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Cork’s Bloody Secret… a small dispute. October 29, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.

I’m not sure how many of you are following the debate, or should it be disagreement, rumbling through the media in the wake of the CSÍ Cork’s Bloody Secret about the number of southern Protestants who are supposed to have been ‘driven out’ of the Irish Free State in the wake of Partition.

It’s certainly thrown up a most bizarre antagonism between John A Murphy, Professor of Irish History at UCC, and for many an historian who would have been considered as being on the ‘revisionist’ side of the fence – which is perhaps a little unfair, but nonetheless the perception, and our old friend Eoghan Harris.

It’s also worth noting that Niall Meehan gave a very measured contribution to the debate here…

Anyhow, the discussion kicked off earlier in the month when John A Murphy wrote:

Madam, – On October 5th, I was a commentator on the RTÉ CSÍ: Cork’s Bloody Secret television documentary programme dealing with murders of 13 west Cork Protestants in April, 1922. Appearing on the same programme, Senator Eoghan Harris claimed that at least 60,000 Protestants were “driven out” of the new State in those years and that was a “conservative estimate”.
He stressed that the figure represented ordinary Protestants, “small farmers, small shopkeepers”, and did not include former servants of the ousted British regime such as disbanded policemen and demobbed soldiers. Neither did it include, presumably, those who left because they felt unable to accept the ideology and culture of the new dispensation.

Outside of these categories then, according to Senator Harris, at least 60,000 southern Protestants were subjected to an “enforced exodus” on a massive scale, to ethnic cleansing, in fact. He has made these unsubstantial allegations repeatedly (for example in the Sunday Independent , May 24th, 2009).

It has been well said that history is what the evidence compels us to believe. It is now time for Senator Harris to produce the detailed, documental evidence (no surmises or estimates, please) in support of his dramatic claims. He should do so in the interests of historical truth and of community relations. – Yours, etc,

Emeritus Professor of Irish
University College Cork.

This prompted the response:

Madam, – Prof John A Murphy (October 9th) claims to have two problems with my contribution to CSÍ, Cork’s Bloody Secret . First he wants me to support my claim that some 60,000 Protestants were driven out of the State with “detailed, documental evidence”. How can I do that that when the statistical work has not been done by professional historians like himself? But I am perfectly entitled to make an educated estimate. The Censuses from 1911 to 1926 show that a third of Irish Protestants left the State in that period. In the brief slots provided by the CSÍ programme I used the phrase “driven out ” to cover any categories of compulsion (from physical intimidation to cultural pressures such as compulsory Irish for State jobs) which caused what I called the “enforced exodus” of the 1921-22 period.

As nobody can say for sure what this enforced exodus entailed, I based my estimate of 60,000 on two figures. First, I rejected as ridiculously high a possible top figure of 146,000. On the other hand I thought the bottom figure of 39,000 a bit too low.

The latter figure comes from Dr Andy Bielenberg’s paper to the 2008 Cork conference, Understanding Our History . Excluding certain categories (RIC, first World War casualties, etc), Dr Bielenberg came up with a figure of 39,000 “involuntary emigrants”. This carefully chosen phrase is still close to my notion of an “enforced exodus”. As a professional historian, Dr Bielenberg is properly conservative in his calculations. However, if you add in the decline of Dublin working-class Protestants, those who made no claims, and those who hung on for a few years, I believe the true figure of the “enforced exodus” is far closer to 60,000. But if Prof Murphy insists that only professional historians can do the tots I will settle for Prof Bielenberg’s figure of 39,000.

This is still an appalling figure and warrants my use of the phrase “enforced exodus” – which a Prof Murphy trickily portrays as being the same as “ethnic cleansing”. But the CSÍ tape shows that I categorically reject making any such claim as follows: “I wouldn’t call it ethnic cleansing . . . and the IRA didn’t have a sectarian ideology, but there was a sectarian tradition in Ireland among rural communities that dated back to penal times, the prophecies of Pastorini . . .”
Finally, I ask your readers to reflect on Prof Murphy’s motives in distorting my contribution. This is his second personalised letter since I was appointed to the Seanad. But in pursuit of me he muddies the cleansing waters of the widely praised CSÍ programme and comforts the tribal patrols who police our past. –

Yours, etc,

And on the following Friday came this from John A Murphy.

