This website is a forum for political debate and the exchange of ideas. Unless indicated, the opinions expressed in any article, commentary, argument or review is solely that of the author and not necessarily that of the publisher.
The Importance of Being Ulster 0r Northern Ireland has no Future.
Robert K Campbell.
First Published in 1995 by
Copyright © Robert K. Campbell 1995
ISBN 1 8721176 21 1
THE END IS NIGH
`Northern Ireland has no future!" This point is incontestable. Clearly the Conservative government has lost the will to maintain the Union. This has not happened overnight, but it has happened. Key signposts on the road were the Anglo-Irish agreement, and the more recent Downing Street Declaration (of December 1993). The process is now irreversible. The mood of the government is graphically illustrated by a comment by Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew to the German weekly Zeit in April 1993:
Similarly, The Economist quoted an unnamed adviser close to Prime Minister John Major saying:
Note that this statement displays no commitment whatsoever to the Union, which is the legal basis of the whole state: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If the people of Yorkshire voted 51 to 49 to leave the Union, they would not be allowed to do so. Note also the implication that any Englishman who supports the Union is insane. And remember these comments pre-date the Downing Street Declaration.
The other British political parties are even more hostile. Late in 1993 a Labour MP stated that if Labour won the next general election ‘They [the Unionist MPs] know the game would be up' while another Labour MP claimed of the Unionists that ‘They've begun to panic". The open hostility of these remarks is striking: you would think they were referring to national enemies, not fellow citizens.
In broader parliamentary terms, the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary body now has more influence than the Conservative Back-bench Committee on Northern Ireland (which remains solidly Unionist). The English MPs on the Inter-Parliamentary body are increasingly friendly to the Irish and hostile to the Unionists. They feel more sympathy for foreign MPs than they do for their fellow Britons!'
The only difference between the Tories and the opposition parties has been that the Conservatives have been concerned to find some semblance of an `honourable' exit from the Union. The recent IRA ceasefire may indicate that the Irish are trying to manufacture a figleaf for them. The other parties have no such qualms. Labour Party policy has long been one of' `joint administration' of Northern Ireland by London and Dublin - clearly a hall-way house to dissolving the Union altogether. This policy has widespread support amongst the English elite, regardless of party affiliation -or lack thereof.
The depth of hostility toward the Ulster Protestant people is also revealed by a November 1993 report of the English Institute of Public Policy Research* which actually claimed that our people benefited from the terrorist war, and called for the imposition of a security tax on Northern Ireland to pay for any increases in security expenditure!'. Had this been implemented, it would have opened an economic `second front' against Northern Ireland and would have penalized the victims of terrorism. By way of contrast, just imagine the uproar among the English elite if anyone proposed to economically penalize the terrorists and their families (by cutting their social benefits, for example).
But these attitudes are not confined to the elite. They are widely shared by the English people as a whole. For example, a 1991 opinion poll indicated that only 33% of mainlanders supported the Union with Northern Irelands while another poll in late 1993 showed that this percentage had fallen to 25%. Nearly 50% said that British troops should be pulled out of the province either immediately or within five years'.
Many more examples can be cited. The Union has ceased to be a safeguard for the Ulster Protestant people. The Irish have come to realise this. Their government supports the policy of joint administration of Northern Ireland. This will, of course, lead swiftly to sole administration by Dublin. The Irish no longer seek to destroy the Union: they rather wish to use the Union to destroy Northern Ireland: once that has been accomplished, the Union will simply cease to be.
TERRORISM AND KINSHIP
How this situation came about will one day make for a fascinating study and provoke much controversy amongst historians. There are undoubtedly many reasons. IRA terrorism is one of them. Their campaign in Northern Ireland has been a dismal failure. The Protestant people are unbowed. But the IRA's campaigns in England have been a triumphant success. One Tory MP admitted to The Economist that ‘Those who care [about Northern Ireland] get killed’, referring to the assassination of two prominent Conservatives who had strongly supported the Union.
Of course, terrorism is not the whole story. If the English were committed to the Union, no amount of terrorism would move them. But they never have been committed to it. In 1921 Prime Minister David Lloyd George tried simultaneously to browbeat and bribe the Unionists into submitting to Dublin". The English have always regarded Northern Ireland, in their hearts, as a foreign country. As far as possible, they ignore the province, and always have done. In sharp contrast to this is their attitude towards Ireland. As Geoffrey Wheatcroft has written:
. . . the British never came to terms . . . with the fact of Irish statehood. The official mentality of denial - if not schizophrenia is well illustrated by the 1949 Ireland Act, passed by the Attlee government in response to the declaration of the Republic . . . The Act recognised the existence of the new state, but then goes on to say that `the Irish Republic is not a foreign country'. And indeed no Westminster government ever since has quite managed to grasp that the Irish Republic might be what it claims to be, a foreign country . . .
In sharp contrast to this attitude, an article in The Economist on Northern Ireland was entitled `A Far Off Country"', a title reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain's comment on Czechoslovakia `A far off country about which we know little' (emphasis added).
Why this should be so is beyond the scope of' this essay: what is important is that it is so. It is because of this attitude that, as Wheatcroft points out:
. . . the Conservative Party campaigns for the vote of Irish labourers in England, but refuses to campaign for British votes in Ulster".
Eire has been seeking the destruction of Northern Ireland for over seventy years now, and this period has been marked by an almost constant Cold War, characterized by streams of hostile propaganda from Dublin. That this is so should be no surprise. What is striking is that England is the source of disinformation and propaganda against Northern Ireland every bit as hostile as that produced by the Irish. All the themes are there: quotations out of context, one-sidedness, distortions, exaggerations.
Thus, Prime Minister Sir James Craig's statement about Stormont being a Protestant Parliament, and Northern Ireland a Protestant state, is repeated ad nauseam: the fact that he was reacting to comments in Dublin that Eire was a Catholic state is never mentioned". Similarly, Sir Basil Brooke's notorious calls for Protestants not to employ Catholic workers are always trotted out: that he later expressed regret for making such appeals and never followed such a discriminatory policy himself - either in private or public life - is ignored".
