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New Ulster Movement (1972) 'Two Irelands or One?', May 1972



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Text: New Ulster Movement ... Page Compiled Brendan Lynn

The following pamphlet was published by the New Ulster Movement in May 1972. The views expressed in this pamphlet do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.

TWO
IRELANDS
OR
ONE?

 

 

A New Ulster Movement Publication

[May 1972]

 


 

TWO IRELANDS OR ONE?

 

INTRODUCTION:

This pamphlet is designed to fill one of the major gaps in current political discussion in Ireland: namely, that no one has tried, in temperate terms, to explain to southern opinion the objections which many northerners feel towards the concept of a united Ireland. The pamphlet was planned by the Executive of the New Ulster Movement in January 1972, and the first draft was written in March. It antedates the recent suspension of Stormont, and its arguments are unaffected by that event.

First, however, we must explain what the New Ulster Movement is. We are one of the leading organs of moderate opinion in Northern Ireland. We accept the constitutional link between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, but we have campaigned strenuously, since our foundation in February 1969, for the removal of injustices in our society. In 1969-70 we were among the main pressure groups working for reform in the province. For instance, we were among the first to demand the establishment of a Community Relations Commission and of a Central Housing Executive, and the abolition of the Ulster Special Constabulary - all points which were later conceded. In 1971, when discussion in the province swung to the theme of power-sharing between the two communities, we did as much thinking on this issue as any group in Northern Ireland. A pamphlet which we published in June 1971 (The Reform of Stormont) contained the most detailed proposals for power-sharing which had been issued up to then by anybody. In November we followed it up with another pamphlet (The Way Forward) arguing the case for suspension of Stormont, and we have reason to believe that this influenced the British government’s subsequent decision. We oppose internment. Some of our members have suffered threats and victimisation from extreme unionists because of their stand.

When, therefore, we say that we accept the link between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, we believe that anti-partitionists should take heed of our views. Our record shows that we have been among the strongest critics of traditional unionist practices. We believe in discussion, conciliation, and an open-minded approach to all issues, however thorny. We are on the most moderate wing of those who support the maintenance of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. If anti-partitionists are unable to convince us, they are unlikely to convince anybody who is not already on their side.

 

OBSTACLES TO IRISH UNITY

We see these obstacles as falling under five headings: economic difficulties; religious difficulties; the clash of national sentiments: the cult of physical force; and administrative difficulties.

1. Economic difficulties

At the moment Northern Ireland has a substantial economic lead over the Republic. Per capita income is about one-third higher. This gap is partly due to the fact that northern productivity is greater, especially in agriculture, and there is no reason why this advantage should not remain in a united Ireland. But it is also due to the fact that Northern Ireland can draw on the financial resources of the United Kingdom. Social welfare benefit rates are about one fifth higher than in the Republic (though to be fair contribution rates are higher too). Free health services are available to the entire population and not just to certain income groups. Per capita expenditure on education is much higher than in the Republic. Agriculture subsidies are considerably more generous. Estimates vary of how much Westminster aid is worth, but one well-informed observer, Professor Norman Gibson of the New University of Ulster, has suggested £120-£125 million as a reasonable figure (letter in Irish Times, 10th March, 1972). In other words, the Westminster connection is worth something like £80 a year to every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland. This is a good deal of money to put at risk, and its loss might provoke serious discontent among the minority as well as the majority in Northern Ireland.

We accept the argument, advanced by many southern spokesmen, that this problem is likely to diminish with time. Provided we all enter the Common Market. there should be a gradual equalisation in economic standards. Southern farmers will receive the same financial aid as northern ones, thus removing the largest single discrepancy in incomes between the two parts of the island. lithe European Community moves towards harmonisation of social security schemes, a further cause of difference will be removed. Both parts of Ireland should benefit in similar decree from whatever regional policies the Community develops. We can look forward to a time, perhaps only ten years hence, when it will no longer matter financially to Northern Ireland whether it is linked to Britain or to the Republic.

