Editorial from Irish Political Review, March 2010
Many A Slip—
The great Tory-Unionist alliance projected by David Cameron seems to have come to grief. The Ulster Unionist Party agreed to become part of the Tory Party a couple of years ago. It was declining to the point of extinction and Cameron's proposal came to it as a lifeline. And Cameron became doubtful that he would have a clear win in the forthcoming Election, so he refurbished the Tories' 'Ulster' credentials in the hope of picking up a few seats there. Unfortunately the only UUP member with a seat in the Commons rejected the merger with the Tories on the ground that she agreed with Labour's policies.
The UUP then made overtures to the Democratic Unionist Party with a view to preventing nationalists taking seats because of a split Unionist vote. Talks were held for that purpose at the headquarters of the Orange Order. But this led to trouble with Catholics who had joined the Tory-Unionist set up (which called itself Ulster Conservative And Unionist New Force) thinking that it was a new departure transcending the Protestant/Catholic division. When they heard of UUP (or UCUNF) talks with the DUP, held under Tory auspices at Hatfield House, they were allowed on British network television to say that, if a connection with the DUP was established, they would resign. They would not be Tories if that meant supping with the Orange Order. Cameron was then interviewed about the matter and said—or seemed to say—that, if the UUP made arrangements with the DUP, the Tory merger with it would be off.
The UUP has been put in the position of choosing between the Tories and the DUP. As we go to print they have not yet made a decision.
We have always thought a Catholic Unionist was an absurd political animal—unless he happens to be an English gentleman, like Sir John Gorman, and therefore has nothing to do with the life of the place despite his membership of the UUP. Forty years ago Louis Boyle put it to the test. He joined the UUP and made all the right noises, but found that he would never be anything to his party colleagues but a Taig who was trying to play a diabolical trick on them and should therefore be treated with caution.
David Cameron's Tory project is starting on the ground vacated by the Campaign for Equal Citizenship of two decades ago. That movement paralleled the Campaign for Labour Representation, in seeking to allow would-be Conservatives in Northern Ireland an opportunity to participate in State politics. It was not unionist. The CEC was diverted into a Unionist side-track: it dropped its initial agnosticism on the Partition issue and became another form of Unionism. When that happened, it had no hope of attracting Catholics and was bound for failure. Cameron is an active British Unionist and has made that a selling point of his party. That is underlined by his alliance with Ulster Unionism. But the whole point of Unionism is that it is not a social or class movement, but a one-issue alliance. The semi-merger with the Tory Party strikes at its popular base, with its Labour sympathies.
From a unionist viewpoint, an electoral alliance between the UUP and DUP is essential to maximise Unionist seats but, when the DUP alliance was mooted, Conservative Catholics understood that they had not joined a Conservative Party, but a Unionist Party and become part of the Orange continuum. That proved to be unacceptable.
Northern Ireland was made by Britain for Protestants and Catholics to feud in. The Protestants, being a 2 to 1 majority at the outset, were to keep the Catholics down. They succeeded in this for half a century. Then things went wrong, and now the Catholics are up. But the feud continues. In that respect at least Northern Ireland is a success.
Brian Feeney published a tirade, in his Irish News column of 17th February, against "Frank Allaun, a stick-thin far left MP" who "represented one of the safest Labour seats in England, Salford East for 28 years". Frank Allaun, is dead and he is not much remembered. What he stood for in British politics was wiped out by Tony Blair and his acolytes, amongst whom was Peter Hain, once our Pro-consul. Why does Brian Feeney remember him so vividly? Because he wanted to end the Pro-Consular relationship between the Six Counties and Britain.
Allaun "extolled the virtues of East Germany as a model of socialist society and ignored the realities of the vicious oppressive regime". We don't know whether he did or not. We held no brief for the East German state, and we did not expect it to last. We paid no heed to the good things said about its living arrangements for ordinary people who wanted to raise a family, and take part in sociable pleasure, and who did not make it a priority to ignite the Cold War by subverting the regime in the Western interest.