Discrimination is favourite staple. Of course there was discrimination, but English accounts, like Irish, grossly exaggerate the problem. Higher Catholic rates of unemployment are a favourite ‘proof' of discrimination against the minority in Northern Ireland. The fact that some 40% of the Catholic population lived in poor, peripheral areas of Northern Ireland, as against 16% of Protestants, is disregarded. In other words, a lot of Catholic unemployment was structural, as is the case for high unemployment in the North-East of England, the West Midlands, and Greater Merseyside".
It also needs to be pointed out that, between 1911 and 1971, in the area that became Northern Ireland, the number of Catholics holding professional, technical and clerical jobs was multiplied by 3.7, while the number of Catholics employed in such jobs in what became the Republic of Ireland multiplied by 3.2; the equivalent figure for Protestants in Northern Ireland was 3.0'%.
Catholic emigration from Northern Ireland is often cited as proof of severe discrimination: Protestant emigration is ignored, as is - more strikingly - Catholic Irish emigration from the Irish Republic. A report published late in 1993 revealed that 14.88% of Irish living in England have university degrees as against 13.35% of other white people". Clearly, Eire is suffering a brain drain.
Local government franchise, and Gerrymandering are other favourite targets: but the property qualification required for local government franchise in Northern Ireland under Stormont disqualified Protestants as well as Catholics and was identical to that which existed on the mainland until 1948. However, English sources often imply that this disenfranchisement applied to all levels of government"": this is totally untrue: no restrictions were placed on the Catholic franchise for either Stormont or Westminster.
And so it goes on: Northern Ireland and the Ulster Protestant people are treated as if they are, or were, uniquely wicked (except for apartheid South Africa, comparisons with which were also made to further blacken their names). Conversely, Eire and its leaders could do no wrong. Sectarian statements, such as those uttered by Eamonn de Valera (for example in 1935 that Ireland was a Catholic nation), are never mentioned: threats of violence against Northern Ireland - such as that by Sean O'Kelly, Vice-President of the Free State Executive, in March 1934, are ignored. The fact that the Irish broke every one of the provisions of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty with regard to Northern Ireland, and actively tried to subvert the new state, using the Catholic minority as a fifth column, are not brought to public attention. That the Protestant minority in Eire was subject to constant harassment and discrimination from Irish government policies, with the result that the majority of its members had emigrated from Eire by 19462' is totally concealed.
This English litany against Northern Ireland is one of the utmost importance. Irish accusations on their own would be seen for what they are - hostile propaganda, not to be taken seriously, or at least, needing the other side's views to create a balanced picture. The repetition of these charges by the English, however, gives them a credibility they would otherwise not have. In the propaganda struggle, England is a far greater foe to the Ulster Protestant people than Eire is.
There is absolutely no evidence that the IRA, in mid 1994, felt itself to be a defeated force. Thus, the only reason why they should declare a ceasefire is that they believe that they will obtain their objectives - the destruction of Northern Ireland, the denial of the right of selfdetermination of the Ulster people, and the suppression of Ulster Protestant culture - more effectively through this means. Almost immediately, the structure of a pan-Republican front began to appear, embracing the IRA/Sinn Fein, the Dublin government, and its puppet the SDLP. Both British Prime Minister John Major and then Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds issued assurances that no secret deals had been done. Perhaps not. But, as the late T. E. Utley once wrote: `Past experience has not encouraged unqualified acceptance of the Government's denials on this point '22. Those words were penned twenty years ago! That this lack of confidence is still necessary is confirmed by the talks between the British government and the IRA revealed at the end of November 1993.
As for former Premier Reynolds, political prudence and historical experience both dictate that his assurances should be discounted. He was head of a government which still sought the destruction of Northern Ireland and still refuses to recognise the separate culture of the Ulster Protestant. And, throughout the past seventy plus years, the Irish nationalists have frequently violated solemn agreements and treaties that they have entered into, when they felt that such disregard furthered their ideological cause.
Of course, it is quite possible that the bumbling, well-meaning and amazingly naive (witness his domestic political mishaps) John Major has been lured into a trap by subtle Irish diplomacy. Whatever the reasons, the die is now cast: the Republicans are in the driving seat. Sinn Fein are making outrageous demands - no Crown Forces in Catholic areas: `demilitarization' (i.e. rendering the Protestants defenceless, at least with regard to official forces) and so on. Of course, Westminster will not accede to these: but one can anticipate that Dublin will, while saying that they agree with London on these matters, persistently push for lesser, more `reasonable', concessions which will accumulate and eventually lead to the destruction of Northern Ireland. If London does not `play ball', then the IRA will go back to violence and it will be presented as the fault of the British.
A QUESTION OF NATIONHOOD
Clearly a major crisis has been reached, probably the most serious since the terrible days of 1920-22. There is only one way that the Ulster Protestants can regain the initiative and defeat Republican intentions. The province of Northern Ireland must be done away with: in its place must be established the sovereign independent Kingdom of Ulster! The only conceivable alternative, integration with mainland Britain, has been promoted in recent years only to be relentlessly smothered by the English elite: they do not want it, and will not let it happen. It is - and has been shown to be - a dead option.
Are the Ulster Protestant people truly a nation? This question has stimulated some interesting academic debate". Yet, incredible as it may seem, this debate is irrelevant to the world of practical politics.
Dictionaries usually define nations as communities of people united by common ethnic, religious or linguistic background and by a common history. But this is description, not prescription. The Swiss, who are indubitably a nation, violate all of the first three conditions. Thus, it is the common history which is the key. But what kind of history, and how much? For some seventy years we in the West ignorantly but continually referred to the `Yugoslav people' and the `Yugoslav nation' as if they really existed. Now we know we were totally wrong. Similarly, over the same period we talked of the `Czechoslovak nation' as if it, too, was real. And again. we were wrong (though, fortunately for them, there is only mutual respect and affection between the Czechs and Slovaks, despite their recent `divorce').
Nations emerge in many ways. Some are the result of a very long period of governance by a stable political system - we are talking centuries here - which allows a common identity to develop. Such is the case of the English and Portuguese. Other nations emerge as a result of conflict and especially war. In 1773, what was to become the United States of America was inhabited by men and women who conceived of themselves as Britons, and were proud of the fact. Ten years later, those selfsame people were self-consciously Americans, and proud of it. Dispute, confrontation and then war with the home country brought about the transformation. By contrast the modern explicitly Catholic Irish nation was effectively invented by a group of intellectuals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries'.