However, there is a danger of southern Irishmen overestimating the importance of this factor. Some southerners seem to visualise Ulstermen as being swayed purely by financial considerations, and imagine that if the Westminster subvention were removed, all feeling of loyalty to Britain would evaporate. This is a mistaken view. Men do not choose political allegiances on financial grounds alone, as southern Irishmen themselves should be the first to recognise. At any time in the last fifty years they would have benefited economically by re-entering the United Kingdom, but, for reasons which we can respect, they preferred not to do so. Southern Irishmen must face the tact that other people too have loyalties which are stronger than financial self-interest. After all, northern unionists were just as opposed to a united Ireland in the twenties and thirties, when the financial gap between the two parts of Ireland was slight, as they were in the fifties and sixties, when it, became much greater. Equalisation of incomes between the two parts of Ireland will do no more than remove one of the supporting arguments for partition: it will not touch the heart of the case.

2. Religious difficulties

This is the area which has generated most discussion in recent times, and there is now a well-recognised list of points on which changes will have to be made before northern Protestants - and indeed many northern Catholics would even contemplate entry into a united Ireland. The following points come to mind:

a. The elimination from the constitution of a united Ireland of any clause resembling that in the Republic’s present constitution (Article 44.1.2°) which recognises the ‘special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens.’ We are aware that this clause appears to have no juridical effect. But so long as it remains, it will generate suspicions.

b. The repeal of the laws prohibiting the sale and import of contraceptives and of the literature advocating contraception.

c. The repeal of the clauses in the constitution (Article 41.3.2° and 41.3.3°) prohibiting divorce, and the provision of a divorce jurisdiction for those who wish to avail themselves of it.

d. The removal of the protection of the courts, granted since the Tilson judgement of 1950, to the ne temere decree of the Roman Catholic Church. This decree which requires the partners in a mixed marriage to promise that all the children of their marriage be brought up as Roman Catholics, is the internal rule of one particular Church. For State organs to support it is, therefore, discriminatory.

e. A settlement satisfactory to all parties of the question of denominational education. It is difficult to state this point more precisely, because Protestant opinion, no less than Catholic, is divided on the question of denominational versus integrated education, and we cannot say what form a solution satisfactory to all parties would take. But any settlement must be the result of genuine discussion and agreement. It must not represent an imposition of the views of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It should not represent even an agreement between the heads of the various Churches. It should also take account of those parents, Protestant and Catholic, whose views may not coincide with those of their respective Church leaders but who none the less have a right to be heard.

f. The introduction of a bill of rights, covering these points, to be enforceable by the courts. It would probably be desirable that the relevant courts should comprise, either by statute or convention, an equal number of Protestants and Catholics.

In fairness we must state that we have noticed an evolution in southern opinion over the last few years, and we believe that if a united Ireland were to come about we might be met on all the points just listed. However, legal changes such as these would not fully meet the religious difficulties. The greatest fear of many northerners is not of overt discrimination through the statute book, but of the covert influencing of government policy by the Catholic hierarchy acting behind the scenes. We concede that this may be rare, but the mother and child scheme crisis of 1951 shows that it can happen. Now this is a fear which is extraordinarily difficult to counter by legal enactment. Catholic bishops are entitled, like any other citizens, to make their views known to the government, and it would be impracticable to put them under constraints which did not apply to other people. One possible solution would be to continue with a devolved parliament in the north-east, which would control the most sensitive topics such as matrimonial law and education. But, as we shall see later (sub-heading 5, administrative difficulties) there would be drawbacks as well as advantages to maintaining an autonomous parliament in one part of Ireland. The truth is that there is no complete answer to this problem. Protestants and Catholics have different views on the rightful sphere of ecclesiastical authority, and Catholics will concede to their Church an influence which seems to Protestants unreasonable. This is likely to be a source of recurring tension in a united Ireland, and one which no legislation can remove.

3. The clash of national sentiments

We shall devote most space to this issue because it is the one which, in previous discussions of the border question, has been most neglected. Over the last few years there has been a good deal of discussion of the economic and religious fears of northerners, and many southern Irishmen have developed some imaginative grasp of northern feelings on these matters. But there has been much less attempt in the south to empathise with the feelings of nationality held by the majority in the north.

