majority of Republican TDs, but those TDs could not take their seats without perjuring themselves or betraying their mandates.

If a Republican majority was elected, the situation would be much the same with relation to the Treaty Dail as it was in 1919 with relation to the British Parliament.

Civil War would have been in prospect—a genuine civil war this time. (The 1922 conflict is given the wrong name when it is called a civil war. Collins was in full agreement with the ideals of the people he made war upon. He made war on them as the lesser evil. Churchill had given him an ultimatum: either he would make war for the purpose of installing the Treaty or Britain would take the country in hand once more. The conflict was in fact a Treaty War, not a Civil War.)

De Valera defused the situation by forming a new Republican party which did not take Oaths as seriously as the majority of Sinn Fein did, and which was willing to perjure itself (with its fingers crossed) in order to take power within the Treaty Dail and revoking the Treaty. He was backed informally by the IRA in this project. The transfer of power was enacted peacefully in 1932-3, in the sense that the military power which was available on both sides was not set in motion.

The conduct of the Treatyite Cosgrave Government in using the Treaty Oath to exclude Republicans who baulked at perjury, which is praised by Eamon Phoenix, was long remembered. And Cosgrave's party never again won an election. In defeat Cumann na nGaedheal/Fine Gael became a Fascist party. It adopted a Fascist programme and aligned itself with Mussolini and France, returning to the ways of Parliamentary democracy only after it had been thwarted a every turn by Fianna Fail.

PS An interesting piece of information about the McCartney affair emerged on Prime Time on March 3rd. Michael Heney had spent the previous weekend with the McCartney sisters. Gerry Adams, after consultation with them, had made a strong statement in support of their demands. Heney was asked what more they expected Adams to do. He explained:

"Well, I felt that they expected something from him. They said that meeting with him had been heartening… But the sort of language that they have used about this is, they say the IRA is a military organisation: they respond to military discipline. These people should be ordered, this is the thinking of the family and you can certainly understand it, that the murderers have now to come clean and tell the truth. But of course there's a massive problem with that because you cannot compel the truth. Whoever is going to give evidence in this case is going to have to do it voluntarily or it will be no use."

So the IRA offer of a punishment shooting was not rejected on the moral ground that the IRA was an illegitimate body which had no right to do such things. It was rejected in support of a demand that the IRA coercive power should be applied to the more difficult purpose of somehow compelling a group of people to convict themselves under the rules of evidence of the Queen's Courts.

BBC, Northern Ireland, sent Noel Thomson to Washington for St. Patrick's Day to report on the absence of Sinn Fein from the White House. When given an interview with Bush's new Special Envoy, Mitchell Reiss, he complained that the exclusion of the other parties along with Sinn Fein eased the pressure on Sinn Fein. Reiss replied that Sinn Fein had a crucial role in the situation:

Thomson: "So you say to Gerry Adams, the IRA must go away. Gerry Adams is in America this week saying the same thing… So it doesn't give you much leverage, does it? You seem to be singing from the same sheet…"

Reiss: "Well, that's very good news. And I'm looking forward to exploring ways in which the U.S. can help Sinn Fein…"

Thomson: "The difficulty is that even the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, believes that Sinn Fein, the leaders of Sinn Fein, and the IRA are inextricably linked. So who indeed are you talking to?"

Reiss: "Well, I'm going to be talking to Mr. Adams and to all the leadership of Sinn Fein and to the other political leaders as well. Again, you take the world as it is, not as you would always like it to be. The fact of the matter is that Sinn Fein has a crucial role to play as we go forward in the peace process."

Tony Gregory (Independent Dublin TD, with revolutionary lineage) on the McCartney incident:

"Joe Higgins in the Dail described the activites of the group in the Short Strand as acting like an S.S. unit. And that's exactly what they were at" (Questions & Answers, 21st April 2005).


Ballot Wars (The Northern Ireland Election).

The Gaa And Rule 42.

Democratic Mandates & The 1916 Rising.
Pat Muldowney (Report)

Election Results.
Report of Northern Ireland results, Westminster Election, 5.5.05

False History?

The Two Nations Theory.
Ivor Kenna (Reader's Letter)

French Referendum.
John Martin

What To Hope From The Pope?
Jack Lane

Politics In Northern Ireland, A Review Of The Year.
Mark Langhammer (speech)

Ireland's Intelligentsia BITE (more) Air.
Seán McGouran (Part 2 of Barbican review)

The Orange Order & The Reform Movement; Syria & Lebanon; France's Patron Saint (1905-1980); The Spirit Of The Good Friday Agreement; Irish Times & Debate; &Mandela; Bolkestein In France; Prince Rainier Dies; Greatest Frenchman

Art & Poetry: Two Reviews.
Reports of Luke Dodd's Conquering England review and Bernard O'Donoghue on Yeats, The Love Poet by Michael Stack

Kennedy At Chappaquiddick.
Reader's Letter

Ulster's Hope, or The New Gerrymander.
Seán McGouran

Review of Das Kapital, Part Twelve:—Conclusion.
John Martin

"Frank Ryan, a great Irishman who always put Ireland first"
(letter by Manus O'Riordan, report)

Labour Comment
Edited by Pat Maloney

Work—a couple of thoughts

Cultural Vandalism In Cork: Terence McSwiney's Preface

They will even pay for Unification!


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