Madam, – In my letter of October 5th, I requested Senator Eoghan Harris to supply evidence for his dramatic assertion on CSÍ Cork’s Bloody Secret that at least 60,000 southern Protestants were “driven out ” of the new State in 1921-1923. His reply (October 10th) fails to provide the requisite details. He can’t do it, he says, because the statistical work has not been done. In other words, here are the conclusions, the research will follow!

In his letter, the Senator significantly revises his programme contribution. He did indeed reject “ethnic cleansing” as an explanation of the west Cork murders but the video later shows him wondering aloud whether the terms “pogrom” and “ethnic cleansing” might not be applied to the (alleged) 60,000-plus expulsion.
His letter also states he meant “compulsory Irish” to be included in the cultural pressures forcing Protestants to leave. But his programme contribution made no mention of this, while it exclusively emphasised the factors of intimidating violence. Having thus widened (and weakened) the definition of “driving out”, he then makes the fatal concession that “nobody can say for sure what this exodus entailed”, despite his pronouncements on the programme.

Having rejected “a possible top figure of 146,000” (what fantasy land did that come from?), he grudgingly settles for Dr Andy Bielenberg’s tentative work-in-progress estimate of “39,000 involuntary emigrants”. I’m not sure what “involuntary” means in this context, but I doubt if Dr Bielenberg supports the Harris thesis of a mass “enforced exodus”. In any case, each individual case would have to be documented.

Far from “distorting” the Senator’s programme contribution, I have simply exposed its inconsistencies and infirmities. He also claims I am muddying “the cleansing waters of the programme and comforting the tribal patrols who police our past”. In other words, I am accused of giving aid and comfort to tribal nationalists. This accusation is unworthy of the Senator.

Perhaps more than anybody else, he is aware that, in the critical years when it mattered, I steadfastly opposed sectarian terrorism and resisted the nationalist-victimhood reading of our history. I now find it ironic he should be championing another sort of victimhood.

Finally, he questions my motives for criticising his contribution to the programme. First, I was concerned that what purported to be a dramatic historical statement was being advanced without supporting evidence. Second, an “enforced exodus” of southern Protestants on a massive scale would have required the collusion and active involvement of great numbers of their Catholic fellow-Irishmen in such a persecution. I certainly will not accept that serious charge without rigorous historical proof. As for Senator Harris’s view that I am somehow pursuing him, he should lighten up. Otherwise when he reaches my age, he’ll be a very dull dog indeed. – Yours, etc,

Emeritus Professor of Irish
History, University College Cork.

We can only await with fascination the next round in this…

Still, I think a number of points can be made. Firstly this is difficult territory. It is troubling to attempt to quantify what was for many genuine suffering and hardship. That such movements were, perhaps, inevitable given the socio-political and cultural issues during the time period and after doesn’t take from that. With one foot in that religious camp I’m far from unaware of the sense of isolation some felt post Partition, although that has and can be overstated and was a result of class and other issues more so than outright hostility. But I think John A Murphy gets close to the truth when he points to ‘another sort of victimhood’. To hear those who threw the MOPE trope around with abandon suddenly shifting to its inverse (following in a sense the political journey – of some – from one nationalism to effective support for another) does little to add to the credibility of their arguments. But the lack of perspective of those who cleave to that viewpoint is demonstrated by the bizarre dip into a language ‘tribal patrols who police our past’ (alliterative, surely, but that’s about all that can be said of it) in reference to someone like John A Murphy. When aspersions can be cast on the ‘motives’ of such as he, given his public pronouncements in the past, then we’re moving beyond the confines of rational debate.

And a further thought… here’s a letter from Dr. Andy Bielenberg which appears the same day as John A Murphy’s missal…

Madam, – Senator Eoghan Harris has made an important contribution to drawing attention to the Dunmanway executions in 1922, but his interpretation of the statistics of Protestant emigration for this period (October 10th) and those of Tom Carew (October 15th) are problematic.

A greater part of the fall in the non-Catholic population of 106,000 between 1911 and 1926 can be accounted for by the following factors combined: normal emigration; natural increase which was negative in this period; British withdrawal; and those who died in the first World War.

These factors in my estimation collectively contributed to a fall of roughly 65,000 people. I have assumed that the residual figure of 41,000 can be taken to account largely for those who left between 1919 and 1923, who were not employees of the old regime as soldiers, administrators etc, or normal economic emigrants (which are all accounted for in the 65,000 above). Normal economic emigration was an important element in the outflow, more particularly in the Protestant community since the early 20th century.