Of course, most Ulstermen strongly affirm their desire to remain `British' . But this does not contradict the idea of an Ulster nation in the slightest. The nation-hood of the Scots is denied by no one: most of them desire to remain part of the United Kingdom. The evidence of common self-consciousness, of common folk-culture (which is the basis and backbone of all cultures - witness the enormous number of composers who have been inspired by their native folk music) and a truly common history, is clear enough to assert that the Ulster Protestants are a nation.
However, the issue of the ‘British’ connection is a matter worthy of consideration. Is it merely a desire to be part of the United Kingdom?
Or does it refer to an identity with certain values and mores? If the latter is the case, the evidence of recent decades suggests that a major chasm has opened between what Ulstermen see as ‘British values’ and what the English see as ‘British values’. For the Ulster nation to preserve its ‘British' identity, independence may be the only route. This is a paradox, but it is not unprecedented. The American colonists rose in successful revolt against the crown not because they rejected ‘British’ values, but because they were totally committed to them:
As British freemen the colonists demanded an equal voice in the control of their destiny, a demand which clashed with the current concepts of the nature of empire . . . small wonder that General Gage, reporting on resistance to the Stamp Act, observed, ‘That the question is not of the inexpediency of the Stamp Act, or of the inability of the colonists to pay the tax, but that it is unconstitutional and contrary to their rights’ .
Ulster must not become independent with the present borders of Northern Ireland. This is not because independence with these borders is impossible - there is plenty of precedent, much of it recent, for such a move - but because it would be most unwise indeed. The present international boundary does not reflect the real border - the cultural border. As the American International Relations professor, Adda B. Bowman, has pointed out:
[Cultural] Boundaries . . . are spelled out in history, language and religion . . . they are ingrained in the national mindset that undergirds the state. These characteristics do not immunize cultural boundaries against penetration and aggression from without or erosion from within. However, they do explain why cultural frontiers have been more resistant to unwanted change and more susceptible to revitalization when states and political systems were culture conscious. Further, they support the general proposition that culture consciousness is a prerequisite for state security and identity, and that cultural frontiers are the geostrategically decisive borders of the state that should be held and defended at all cost.
That such a cultural border exists between Protestant Ulster and Catholic Ireland has been attested by outsiders for more than two centuries. In 1756 John Wesley wrote:
While in 1843 the German traveller J. G. Kohl actually invoked the concept of a border in his description of entering Ulster from the South:
This cultural border has been strengthened over the past twenty years by what Simon Jenkins has called ‘the ethnic cleansing of Ulster’. He points out:
Studies indicate that the Protestants have been abandoning the south and west of Northern Ireland, moving to the north and east, while Catholics have been moving in the opposite direction. East of the River Bann there are now some 158,000 Catholics, as against approximately 428,000 west of the river. For Protestants, some 90,000 are west of the Bann, as against 850,000 east of it. Note that this does not represent an advocacy of the Bann line as the new border: it merely serves as a convenient geographical marker. Some Protestant majority areas west of the river are, for example, immediately west of it and directly contiguous with the Ulster heartland to the east.
To attempt to maintain the present borders would be a source of continual weakness, not strength: of never-ending threat, not security. The border guards would have to (as they do today) face in both directions. They would be isolated garrisons in hostile territory. The focus must switch to Bozeman's geostrategically decisive cultural border. Ideally, the Ulsterman beyond this new political (but old cultural) frontier should be resettled within it. That a Catholic minority would remain (unless they decided to resettle) is indisputable. This is perfectly normal. Almost no political border can precisely reflect a cultural border. Minorities are the almost universal problem of countries with terrestrial borders. A minority of at worst 18.5% is much preferable to one of 40%! Of course, minority protection (and don't forget the other, immigrant minorities) must be a priority for a future Ulster state. After all, an 18.5% minority cannot pose a real threat to national security.
On the few occasions in the past when the idea of Ulster independence has been raised, a number of objections have been raised. Generally, they are of the order of: Ulster is not economically viable: the country and/or population is too small: the continuing presence of a Catholic Irish minority in such a state: and even that an island cannot be divided into two political units! Most of these arguments are shallow: all are surmountable. With regard to Ulster's economic viability:
Related to this issue is the argument that Ulster could not become independent because it would automatically find itself outside the European Union. First of all, this ignores the question of whether the Ulster people want to be part of the EU. Second, this argument has been made irrelevant by recent developments in international economic relations. For the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) has been successfully liberalizing trade, a process which has culminated in the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round of trade talks: with this, GATT is to be replaced, on 1 January 1995, by the World Trade Organization (WTO) of 123 member states. Effectively, the world has become a single market. While tariffs are not abolished, protectionist tariffs are. No country need belong to a trading bloc to survive. As Professor Tim Congdon, one of the British Treasury's panel of advisers has written:
The statement `Scotland (or Wales, or the Isle of Man) cannot survive economically in the next century unless it remains in the UK' is of course analogous to the statement `Britain cannot survive economically in the next century unless it belongs to the EU'. Both statements are wrong . . . every country in the world is a trading partner . . . The boast of the Euro-enthusiasts, that membership of the EU provides . . . a market of more than 300 million people, is overshadowed by the growing reality that the world - with a population of over 5,000 million people - is a single market place.'
This argument is equally applicable to a small country like Ulster (remember, except for Luxembourg, none of Europe's small countries belong to the EU). The balance of world economic power is changing, and changing both radically and rapidly. The United States Department of Commerce, early in 1994, identified (without ranking them) the world's ten biggest emerging markets. In alphabetical order, they are: Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey. These countries will most probably double their share of global GDP to 20% by the year 2010 - 16 years from now! Their percentage of world imports will exceed that of the EU and Japan combined!". Note that Brazil is already the tenth largest economy in the world: Ulster's biggest single employer, Shorts, has already established a relationship with Brazil's Embraer and has built a modified version of the latter's Tucana (Toucan) training aircraft for the RAF.
