Irish and British agree economic master plan for closer integration

Cameron-UKgovColm Kelpie, Irish Independent – 18 July 2013

The Irish and British governments are poised to unveil an economic master plan designed to deepen integration between the two countries.

A study, commissioned by both governments, outlines a range of proposals in which Dublin and London would collaborate, including joint Irish and UK trade missions, boosting electrical interconnection and a common tourist visa for both countries.

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> Anglo-Irish Co-operation Strengthens

Picture: Irish Independent

Anglo-Irish Co-operation Strengthens

David_Cameron_gov-ukUK Government Press Release, 18 July 2013

The Prime Minister David Cameron and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed the publication of the Joint (British-Irish) Economic Study Report ‘Evaluating the Value of the Economic Relationship Between the United Kingdom and Ireland’.

In March 2012, the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed a Joint Statement setting out a vision of closer bilateral cooperation between Britain and Ireland over the next ten years. One of the key elements provided for in that Statement was the preparation of a joint evaluation of the depth of economic relations between Britain and Ireland and of the opportunities for closer collaboration in support of growth to the mutual benefit of both islands.

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Picture: GOV.UK

May 2013: British and Irish troops serving together overseas.

May 2013: British and Irish troops serving together overseas.
Members of the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) and the Irish Defence Forces (IDF) have embarked on a joint military deployment to Africa. According to RTE, the Irish Minister for Defence sees this as progress towards the enhancement of relationships between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
RTE announcement of the intended joint operational deployment, February 2013:
British Forces Broadcasting Service video of RIR and IDF on joint pre-deployment training, March 2013:

All The Queen’s Men – Irish Recruits To The British Army (link to Documentary)

All The Queen’s Men – Irish Recruits To The British Army (Documentary)

Published on 15 Apr 2013

All the Queen’s Men was a joint production between RTÉ and the Irish Film Board which focused on the reasons behind hundreds of young Irishmen opting to fight in the British Army.




RTE Documentary on One – The Royal Irish

Documentary on One

The Royal Irish00058152-150

A rare insight into life of southern Irishmen in the British army, exploring their experiences in one of the most dangerous places on earth – Follow them, fighting the Taliban on the battlefield in Helmand Province…

Seminar on the History of the RIC, 7 September 2013

Optimized.RIC_Horse_BadgeThe Reform Group is holding a seminar on the history of the Royal Irish Constabulary, in September.

Time and date: Saturday, 7 September 2013, at 2.00 pm.

Venue: Wynn’s Hotel, Middle Abbey Street, Dublin.

The seminar will be opened by Pascal Donohoe TD, Minister of State for European Affairs, and chaired by Dermot Meleady, author of Redmond: the Parnellite.

The speakers will be:–

Eunan O’Halpin, Professor of History at Trinity College Dublin.

Jim Herlihy, retired member of An Garda Síochána, who has written a history of the RIC.

Jim McDonald, historian from Belfast, and member of the George Cross Foundation.

Tom Carew, former trade union official, whose grandfather served in the RIC in Co. Kilkenny.

All are welcome to attend.

Picture courtesy of Royal Irish Constabulary heritage website.


Robin Bury Blog – 1916

John Redmond

In my last blog, I wrote about the wide extent to which Ireland was ‘free’ in 1916, emphasising that the House of Common had, after tumultuous constitutional changes to the House of Lords, put the third Home Rule Bill on the statute books in September 1914. This gave a clear signal that the government of the Empire had at last accepted the principle of devolved government for Ireland within the British Empire. Once the World War I was over, Ireland would enjoy a significant degree of autonomy, excluding defence and finance.  Through an amendment, the six counties of Ulster would be excluded from Home Rule for a limited period of six years, allowing time for each county to vote to opt in or out. Redmond had insisted he would not push Protestants in the six counties into a Home Rule united Ireland without their consent. He did not get it, nor indeed the consent of the Irish Convention in 1918 when Bishop Patrick O’Donnell of Raphoe, Donegal, insisted on the Home Rule settlement included fiscal autonomy, something unionists opposed.

So why 1916?

We know that a minority within a minority secretly decided to take up arms in an attempt to achieve separation,  whereas the unionists in Ulster showed a strong determination to remain in the UK. We also know that the anticipated German arms had been scuttled off the south coast of Ireland by the German ship Aude when discovered by British intelligence, that Casement called on the rebels to call off the planned military action and that Eoin MacNeill, head of the Irish Volunteers, did likewise. However, the IRB leaders and James Connolly ignored these calls for an end to military action and went ahead with disastrous results. Thomas Bartlett in his recently published Ireland: a history informs us about 450 people died during Easter 1916 week,  of which about 250 were civilians and almost 3,000 ‘were injured, mostly civilians’.  He tells us that Connolly and MacDermott ‘may have expected the rising to ignite a nationwide insurrection’ but ‘months of planning appear to have produced possibly the most chaotic insurrection in Irish history’. Strong condemnation, atypical of Irish historians in general.