East Germany was a construct of the Second World War which Britain launched in 1939 but reneged on the fighting of—and expanded at every opportunity so that others would be compelled to fight it—and which Communist Russia won between 1941 and 1945. In 1945 Russia found the Western Allies, for whom it had destroyed Nazi Germany, actively arrayed against it, and so set up a series of buffer-states between it and its Western Allies who became enemies in the moment of victory against Germany. (In 1919 Britain and France had set up a series of buffer states against Communist Russia.)
East Germany was one of those buffer states. It was not an independent state, and there were never serious grounds for mistaking it as such. It was the front line in the Cold War between the Allies of the World War.
There is nothing wrong, from the Western viewpoint (of which Brian Feeney is clearly an advocate) in maintaining buffer states against an enemy. The West does it all the time. (Iraq was a buffer-state against Iran until Iran until the West went crazy and decided to destroy it.)
The three Western Occupation Zones of 1945 were constructed into the state of Federal Germany. The Russian Occupation Zone was made into the People's Republic.
East Germany was Anti-Nazi Germany. Nazism arose in Germany after the defeat—and added Versailles Treaty humiliation—of 1919, when the country became a battleground between Communism and Capitalism. Neither of the major parties based on the policy of preserving capitalism as the socio-economic medium of life—the Social Democrats (who had become ineffectual Marxist conservatives) and the Catholic Centre Party (which had not yet become Christian Democratic) could stabilise the situation against the Communists. The Nazi Party became the major party in the state because its undertaking to do it was found credible by the electorate.
It took power in 1933 and was actively supported by Britain during the following years.
Britain decided to make war in Germany for reasons that had nothing to do with protecting Jews or with hostility to Nazism as an ideology or as a political system. The balance-of-power strategy, through which Britain saw the world, determined that the strongest state in Europe was Britain's enemy. Having helped to make Nazi Germany the strongest power in Europe (against France), Britain could then do no other than treat it as an enemy.
The Nazi movement in Germany came close to being all-embracing in the course of the 1930s (as, for example, the Imperialist movement in Britain was during the generation leading up to 1914). Liberals, Catholics, and Protestants all found a place in it. And there was even a degree of collaboration between the Zionists and the Nazis. Of the German political forms, only the Communist Party was outside the Pale.
When it came to constructing a West German state after 1945, there was no possibility of staffing it with anti-Nazi personnel—unless the Communists were brought in: and West Germany was constructed as an anti-Communist state under American hegemony. There was token, superficial, de-Nazification of Germany after 1945, and a few score of the Nazi leaders were killed after Show Trials, but there was substantial continuity of personnel from the Third Reich to the Federal Republic, and various pension rights were carried over from the one to the other. It was in East Germany that the anti-Nazi Germans were in office.
Each side in the Cold War made its German state a showpiece for its system, and each ensured that the region served its interests. The West was no less an Occupied Territory than the East down to the 1980s. But in the West Konrad Adenauer (a pioneering Christian Democrat not implicated in the Nazi regime) had three masters and he maximised his freedom of action by playing the Americans against the British and establishing a special relationship with the Gaullist French, and De Gasperi's Christian Democrats in Italy. But the East had only one master.
At certain point (about 1980, as we recall), it began to be said that the Partition of Germany was not an accidental military product of Britain's Second World War, but expressed a long-term underlying national division in Germany—Prussia versus Bavaria. And the strange thing was that Irish anti-Partitionists became enthusiastic German Partitionists—and those who would not accept the word of the Ulster Protestants that they were not part of an Irish nation began to say that we should recognise the fact of 'two German nations', even though the Germans said they were one.
We held that there were two German states brought about by an accident of war, but German national unity persisted, while the division in Ireland was not only political but national. Thirty years later Germany is united, and not even the deliberate and systematic humiliation of the Easterners by the triumphalist Westerners after unification could generate a Prussian nationalism. While in Ireland———
If Frank Allaun "extolled the virtues of East Germany as a model of socialist society", we can see why he did so. Its arrangements, made for sociable living by ordinary people, were beyond anything ever attempted in Britain or Ireland, and they still survive in some degree. But the state is of crucial importance in the modern world, and it was because of the position of the East German state, not because of its arrangements for sociable living, that we took it to be destined to failure.
