Image: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Stephen Collins, Irish Times – 12 Jan 2015
A historic agreement on defence co-operation between Ireland and the UK will be signed by senior Ministers from the two countries later this month.
Image: Defence Forces Military Archives
Response to Ronan Fanning Opinion piece, in The Irish Times – Sat., 3 January 2015
by Dermot Meleady
Ronan Fanning (January 3rd) returns to lambasting those who commemorated last year’s centenary of the Home Rule Act for engaging in a “self-indulgent exercise in whatiffery”. Yet the bulk of his article is an extended quotation from an essay by the late Garret Fitzgerald that is replete with just such self indulgence, if that is what we are to call it.
The questions posed by Dr. Fitzgerald – “Would Ireland ever have become … ?”, “Or would it have shrunk … ?”, “Would it have been all that different … ?”, “ Might there not have been … ?” – are exactly of the kind asked by the Home Rule commemorators so heavily criticized by Prof. Fanning. Questions of that kind are surely what one would expect to find in an essay titled “Reflections on the Irish State”. Their relevance is heightened by the fact that Ireland’s nationalist community between 1914 and 1916 had a choice between two equally real options: Home Rule, as signed on the statute book in 1914 and awaiting implementation subject to certain conditions, provided a real alternative to separatist violence. They are even more germane in view of the fact that the option actually chosen continues to carry consequences for this island to this day.
The only difference is that Prof. Fanning does not like the answers to these questions given by the Home Rule commemorators, while those of Dr. Fitzgerald he finds “compelling” and “persuasive”.
The core of Prof. Fanning’s argument about actual events is that the rebels of 1916 had “despaired of constitutional nationalism when the British government yielded to the Ulster Unionists’ threat of force and failed to put in place a Home Rule parliament in Dublin before the Great War”.
First, that “before”. The Home Rule Bill passed its final stages in the House of Commons in late May 1914, after a three-session passage begun in 1912 according to parliamentary rules agreed in advance by all parties. Such a Bill could expect to be signed into law by the monarch when parliament was prorogued, which usually came in early August.
To blame the British government for not enacting the Bill before the start of the War is to blame it for not foreseeing the War’s outbreak at exactly that time. In any case, even had the War not intervened, and had the crucial quarrel over the Ulster question and partition not added a further obstacle, a Dublin Home Rule parliament could not have been in operation before spring 1915 at the earliest.
It is disingenuous to depict Pearse and de Valera, revolutionaries and secret members of the IRB from 1914 onwards, as “despairing of constitutional nationalism”. Pearse and many others of the revolutionaries opposed everything Home Rule promised by way of future relations between Ireland and Britain. His words (in Irish) on platform No. 3 at the great Home Rule rally in O’Connell St. on 31 March 1912 are hardly those of a yet-to-be-disillusioned Home Ruler: “… Let the foreigner understand, if we are betrayed again, there will be bloody war all through Ireland.”
The vast majority of nationalist voters who gave victory to Home Rule candidates, mostly of the Irish Parliamentary Party, in all six by-elections between September 1914 and March 1916 did not “despair of constitutional nationalism”, or consider violence as an option, uneasy though they were made to feel by the prolonged delay of Home Rule caused by the War and by the reappearance of Unionists in the British war cabinet in 1915.
Importantly, they did underestimate the significance of the territorial compromise that would have to be made to ensure a peaceful start to any form of self-government in Ireland. It was the shock of this, when it was fully revealed in the failed Home Rule negotiations of summer 1916, that combined with the emotions generated by the executions of the rebels to demolish the power of Redmond, Dillon and the Parliamentary Party.
The revolutionaries may, as Prof. Fanning says, have regarded the British government’s yielding “to the Ulster Unionists’ threat of force” as adequate justification for their resort to rebellion. However, the rest of us have learned a thing or two since 1916. He himself shows no signs of rejecting the legitimacy of the state that emerged from the 1916-21 period, though that is no more of an all-Ireland entity than Home Rule could have been. Presumably he accepts the 94% vote of the Irish electorate in 1998 to remove the irredentist claim on Northern Ireland from the Constitution, thereby retrospectively validating the expressed wish of the million Ulster unionists in 1912 to be excluded from Home Rule.
There thus seems little to celebrate about a rebellion based on (i) an attitude to Home Rule that, so far from waiting to see if it could be turned to Ireland’s gain, sought to derail it from the outset and took advantage of the war in order to do so, and (ii) a perception of Ulster sentiment we have now come to see as faulty, however understandable it might have been at the time.
Having mined Dr. Fitzgerald’s speculative arguments, Prof. Fanning ends by offering one of his own. “We should unashamedly commemorate the 1916 Rising,” he says, “as the catalyst without which the status of an independent, sovereign state could not have been so soon achieved”. This sentence clearly implies that that status could not have been reached by an alternative path.
However, if he really wishes to expunge all traces of “whatiffery” from the debate, he cannot claim to close the debate so conclusively. He should practice the same self-denying ordinance he prescribes for others. That sentence would then read: “We should unashamedly commemorate the 1916 Rising as the catalyst by which the status of an independent, sovereign state was actually achieved by 1937”.
Ireland’s Ambassador to Great Britain Dan Mulhall will lay a wreath at London’s Cenotaph Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in November, it has been announced.
It will be the first time that an invitation has been issued and accepted and coincides with the centenary of the outbreak of World War I.
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The British-Irish Visa Scheme will operate through a reciprocal visa arrangement, whereby Ireland and the UK recognise short-stay visas issued by each other for travel to each jurisdiction. This will allow the holder of a visa issued by the country of first arrival to travel freely between Ireland and the UK.
Ireland could have taken same ‘peaceful path’ to independence with Home Rule
Stephen Collins – Irish Times, 18 Sep 2014
Ireland could have followed the same peaceful path towards independence that Scotland is considering today, according to former taoiseach John Bruton.
In a speech today on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Home Rule Bill into law (September 18th, 1914), Mr Bruton pointed to the way the referendum on independence for Scotland had come about.
Image: Reform Group