Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus
“ As Yogi Berra would have said, ‘It’s like deja-vu, all over again.’
England’s elite often say the Irish should forget the past and move on. Yet when the Irish do move on, the London government always takes them back. Right now Boris is trying to take Ireland back to 1919, as Belfast columnist Brian Feeney explains in this article. As Edmund Burke would have said:’Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.’
God save Ireland from the long line of Tory insanity, racism, imperialism, and the hubris of empire.”
— Fr. Sean McManus
Johnson and the DUP continuing … opposition to the “Backstop”
Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, August 28, 2019
THERE is an eerie echo in the present state of British-Irish relations of those same relations—or lack of them —exactly a hundred years ago.
In 1919 the newly expanded Irish electorate had just overwhelmingly endorsed Sinn Féin’s policy of Irish self-determination in the December 1918 general election.
The British government not only ignored the firm will of the majority of Irish people but proceeded to spend the next two years fighting to prevent the fulfilment of that will.
The reason they adopted that stupid anti-democratic course of action was because the prime minister Lloyd George relied on the Conservative and Unionist party to stay in office.
Since 1915 senior figures in Ulster Unionism had directed the policy of the Conservative party on Ireland.
In that year, following disastrous reverses in World War I, Asquith established a coalition government.
It included all the chief enemies of Irish independence: Lord Lansdowne, leader of the southern unionists; Bonar Law, leader of the Conservative party and dyed in the wool Unionist; Arthur Balfour; Austen Chamberlain; Walter Long, former Chief Secretary and former leader of the Ulster Unionists; and, bitterest of all, the leader of sedition against the government of which he was now a member, Edward Carson.
What this new coalition meant for British-Irish politics was this. From 1910-15 Ulster Unionists had been the enemies of the Liberal government; now they were the Liberals’ allies.
After 1915, instead of being at loggerheads about Ireland, if a difficulty arose there was a powerful incentive to reach an agreement about Ireland.
A century ago that meant partition. Neither the Irish Party nor the new dominant party in 1919, Sinn Féin, had any leverage.
From 1915 onwards unionists dominated British government policy on Ireland with leading members in Lloyd George’s cabinet until 1922.
In the current state of affairs the DUP exercise nothing like the same leverage as their Unionist predecessors, but they wield a baleful and malign influence which means there will be no progress on any of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.
You will notice that just as in 1919 the British government ignored the will of the Irish people, so too this Conservative government ignores the will of a majority of people in the north.
In his tendentious four-page diatribe he sent to the EU, Johnson called the backstop ‘anti-democratic’; it’s not. It was agreed by the democratically elected British government in December 2017 and has been endorsed by the majority of elected representatives in The North no later than last week. Opinion polls here show support for it increasing.
Relying on the minority DUP, just as Lloyd George gave into minority unionist sentiment, Johnson presses on, regardless of the consequences here, or the consequences for relations with Dublin, or on the economy and society of Ireland.
However, don’t be misled into wishful thinking that Johnson and the clique around him don’t agree with the DUP, or will automatically ditch them or their antiquated views on British-Irish relations. He won’t.
You might notice that in his letter to the EU, Johnson invented an entirely new function for the Good Friday Agreement; respect for minority rights, mentioned nowhere in the GFA which guarantees rights for all.
At the same time he minimised any role for the Irish government. That’s because for Johnson, Michael Gove, Johnson’s personal Rasputin Dominic Cummings, and several other members of the most right-wing cabinet of third-raters anyone can remember, both the Good Friday Agreement and the “Backstop” are threats to the desire to ‘take back control’ that consumes all their waking (and sleepless) hours.
Johnson’s letter preposterously claims the “Backstop” undermines the GFA because it’s ‘undemocratic’ since people in The North would have ‘no democratic control over commercial and economic life,’ which is nonsense.
Worse, he promotes ‘consent’ to equal status with his invented minority rights, thereby accepting the DUP line that unionists have a veto on everything.