Southerners still seem generally to assume that the island of Ireland is the national unit in this part of Europe, and that everyone living on it should automatically feel his first loyalty towards Ireland. This assumption underlies the 1937 constitution and most of the speeches by southern politicians. It was found again as recently as May 4th, 1972, when the terms of reference of the new Dail committee on Northern Ireland were announced: they showed that it was to consider solely ‘the conditions conducive to a united Ireland’, no other arrangement between the two parts of the island being thought worthy even of examination. There is however no reason for all the inhabitants of this island to share the same loyalty, and the assumption that they should do so is one of the main irritants in north-south relations. It implies the denial to northerners of their freedom of choice, and ignores the depth and genuineness of their feelings of nationality.

Southerners must face the fact that, to a large majority in Northern Ireland, British nationality seems as natural as the air they breathe. They travel on British passports, join the British armed forces or civil services, use the term ‘our’ when they are talking about things British. They erect memorials in their towns, schools and institutions to those who have died in the British forces during two world wars. If they move overseas, they are much more likely to go to a British dominion (Canada or Australia) than are people from the Republic. The more obvious symbols of Britishness the ubiquitous union jacks in the month of July, the pavements painted red, white and blue, the singing of ‘God Save the Queen’ on every possible occasion, appropriate or inappropriate these are only the more extravagant manifestations of a strongly and widely held feeling. Nor is this feeling confined to one group. While much more intense among Protestants, it is shared to some extent by a number of northern Catholics. Many Catholic families in Northern Ireland have a tradition of serving the British crown, in the armed services, the police or civil employment, and accept unselfconsciously the label ‘British’.

Southerners tend, when forced to recognise the existence of this feeling, to use one of three arguments to explain it away. First, they point to the distrust which many Ulstermen undoubtedly feel towards the English, and conclude that, if Ulstermen feel this way, they cannot be all that British. But this seems to be pushing the case too far. In many countries one finds a resentment felt by the periphery against the centre. Ulstermen travelling in the Republic note the suspicion which, say, Kerry men or Donegal men feel for Dublin. But they do not jump from that to the conclusion that Kerry or Donegal are about to deny their lrishness, still less that they are about to seek admission to the United Kingdom. Similarly, it is unrealistic of southerners to suppose that tension between Englishmen and Ulstermen means that the latter are about to leap into the arms of the Republic.

A second argument used is the historical one. Southerners point to the United Irishmen of the seventeen-nineties, and to a trickle of Ulster Protestant nationalists thereafter - Mitchel, Casement, R.M. Henry, Denis Ireland - as evidence that Ulster Protestants can be brought to feel that they share a common nationality with the Irish majority. But this seems to be putting too much weight on an unrepresentative sample of historical precedents. The United Irishmen were a long time ago, and even they proved a fragile coalition when put to the test. Since their time there has been no evidence that at any stage more than a handful of northern Protestants were prepared to accept a united Ireland outside the United Kingdom.

A third argument used is to point the parallel with the southern Protestant community. This community was largely unionist in 1921 but has since made its peace with the new order; similarly, it is argued, if northern unionists were faced with a united Ireland as a fait accompli they would soon settle down in it. But there are several weaknesses in this analogy. Firstly, southern Protestants were never as determined in their unionism as northern ones. Secondly, the problem has been eased in the south by selective emigration: the most intransigent unionists were the ones who were readiest to leave. Thirdly, and most important, current discussion of the place of Protestants in the Republic suggests that they have not so wholeheartedly accepted the regime as southerners sometimes claim. For instance, a recent correspondence in the Irish Times (March 1972), stemming from an article by Rev. Paul Cardew, shows that southern Protestants differ among themselves as to how far they are outsiders in southern society. The chances are that the much larger northern Protestant population would be harder to assimilate in a united Ireland.

There is no way of avoiding the reality that two different feelings of nationality exist in this island. If ever a united Ireland were to come about, it would have to take account of this reality. In the last few years southern opinion has advanced to the stage of accepting that a united Ireland would be a plural society. It must go one stage further. It must accept that a united Ireland would be a multi-national society.