So what swung popular opinion, at first appalled by the rebellion, to eventually support the violent separatists? Historians seem agreed it was the ‘stern military repression’ of the British, in the words of Thomas Bartlett. Fifteen men were shot by firing squad, thus being accorded the status of soldiers (hanging was the alternative, as in the case of Roger Casement, treated as a traitor and criminal). Over 400 insurgents were interred in Britain. Yet Bartlett tells us that ‘stern military repression had to be expected’ as ‘the planned rising would take place during a war, one in which things were going badly for Britain and its allies’. Furthermore:

“It was not as if Ireland at Easter 1916 was groaning under an intolerable tyranny…the war had brought measurable benefits to the Irish economy, there was no conscription and wartime  restrictions on free speech were irksome rather than oppressive.”

As for the Volunteer rebels, they ‘had been allowed to parade, drill and conduct their manoeuvres during the preceding years, and surely this was proof that a liberal (and probably unwise) indulgence had been extended to them’.

The Protestant Redmondite, Stephen Gwynne, thought otherwise:

“Everyone of the men who were in that rising, Mr Cosgrave not least of them, admits that if the rank and file – many of whom has no idea for what purpose they had been mobilised on Easter Sunday – had been dismissed contemptuously to their homes and the leaders treated as lunatics, the whole thing would have been over.”

In other words, Redmond would have remained the leader of nationalist Ireland, ‘the lunatics’ would have been ridiculed and a Home Rule settlement would have  triumphed post WWI.  Thousands of deaths would have been avoided in the guerrilla and civil wars that followed from 1919 to 1923. Clearly we will never know if this outcome would have been realised, but we do know that Redmond and his Parliamentary party were victims of the Great War. Bartlett writes:

“In the end it had been the interminable war, with its martial rhetoric and mass slaughter…that brought the party’s demise…it could not function, let alone flourish, in an era of total war.”

What sort of brave new Ireland did the insurgents kill and die to achieve? Tom Garvin thinks hatred was a strong motivation:

“Many (of the old IRA) were pre-political and had only a vague idea of the polity for which they were putatively struggling. On the other hand, that had a clearer idea of what they hated: the traditional Anglo-Irish and British ascendancy…Land and communal hatreds led to sectarian and agrarian murder.”

There were no guiding intellectuals, no plans for a new, socialist, even communist Ireland.  James Connolly may have aspired to lead Ireland down the Russian road, following Lenin, but the Proclamation was no socialist document. A Catholic, conservative, small farmer , petit bourgeois Ireland emerged from the chaos and violence in a separated Ireland for the Irish race, a special people, ‘a nation held against its will and exploited for centuries’ the eminent historian Joost Augusteijn tell us in The Irish Revolution.

Augusteijn also wrote:

“This lack of a positive self-image and simplistic analysis of Ireland’s problems can at least be held responsible for the shape of Irish society after independence.  …the Irish language and Catholicism became the two defining issues which received increasing emphasis in a desperate attempt by them to distinguish themselves from their former rulers and appeal to the Irish electorate.”

The new rulers were not interested in changing existing British institutions but on seizing power, based on a negative image of the British. What united Irishmen ‘was their opposition to English rule, not any thought out notion of what Ireland should be like’, wrote Augusteijn. But this was not to last long:  in time, new Irish governments decided what ‘Ireland should be like’ and imposed Catholic teachings on divorce, contraception, censorship on the people. Arguably, the fears of northern unionists were fulfilled as ‘sacral nationalism’ * became the order of business in Kildare street. Certainly the fears of the tiny Protestant minority in the Free State were to be realised. The historian FSL Lyons wrote in Culture and Anarchy in Ireland:

…in the south the minority only amounted to about five per cent and was, or seemed to be, enervated by the almost repressive tolerance shown to it by the majority.”

