There are relatively few nations in the world where a significant part of the ruling elites, be they in politics or the press, question their country’s very existence, particularly as a sovereign and independent state. Ireland, Europe’s colonial basket-case, is one of the few territories where such questioning is considered a necessary measure to gain entry to polite society. Year after year, decade after decade, since the Irish people voted for their freedom – and a republican form of freedom, no less – in the national and local plebiscite-elections of 1918 to 1920 there have been those who have queried the right of this island nation to exist outside of its historic “union” with the United Kingdom of Great Britain. In the north-east of the country the politics of such people can be easily identified, manifesting itself in the regionally-truncated tradition of ideological “unionism” and political parties like the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). Nationally, however, things are more complex as Ireland’s domestic “Birthers” hide under various polite and not-so-polite euphemisms: revisionists, neo-unionists, West Brits, Seoiníní, British apologists, colonist-deniers and so on.
The term, “neo-unionist“, seems the most appropriate since it brings to mind the not too dissimilar beliefs of neo-confederates in the southern United States, defenders of a discredited cause now waged by discredited – and discreditable – men and women. There too the revisionist is less a seeker after truth than a pedlar of myth. Which brings to mind this example of apologist rhetoric from the Irish Times where Dennis Kennedy, former deputy editor of the newspaper, ticks all the familiar neo-unionist boxes while criticising this year’s official, nation-wide commemorations of the Easter Rising of 1916, the insurrection which heralded the revolutionary era.
“The Alliance leader at the time David Ford explained: his difficulty was with the State putting such effort into commemorating those who had engaged in violence, when there was a democratic alternative. He agreed with the Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin that the Easter Rising was “profoundly wrong” and lacking in “any democratic or constitutional legitimacy”.
He could equally have cited Paul Gallagher, Attorney General in Fianna Fáil governments under Bertie Aherne and Brian Cowen, whose opinion was that the Rising “had no legitimacy whatsoever”.
There are today some in the Republic who share those views, but who can still commemorate the 1916 leaders as courageous idealists whose actions, while misguided, profoundly influenced the timetable of independence. Those who have lived through the Provisional IRA terrorist campaign and still have to live with continued armed violence from Irish republicans, simply cannot buy it.”
The Easter Rising can only be interpreted as an undemocratic and unconstitutional “rebellion” against Britain’s authority in Ireland if ones accepts that the authority of London and its Dublin Castle officials was based upon some sort of original democratic and constitutional mandate. That no such mandate or legitimising agent existed for the UK presence here is where the “West British” nature of the neo-unionist cause is revealed. For that is the nub of the matter, the one that the apologists shirk from. Simply put, to believe that armed resistance to British colonial rule was illegitimate is to believe that British rule was legitimate. There is no other way to square that circle.
Thankfully I am not the only one to be dismayed by the political schizophrenia that characterises a certain clique in contemporary Irish society, the Wannabe Brits. From an article by the anonymous Insider writing for the Galway Advertsier:
“Insider thought she lived on an island called Ireland… Insider now realises she in fact lives on an island called Island.
It is an island which has no name (notice how in recent times the term ‘All-Ireland’ and ‘the island of Ireland’ have been dropped in favour of All-Island, eg, the All-Island Brexit forum, the Composing The Island concerts, etc, ) or at least no name she should ever mention at, say, one of those merlot soaked dinner parties she often attends…
The majority of those who pretend to rule this island have a peculiar difficulty in that, deep within their little selves, they cherish one belief above all others: that the country they purport to rule should not really exist.
Last year, Irish Independent columnist and generally acceptable face of the pseudo-left, Colette Browne, almost burst into flame when, during the stand-off between the democratically elected Syriza government in Athens, and the forces of big money and general evil at the heart of the EU and ECB, one wag on Twitter suggested that Enda Kenny “is a pragmatist in the sense that Marshal Pétain was a pragmatist.”
…What the Tweet meant was that Enda perhaps has more temperamentally in common with the late marshal, who cut a deal with the invading forces of the Third Reich in 1940, than he does with the French Resistance who took to the countryside…
It was a difficult choice, and as my late mother might say, there was for and against on both sides, but Insider does not foresee any circumstances in which Enda Kenny would lead Fine Gael into the Dublin mountains and begin a terror campaign against the occupying forces, whoever those occupying forces might be. Enda is a guy who cuts whatever deal is on the table; it’s who he is.
However, if anyone actually proposes doing something about our post-colonial governors’ tendency to collaborate with every available occupier …the great minds of this pragmatic little island will rally and declare what we all know to be true, that the greatest threat to this fantastic little set-up they have going for themselves is not their partners in the EU, ECB, the Parachute Regiment, the CIA, or the Communist Party of China, but greedy gardaí, revolting school teachers, and a possible future government including Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, and all that shower.”