Such a society would face serious difficulties. We shall outline some which would arise:

a. The position of the Irish language. We respect the idealism of those who feel that the Irish language is the natural expression of their nationality and who do their best to revive its use. We concede that the majority in Northern Ireland have remained too ignorant of things Irish, and that their culture would be broadened if a study of the Irish language. along with other aspects of Irish culture. were made more freely available to them. But we reject the claim that Irish is the national language of both the nationalities in this island. The more enthusiastic advocates of the language have arguments by which they seek to persuade us otherwise. They claim that, since some Ulster Protestants came from parts of Scotland which were in the seventeenth century Gaelic-speaking, Irish is therefore the ancestral language of Protestants as well as Catholics in Ulster. Or they point to the trickle of Ulster Protestant scholars who through the centuries have been interested in Irish. But these are mere debating points. It is what a community as a whole feels now, not what its remote ancestors felt or what a few individuals feel, that is important. And the fact is that the northern majority do not feel Irish to be their language. In a united Ireland, this feeling would have to be recognised. It would he impracticable to enforce the compulsory Irish policy in northern schools. It would be unreasonable to expect northern applicants for posts in the public service to show a knowledge of Irish.

b. The national flag and anthem. The original symbolism of the Irish tricolour - the white of peace between orange and green - was attractive, and if we were designing an all-Ireland flag for the first time this might be the winning entry. But unfortunately the tricolour has become a hostility-provoking symbol in the north. Nationalists have too often used it as a party emblem to annoy unionists - just as the latter, to their disgrace, have used the union jack to annoy nationalists. The result is that it would be impracticable to expect unionists to respect the tricolour as their flag in a united Ireland. For similar reasons, the Soldier’s Song would be unsuitable as a national anthem. A united Ireland would be like Canada - a country in which both the national lag and the national anthem have had to be changed in a bid to retain the allegiance of a minority nationality.

c. Relations with the Commonwealth. One obvious way of conciliating the British sentiments of the minority in an all-Ireland state would be to accept re-entry into the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is now a heterogeneous group of states, with no common policy in any field; the independence of its members is in no way shackled. Re-entry into the Commonwealth, then, would he a purely token act; it is the sort of gesture which the southern majority might make without any cost to itself. We were disappointed, therefore, with southern reaction when ‘Mr Harold Wilson made this proposal as one of a number of suggestions for the settlement of the Irish problem (Westminster, 25 November 1971). This was the one point in his speech which aroused widespread criticism in the Republic: apparently anti-British sentiment is still so strong there that many southerners cannot bring themselves to make even this formal gesture to reconcile those whom they profess to regard as their fellow-countrymen.

In point of fact, we do not believe that, if a united Ireland were ever under discussion, this would prove one of the most serious difficulties. Just because the Commonwealth now means so little, membership of it would probably not seem to unionists a point on which they need be adamant. The northern majority might reasonably, however, expect some other recognition of their feelings of Britishness. It might take the form of accepting their right to retain British passports; or a treaty might be negotiated between Ireland and Britain whereby the two islands were recognised as being in some sense a common cultural area.

d. The commemoration of historical figures and events. A striking feature of both Irish traditions, and one which often astonishes foreign observers, is their preoccupation with the past. This preoccupation shows itself in innumerable parades, services, ceremonies in memory of past battles and dead heroes. Unfortunately there is no shared heritage in these commemorations: the heroes of one side are the villains of the other, the victories of one side are the defeats of the other. This harping on the past causes much trouble in Northern Ireland. One major result of a united Ireland would be that the area in which this trouble occurs would be extended.

Southern commentators can be surprisingly obtuse on this point. To take one example - in 1965 the Northern Ireland government was widely, and reasonably, criticised for naming the new town in north Armagh ‘Craigavon’. The point was made that this name was divisive, for, while it might provoke feelings of pride in the adherents of one tradition, it had the opposite effect on the adherents of the other. But the following year there were no criticisms when the government of the Republic renamed all the Dublin railway stations after 1916 leaders. Yet, in context of a united Ireland, the decision was just as divisive. For, however heroic the 1916 rising may seem to the majority in the Republic, there are many in the north who see it as a stab in the back.