Feeney's article is entitled Tory Meddler Has Lost None Of That 'Invincible Ignorance'. So was Frank Allaun a Tory admirer of East Germany?
The article is a venomous tirade against Allaun. Nobody else is named in it. He was "a leftwing loony". More than that, he came under Einstein's "definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results": a thing never done in Northern Ireland, of course—except perhaps by Unionists, although there are signs that Feeney would exempt the Unionists from the charge.
But the "Tory meddler", mentioned almost in passing, is "the Conservative proconsul designate", not named. We must confess that we cannot think of his name just now. We leave it to the reader to find out the name if he really wants to know.
So, Allaun was an invincibly ignorant, insane, left looney, and now "we have the Conservative proconsul designate mouthing exactly the same rubbish from the opposite direction".
And what exactly is this 'exact same rubbish'?
It is that Allaun wanted to end the Pro-Consular mode of governing Northern Ireland—thus demonstrating that "He knew nothing about 'Norn Irn'". (It is nice to see one of our little inventions—Norn Irn, which we first heard from Sean McGouran—coming back to us from the Irish News.)
Allaun wanted to end the Pro-Consular mode: the prospective Tory-Proconsul wants to increase his chances of becoming Pro-Consul by attaching a handful of Ulster Unionist MPs to the Tory Party. Which appears to be he same thing from Feeney's vantage point. It puts us in mind of a famous couple of lines by some famous poet:
"Norn Irn is too much with him, late and soon,
Getting and spending he lays waste his powers".
Feeney harps on continuously about Pro-Consular Government. That is how we described the way Northern Ireland came to be governed after 1972. It was governed by a Secretary of State from Britain who had no representative connection with the Six Counties. We proposed as a remedy that the North should be brought within the representative system of British politics. Frank Allaun, a traditional Labour MP from a constituency with a strong Irish presence, took the point and supported the campaign to bring the North within the politics of the State. And he did this without prejudice to his support for Irish unity.
The SDLP was utterly opposed to this. By mindless reflex it took it that opening up the democratic politics of the State to the Northern electorate would kill off the Anti-Partition movement. But it seemed to us that the Anti-Partitionism of Catholic versus Protestant in the closed political system of the North, which kept the Protestant community together as Partitionist, meant that Anti-Partitionism was a non-starter in Constitutional terms.
But the Constitutional nationalists—who, judging by what they said in their waking ours, must have carried on condemning Republicanism in their sleep—were always on the point of making a breakthrough to the Protestants. But what happened in fact was that the SDLP lost most of the handful of Protestants they had at the start. And John Hume could not appear on television without causing Protestant hackles to rise.
There was, in our experience, significant support amongst Catholics for the campaign for British politics, but suspicion of it among Unionists. If the CLR had depended on support in the Protestant community to get off the ground, it would have fallen flat. As it was, the CLR conducted a worthwhile campaign for about 15 years, and a very strong campaign for the last 5 of them, before being subverted by Unionism.
The opening up of British politics to the Northern electorate would have tended to unfreeze Protestant/Catholic relations by involving them in the politics of governing the State. And that was why Unionism was against it. It wanted Partition politics. That gave it its secure majority, endangered only by 'demographics' (in plain language, breeding) in the distant future.
Forty years ago the SDLP thought (or said) that, if the residual connection with the Tory Party was ended, the Unionist monolith (the comprehensively communal structure of the UUP) would crumble, and the Irish nationalism latent in the Protestant community would assert itself. Well, the Tories broke up Unionist Stormont in 1972, and the UUP monopoly was broken by the rise of Paisleyism, but the more Unionism suffered in these superficial politics of the situation, the more cohesive and determined and belligerent the Protestant community became in its rejection of things Irish.
An opening up to British politics would have threatened that cohesion.
According to Feeney, Allaun gave a radio interview in the early 1980s in which he thought Labour could win 4 seats. The interviewer asked which four.
"With the assurance of total ignorance Allaun instantly replied that the most obvious one was East Belfast. 'Why?', asked the astonished presenter. 'Because thee's a shipyard there, Allaun answered confidently. With his background in engineering work he naively believed that shipyard workers would automatically vote Labour. Needless to say, Peter Robinson increased his majority in East Belfast. The result of the 1983 general election showed that even in England Allaun was wrong"—as the Tories won."