In short, economic success in the next century is likely to hinge on not being too closely associated with the EU, a bloc which is totally failing to meet the technological challenge posed by both Japan and the United States. As there are plenty of well educated and highly intelligent people within the EU, it is clear that the problem must lie with the way EU economies are run. As Asia and Latin America rise, the EU (but not the USA) falls.
If one disagrees with this analysis, there remains the alternative of membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). It is true that the Irish might try to prevent such membership, but Greece's attempts to misuse its membership of the EU to prosecute its vendetta with Macedonia has only enraged the rest of the EU and increased sympathy and bilateral support of the very country Athens sought to isolate! The same is likely to happen to the Irish if they follow the same path.
What of the claim that Ulster's population is too small to support independence? Let us assume, again, a new border and, to load the dice even more, a population of 900,000 disregarding all minorities. Such a population is, in fact, substantially larger than that of many countries. To give only a few examples: Dominica, 71.183; Kiribati, 72, 298; The Bahamas, 254,685; and Barbados, 257,082. Within Europe itself, a 900,000 population Ulster would have a significantly larger population than Andorra (54,507), Iceland (260,000), Greek Cyprus (556,400), Liechtenstein (28,877), Luxembourg (389,000) and Malta (359,543). In fact the smallest independent state, in terms of population, is Nauru which boasts a total of 8,042 (yes, eight thousand and forty-two) people!" Special note should be taken of Cyprus, which has survived civil war, invasion and a perennial external threat.
With regard to geographical area, let us again underestimate the figures. Northern Ireland has a total area of 14,122km2. Let us assume that an independent Ulster with a revised border is half that 7,OOOkm2. It would, of course, be larger than this, more like two-thirds of Northern Ireland's present area, or some 9,400km2. Nevertheless, a 7,OOOkm2 Ulster would still be larger than countries such as Barbados (430km²), Brunei (5,765km²) Greek Cyprus (that is, that part of the island actually under the control of the Cypriot government 5,896km²: the area of the whole island is 9.251km²), Luxembourg (2,586km²), Malta (316km²), Mauritius (2,040km²) Singapore (633km²) and Tuvalu (26km² - yes twenty-six square kilometres!)'.
It might be argued that the redrawn borders of a smaller, independent Ulster (basically, Antrim, Down, most of Londonderry, North and Central Armagh and parts of Tyrone and Fermanagh) would be `absurd' or `impossible'. But `absurd' and `impossible' borders do exist and work. Take an atlas, and look, for examples, at Brunei (two completely separate pieces of land, joined only by the sea), or Chile (very long and very thin) or Croatia (looking like an extended `U', lying at an angle of 135º to the perpendicular), or Israel's internationally recognised (i.e. pre-1967), borders, which make the country look like a crazy hour-glass.
Perhaps the silliest argument against the existence of an independent Ulster (or the British province of Northern Ireland, for that matter) is that the island of Ireland, as a single geographical unit, cannot or should not be divided. Firstly, it should be pointed out that the British Isles are a single geographical unit - an archipelago. Take the `single geographical unit' argument seriously, and the Irish Republic has no right to exist! Divided islands are quiet common: New Guinea is divided into the independent state of Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian province of West Irian: Hispaniola is divided into two independent states, Haiti and the Dominican Republic: while Borneo is divided into three separate political entities: the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, and the independent Sultanate of Brunei. One can also cite the case of Timor, an island that is de facto united under Indonesian rule, but which the United Nations is demanding be partitioned, so that East Timor, the former Portuguese colony seized by Indonesia in 1975, can become independent.
An equally silly version of this argument is that Ireland should be a single political unit because it was a single political unit under British rule. This ignores many examples to the contrary. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were ruled as a single unit by the British. Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and the parts of Peru and Chile were ruled as a single unit (the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata) by the Spanish. Likewise, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala formed one Spanish colonial administration (the Captaincy General of Guatemala)". It should also be remembered that Ireland and Great Britain formed a single political entity for over a century so, again, this argument actually denies Eire's right to exist!
A final argument sometimes used is that the international community will not accept the independence of Ulster because of fears about the treatment of the Irish Catholic minority, based on Northern Ireland's (alleged) record. This, too, is nonsense. The countries of the world are generally not interested in the treatment of minorities, because most of them have minorities of their own: in many cases they have, or fear, problems with these minorities. What happened in Northern Ireland, what could happen in Ulster, does not concern them. This is well illustrated by the fact that the world recognised Croatian independence without any concern for the Serbian minority in that country. Yet, during the Second World War, Croatian nationalists and Catholic chauvinists massacred half a million Serbs and Jews". No wonder the Serbs in Croatia did not want to be part of the new independent state and rose in successful revolt. (The causes of the war in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina are very different and quite separate, it should be pointed out).
At the other pole of Eastern Europe, the three Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, were barely independent before they all passed highly discriminatory laws against their large Russian minorities, effectively denying them -even those born in the respective countries - citizenship rights. The only government that objected was, of course, the Russian.
It is true that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's treatment of his Kurdish and Shi'ite Arab minorities has been closely monitored. But that is because of his defeat in the Gulf War. Prior to that, he was free to persecute them as he saw fit, without any international pressure. The recent concern for Iraqi minorities is an expression of geopolitics, not morality.
Significantly, one objection to an independent Ulster is hardly ever raised: the question of whether such a state could defend itself. Presumably Ulster's historical record puts this beyond dispute! To summarize the 20th Century experience, the Ulster people raised an armed militia of 40,000 (backed by 60,000 unarmed personnel) in 1913-14, to oppose Home Rule: in 1920-22, an armed militia (the
Ulster Special Constabulary) of 32,000 men, including 5,500 regulars: and during the Second World War, an Ulster Home Guard (organizationally completely separate from the British Home Guard) of 38,000 men in 29 battalions".
Clearly, the backbone of any Ulster defence capability would have to be a militia. A state that was 80% Protestant could impose conscription (Catholics would not be eligible for compulsory call-up, but should be allowed to volunteer) and create a compulsory militia service, such as that invented by the Swiss and copied by a number of other countries, notably the Israelis. Israeli Defence correspondent Ze'ev Schiff's account of the defence debate in Israel in 1949, when the country's Jewish population numbered only some 680,000, is definitely applicable to Ulster:
It was clear from the outset that Israel's economy could not support a large standing army. The manpower needs in other sectors of national life were too great and the population of the country too small. Nonetheless, Israel's defence requirements were also important. . . The debate ended in the establishment of a small standing army and a large reserve army . . . The standing army comprised draftees - men and women alike - plus the members of the regular army, and at first it numbered no more than 37,000 people".