We are not asking that either Irish tradition should abandon its habit of commemorations. The custom is too deeply rooted for it to be easily abandoned. But the adherents of each tradition will have to recognise that their heroes are the heroes of their own tradition only, and not of Ireland as a whole. This will be harder for nationalists than for unionists. Unionists have never imagined that William III, Carson or Craigavon could be all-Ireland heroes. But many nationalists seem to think that the leaders of anti-British rebellions such as Wolfe Tone and Patrick Pearse could be accepted as heroes by Irishmen of the British tradition. This is unrealistic.

In a united Ireland, institutions serving the island as a whole would have to remain carefully neutral as between the two traditions. This would have quite wide-ranging effects. The Irish post office could no longer issue stamps commemorating nationalist leaders - or if it did, they would have to be scrupulously balanced by another set commemorating unionists. The state could not officially celebrate the anniversaries of anti-British risings in the way that the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 rising was celebrated - because in a united Ireland there would be too many people for whom such events were to be deplored, not extolled. The Irish army’s annual parade at the grave of Wolfe Tone would need reconsideration, because Wolfe Tone, though a Protestant, was not the sort of person whom Irishmen in the British tradition could accept as a hero of their own. In practice there would be two possibilities: either the parade could be dropped, or it could be matched by a parade to the tomb of some unionist worthy like Carson.

In a twenty-six county state, Irish nationalists are free to emphasise the anti-British element in their heritage. In a thirty-two county Ireland, sharing the state with a strong minority who are proud of their British tradition, this element would have to be played down. There is no prospect of building a united Ireland on an anti-British basis.

4. The cult of physical force

We come here to what is currently the strongest single objection of the northern majority to joining a united Ireland. It is not that such a state would be economically poor or that it would have a Roman Catholic majority, or that so many Irishmen show an obsessive resentment of things British. It is the revulsion caused by the republican campaign of terror.

Let us admit at once that unionists have a very large share of the blame for the existence of this campaign. The I.R.A. springs from the 1916 rising; and the 1916 rising would probably never have happened had not the Ulster unionists in 1912 given the example of defying, in arms, the will of the government and parliamentary majority at Westminster. Much more recently, the violence used by police and Protestant extremists, at Burntollet, Derry and Belfast during the period January - August 1 1969, provoked the revival of the I.R.A. from a state of advanced decay. But however the blame for its existence may be distributed, the fact remains that the present wave of violence is self-defeating. Unionist opinion has been embittered beyond belief, and there has developed a determination to endure anything rather than give in to such methods. It is the opinion of the N.U.M. Executive - whose eighteen members come from a wide variety of traditions, occupations and geographical areas in Northern Ireland - that, if Westminster were to withdraw, most unionists in their present mood would resist by force of arms incorporation in a united Ireland, and would seek to maintain an independent state. Opinions may differ on whether such an attempt would succeed; but, even if it failed, feelings would he so embittered that a harmoniously united Ireland would be impossible. We cannot understand how republicans fail to see this. They must know from the history of their own people that violence does not work. It only hardens attitudes, embitters minds and nerves a subsequent generation to carry on the struggle.

It might be objected that this campaign of violence cannot be blamed on the great mass of people in the Republic. Public opinion polls suggest that a large majority in the south rejects such means. The three main parties in the Dail have joined in unanimously supporting a resolution rejecting violence as a means of unifying Ireland. The more horrible incidents in the north have generally been followed by expressions of regret and condemnation from southern leaders. But we wonder how wholehearted these condemnations are. It is a significant fact that there is no political party in the south whose tradition is entirely constitutional. All three main parties were founded by men of violence, whom they still revere as heroes. How far, then, can they renounce violence today without to some extend feeling disloyal to their traditions? And even if the political parties stood firm, how far can they speak for their people? We notice the continuing popularity of ballads glorifying those who have used violence in the past. We observe the reluctance of district justices and of juries - and even, in one celebrated instance, of a President of the High Court - to try those accused of aiding violence in the north. We witness the unhindered public appearances throughout the Republic of those I.R.A. leaders who direct the bombings and the murders in the north.