The 60,000 to 63,000 figure cited by Harris and Carew looks a lot like a figure for total net emigration of the minority community in the south between 1911 and 1926, after the impact of British withdrawal, natural increase (which was negative), first World War dead etc, has been removed, which were published by Sexton and O’Leary (1996) and Delaney (2000). These two studies are scholarly efforts but they lack a separate estimate of normal economic emigrants which I have included above, who clearly were not part of any forced exodus.

A significant share of my residual 41,000 were indeed part of a forced exodus, who left as a consequence of intimidation, revolutionary violence, threatening letters, businesses that were made unviable by boycott, agrarianism, etc, while some simply left for fear of their safety and that of their families as the revolution went into full spate. Others left because of the continued decline of many landed estates and the employment they offered. Some left because they felt the cultural and ideological ethos of the new state was not to their liking.
Future prospects in Ireland looked particularly bleak for Protestants between 1921 and 1923 when the exodus reached its high watermark, and this tipped the balance in favour of departure for many economic migrants.
I don’t think there is any way to further break down this residual figure of 41,000 into voluntary or involuntary migrants.

Logically, however, since this residual contains voluntary migrants, this implies that the portion of the exodus which was literally driven out of the country between 1919 and 1923 was lower than 41,000 rather than significantly higher. – Yours, etc,
Department of History,
University College

The Phoenix reckons that Harris has raised the white flag in the face of the ferocious onslaught from one he’d have counted as his own… we’ll see.


1. Bill Compton - October 29, 2009

Some years ago in the Sunday Indpendent Harris wrote the most toe-curling ‘my captain, my captain’ piece about Murphy, thanking him for his 30 years service in the battle against ‘sectarian nationalism.’ But Murphy has a brain and was never simply likely to agree to everything Harris promoted; he does afer all, consider himself an Irish nationalist. Harris likes to have unconditional love from his allies, ie. to control them. He gets very annoyed when they think for themselves. I’m sure he is disappointed in Dr. Bielenberg as well. Never mind Eoghan there’s still Dr. John Paul McCarthy whose SINDO pieces show every sign of the great man’s influence and perhaps Professor Richard Aldous might like to mount a stirring defence of the man who got him a job with Bertie?


2. BH - October 29, 2009

Like myself, Dr ANDY BIELENBERG is a former member of the Irish Democratic Youth Movement the youth section of the WP. I’m delighted to see he is still around and holds such an impressive job. He was always a bright spark.


3. Ramzi Nohra - October 29, 2009

John Murphy made a great contribution to the nationlist “victimhood” debate. I remember a Late late show with deceased Irish author Dominic Dunne on it when the latter was talking about the large scale of security force harassmant in Strabane (for example). Murphy’s instinctive reaction was not to doubt this for a second – it was simply a “so what?”
Having said that its good to see him ask Harris about something as trivial as evidenve. Harris’s letter was perspective – if theres not the evidence why make the claim?

The more I think of Harris, the more i have to respect him for getting so far on mediocre intellect. He’s not stupid – just his arguements dont really stack up in the face of critical analysis. His success shows what a supreme networker, communicator and opportunist he is.


Ramzi Nohra - October 29, 2009

sorry my intellect is clearly more limited than Eoghan.
I meant to say that his letter was pathetic, not perspective(?)
and while I’m here i should have said “arguments” of course..


4. Ramzi Nohra - October 29, 2009

Actually I’ve just noticed this from the Senator:
” and the IRA didn’t have a sectarian ideology”
I could be wrong (stand to be corrected) but this seems to contradict previous statements he has made, does it not?


5. Bill Compton - October 29, 2009

‘His success shows what a supreme networker, communicator and opportunist he is.’ Also, unfortunately, how otherwise intelligent people can be taken in by flattery and appealing to their prejiduces.


6. Crocodile - October 29, 2009

Andy Bielenberg, as grandson of Peter and Christabel, should know a thing or two about intolerance/emigration/pogroms even.
@Ramzi: I think Harris may have meant the IRA in the twenties.


7. Ramzi Nohra - October 29, 2009

Hi Croc
yeah i realise that but i thought he had previously bought into the hart/ccob view that the republicans of that era were a herd of prod-hating bastards. Maybe i just assumed that given his focus on some episodes in the WoI.


