Editorial from Irish Political Review, November 2006

'Without Prejudice' . . . Dr. Paisley And St. Andrew's

If there is a St. Andrew's Agreement, nobody knows what it is. Except perhaps the Democratic Unionist Party.

A month ago it appeared that Paisley was being cornered. But he escaped from the corner by refusing to play. He said he had been given 'Get Out Of The Corner' cards by Blair, which entitled him not to play.

An Agreement of sorts was made. The DUP claimed that this Agreement broke the Good Friday Agreement and superseded it. There is substance to its claim.

The Dublin Government conceded the DUP claim in effect by saying that the new Agreement should be put to referendum. The British Government wants to fudge the matter and does not want a referendum. And the organ of the British Government in the Republic, the Irish Times, is therefore a against a referendum. And there are indications that the Taoiseach, despite his spectacular victory over the Irish Times and its followers over the means by which he financed his separation from his wife, appears to have decided to submit to the Irish Times on the issue of a referendum.

The position of the DUP as we write is that it accepts the St. Andrew's Agreement, as an essential alteration to the Good Friday Agreement, but is not obliged to implement it because of private agreements it has made with Blair.

If it rejected the St. Andrew's Agreement, the alternative of a kind of joint authority by London and Dublin would be put into operation. It does not want that. But neither does it want to sit in government with Sinn Fein. So it agrees to what was agreed at St. Andrew's, but insists that there is a set of further conditions to be met before the St. Andrew's Agreement becomes implementable.

The probability is that Blair did make side-agreements with Paisley which enable him to agree and disagree simultaneously. It is what Blair did with Trimble in 1998.

We did not expect the GFA to work, because 'the Northern Ireland state' is not a viable Constitutional entity. Nothing dependent on it can work. But we thought it might have been strung out for longer if the two real Governments had a will to manage the affair from the outside. This would have required the British Government to keep pressure on the Unionists to go through the motions of working the Agreement. No pressure was required on the other side, the SDLP being all too eager to go through the motions, and in fact to behave as if shadow was substance.

But Whitehall did not keep up the pressure on Trimble after forcing him to assent to the Agreement. In fact Blair gave him a letter which superseded the Agreement in effect, for the purpose of getting the Unionist electorate to vote for the Agreement as modified by that letter. This set the pattern for the subversion of the Agreement by Trimble under a flimsy pretext of implementing it. And finally the Agreement was done away with by Dr. Reid, who revoked the devolved Government and the Assembly under cover of allegations against Sinn Fein that were never made good in the form of actual convictions, and that the Government now wants to forget.

This conduct by Whitehall was not met with counter-pressure from Dublin. In fact Dublin played along with Whitehall in all of this, bending over backwards to 'Save Dave' from Paisley. The notion that Trimble wanted to implement the Agreement, but was inhibited by fear that Paisley would profit if he did so, could only be held by people who had never taken enough interest in Ulster Unionism to have any insight into its dynamics.

From 1937 to 1998 the Constitution of the Free State asserted sovereignty over the whole of Ireland. (The 26 Counties was generally referred to as the Free State by Northern Catholics. Unionists seemed to like the name it gave itself in 1937—Eire—as indicating another place. Some Unionists also seemed to like calling it the Republic, as indicating it was a Fenian place apart, which had nothing to do with them. The 1949 declaration by the Fine Gael-led Coalition, that the Free State was a Republic, did not change the name it was given by the 1937 Constitution, so it remains Eire, even though that name fell out of general use and only appeared on stamps and suchlike, though the Irish Government appears to be promoting the name Eire-Ireland in Europe.)

In 1998 the sovereignty claim of the 1937 Constitution was repealed by the referendum which sanctioned the Good Friday Agreement.

It would have been consistent with the repeal of the sovereignty claim if Dublin had begun to act in the interest of the Nationalist minority in the North, and had confined itself to exerting counter-pressure against the British Government in support of implementation of the Agreement as signed. And it would have been consistent with the old sovereignty claim if it had sought to act impartially between both communities in the North. But its conduct has been almost the reverse of this. For most of the 60 years of the old Articles 2 & 3 Dublin was exclusively concerned with its national minority in the North, even though asserting that the Unionist community was also part of the nation. But, after relinquishing its claim on the Unionists in 1998, it began bending over backwards in a futile attempt to conciliate them, and even to understand them.

But there has been no conciliation, no appeasement, because there has been no understanding.

Despite the implication of national difference in the terms of the GFA, the 'two nations theory'—which is a blatant fact rather than a theory—continues to be denied. And it has recently been denied in hysterical terms by Senator Mansergh—adviser to Taoiseachs—in letters to the Belfast Irish News which we reprinted last month. Does he suppose that, in the close atmosphere of Belfast, what he writes in the Nationalist paper remains unknown to Unionists.

