Will Ulster still be right? Essay
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Over the past 25 years, Ireland was largely characterized by a culture of violence and religious animosity. This is due to the continual clash of opposing traditions of Unionism and Irish nationalism. Unionism in Ireland is an ideology that aims to maintain the socio-political relationship between Ireland and Great Britain. The political relationship between Great Britain and Ireland dates back to the twelfth century when the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created. This was realized by virtue of the Act of Union of 1800.
But since the independence of the Republic of Ireland, this only refers to the ties between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Most of the time, Unionism and its opposing ideology, Irish nationalism, are largely associated with a particular religious or ethnic group. Most, but not all, of Unionists have Protestant roots while Irish Nationalists are of Roman Catholic origin. However, this is not limited to such dichotomy for there are existing Protestant Nationalists and Catholic Unionists.
Unionism is defined as Ireland’s remaining with United Kingdom.
However, not all Protestants supported Unionism. Some were nationalists while others are middle-class Catholics supported the maintenance of the Union. During the period of 1880s until 1914, Unionism gained support from leading mainland Conservative politicians, Lord Randolph Churchill, where he coined the well-known slogan “Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right. ” Thus, the thesis of this paper is that the Unionist case and the Irish Nationalist case is much of an anathema that demands a critical assessment from within them.
This will be realized through a historical analysis and pragmatic evaluation of the roots of these traditions. Unionism and Home Rule in Retrospect Irish Unionism emerged as a unified ideology opposing William Ewart Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill of 1886. It is concerned in establishing a British identity and an identification with the Protestant religion. Unionists believed in maintaining a deep political and cultural relationship with carious nations of the United Kingdom. Home Rule was the policy that seeks to establish a devolved parliament that will govern Ireland as an autonomous region within the United Kingdom.
This policy was supported by mainstream nationalist leaders such as Isaac Butt, William Shaw, Charles Stewart Parnell, John Redmond, and John Dillon, and has become the aim of the Nationalist Party since the 1860s. Until the World War I, the Home Rule League and the Irish Parliamentary Party was the largest political party in Ireland. On the other hand, Irish Nationalists believed in the separation of Great Britain from the whole of Ireland, whether through the repeal of the Act of Union of 1800, “Home Rule,” or through complete independence.
Unionism and Nationalism have had sectarian and non-sectarian elements and both ideologies have attracted supporters even outside the base religious communities. However, Unionists were largely accused of sectarianism compared to Irish Nationalists. While there have been a number of Protestant leaders of Irish Nationalists, there was only Catholic who served the government when the Ulster Unionist Party had an undisputed control of Northern Ireland. In some instances, Unionists are referred to as Loyalists.
But the latter is mostly related with a considerably extremist form of Unionism. Most of the time, Loyalist individuals and groups are associated with acts of violence. This is why some Unionists do not want to associate themselves with Loyalists. This distinction or dichotomy goes true with Irish Nationalists and Republicans. Mainstream nationalists, which include the supporters of the Social Democratic Party (SLDP) and main parties of the Republic of Ireland, are generally considered under the latter.
Republicans, on the other hand, are considered to be the more militant strand of nationalism. Nowadays, the only similarity of the previous republicanism and the recent militant republicans is certain ideological and historical perspectives. ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right’ The Unionists comprised the opposition to the Home Rule for they believe that an Irish Parliament dominated by Catholic Nationalists would be against their economic, social, and religious interests, and would move eventually towards the total independence from the Britain.
Most of the Unionists were members of the governing and landowning classes and Unionism had a broad popular appeal among Protestants of all classes and backgrounds in Ulster. The latter is an area in Ireland with a transforming economy that largely resembles the British economy. Unionism as an ideology was largely conceived within the bounds of Protestant communities in the Ulster region of Northern Ireland.
The advent of the 20th century saw how this area has become the center of this ideology; in 1905, the Ulster Unionist Council was founded, thereby establishing the Ulster Unionist Party and replacing the Irish Unionist Party. In 1911, it is apparent that a Home Rule will be enacted finally. In response, Ulster Unionists set up a campaign against this policy, creating a “Solemn League and Covenant” that threatens to establish a Provisional Government of Ulster if such policy were imposed upon them. Thereafter, they set up a militia called the Ulster Volunteers.
Before the World War I erupted, the Home Rule of 1914 was passed into law but it was not enacted because of the situation. Nevertheless, the Easter Rising of 1916 and the events that followed led to the enactment of a fourth Home Rule Bill after the War, which was known was the Government of Ireland Act of 1920. This was led by Sir Edward Carson and produced a devolved parliament for six of the nine counties of Ulster independent from the rest of the Ireland. Nevertheless, the 1914 Act provided for a similar partition as a temporary means on an indefinite period of time.
Unionists are strident opponents of the Home Rule for several reasons. First, the landowners in southern and western Ireland feared that a nationalist assembly would introduce property and taxation laws that could be disadvantageous to them. Moreover, some unionists are threatened that Home Rule can be “Rome Rule” which will impose an oppressive and discriminating experience under the dominant Roman Catholic Church. These situations are greatly influenced by threats of sectarianism and the continuous strife between Catholics and Protestants.
Nonetheless, the reason why Unionists, particularly those based in Ulster, opposed such policy, is that they view Ireland as economically backward and contended that an independent parliament for Ireland could hamper their economic growth. However, not all Protestants supported Unionism; some were nationalists while others are middle-class Catholics. During the period of 1880s until 1914, this political ideology gained support from mainstream Conservative politicians, most importantly Lord Randolph Churchill who coined the well-known slogan “Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right. ”