Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 12.01.07

A few years ago on TV Seamus Mallon recalled asking Tony Blair why he was talking to Republicans and how he was scandalised, shocked and traumatised when Blair explained that Republicans had guns. A lesson, if ever there was one, of Realpolitik for Slow Learners. Perhaps Mallon thought then and still believes that James ll fled Ireland for France for fresh baguettes and croissants?

Sammy McNally (see his comments on my last blog) quotes Seamus Mallon’s failed attempt at a Smart Alec witticism, and suggests that Eamon de Valera was a late convert to democracy. In fact Dev was, if anything, a (perhaps too) pedantic devotee of regular procedure. The Civil War arose partly because de Valera intended that any agreement made with Britain would be honoured to the letter by the Irish side, and that Michael Collins and many of his IRB followers felt that, as from the time of the Treaty of Limerick, if not before, Britain had never honoured an agreement with Ireland, they had no moral obligation to honour an agreement with Britain.

This is quite clear from Ernie O’Malley’s “On Another Man’s Wound” and Tim Pat Coogan’s biography of Michael Collins. Arthur Griffith’s attitude to agreements was the same as De Valera’s, but he was out of the loop as Collins orchestrated a war in the Six Counties, and even Richard Mulcahy was out of the loop when Collins arranged for the shooting of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson in London.

I think Collins was deluded in thinking he could be more devious than Perfidious Albion’s finest. And for such a brilliant organiser of an intelligence war he could be  extremely careless and boastful.

In October 1921 he gave an interview to C P Scott of THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN in London, who wrote in his diary –

“He went on declaiming as to the war they were making on us everywhere, in America and wherever they could in Europe. ‘Oh! if I had a hundred men in Cologne I would make the place untenable’ “

I hate to have to record this, for it shows that, for all his courage, brains and commitment to Ireland’s liberation, Collins appeared to Scott, an ex-MP and renowned newspaper Editor as  “a straightforward and quite agreeable savage.”

Collins was 31 years old and not a slow learner. But he was killed before he might have been expected to have the wisdom of a Solomon.




4 Responses to REALPOLITIK FOR SLOW LEARNERS by Donal Kennedy

  1. Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr March 29, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    Democracy is demographical convergence for slow learners.

    Yet again our Unionist brethren are at the back of the class with heads asleep on the desk. Seamus Mallon needed to attend his science class more! Guns make a bigger noise than a megaphone. If you want to be heard, avoid getting a megaphone!

  2. Sammy McNally March 29, 2016 at 11:37 am #


    re. “Seamus Mallon’s failed attempt at a Smart Alec witticism”

    just a technical point on what constitutes a ‘Smart Alec witticism’ – I think that in order to fall into that category you need to have an element of both humour and truth – I think it fair to say there is an element of both in this SDLP quip.

    Another arguably optional element of a ‘Smart Alec witticism’ is its transferability to others and again Dev engaging in civil war before retreating into the Dail is arguably (and taking into account your points above) at least in part – just that.

    Of course the SDLPism was directed at political rivals in the shape of SF but perhaps an greater and more uncomfortable use of the Smart Alec witticism would be apply to it SF as well as Dev in relation to partition – where although Dev’s ‘slowness’ in accepting partition can be measured in years SF’s ‘slowness’ in accepting partition can be measured in decades.

    …and that perhaps is yet another optional element in a Smart Alec witticism – to make the intended target very uncomfortable and I think it fair to say any such a mention of the acceptance* of partition will be deeply uncomfortable for SF(as indeed it is for my goodself).

    * acceptance being defined as playing the democratic game as FF did in the 1920s and SF in the 1990s.

  3. Sammy McNally March 29, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    oops again. Please correct last post to say Donal rather than Jude.

  4. Donal Kennedy March 29, 2016 at 7:10 pm #

    British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin wanted an Atomic Bomb “with a Bloody Great Union Jack” Painted on it when going about his business. Neither the UK electorate, the UK Parliament Parliament nor the UK Cabinet had any say about getting such a weapon. It
    was decided by Attlee and a small cabal in the Cabinet. Parliament and most Cabinet
    members were similarly kept in the dark while a similar small cabal planned to smash
    Germany for about 10 years before the declaration of war in 1914. That’s British Democracy for those who’ll never learn.