We cannot imagine what the Senator hoped to achieve by active engagement with internal politics in the North. Perhaps, in pouncing on Liam O Comain, he thought he could crush dissident Republican opinion about the GFA in the North. And perhaps, by engaging with Brendan Clifford, he hoped to frighten O Comain by pointing out the company he was in on certain matters. That shows how little he was attuned to the internal life that developed within the bizarre Constitutional entity called Northern Ireland, where everybody already knows everything, and anything that is said by anybody is noticed by everybody, and whose public opinion is not manipulable—Well, Unionist opinion was manipulated in 1998 by Blair and his egregious spiv, Tom Kelly. But that was soon put to rights.

Northern Ireland is No Man's Land. It has never formed part of the political life of the state which holds it. It was held firmly for that state until those who held it got out of hand in 1969, provoking a defensive insurrection by the Catholics which led to the abolition of Stormont in 1972. The Free State claimed sovereignty over it, but backed away from any action in support of that claim in 1970, having inflamed the situation by an irresponsible speech by the Taoiseach in 1969. It again toyed with intervention in 1972, during the week following Bloody Sunday, but then backed away for good, though maintaining the claim until 1998.

Senator Mansergh, in his irresponsible letters to the Irish News, dates the founding of a democratic State in the 26 Counties to 1922, thus placing a massive question mark over the history of his own party which was formed out of a rejection of the Treaty as undemocratic. And he denies to the Northern Catholic community the right to declare war on its own behalf, appearing to arrogate that right to the Free State.

But the Free State gave up that right in substance in 1970, and in form in 1998.

The Northern Catholic community has always (since Northern Ireland was concocted) been excluded from the political life of the State which holds it. And that State, as if in recognition of that fact, refrained from conscripting it for war in 1939. The 'Northern Ireland state', insofar as it was ever a state, ceased to be so in 1972.
Where then does the right to declare war with regard to the condition of the Northern Catholic community reside, if not with itself?

We are not suggesting that the Northern Catholics should now return to war. We did not encourage that war in 1970, when many who now indulge in hysterical denunciations of it did. But it cannot be that a community which, in the democratic era, is excluded from the political life of the state is thereby excluded from all right. If we take the ideologist of the Glorious Revolution in earnest, that community resumes its natural right to act for itself. And you really cannot have July 12th without John Locke—the bathwater without the baby.

We took Locke's view of the matter as being appropriate to the Northern Ireland situation back in the seventies (when it was invoked by Paisley and rejected by Enoch Powell) and applied it to both communities. It is time the 26 Co. State summoned up the moral and intellectual backbone to apply it to the Provo war. It would then be able to meet Whitehall on its own ground.

An instance of the profound ignorance of the Dublin establishment regarding Northern Ireland has recently come to our notice, in the form of a book by Professor David Fitzpatrick, who runs a revisionist factory in Trinity College. His book, The Two Irelands 1912 : 1939 was published by the Oxford University Press a few years ago. It sets out a scheme of history in which 20th century Ireland was the site of two revolutions, which led to the formation of two states, both states fighting civil wars in the course of consolidating themselves:

"While governments in each state asserted their power with considerable effect, their subjects did not in general secure the civil liberties promised by the two revolutionary movements. Furthermore the political alignments cemented in the two civil wars continued to dominate political debate, restricting the opportunity for social and economic reform. Freedom had been subordinated to a pursuit and defence of power" (Preface).

The Unionist opposition to Imperial Home Rule in 1912-14 might be described as a rebellion. But a revolution? It was a conservative rebellion against a Parliamentary reform, and in support of the status quo.

Its opposition to the independence mandated by the 1918 Election was not even a rebellion—not in Professor Fitzpatrick's scheme of things. It might be described as a rebellion against the Irish democracy, but Fitzpatrick does not recognise the 1918 Election as establishing any legitimate authority in Irish affairs. He recognises the British state as having legitimate authority to govern Ireland despite the electoral mandate for the establishment of independent government in Ireland. So did the Ulster Unionists. They acted against the will of Parliament in 1912-14. But they acted with the will of the British Parliament in 1919-21, in its efforts to suppress the Irish democracy as expressed in the elected Irish Dail. And they did not in 1921 demand a wee Government for themselves. It was given to them without being asked for.

In 1912-14 they had made arrangements to set up their own Provisional Government if the Home Rule Bill was enacted and an attempt was made to implement it. But Home Rule fell by the wayside when war was declared on Germany. The Unionist Opposition agreed to the formal enactment of the Home Rule Bill to help with recruiting in Nationalist Ireland on the condition that it would be suspended until after the War, and even then would not be implemented without alteration.

In 1915 the Unionists became part of the Government, and they were the dominant party in the Coalition formed in 1916. And the Government set about suppressing the 1919 Dail with the support of the Ulster Unionists. And, while the Ulster Unionists voted against the Bill which established a Northern Ireland Government, they agreed to operate it once the scheme was enacted.

