It’s remarkable what you find on youtube when you are not looking for it. I discovered a series called DE VALERA , IRELAND’S HATED HERO and wrote a BLOG with that title, followed with – “OH, REALLY?” (JANUARY 22 2020).
But I didn’t bother to examine it in detail. De Valera had democratic electoral successes unequalled by any statesman you can mention, filled sports stadia in the United States twenty years before John Lennon was born, was welcomed to London’s Euston Railway Station in 1938 in scenes that might have been blueprints for A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, was given a hero’s welcome in the world’s most popular Democracy – India in 1948, and was still serving as the elected President of Ireland after the Beatles had broken up.
But sometimes if you step in nasty stuff it may cling to your boots and I recently had Part 6 of the series pop up on my screen and it had some silly assertions about Dev,who supposedly refused, a sincere offer of Irish reunification, from Winston Churchill in 1940.
One of the “experts” talking was Professor Paul Bew of Queen’s University Belfast, a man with an intriguing history. In his youth Paul Bew marched with “the People’s Democracy” a sort of Children’s Crusade, like the silly and futile movement in the 13th Century. But the Professor has since become a legislator in the House of Lords, having lost a taste for Democracy and is a paid up member OF THE HENRY JACKSON SOCIETY, not a lunatic fringe outfit, but probably the inner core of a criminal scheme to make life hell on earth before extinguishing it altogether. See my BLOG “Scoop.” Lord Bew has an abiding interest in History, spanning the Atlantic with intriguing researches in Boston College.
Another “expert” was Fintan O’Toole and another was Professor John Bowman.
When the Ulster Unionists and the British Conservative Party and Naval and Military bigwigs were threatening the Liberal Government with civil war in the event of Irish Home Rule in 1912 (a Mickey Mouse measure) two Liberal Cabinet Ministers decided that Ireland should be partitioned. They never changed that opinion. The Ministers were David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.
In 1920 they enforced Partition and in 1921 they threatened Irish negotiators with war on the scale used twenty years earlier on the Boers if they did not abandon the Republic established by Irish Elections “regarded on all sides as a plebiscite” by the Times. A few months later,acting on Churchill’s ultimatum, and using artillery gifted to them by the British those who had knuckled under to British threats attacked their former comrades. Those Irish who signed under threat had been offered, as a sweetener, a Boundary Commission which was not honoured. De Valera had been on the losing side of a Civil War, but had won all General Elections since 1932. His success at the polls and in 1938 negotiations with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938, incurred the wrath of Churchill in Parliament when it discussed “The Eire Bill” on May 5 1938.
His wrath takes up the first 9 pages of “Into Battle” a compilation of his speeches up to 9 November 1940 published by his son Randolph in 1941. Churchill was not a happy bunny when he offered Dev “reunification” because he had an empty hand. His army had skedaddled across the channel leaving guns and vehicles intact, some of which the Germans used later to attack Russia.
Ireland was poorly armed. The anti-aircraft battery on Howth’s Baily Green on the North Side of Dublin Bay could have done little damage to a Luftwaffe onslaught, and Ireland had renounced the right, on Britain’s insistence, of having an armaments industry of its own. Professor Bew professes to believe that Belfast Unionists would cheerfully join Dublin, in the defence of democracy to defeat Hitler. In 1912 those same Unionists talked of bringing in Kaiser Bill. George V signed the Home Rule Bill.
Churchill spent most of his career distrusted by colleagues in whichever party he happened to be in at the time. Why should anyone have trusted, a man who boasted that he had ratted and re-ratted on parties?
The three “experts” reckoned that De Valera had established the Catholic Church in a key position in the Irish State and would have to dis-establish it if the country was to be united.
In the January/February 2012 edition of HISTORY IRELAND, Niall Meehan, Head of the Journalism and Media Faculty at Dublin’s Griffith College, in “ARTICLE 44 RECONSIDERED” (available online) should give anyone influenced by Bew, Bowman or O’Toole second thoughts. The following thoughts, while not contradicting Dr Meehan, I give you for what they re worth.
De Valera was born in 1882, thirteen years after the Disestablishment of the (Protestant) Church of Ireland. The idea of making the Catholic Church (adhered to by most Irish people) the Established Church, was contrary to the policies of Irish Republicans and Nationalists from Wolfe Tone through O’Connell, Parnell, Griffith and de Valera .(Indeed when the Catholic James II convened an Irish Parliament in Dublin he made sure that there WOULD BE NO ESTABLISHED CHURCH IN IRELAND.)
England today still has an Established State Church. So has Scotland, a different one. Queen Elizabeth ll of England is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Queen Elizabeth l
of Scotland is Supreme Governor of the Church of Scotland. Wales has no Established Church. The Monarch of England must be a Protestant. So must the Monarch of Scotland.
In 1936 King Edward Vlll of England, Emperor of India had to renounce his throne because he could not remain on it if he married a divorced woman. England and her loyal Protestant Commonwealth partners were agreed their king must go.
By 1940 Ireland had established a sovereign democratic state with a republican Constitution. The President was a practising member of the (Protestant) Church of Ireland and the son of a clergymen. There were no restrictions on any offices of state on the grounds of religion or its absence. In England for the best part of 40 years later the office of Lord Chancellor was closed to Roman Catholics but open to all others.
Bew, Bowman and O’Toole reckoned that de Valera’s, and his party’s support for the Irish language would have to be abandoned if Protestants in the North were to join in a united Ireland.
The Protestant President Hyde had with the Catholic Eoin MacNeill been the prime movers of the Irish Revival having co-founded the Gaelic League in 1893. The movement caught on like wildfire and incurred the suspicion of the uber-puritan Catholic Clergy as young men and young women came together to learn the language, stage plays, and dance together without parental or clerical supervision, thus risking “occasions of sin.” In addition Catholics, Protestants, Jews and atheists all mixed together, and the growing popularity of bicycles meant that hitherto out of bounds activities could be enjoyed. De Valera’s nationalism took off in the Gaelic League, where he wooed and won his beautiful teacher, to the chagrin of many of his classmates. One of her disappointed pupils said that Sinead O’Flanagan had gone off with “a Mulatto named Demerara.” The disappointed one was a Belfast Protestant named Ernest Blyth, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, before Dev bothered with politics, a bitter opponent of De Valera in the Civil War and later, and a life long full-time Irish language activist.
You might imagine with his interest in Theatre that Fintan O’Toole might have heard of Blythe, Director of the Abbey Theatre.