We have been particularly disturbed by the selective response of southern public opinion towards different incidents in the north. When, on 30 January 1972, British troops killed thirteen men in Derry, southern opinion went wild. Hysterical crowds roamed the streets of Dublin, and the British embassy was burnt down. Now opinions differ on the facts of the Derry tragedy, but even if one puts the worst construction on it, it was still only one of many atrocities that have been committed in the north. In December 1971 two young children were killed when a bomb went off without warning outside a shop in the Shankill Road. In February 1972 another bomb, exploding without warning in the Abercorn restaurant, killed two girls and dreadfully maimed many others. In March another bomb killed six in Donegall Street, including three corporation binmen and a passing motorist, and injured over a hundred. There have been repeated instances of the cold-blooded murder of policemen, soldiers and members of the Ulster Defence Regiment - some in front of their families. None of these horrors has aroused any comparable reaction in the south. We can only conclude that southern opinion is not really against violence as such: it is against violence when used by those whom it considers the wrong people.

These attitudes to violence in the south - its active pursuit by the few, its partial condemnation by the many - are among the most serious obstacles to Irish unity. Unless the southern majority can get these out of its system, there is no hope for the reconciliation of the two Irish traditions.

5. Administrative difficulties

We have so far been dealing with the difficulties of principle in the way of a united Ireland. But, even supposing that some agreement were reached on these, serious administrative difficulties would still have to be resolved. The main problem would be what special status, if any, to give to the area which is now Northern Ireland.

The most widely-canvassed proposal is that Northern Ireland should continue to have its regional administration, with a Parliament similar to that which it possessed from 1921 to 1972, but subject to Dublin instead of to Westminster. This suggestion was put forward during the Anglo-Irish treaty negotiations of 1921, and has been repeatedly made by southern leaders since. Such an arrangement would have a number of attractions. it would mean a minimum of disturbance to existing institutions, because the existing government departments at Stormont which on the whole work well - could continue to function. For the unionist majority, it would mean substantial control over the subjects on which they feel most sensitive - education, marriage law, the Irish language. For Dublin politicians, devolution would have the same attractions as it has had for Westminster politicians over the last fifty years - it would mean that the peculiar problems of the north would be at least partly syphoned off into a regional parliament where they would not impinge too much on the deliberations of the sovereign body.

The people who would probably he most disappointed by such an arrangement would be the northern minority. They might well find that, in the event of disagreement, a Dublin government would have less power to intervene on their behalf than a Westminster government has had. It would have far fewer financial sanctions, because it would have no surplus revenue to spare as an inducement to good behaviour; it would have fewer physical sanctions also, unless the Irish army were built up to a strength far above its present level. Unionists would have a threat constantly to hand - that of secession if they were pressed too far. With a local administration already in being, the organisation of an independent state would be quite practicable.

The same objections apply to the federal solution advocated by the provisional I.R.A. Under this plan, Ireland would have four strong provincial administrations under a weak central government. The unionists would control one of these provincial administrations and would therefore, it is supposed, be happy. In fact - especially if a united Ireland were brought about by the shameful means which the Provisional I.R.A. employs - the unionists would be more likely to take the first opportunity to secede.

For these reasons, some might prefer a unitary state. But this creates difficulties of another kind. Firstly, unionists might be even more reluctant to accept a unitary state than one with a regional administration in the north, and so agreement on a united Ireland might be even harder to attain. Second, such an arrangement would involve far more upheaval of existing institutions: it would mean, for instance, the amalgamation of two civil services, two legal systems, and of a host of voluntary organisations which have grown up since partition. Thirdly, such a state would encompass two communities, as Northern Ireland does at present, and this would mean that the community divisions at present segregated in the north-east corner of the island would be transferred to Dublin. We might hope that such tensions would be less acute than they have been in the north over the last fifty years, but all the same, different attitudes to religion, economics and above all nationality would be bound to lead to clashes of opinion. The unionist minority in such a parliament could reasonably expect to have the same guaranteed share of power as the anti-unionist minority is (rightly) seeking in Northern Ireland at the present day. This would mean a more cumbersome system of government than is at present necessary in the twenty-six counties.

 

SUMMARY

If a united Ireland is to become even thinkable to the majority in Northern Ireland, the following changes must be accepted by the Republic:

1. The economic gap between north and south must be closed.

2. There must be full commitment to religious equality. The constitution of a united Ireland must avoid according a special position to any particular Church. The law relating to divorce, contraception and mixed marriages must be amended. The education system must be based on principles acceptable to all sections of the population. There should be a bill of rights, enforceable by the courts, to cover these points.