This system allows small nations to mobilize quite amazing numbers of trained soldiers for national defence. For a good example, the Greek Cypriot National Guard (which, remember, has a population of 556,400 to draw from) can mobilize a force of some 108,000 men. The period of initial military training, and indeed of reserve refresher training, which is essential to such a defence scheme, varies from country to country and time to time depending on the threat perception. Switzerland, with no obvious threat, has an initial national service period of only six months, whilst Norway has twelve months, Cyprus twenty-six months and Israel thirty-three months (for men: women have a shorter call-up period).
THE WIDER WORLD
The world has changed out of all recognition in the past five years. The end of the Cold War has ended the global dominance and global concerns of the Superpowers.. No longer are small, remote countries in danger of becoming cockpits for global rivalry and sites of ideological proxy wars - as was the fate, to cite only one example, of Nicaragua. In the days of the Cold War, any small nation that sought independence within a Western framework required the diplomatic support of the United States. This is no longer the case. Moreover, the Soviet Union is no more: forging a close relationship with Moscow today no longer means association with a tyrannical system and no longer poses the threat of communist domination. The Russian Federation can be a partner for countries that would have had nothing to do with the old USSR. Note that, contrary to American propaganda, Russia is still a superpower, albeit with severe problems at the moment. But a superpower with problems is still a superpower.
That United States support is no longer critical to the independence of nations today is clearly illustrated by the events of the past five years. Except for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the USA (and Britain, and France) strongly opposed the independence of every state that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Empire. This opposition had absolutely no influence whatsoever on the peoples concerned. And with regard to the three Baltic states, Washington (and London and Paris) opposed the speed with which they sought to re-establish their sovereignty. Again, the opposition was (fortunately) ineffective.
Some might argue that America has a special interest in the affairs of Ulster, due to the large Irish American population. But that forgets, firstly, the large portion of the American population who are of Eastern European descent - Poles, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Estonians, Belarussians, etc. etc. - who failed to influence United States policy toward their homelands. Secondly, it grossly exaggerates the power and influence of Irish Americans. The figure of 39 million people claiming some `Irish' ancestry, taken from the 1990 US census, which is sometimes bandied about, is highly misleading. As Michael Moran has pointed out '1, this figure actually includes all Ulster Americans (or
Scotch-Irish as they still call themselves), as well as people whose ancestors were Irish Catholics but who are themselves American Protestants. As for the rest -probably less than half of the total are Catholic: but many are the descendants of inter-communal marriages. That is, they are also of Polish or Italian, or German, ancestry. They have no knowledge of, or interest in, Eire or Ulster.
But why then do some American politicians, even Presidents. strike poses on Ulster, if so few voters are interested`? There are two reasons. Firstly, the traditional Irish Americans (as distinct from the assimilated ones) are still concentrated in a couple of important areas, such as Boston and New York. Secondly, and much more importantly, Ulster is a totally safe issue for American politicians to strike poses over. At present, there is absolutely no danger whatsoever of any American entanglement in Ulster affairs. The odd dollar here, photo-opportunity or chat with visiting politicians there, is fine. That represents no commitment. No danger.
But once the Ulster people demand national self-determination, things will change radically. Any attempt by die-hard Irish Americans to involve the US in any way will provoke widespread alarm among the American people. Visions of a quagmire will arise: Britain's long, bitter experience will be alluded to: the memory of the Somalia debacle revived: even distant ghosts of Vietnam (no matter how inapplicable) may he resurrected. Remember that the majority of the American people were opposed to the intervention in powerless Haiti and that the US, for all its aggressive rhetoric, refused to commit ground troops to the Balkans.
As far as Ulster is concerned, the tragic conflict in the Balkans has destroyed the old picture, assiduously fostered by London and Dublin, that our country was a bizarre hang-over from another, distant era, and a unique aberration in modern Europe. Clearly, it is no such thing. Like the countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Northern Ireland and Eire were the products of the disintegration of the European empires following the First World War. True, the bulk of the British Empire remained intact until after the Second World War, but it is now crystal clear that the events of 1919-1922 were harbingers of what was to follow. Close parallels with Ulster can easily he found in Eastern Europe today. Just as Ireland, the second kingdom of the British Isles, achieved independence after WW1, so too did Hungary, the second Kingdom of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Just as the Ulstermen successfully refused to fall under the domination of a hostile regime and culture, so too did the Slovaks, whose land had traditionally been regarded as part of Hungary, and whose status had traditionally been guaranteed by the Austrians. Achieving their own government, the Ulstermen chose to throw in their lot with the English to form the modern United Kingdom. Joining Austria was no option for the Slovaks, but instead they threw in their lot with their western neighbours, the Czechs, to form Czechoslovakia. Now, the Slovaks have established their own independent state. And yes, they have a Hungarian minority, and yes, they are worried about possible Hungarian irredentism. Irish nationalists argue that Northern Ireland is a `gerrymandered' state. It is no more gerrymandered than Slovakia or any other country created as a result of a successful struggle for national self-determination. It should also be noted that the traditional kingdom of Hungary included, in addition to Slovakia, areas which are now western Ukraine, south-western Rumania and northern Serbia".
Another strikingly close analogy for Ulster is found in Estonia. Exactly like modern Ulster, Estonia was created as an outlying buffer for a major European power - the Holy Roman Empire - with which it was connected only by sea. The population was, as in Ulster today, created from a mixture of planted warriors, peaceful merchant settlers, other civilian immigrants, and assimilated and converted locals, who gave the territory its name and specific identity. The Estonians became Protestants during the Reformation. To protect themselves from militant Catholicism the Estonians voluntarily joined the Protestant kingdom of Sweden. This association with the Swedes ended only when Estonia was conquered by Tsar Peter the Great in 1710. But Imperial Russia guaranteed the Estonians' traditional liberties and religion. With the collapse of Imperial Russia, Estonia regained its independence, only to be occupied by the USSR in 1940. Now it is independent again. Its population today is just over one and a half million, of whom 61.5% are actually Estonian and 30.3% are Russian. How much closer can you get to Ulster?"