8. Tim - October 29, 2009

“driven out”, “forced exodus”, harsh language for sure, but who ever said that ethnic cleansing must be carried out by the pitchfork or the ak47?
More harsh methods may have employed by Corkians for their Jews, but the decline in the Protestant population is no less attributable to the fascist ideas of republicans of the time. Ireland freed itself from some of its most productive citizens in a variety of ways which contributed in no small way to the country’s economic stagnation over the next 70 years or so.
I believe Sun Tzu said something about the threat of violence being enough, although other factors can lead to mass emigrations of the sort that occurred in Ireland in those years.
John Murphy has chosed to get bogged down in the numbers game, (a common tactic usually employed by holocaust-deniers), although frankly one person driven out of their home is one too many.
The numbers are not an issue unless you can investigate every one of their motivations for leaving – was it the threat of death? fear of retribution, loss of property etc, all of which must have been in the minds of the Protestants of Cork or anywhere else. It is comparable to modern South Africa which has shed some 20-25% of its white population. Is the motivation based on the 3085 farmers murdered over the last 15 years or economic factors?
The fact is that the people left Ireland (did any go to Northern Ireland?) where their ancestors had lived for generations should be proof enough that they feared something.


CMK - October 29, 2009

“South Africa which has shed some 20-25% of its white population”.

How many of those left because they couldn’t stomach living under a black government? Are they supposed to be objects of sympathy? Are white South Africans, who had a record of benefiting from seventy years of groteseque oppression against non-whites, now applying for victimhood status?

These South Africans weren’t driven out; they left voluntarily. And of the few who washed up on these shores that I have met, they all, to a man and woman, have been, shall we say, “less than complimentary” about the ANC and black South Africans.

I don’t want to start an argument, but that’s a very doubtful example to use in this context.


9. Eamonn Grimes - October 29, 2009

‘More harsh methods may have been employed by Corkians for their Jews’ I think you mean Corkonians don’t you? And I also think you mean Limerick.
As for the rest, ‘fascist’ ‘most productive’ (that explains why N.I. was the poorest part of the UK) ‘holocaust deniers’ (er, numbers are actually important you know) and then white South Africans…come back when you work this into something approaching an argument will you?


Tim - October 29, 2009

If being pedantic is your definition of an argument, then no, I don’t have one!


10. Bartholomew - October 29, 2009

The debate as it appears in the papers and on TV lacks a bit of historical and geographic perspective. The Protestant population in absolute terms had been declining since the mid-nineteenth century, perhaps even before. In north Tipperary, for example, they started leaving already in the 1820s and 1830s. I only have the figures for Co. Longford and Connaught to hand –
Longford Prot. population 1834 – 10,600; 1871 – 6,360; 1901 – 3,930
Connaught 1834 – 61,000; 1871 – 42,300; 1901 – 27,000
This is of course in the context of overall severe depopulation, as Andy Bielenberg says, but the drop in numbers 1911-26 didn’t come out of the blue.

There was also some Protestant mobility into the country before 1920 which stopped at independence. Many smaller towns had a Protestant population which was numerically stable enough (ie slowly declining), but this hid a continuing inflow and outflow. In 1922 the outflow continued as before but the inflow stopped.

Ultimately, though, the debate is not entirely about numbers but about deciding what was voluntary and what involuntary, and Bielenberg is right, this is one tricky area.

(Anecdotal content seems to be obligatory in these debates, so here’s mine: my Church of Ireland grandfather stayed in Ireland after 1922, having been involved in Sinn Fein and the war of Independence; my Catholic grand-uncle, from Kerry, was working in London in 1922 and was invited to join the new civil service – he declined, because he thought that the new state wasn’t financially viable and wouldn’t last. He was only 80 years out!)


MWhitehouse - October 29, 2009

An excellent point, Bartholomew, the parallels are certainly there.

Southern Protestant emigration in the 1820s and 30s was often painted as an escape from sectarian agrarian violence. There’s an argument that this was as much class-based as sectarian, but it seems to have taken on legendary proportions among Protestants in Ulster, where there was great concern over the exaggerated horrors their southern brethren had to cope with.

In fact, a lot of Protestants emigrated after Catholic emancipation because they were no longer getting preferential treatment from landlords, who were happy to take higher rent from a Catholic if it was offered, and hang the ‘Protestant interest’.

In these circumstances, the fear of violence from below was hardly as powerful as the reality of indifference from above, and middling Protestants took the emigration option in pretty rational economic terms (and seem to have largely thrived, btw).