There was a major exodus of Protestants from 1919 – 23 in the twenty-six counties, excluding the British forces, perhaps as many as 35,000 unwilling emigrants who did not fit into the new definition of Irishness, being neither Catholic nor descendants of a mythical Gaelic people. Their departure was arguably not regretted by the new Free State nationalist establishment. Those who stayed on were expected to be part of the Irish nation yet were excluded in an Ireland where Irish identity:

“…will inevitably often seem…sectarian, self-righteous, exclusive, encoded with all sorts of political, cultural and racial assumptions that must be acceded to without demur.” (Professor Terrence Brown of Trinity College, Dublin in Culture on Ireland, 1991, Queen’s University Belfast).

*Conor Cruise O’Brien.

Ronan Fanning: Lowry may yet act as the catalyst to coalition divide

When looked at in a historical perspective, Lowry’s actions are really not so surprising.

RONAN FANNING – 07 April 2013

ON THE eve of the introduction of the third Home Rule Bill of 1912, the Irish Chief Secretary, Augustine Birrell, tried to explain the depth of Ulster Unionist opposition to his cabinet colleagues.

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Ronan Fanning is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at University College Dublin. His new book, ‘Fatal Path: British Government and Irish Revolution 1910-22′, will be published on May 2.

Irish Independent



Robin Bury Blog – Was 1916 A Good Thing?

Robin Bury Blog – Was 1916 A Good Thing

Well Eibhlin Byrne, Fianna Fáil, Lord Mayor of Dublin from 2009 – 10 thinks so. So do the Irish political establishment and the majority of people in the fair land we call the Republic. At the Freedom Day reception on 27 April 2010 in the South African ambassador’s residence in Killiney, Eibhlin compared the fight for “freedom’ by black South Africans to the Irish rebellion in 1916. But were we to take a test on freedoms enjoyed by the Irish people and South Africa blacks before self-government, Ireland would win hands down. Why?


Free press and freedom of assembly – Yes
Control of local government – Yes
Devolved government on statute books - Yes
Free elementary education - Yes
Land in hands of natives - Yes
Universities for natives - Yes

South Africa

Free press and freedom of assembly - No
Control of local government - No
Devolved government on statute books - No
Free elementary education - No
Land in hands of natives - No
Universities for natives - No

So why 1916? Beats me. Black South Africans had suffered centuries of brutal exploitation (if you doubt me, read Rian Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart, Malan being an establishment Boer), the Irish, well, were taught their experiences were even worser and worser but they weren’t remotely on the same scale. Oh yes, the famine when potatoes rotted year after year and if you are to believe Tim Pat Coogan and Irish-American historians, you would weep at the way THE ENGLISH set out to wipe out the paddies. Liam Kennedy, the Irish historian of Queen’s University, Belfast, tells it as it was, measure after measure were taken to relieve the natural disaster, while Irish Catholic merchants exported grain year after year and grew rich.

What were the consequences of 1916?
• Partition. The division of Ireland was probably avoidable had peaceful constitutional methods been followed, as argued by John Bruton.
• The loss of about 6,000 lives in 1916 plus the civil war that followed.
• The formation of a suffocating and inward looking Ireland.
• A major exodus of the Protestant community,
• No welfare state with free health and secondary/university education as enjoyed by our troublesome northern neighbours
• Huge amounts of money wasted in promoting a language no one wanted to speak.
The historian Tom Garvin summed up what motivated Sinn Fein and the IRA to fight British soldiers, Irish policemen and their own civilians to achieve separation.
Sinn Fein’s aims were in a vital sense transformative. The changes it envisaged went beyond the transfer of state power from British to Irish hands, to the vague but potent promise of a radically altered way of life, spiritual regeneration and the rediscovery of the nation’s soul’
This is the talk of fascism. What on earth is ‘the nation’s soul’? The nonsense of a pure people? Well, we know what happened. I, as a post nationalist, will be out of the country in 2016 when a man of vicious violence, Michael Collins, will be celebrated by our Taoiseach in 1916 festivities dedicated to blood sacrifice, blasphemy and immorality. I will raise a toast to one John Redmond, a constitutional patriot, whose portrait does not hang in Leinster House.

Lord Empey urges Republic to rejoin Commonwealth in House of Lords Debate


Published on 15/03/2013 10:34 – Newsletter

ULSTER Unionist peer Lord Empey has called on the Republic to rejoin the Commonwealth.

Ireland left the Commonwealth when it declared itself a republic on April 18, 1949, but there have been calls intermittently since for it to rejoin.

Yesterday, Lord Empey made the call during a debate in the House of Lords on the Commonwealth.

“I would like to highlight the importance of the economic dimension to the Commonwealth,” he said.

“Approximately one-third of humanity is engaged in the Commonwealth and it very largely shares with people and businesses in this country a common language and very similar approaches to the law.

> Read more

Photograph: Newsletter