The case of Estonia shows that Ulster could demand independence on the basis of the present borders and population of Northern Ireland. Don't forget that the main difference between the Estonians and their Russian neighbours is that the former are Protestants and the latter are Orthodox. As a consequence, their cultures are totally different. Just as Ulstermen and Estonians form about 60% of the population of their countries, so, too, do the Issa people form 60% of the population of their country, Djibouti (35% are Afars, who - surprise, surprise - are in rebellion against the Issa dominated government), and the Tajik people form 62% of the population of Tajikistan. There are even more extreme cases. Latvians form only 52% of the population of Latvia, and are actually a minority in their own capital city, Riga. Still, no one objected to Latvian independence. Qatar is an even more extreme case. Though Qataris are the biggest single group in the country, they still provide only 40%0 of the population!
Yet again it must be emphasized that Northern Ireland is perfectly normal for a state with a land frontier. Does Ulster have minority populations deep within its territory? So too does Rumania. In the centre of the country, far from the Hungarian border, one can find Szeklerland, a Hungarian majority community marooned in a Rumanian sea`".
Nor is Ulster the only country to be faced by a neighbour espousing a hostile, irredentist, nationalist ideology. Both Albania and especially Macedonia are subject to irredentist hostility from Greece. Athens uses the (real or alleged) mistreatment of the Greek minority in Albania as a platform for propaganda against Albania. Some Greek nationalists claim virtually the southern half of Albania, calling it `Northern Epirus'. Greece is even more hostile towards Macedonia, denying that there is any such thing as a Macedonian nation (despite the fact that it obviously exists). Athens has closed its borders with Macedonia, and waged an intense (and unsuccessful) diplomatic campaign to prevent Macedonia receiving international recognition. As previously mentioned, Greece has used her veto in the EU to prevent that body from giving aid to Macedonia. The only thing that Greece has to show for all this effort is that, to gain international recognition, Macedonia has had to adopt the (temporary) cumbersome official name of `The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' to avoid confusion with the Greek province of the same name. Note that the existence of a strong Greek American community (remember Vice-President Spiro Agnew, or more recently, Governor Michael Dukakis?) was of absolutely no use to Greece in its anti-Macedonia campaign.
This acts as a reminder that Eire's apparent advantage over Ulster in being already a sovereign state, with all the appurtenances thereof -especially a diplomatic service and a propaganda arm - is far from decisive. To put it bluntly, Eire is a decidedly unimportant country on the world stage. This unimportance was cruelly revealed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin when, in early October 1994, he snubbed the then Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds at Shannon Airport by staying on the aircraft while Reynolds was waiting on the runway to greet him on Yeltsin's refuelling stop over. The Russians later said Yeltsin was asleep: some British journalists said he was drunk. The actual cause of the snub is irrelevant: had he been stopping over briefly in London or Paris, or even Amsterdam or Madrid, President Yeltsin would have been both awake and sober. Of course he apologized afterwards, but that is standard diplomacy. `Sincere regrets' hardly make up for a very public humiliation. But then, the Irish had no choice but to swallow it. Russia is a real power in the world.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ULSTER
As has been mentioned previously, the English have propagated and even magnified Irish disinformation and propaganda about our country and its history. But the single most damaging piece of disinformation is entirely English in origin: the official name of `Northern Ireland'. This totally confuses foreigners. To them it is a geographical description, like northern Italy. After all, we do not talk about Northern or Southern Korea: it is North Korea, South Korea (and, in earlier years, North Vietnam and South Vietnam; East Germany and West Germany). So foreigners assume that Northern Ireland is actually northern Ireland.
Alistair Cooke pointed out the consequences of this in one of his Letters from America: most Americans, he said, even well-educated ones, believe that Northern Ireland is a part of the Republic of Ireland under British military occupation: very significantly, he went on to observe that Americans have almost never heard of the name Ulster.
The name Ulster is almost like a magic word, freeing outsiders from the spells of delusion which have been cast upon them by the Irish and English. Whereas `Northern Ireland' suggests a geographic area of the Republic of Ireland, and `North Ireland' would suggest a separate country but the same people, Ulster clearly proclaims both a separate country and a separate people. What was an incomprehensible conflict becomes an entirely comprehensible one.
The Irish grasp the danger of `Ulster' to their imperialist aims. Hence their attempts to deny the validity of the name with their propaganda about `the ancient nine county province of Ulster', arguing that only that territory could be called Ulster. As usual, the English often repeat this lie. The nine county Ulster was an invention of the English, being imposed after the Elizabethan conquest: thus, in terms of the periods of European history, it is totally modern. But even if it was ancient, the fact would still be irrelevant: the borders of all countries with land frontiers change over time, usually as a result of war. In the past 130-odd years, the borders of France have changed in 1871, 1919, 1940 and 1945, in each case as a result of a major war.
The Irish argument, if taken seriously, would mean that India could not call itself India (it does not embrace all the territory of British India, because of the independence of Pakistan and Bangladesh); Israel could not be Israel (its internationally recognised borders do not coincide with those of the genuinely ancient kingdom); Germany could not call itself Germany (it covers significantly less area than the German Empire of 1871 and much less area than the medieval Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation); Hungary could not be Hungary (the modern Republic comprises only one-third of the territory of the kingdom of Hungary, which was dissolved in 1920). And to cite only one more example, the United States of America would most definitely not be allowed to use that title, as `America' is actually a massive continent much bigger by far than the USA. Even within North America (some Latin Americans make a point of referring to ‘The United States of North America'), Canada is larger. We are perfectly entitled to call our country Ulster, and will be entitled to call it Ulster even if the border is changed. The truly ancient Ulster heartland is also the contemporary Ulster Protestant heartland.
While the name of Ulster is not unknown abroad (the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo used it in an editorial), it must be made better known. The central issue of the longstanding crisis in our country is what Conor Cruise O'Brien has aptly described as . . . an Irish Catholic imperialist enterprise: the effort to force the Protestants of Northern Ireland, by a combination of paramilitary terror and political pressure, into a United Ireland that they don't want."'