WorldbyStorm - October 29, 2009

Very much agree. The class aspect of this is impossible to shy away from.


11. Ramzi Nohra - October 29, 2009

Are you saying this was a holocaust then? No offence but the standard of evidence seems fairly low – ‘the fact they left the country where their ancestors lived for generations is enough’.
By that definition, all mas emigration from ireland, eg of catholics, during the 19th century was also due to fear, coercion terror etc?


Tim - October 29, 2009

absolutely not, just that any attempt to argue about numbers involved is usually an attempt to play down the situation.


12. Ramzi Nohra - October 29, 2009

Also, how is it Murphy that is getting caught up in the numbers? Surely he was just responding to Harris’s quotes of numbers forced out?


Tim - October 29, 2009

it’s just that he asked Harris to back up his claim of 60,000, rather than the issue of being “forced out”, although people being “forced out” doesn’t necessarily involve rounding them up and putting them on trains. I can be a slow attrition, and doesn’t even have to involve the threat of death.


13. Jim Monaghan - October 29, 2009

Interesting that Gay Byrne older brother was the first Taig to get a management position in Guinness( read the recent obits).How does that fit.Or did it take that long to train the indigenous population.
The 6 county statlet had sectarianism built into its dna. The 26 county had sectarian deformations.
The sectarianism was in a degree a result of agreements between the Catholic Church and the British state anyway.The awful cases of the librarian in Mayo and the Clooney case in Wexford while they should be condemned were fairly rare. In fact the major problem was patronage and clientilism which has corrupted a lot of state sinecures.
On percentages such was emmigration that at one point 1/2 those born in the state lived outside it, a result of Imperialism and comprador capitalism.
The problems of SA are the result of Apartheid and the mistakes of the ANC regime date back to this.


14. Ramzi Nohra - October 29, 2009

Thanks for response Tim. I take your point that in some other debates numbers are raised as a distraction. However here I think they are important. If one person was forced out,for example, then that would be one too many, but would have massively differently implications to the types of numbers Harris raised, and which Murphy, understandably, questioned.


Tim - October 29, 2009

You’re right, but I think that once the numbers issue is raised, it blurs the debate. If Harris must be taken to task, then question what he means by “forced out”. I do not for one second think that the Nationalist population at large was in favour of ethnic cleansing of Protestants, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t fear it.
Decline in a particular minority population happens for a reason, and even if that reason were ‘personal selfishness’ then so be it. People can leave their own country for a variety of reasons, from high taxes, to low employment opportunities as well as fear of retribution and even loyalty to a regime that is no longer in control.
Some of these factors and others were involved in Protestant flight from the Free State, and it raises the issue of what is “voluntary” emigration. Migration is difficult, and not undertaken for fun. A lot of Irish people of all kinds left the state, and probably felt that the lack of opportunity was what was “forcing” them out. And I am not some bitter emigrant – I had a decent job in Ireland. I left for entirely voluntary reasons.


15. Harry Crake - October 29, 2009

If that many Catholics had been forced to leave Northern Ireland then you can be sure that the propagandists of the MOPEs would never shut up about it. The fact that Catholics stayed in the ‘Orange’ state while Protestants left the Free State/Republic. It was a ‘cold house’ for Protestants.


16. Dr. X - October 29, 2009

Actually, my grandmother had to leave Belfast in the 1920s.


17. WorldbyStorm - October 29, 2009

BTW, on re-reading that it may seem that I’m a fan of Murphy’s approach to nationalism. I’m not – albeit I think history should be looked at again and again and from different standpoints. My point about MOPE is that people like Harris were quick to use the phrase against Nationalists and Republicans and partition but don’t see the irony in trying construct a tapestry of victimhood around Protestants and Independence.

I have family, not blood admittedly, that saw a shift during the tens and twenties down from Belfast. It was a pretty cold house for Catholics.

One of my closest friends family was pushed down from Belfast in ’69. Those sort of scars linger, and I can imagine that for some Protestants a similar dynamic took place in the early 20s. But Harry, I think we have to be very very careful about trying to make the assumption you do. The ability of people to move is also a factor. There are few who would argue that the South was more sectarian than the North.


Tim - October 30, 2009

Unionists were led to believe that Northern Ireland would be their country. Right or wrong, that’s how they saw it. Leftover loyalists moved out of the South and no doubt many felt that Northern Republicans should reciprocate.