So where does Professor Fitzpatrick get his Northern Ireland revolution? There wasn't even a rebellion. There was only Loyalty.

And the scheme of two civil wars is as insubstantial as the scheme of two revolutions. In the South Sinn Fein was divided and made to fight against itself by the threat that, if it did not agree to operate a Government under the authority of the Crown, there would be a comprehensive British re-conquest by means of "immediate and terrible war".

Call that a civil war if you will, even though both sides wanted the same thing—an independent republic. But there was no corresponding war within Unionism. In the North there was only suppression of the Army which sought to give effect to the 1918 electoral mandate.

In the North there was no revolution, no civil war within the revolution, and no state except the one that had always been there. It would be strange therefore if 'civil war political debate' had prevented social and economic reform. But it didn't.

Northern Ireland was excluded from the political life of the British state though remaining within it. Its 'political debate' was pretty dreadful. But social and political reform did not depend on political debate within the North. It came to the North as the outcome of the political debate in the rest of the state.

That indicates how political debate in Northern Ireland was doomed to futility. Nothing depended on it. The measures of social reform came to it as a product of the state from whose politics it was excluded. It was excluded from the politics that produced the measures, and that would undoubtedly have given rise to a substantial body of cross-community political unity if it had been included.

And it was even worse than that. Jack Beattie was elected to Westminster in 1945 to take part in the great social reform as a member of the Labour Party. The Labour Party refused to admit him. But he voted with Labour against the Tories on all those measures, while the Ulster Unionists voted against.

Beattie was also a Stormont MP. And he looked forward to fighting the Unionists there on the same measures. But what happened was that the Unionists re-enacted at Stormont as a matter of course all the social reforms which they had opposed at Westminster.

And that is how it always was in Northern Ireland. It was an integral part of the British state for social reform, and many other purposes. And then it had its own redundant politics, which could never be anything but a communal squabble within which no development was possible.

And the strange thing is that Professor David Fitzpatrick does not seem to have an inkling of the real situation!

Brian Feeney, formerly of the SDLP and latterly an independent Nationalist commentator in the Irish News, recently referred back to the campaign to get the North included in the party politics of the state which governs it (Politics Here Remain Firmly Stuck In Allegiance, 27.9.06 Irish News). He ridiculed the idea that it would have made much difference if the 6 Counties had been governed within the politics of the state. What the people were concerned about was allegiance, and they would not have been diverted from this by the politics of Labour v Tory to decide the governing of the state.

But, when that campaign was live, the SDLP did not act as if it thought its success would make no difference. It was hysterically opposed, and it obviously felt that a large body of Catholic opinion would immediately have availed of the opportunity to engage in the politics of the state by way of the Labour Party—Old Labour, as it was then.

"Allegiance" politics persisted for three generations because nothing else was possible. But the Jack Beattie affair showed that Catholics and Protestants would have taken part together in the party-politics of the state if they had not been structurally excluded.

The attitude of Sinn Fein was quite different from that of the SDLP. It was not provincialist in principle, as the SDLP was. Its ideal was to bring the North within the political life of the Irish state, and it did not cut off its activity at the Border. The SDLP was fixated on Northern Ireland politics, which in themselves are necessarily futile.

The SDLP would certainly have gone into decline—or would never have existed—if the 6 Counties had not been excluded from the political life of the state. It warded off that danger. But it went into decline anyway—making way for the party which is actively attempting to bring the 6 Counties within the political life of the other state.

Democracy has to do with states—not about striking moral attitudes in a political vacuum. Our concern was to democratise the North. We were indifferent about which state it was done in.

"Allegiance" politics in No Man's Land, outside the political life of both states, is what the SDLP was about. And it is what Dr. Paisley is about. And it must be admitted that he is doing it rather better than the SDLP did.


'Without Prejudice'…Dr. Paisley & St. Andrews.

The Fourth Estate or The Dung Beetle.
Jack Lane

UCC Medical School And The 'Gentle Black And Tans'.
Manus O'Riordan

US Military Spending Half The World's Total.

Agreement At St. Andrews.
Mark Langhammer

Shorts From The Long Fellow.
(Charlie Bird; George Galloway; North Korea; The American Dream; Failed Coup d'État; Official IRA; Bye Bye Geraldine)

A Carrolling Professor (Roy Foster & The Loach Film).
Brendan Clifford

Roger Casement Symposium:—Some Highlights.
Tim O'Sullivan

Pope Benedict And German Gold.
Pat Walsh

Is The Irish Times A British Paper?
John Martin (Unpublished Letter)

British Newspapers On Ireland (Part Two).
Seán McGouran

Irish Oil & Gas—Time For A State Company.
David Alvey

French Politics.
John Martin

Labour Comment
Edited by Pat Maloney

Recalibrating & Deconstructing Dan Breen.

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