The central theme to be proclaimed is the right to self-determination of the Ulster people, that is, those who identify with the specific, separate identity of Ulster. After all, is that not what, ultimately, Loyalism means: final loyalty to Ulster's unique identity and culture? No one feels loyalty - or at least, unconditional loyalty - to `British' (really English) governments: if the Queen or her successor were to express themselves in favour of a united Ireland, the Ulster people would consider themselves released from all obligation and loyalty to the monarch. That this unique identity stems from religious difference does not invalidate it, as Israel, Pakistan and Bangladesh prove. In Europe, the Croatians and Serbs are ethnically identical, they speak exactly the same language (Serbo-Croat): the key difference is that the Serbs are Orthodox Christians, the Croats are Catholic. And, of course, what makes the unfortunate Bosnian Muslims different from their neighbours is simply their religion. Ulster's Protestant - that is, religiously based - identity is not unusual. None of the countries cited here are inhabited by people of exclusively the same religion: all have minorities.
It is a great pity that Ulster leaders have, to date, failed to seize the true opportunities presented by otherwise useless trips to the United States. All the American politicians want is photo-opportunities to prove that they are spreading peace around the globe. There is no harm in talking to them: but why have no Ulster representatives ever seized the chance of going to the United Nations, not to address that body or discuss Ulster with it, but to meet with many ambassadors accredited there? By doing so, the Ulster case could be brought directly to the governments of especially small nations who, once they realised what the Irish were up to, would oppose it for fear that it would set a precedent that their own neighbours could use against them. Similarly, why was no contact arranged with the Scotch-Irish cultural societies'? Why is there no attempt to get them to rename themselves Ulster Americans?
The message to be proclaimed is not that of the union: that was only ever a means to an end: the message is, to repeat, that of the right to self-determination of the Ulster Protestant people. As the Argentinean journalist Jacobo Timmerman wrote: A nation's right to self-rule is not a matter of whether or not it has reached the maturity to do so: it is simply an inviolable right."
It should he noted that insisting on self-determination does not automatically mean insisting on independence. The Ulster people do have the right to interpret self-determination as meaning that they wish to be part of Britain: unfortunately, this option requires that the English agree, and, as has already been pointed out, they want rid of Ulster. This they have made clear to the Irish.
Earlier, the significance of the ceasefire was discussed. It is now necessary to give a brief overview of Irish strategy. Clearly, the tall of Albert Reynolds has not changed that strategy, suggesting that it emanates from the bureaucracy and not from any single politician.
Though Dublin has not directed the IRA's terror campaign, it has relentlessly exploited it. Every bomb, every bullet, every atrocity was seized as an opportunity to promote Eire's political agenda, which was and is presented in terms very attractive to the English. The Irish know the English very well: they understand them totally: the English obsession with `compromise', `finding the middle ground', and `being reasonable'. So each and every IRA attack was immediately followed by Dublin publicly condemning the attack but also insisting that the attack proved the need for `a political solution' - which, of course, means acceptance of Eire's political agenda with regard to Northern Ireland. The lure to bring London on board is the siren song of ‘peace'. In effect, Dublin has waged a proxy war against the Ulster people for 25 years.
Not that the Irish are hypocritical about peace: they really want it. As the great German strategist, Carl von Clausewitz, pointed out: The aggressor is always peace-loving (as Bonaparte always claimed to be): he would prefer to take over our country unopposed. And that is exactly what the Irish desire.
The Outlines of the Irish strategy are very clear. Stage one was winning London to their side: this took a long time, but the Irish were patient and finally succeeded with the ceasefire. Having achieved this, the next step is to use London to impose cross-border institutions on the Ulster people. For Dublin, this is the next step towards the destruction of Northern Ireland: for the English this is a `sensible compromise', a `reasonable solution for men of goodwill'. London is clearly very attracted by the idea. Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew has already raised the spectre that cross-border institutions could have executive powers - while denying that such a development would infringe upon British sovereignty". One doesn't know if Mayhew is so stupid that he actually believes that nonsense, or is so stupid that he believes that the Ulster people will believe it. Executive powers for any cross-border institutions undermines - and significantly undermines - sovereignty.
The Irish objective is not merely to get a say in the running of Northern Ireland: it is also to promote abroad the image that there is only one Ireland and only one Irish nation. So cross-border institutions in fields like tourism and culture, which appear innocuous to the English, are of enormous symbolic importance to Dublin. Similarly, the `Irish Forum for Reconciliation' is designed to promote the idea that there is only one Irish nation and culture, unfortunately divided by the machinations of `British imperialism'.
Once these institutions are up and running, once the requisite international image has been created to Dublin's satisfaction, then the final move will be the holding of an all-Ireland referendum on unification. This will be justified under the slogan (already in use) of `Irish self-determination'. The vote will (most probably) be in favour, with the Ulster Protestant people hopelessly outvoted, and London will gracefully withdraw from Northern Ireland, which will cease to exist, and unification will be achieved. Irish Catholic, sectarian. nationalism will finally be triumphant.
If one makes the mistake of falling into the mindset of the nationalists in Dublin this appears a clever, inevitably successful, strategy. But if one examines it from the outside one is struck very forcefully by just how pathetically self-deluding it all is. The Irish understand the English very well: they have absolutely no understanding of the Ulster people at all. Even the Irish minority within Northern Ireland has no understanding: they are all blinded by their Nationalist ideology. Everything that does not fit their ideological filters is screened out. Writing of a much greater strategist than any in Eire's leadership, retired US Army Lt.-Gen. Phillip B. Davidson stated:
Finally . . . Napoleon lost his eye for facts, and they became not what they are, but what he wanted them to be. This brought, as it always does, catastrophe - the Russian campaign, the defeat at Leipzig, and finally, Waterloos'
The Irish have no eye for the facts of Ulster: they see only what they want to see: they are bound for catastrophe. Even if all their plans succeed, the moment they think they have achieved their goal - if not sooner - the people of Ulster will rise and initiate the Ulster War for National Liberation, a war Eire cannot win. No one - least of all the United States - will provide any assistance to Dublin. Their carefully cultivated propaganda will crumble as international TV flocks to the war zone. The very same factors that worked against Stormont and Northern Ireland will suddenly work against Eire and Dublin. Indeed, Dublin's carefully cultivated ties with Washington will become a liability, as the endlessly self-critical US media will soon be criticising Dublin's handling of the affair. The Ulster Protestants will be `underdogs', not the Irish Catholics. One only has to think of how the sympathy of much of the US media swung away from the Israelis and towards the Arabs after the 1967 War, and especially after the 1982 Lebanon War and the start of the Palestinian Intifada. This despite the fact that the Zionist (Jewish and Christian) lobby is far more powerful than the Irish-American. Note also that, thanks to the PLO's execution of international terrorism, the Palestinians were much less fashionable than even the presently unfashionable Ulster people!