After 1920 what Protestants that were left largely supported the pro-treaty side in the civil war and there’s a tradition of supporting FG to this day.


18. Jim Monaghan - October 30, 2009

That is nonsense. Both bourgeois parties stood Protestant candidates to attract the “protestant”vote. Eg Childers in Monaghan.
The Southern Unionists actually felt betrayed by Carson/Craig.
Protestant schools continued to be funded, quite generously on the basis that a scattered population needed extra support. The large Protestant employers like Guinness were allowed to discrimate against Catholics such was the respect for provate property of the conservative bourgeois parties.
I remember an issue of In Dublin which had a spoof lament for the landlord, the forgoten victim of the famine and this nonsense is on a par.


19. Ramzi Nohra - October 30, 2009

Tim- do you have any evidence for that, eg quotes from speeches etc? Its just that I find it hard to believe that even the most extreme loyalist would think that all of west belfast, the majority of fermanagh, derry, south armagh, tyrone etc etc would have just left. From reading Carson etc I thought the ‘six counties’ had a minority that could be controlled, in a landmass that could make a viable economy/state.


Tim - October 30, 2009

No, Republicans- not all Catholics! i.e. all those who weren’t content living in Northern Ireland.
It has always been felt that those unhappy with the state should go and live South of the border. In that respect, the words of James Craig are relevant:
“in the South they boasted of a Catholic State. They still boast of Southern Ireland being a Catholic State [citing De Valera]. All I boast of is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State.”


20. NollaigO - October 31, 2009

Our sean cara, the Senator, writes above:
[BTW, WbS, don’t you have some photo somewhere that might help us focus on this topic?!]

..I used the phrase “driven out ” to cover any categories of compulsion (from physical intimidation to cultural pressures such as compulsory Irish for State jobs)...

Could some posters with better historical knowledge help me here?
I wish to challenge strongly the argument that the post Treaty policy of compulsory Irish in schools or for state jobs was sectarian (and I am not claiming that it was above criticism). A random search of the 1911 census on the internet shows how few families claimed a knowledge of the the language at the time. Joe Lee’s history describes a gradual introduction of compulsory Irish into primary schools 1924 onwards. I could not find any reference to a policy of introduction of Irish for state jobs in the early 1920s and here I am hoping that the more knowledgeable historians could enlighten me. When did it become official government policy? After the 1937 Constitution? Even if earlier, I cannot see how Harris et al can link it to their explanation of the decline of the southern Protestant population and as an example of a “drive them out” campaign.

On the more general issue, I agree with Niall Meehan’s comments.
Jim Monaghan also raises a related issue: the jobs discrimination that existed in southern loyalist firms for many decades after the 1920s. I do think that there was more to its toleration than a conservative regard for private property rights. Again, I would be interested to know if there was ever any trade union protest against these practices.

I cannot understand Bielenberg’s assertion ..Senator Eoghan Harris has made an important contribution to drawing attention to the Dunmanway executions in 1922,... This issue has been the subject of an intense debate between the revisionists on the one side and Brian Murphy, Niall Meehan, Ryan & Aubane over the last ten years. Even in the early 1970s the Cork Workers Club carried material on the Dunmanway issue.

The current issue of Church and State has a translated transcript of the RTE programme CSÍ Cork’s Bloody Secret.


21. Ramzi Nohra - October 31, 2009

The read across between catholics and republicans would have been v high though wouldn’t it, in the eyes of loyalists? We would have been talking about low hundreds of thosands. The way they treated the Catholic population would indicate so.


22. Harry Crake - October 31, 2009

‘Even in the early 1970s the Cork Workers Club carried material on the Dunmanway issue.’
And it was described as an anti-Protestant pogrom by them. Brendan Clifford also described it as a pogrom. When did it stop being one?


23. Starkadder - October 31, 2009

The funny thing is, I can’t recall the ICO’s stuff on Dunmanway going
into wider circulation-certainly I can’t remember it being quoted
by them again, or being mentioned by some of the Unionists who moved in B&ICO’s orbit (like Dave Fogel).


24. ejh - November 1, 2009

I would wonder whether historically there was any situation in which a colonial state was dismantled and there was not substantial emigration among people who considered themselves losers in the process.