So Peter Robinson gave one in the eye to Frank Allaun by increasing his majority against a UUP candidate. Good for him! But we must say that we do not recall Feeney heaping praise on Peter Robinson in 1983.
Of course the Labour Party refused to organise in Northern Ireland, and did not contest any election there in 1983, or before 1983, or after 1983. And what we get here is Feeney's feelings in a situation which he finds increasingly problematic. And we suspect that Allaun is a whipping boy for Catholics who are trying to break loose from SDLP futility, but not in the Sinn Fein direction.
Feeney was once an SDLP activist. He resigned from the SDLP but did not go to Sinn Fein. He became an independent commentator in the Irish News, from a common denominator, nationalist, viewpoint. He teaches history at a Catholic College in Belfast. He sets up to be an intellectual. He sometimes appears to be an Anglophobe in the proper sense (his critique being beyond rationality, as in his tirade against Allaun). But he also takes part, representing Norn Irn, in that quintessentially British institution, the BBC's Round Britain Quiz.
If Frank Allaun was an ignorant English leftie whose views on Norn Irn were self-evidently absurd, why this venom directed against him so long after his death? Because Catholic Tories have appeared on the scene, and have been nominated as candidates in the General Election. (But Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey's project has little in common with Cameron's. He wants to maintain Ulster Unionism in an attachment to the Tory Party.)
One of the Catholic Tory candidates who stood down when the UUP negotiation with the DUP became public, was Sheila Davidson, who was a Catholic looking for a way of being Unionist which did not involve a connection with the Orange Order. She thought she had found this in the UUP as an attachment to the Tory Party. And she stood down when the overture to the DUP threatened her with Orangeism.
But the DUP has never been the party of the Orange Order. The historic association has been between the Orange Order and the UUP. The former leader of the UUP, David Trimble, an Orangeman, often said he would dissociate the Party from the Order, but he did not do it. As we understand it, the Order facilitated him by putting itself at a distance from the Party, formally at least. But it acted as a facilitator of the UUP in its attempt to make a pact with the DUP.
The DUP, on the other hand, has no historic association with the Order. It arose in opposition to the Orange/UUP combination in the 1970s and became dominant over it. Paisley did not take part in Orange Order celebrations on the Twelfth. He went instead to the event put on by the Independent Orange Order, that was founded around 1904, and arose, as far as we recall, out of the united tenant-farmer movement of Catholics and Protestants which drove the land purchase movement. The leaders of the Orange Order at the time were the great landlords, and they tried to use the Order against the land reform.
If the Constitutional Nationalists were even half in earnest about winning Protestants to their cause, they would get to know the history of Protestant Ulster better than the Protestants themselves, and would try to make something of events like the formation of the IOO, which once had a kind of Irish unity policy.
As things stand it is not easy for a Catholic to be a Unionist. And Feeney's great concern is to keep it so.
A big Sinn Fein Conference was held in the TUC building in London during the month. It was addressed by Professor the Lord Bew, who was to make the case against Irish unity. He said that public opinion surveys showed that 28% of the Catholics were Unionists, though he thought the percentage was slightly lower. Twenty-five years ago the figure was around 40%. But that was in the sphere of abstract answers to abstract questions. In the actuality of current politics there were virtually no Catholic Unionists then and there are none now.
The 40% then, and the 28% now, relate to a willingness to take part in the political life of the State—the conflict of the Labour, Tory and Liberal Parties. It did not express support for any of the Unionist Parties, which are all Protestant communal parties of the Unionist Family.
What Ulster Unionism, in any of its forms, stands for is the maintenance of a semi-detached connection with Britain through a Northern Ireland structure which assures it a communal majority. Catholics who would willingly participate in British political life cannot do so through Ulster Unionism.
Lord Bew said Gerry Adams must explain what he intends to do about winning Unionist support for a United Ireland. But it is Lord Bew, the Unionist, who should address the problem of the Catholics who are potential participants in British politics but are prevented from becoming so in practice by the only kind of Unionism that exists. After all, Lord Bew is a Lord in reward for services rendered to the Northern Ireland Office, through the Unionist Party, in preserving that system.