The independence of Ulster is inevitable: it will be achieved either through peaceful negotiation or as a result of an Ulster War of National Liberation. The guarantees issued by Prime Minister John Major are meaningless. Firstly, because they are personal to him, and will not endure after he ceases to be Premier. And for how much longer will he hold that post? Three years'? Two years'? Very possibly only one year. Moreover, English politicians have the gift of being able to reverse their policies while continuing to persuade themselves that they are abiding by them. Secondly, even guarantees secured by legislation have, in the past, been disregarded. As The Spectator noted in an editorial The 1949 Ireland Act, which had promised no change in the province's position without the consent of the parliament of Northern Ireland, was ignored when that parliament was prorogued in 1972. Since then, successive British governments have promised again and again that there would be no change in the Union without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, while all the time taking actions which cast doubt on the continuing existence of the Union.
And thirdly, the English authorities have told the IRA that they expect Northern Ireland will, in the not too distant future, cease to he British. This was reported in a Reuters despatch which stated: Republican sources said that UK officials told senior Republicans in secret talks last year [ 1993] that London could envisage the day in perhaps 25 years when the province was no longer British."
By demanding Ulster self-determination and independence Ulster's leaders will seize the initiative from London and Dublin: they may also force Dublin to face reality for the first time in over a century. The truth is that the Union never protected Ulster: it protected Eire from the consequences of the folly of nationalist fantasies: they could engage in any form of aggression against Northern Ireland that they chose, except invasion, without fear of retaliation. (And with regard to invasion, the Irish actually invaded south west Northern Ireland in 1922: though they were driven out no retaliation was undertaken by the English").
If Ulster's constitutional leaders now (within the next year or so) seek independence for Ulster, there is a real chance of being able to negotiate it peacefully - or reasonably peacefully - with mutually beneficial border revisions, mutual guarantees on protection of minorities, and mutually valuable agreements on cross-border cooperation. (There is a world of difference between co-operation between a sovereign Belfast and Dublin and co-operation between London and Dublin, forced on Ulster.) If the Irish do not go along with this peaceful path, the truth of their imperialist policy will be manifest to the whole world..
If our leaders do not follow this path, then the result will be implementation of the Irish strategy until such time as our War of National Liberation begins. This risks death, suffering and damage on a significant scale, that would otherwise have been avoided, as well as the possibility that the constitutional leaders will be swept away in the storm and replaced by the paramilitary leadership (though this is likely, at the end of the conflict, to be very different from what it is today: nevertheless, it is obviously best to stick to constitutional leaders and norms).
The route of negotiation will also allow maximum economic recovery as rapidly as possible. Tourism has enormous potential even though more hotels and amenities are needed. As independent Ulster would not be merely a neglected periphery of a much larger country whose economic policies were designed to benefit the core of the state. It could follow policies that benefited itself, exploiting its competitive labour costs, good productivity, good industrial relations, well-educated population and strong work ethic. Ulster is already well connected to Heathrow Airport, one of the world's greatest communications hubs, and has excellent harbours". Contrary to popular belief, Ulster would be well integrated with the world. Northern Ireland's present apparent isolation is due almost entirely to the IRA's war, and the English government's refusal to effectively fight it.
Indeed, the vast majority of the subsidy which - as the English love to publicize - London pours into Northern Ireland is the result of this failure to fight the IRA. Because London will allow action to be taken against the IRA only when they are actually in the process of executing an attack, or if the RUC have enough evidence for a criminal prosecution, the terrorists were granted the initiative at all times and levels. Thus they were able to inflict far more damage than they would otherwise have been able to - and far more damage than they ever managed in the past, when Stormont was in charge of security. Thus Britain was spending some US$1.5 billion a year on a war that should have cost a tiny fraction of that figure. Much of the money, of course, went on compensation to people and businesses for the damage suffered to their property as a result of attacks by terrorists whose identity was well known and who should have been detained. The English, of course, like to claim that when detention was tried in 1971 it was a disastrous failure. They omit to mention that that was because the operation was based on obsolete intelligence, itself the result of politically motivated disruption (by London) of the local security forces. They also omit to mention detention's success in 1922, I 93945 and 1956-62.
Should it come to a War of National Liberation, Ulster will triumph. Eire does not have the firepower, the manpower, the money, or among the ordinary people, the national will, to achieve victory. Ulster has the trained men and women, the determination, the infrastructure (the engineering industry, for example) and the geographic advantages. While the south west would be lost, the north east would be secure. After the war, the economy would recover - as it did in Cyprus after 1972, as it is doing in Croatia today. But it is best to avoid this option: Ulster must seek independence peacefully, and soon. The English people will greet this option with enthusiasm: it will get them honourably out of Northern Ireland and simultaneously inflict a massive defeat on the IRA. The 1991 opinion poll which showed that only 33% of mainlanders wanted Northern Ireland in the Union also showed that even less - only 25% -wanted it to be part of Eire," Ulster independence is the option that the overwhelming majority of English people would support. It is safe to assume that most MPs would support it, too. No English government could oppose for long the desire of the Ulster people for independence.
Looked at coldly, the Union has never been a benefit to Ulster, now it is a peril. Let Ulster dissolve it and join Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia and many others as sovereign independent states. Many of them face much greater perils and problems than Ulster. So why not join them in freedom?
A THIRD WAY FOR ULSTER
Copyright © 1990 - 2007 Third Way Publications. All rights reserved.