WorldbyStorm - November 1, 2009

I’d tend to agree with you. What strikes me is that those who argue about such matters, such as EH, seem to argue from a point where only Platonic perfection can suffice on one side while ‘shit happens’ is more or less their attitude on the other.


Bartholomew - November 1, 2009

Absolutely right. Algeria is the case that comes to mind. Out of about a million settlers before the war, 90% left in 1962. As well as that, almost 100,000 native Algerians went to France and about 100,000 others who remained were murdered, often extremely brutally, in 1962 and 1963. It makes the Irish case look very peaceful indeed.

Another thing strikes me about this whole public debate about world war one and the war of independence. It’s always treated as if it was a major discovery, the revealing of a ‘bloody secret’, a ‘secret history’ which has been hidden. In fact, most of these things were fairly well known and not concealed. Its main purpose is to boost the egos of public commentators such as Harris.


WorldbyStorm - November 1, 2009

Therein lies another issue. The problem with much of this is that by engaging with numbers it becomes a double edged sword. If we say the Algerian experience was a human disaster because of the scale of deaths are we then diminishing incidents in Ireland because they were so vanishingly rare by contrast, or indeed vice versa?

And yet I think it’s reasonable to look at the overall character of the events and the protagonists and draw conclusions, that for example in Ireland Republicans and Nationalists did not institute sectarian massacres, that what incidents took place, horrific as they were were and awful as the human consequences were for those directly involved and their families and communities were in no sense structural or systemic, that sectarian structures were much more evident in the North than the South (not to deny some elements of sectarianism are apparent in the South), that the British State was incomparably more brutal in its actions both preceding and during the WoI, and so on.

But beyond that there’s also something profoundly distasteful to me in the way this is used a sort of political tool to diminish or undercut political ideologies, or more specifically (albeit problematically) formations currently existing.


25. Jim Monaghan - November 1, 2009

When the USA was created a large section of the population left. One province of Canada resulted. It included both Franklin’s son and Flora McLlyod of Prince Charlie fame.
I think that the vast majority of protestants left fo economic reasons , the same as their Catholic neighbours. The Catholics North and South might have maintained theri position % wise with a higher birth rate.


26. Tim - November 2, 2009

ehs, I wonder was there ever a situation where a colonial state was dismantled where there was not significant emigration of the victorious native population – to the former colonisers’ country!

Whether or not Irish protestants left for ‘economic’ reasons, that is a broad description of a multitude of factors. The fear that the new state, or any newly-independent country, might not share the same values as the minority, is quite a good reason for members of that minority to leave.


WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2009

That’s true, but… how other than a multi-stranded polity of a sort simply not extant in 1920 anywhere in Europe I can think of, perhaps with the exception of Switzerland, would it be possible to accommodate the divergent national and other aspirations of some Irish protestants who also happened to be unionist (a crucial distinction given that a tranche of protestants were enthusiastic participants in both the independence struggle and in the cultural/political movements that led up and fed into that – and that another tranche of well to do protestants who had every means to leave didn’t do so?).


Tim - November 2, 2009

That’s very true. Greek independence around the same time, for example, saw the displacement of hundreds of thousands.


ejh - November 2, 2009

I wonder was there ever a situation where a colonial state was dismantled where there was not significant emigration of the victorious native population – to the former colonisers’ country!

Me neither, but the point escapes me.

The fear that the new state, or any newly-independent country, might not share the same values as the minority, is quite a good reason for members of that minority to leave.

Quite possibly, but that’s very far from their having been forced out in some way, or having had a reasonable expectation that they might be forced out.


Bartholomew - November 2, 2009

Tim: ‘I wonder was there ever a situation where a colonial state was dismantled where there was not significant emigration of the victorious native population – to the former colonisers’ country!’

The American war of independence has already been mentioned. Also any of the South American wars of independence in the early nineteenth century – Bolivia, Peru and so on.

In the Irish case, emigration to Britain had been fairly continuous for centuries before 1922, so there is no connection with political developments.


27. Corkonian - November 2, 2009

You forget that Ireland was supposed to be having a republican revolution, in which all the children of the nation would be treated equally. Actually Ireland was having a nationalist revolution, in which national identity and Catholicism were absolutely intertwined in the south and national identity and Protestantism intertwined in the north. Partition was logical and people of a different national identity leaving was also logical. But that undermines your republican revolution, leaviong what it was; a demand for independence from Catholic nationalists. Had there been a republican revolution, surely few of these Protestants, apart from those actually in the British Army would have left?