3. The fact must be faced that a united Ireland would be, not just a plural society, but a multi-national society. The institutions of the state would have to be structured so as to take account of this. The compulsory Irish policy could not be imposed in the north. A new flag and anthem would be needed. Some symbolic recognition of the Britishness of a section of the island’s inhabitants would be required. If re-entry into the Commonwealth were not acceptable, then some other device such as permitting the retention of British passports, or the negotiation of a cultural pact between Britain and Ireland, should be explored. Finally, while each Irish tradition would be free to honour its own heroes, the state would have to remain neutral as between these traditions. A united Ireland could not be built on an anti-British basis.

4. There must be an unequivocal end to the cult of violence in the Republic.

5. The administrative difficulties must be faced. This will mean either retaining an autonomous administration in the north, or incorporating the whole of Ireland in a unitary state Whichever way the decision goes, there will be disadvantages.

 

SOME FINAL QUESTIONS

We have listed what seem to us the minimum conditions on which a united Ireland might be workable. This does not mean that we now accept a united Ireland in principle: on the contrary, the great majority in the north - and this includes many Catholics as well as most Protestants - have no desire to break the constitutional link with Britain. What we are attempting is to show the multitude in the south who profess to desire a united Ireland but who have never seriously examined the difficulties, just how extensive those difficulties are. We should like to end by putting a few questions directly to such people.

Firstly, are you serious about a united Ireland? The historical record suggests strongly that you are not. Whenever they have had a choice, Irish governments have nearly always taken the line most likely to widen the rift between the two traditions in Ireland. In this they appear to have been backed by the majority of southern opinion. Tariff barriers between the two parts of Ireland were built up in the nineteen-thirties. The links with the Commonwealth were broken in 1936 and 1949. Legislation enshrining Catholic attitudes on divorce and contraception were passed in the twenties and thirties, and a Catholic constitution was introduced in 1937. The south remained neutral during the Second World War. The compulsory lrish policy has been pursued by every government since the nineteen-twenties. In the sixties a more realistic attitude seemed at last to be developing, with the Lemass-O’Neill meeting of 1965 and the report of the constitutional committee in 1967. But the new mood has come to very little. The various conciliatory gestures to northern opinion suggested by the constitutional committee have still not been implemented. Attempts by private members in Dail and Senate to secure an amendment in the contraception laws have been blocked by the government. Are we not justified in concluding that, while most of you in the south pay lip-service to the ideal of Irish unity, you are not really much interested in it?

Indeed, why should you be interested in it? A multi-national state, such as a united Ireland would be, faces serious difficulties. Foreign experience shows that tensions in such a state are extraordinarily tenacious, and can erupt again after decades of apparent calm - as witness the history of English and French in Canada, of Basque, Catalan and Castilian in Spain, or Serb and Croat in Yugoslavia. The best that can be hoped for such a state is that it will survive at a low level of legitimacy, like Canada or Belgium, where one at least of the communities gives only grudging allegiance to the state, while reserving its deeper loyalties for itself. All these troubles you are spared while you maintain your own almost homogeneous twenty-six county state.

Is it not true that the most practical reason why you have so far supported a united Ireland has been that it seemed the only means of securing justice for the minority in the north? If this justice could be obtained by other means - by a restructuring of institutions in the north so as to guarantee a sharing of power - would this not alter the strength of the case for a united Ireland? If a united Ireland ever does come about, you are going to find that both communities in the north, and not just one, will be a handful for you to deal with. Their very history of shared conflict, has to some extent marked them both off from you - and given them something in common with each other. As the Catholic anti-unionist M.P. Mr Austin Currie has said (Sunday Times, 26th March, 1972, p.18), there are fewer differences between the Catholic and Protestant in the North than there is, say, between the Catholic who lives in Tyrone and the Catholic who lives in Cork or Kerry’. Provided a just restructuring can be achieved in the north, would it not be better for all of us if you went your way and we went ours - two states acknowledging their different traditions, but ready to co-operate in all matters of common concern?

 


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