The Sinn Fein Conference in London was also addressed by Conall McDevitt, Assembly Member for South Belfast in replacement of Carmel Hanna, and Chair of the Balmoral Branch of the SDLP. In criticism of Sinn Fein, he said the war was futile. That idiosyncratic view is possibly explained by the fact that, according to the biographical notes for the Conference, he is a Dubliner. In criticism of the Unionists, he said that they brought down the Sunningdale Government. They did not. The SDLP undermined it when it absolutely refused to delay implementation of the Council of Ireland, after the chicanery of the Dublin Government had been exposed in the Dublin High Court, and denounced the demand for an election before proceeding with the Council as Fascist.
And he explained that the SDLP policy on the ending of Partition is that it should not happen if there is a majority for it in Norn Irn, but only if there is a majority in the Unionist community for it. This is a very big change indeed since 1974. And, working out the implications of it, one can only conclude that the only reason the SDLP does not declare itself a party of the Union is that it doesn't have the nerve.
There was a while when the SDLP campaign against Sinn Fein, after the latter consolidated its position as the major party, could be seen as arising from mere resentment over the past. But the new leader, Margaret Ritchie, has been putting forward a ground of policy difference. In a letter to the Irish News (Jan 27) she sets out four differences with Sinn Fein.
1. The SDLP is for a "social democratic, mixed enterprise economy", while Sinn Fein is "an old-style class warfare" party, which is complete nonsense. SDLP has become an elite party detached from the mass, while Sinn Fein is a popular party that arose out of the mass and remains connected with it, but is at ease in a middle class milieu.
2. is support for Europe—which, given the condition of Europe, we will pass by, as in fact Ritchie almost does.
3. "The SDLP genuinely believes in building a shared future with greater integration. They are content with equal but still separate treatment". In other words, Sinn Fein operates the Good Friday Agreement system. But it was the SDLP which negotiated the "equal but separate". Ritchie's predecessor, Mark Durkan, toyed with rejecting the GFA system and making an alliance with the UUP to establish a weighted majority rule system in its place, but dropped it. If Ritchie does not take it up in earnest, her rejection of "equal but separate" is only verbiage.
Under the same heading she says:
"We would embark on a radical programme of measures to normalise our society [make it a normal part of Britain?!]. Sinn Fein is content with permanent division. We call dialogue with unionists “further engagement”. Sinn Fein call it “outreach”. We believe reconciliation is worthwhile in itself."
We have no idea what all of this means.
4. In the event of Irish unity—which on the SDLP's new terms means when a majority of Protestants become Irish nationalists—it will be done "with the Stormont institutions and protections still in place”. But the only Stormont institutions and protections that exist are the equal but separate structures that she rejected in paragraph 3. And she describes the Sinn Fein policy as "a takeover into a unitary state".
So the SDLP will only agree to a United Ireland when a majority of Protestants become Irish nationalists. An, if that comes about, it will retain the present Stormont system, and thus seal off the Protestants from the political life of the Irish state as the Catholics have been sealed off from the political life of the British state. And a Pro-Consul from Dublin will replace the one from London.
It's no wonder Brian Feeney is going hysterical.
Many A Slip—
Ireland And Gallipoli.
Liberal Bloodletting (Poem).
Adamsgate (and extract from Connolly's Press Poisoners In Ireland).
Minister Hanafin On Social Partnership.
Shorts from the Long Fellow
One Secular Nation.
Death Of A Dilettante (Poem).
The Spy Who Grew Up With The Bold: The Irish Republican Education Of John Betjeman.
Blindness On Iraq.
Fintan O'Toole On Captain Rock.
DIBlues No. 1: Entry On D. D. Sheehan (in Dictionary of Irish Biography).
US Weapons Test Aimed At Iran Caused Haiti Quake.
Haiti—The Unforgiven (Poem).
America's Warfare State by Patrick J. Buchanan.
Postscript On George Lee.
Hands Off Our Social Insurance!
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