Tim - November 2, 2009

Nicely said, Corkonian. There’s a reason my ancestors fought in 1798 but not in 1916.


28. Ramzi Nohra - November 2, 2009

but there were quite a few protestant (as well as atheist) republicans were there not?


29. Dr. X - November 2, 2009

Not only that, but Richard English’s book on the IRA mentions that in the early 1930s no less a locale than the Shankill Road had an all-Protestant unit of the Irish Republican Army.


Paddy Matthews - November 2, 2009

Referred to in a recent edition of History Ireland, if I’m not mistaken.

From another source:

John Graham was a man I got to know extra well, because he came into jail while I was there. He was a member of the Church of Ireland. Most of the special unit were Church of Ireland. John always maintained that his was the true Christian church in Ireland…. We had fierce arguments in jail, but he was very convincing in his claims that his was the true church…. It was the Catholic church, John maintained, that had left the true church. When he was in the Crumlin Road jail, the Church of Ireland chaplain, Pastor Buchanan, was appointed pastor of St Mary’s… the church John attended when he was free. During one visit, John’s mother and sister told him of the new pastor – what a great man he was, and the changes he was making to the church. They told John about a beautiful picture which the new pastor had mounted in the porch of the church. John asked what that picture was and was told it was the Virgin Mary. John, a Church of Ireland elder, was furious and, from his prison cell, attempted to call a meeting of the elders to have Buchanan removed because he had erected symbols of ‘papish idolatry’ in the church.



30. sonofstan - November 2, 2009

That’s very true. Greek independence around the same time, for example, saw the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

Greece became independent in 1829-31 (liberated single handedly by Lord Byron and his legion of romantic poets)
What happened in 1922 was the forcible expulsion of 1.5m ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor following Ataturk’s rise to power and assertion of Turkish nationalism in place of the multi-ethnic/ denominational (and tolerant) Ottoman empire. Followed by the expulsion of 500,000 muslims from Greece. . . .

The consequences of the arrival of all those immigrants are still felt in Greece: and among other things, it changed Greek popular culture forever with the music they brought with them – not far off the effect the great migration north of southern Blacks in the US.


eamonnmcdonagh - November 2, 2009

You could also interpret Attaurk’s victory as a victory over the colonialist Sevres settlement and the subsequent population exchange as being necessary for the construction of two viable nation states.


sonofstan - November 2, 2009

You could….. except Greece already was a viable nation state, and there had been a Greek speaking around Smyrna/ Izmir since BCE.


eamonnmcdonagh - November 2, 2009

so the sevres carve up was in fact anti-colonialist. I see


31. Bartholomew - November 2, 2009

Corkonian – I’d echo WbS’s comment above, that you’re demanding perfection. Are you suggesting that in a real republican revolution no-one whatever would have left because of the change of regime? What about monarchists, for example? People who felt more British than Irish, regardless of the political system? How do you explain the fact that a good majority of the Protestant population remained after 1922? (And without wishing to labour the example, the American revolution set up a secular republic, but plenty of loyalists left for Canada.)


WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2009

That’s it again Bartholomew. Attitudes and beliefs amongst some who would enter our Republic of the Ideal couldn’t possibly have countenanced Republicanism of French, US or indeed Irish. Under any terms. Sure Britain itself couldn’t to the point that the Free State was named a Free State and not a Republic. It’s absurd to blame Republicanism for the faults of others – which is not to exonerate Republicanism for its own flaws.

And again, Corkonian elides Unionism and Protestantism in way which makes me wonder how deep his knowledge of the Celtic Revival let alone the later Independence struggle and the impact of Protestant participants upon those two actually is.

The real problem here is that there is an inability to accept that revolutionary periods will throw up contradictions (as indeed Dr. X points to wrt to manumitted slaves in the US). That the Irish context threw up so relatively few seems to exercise some people greatly. To the point where they have to go digging for more. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it pushes towards an unrepresentative and arguably misrepresenting picture of what happened.


32. Dr. X - November 2, 2009

A lot of manumitted slaves, who had won their freedom fighting for the British, also took flight to Canada after 1776.


33. Dr. X - November 2, 2009


Come all you staunch revisionists
And listen to my song,
It’s short and it’s unusual
And it won’t detain you long.
It’s all about a soldier
Who has carried history’s can,
Who dodged Tom Barry and Dan Breen
The gentle Black and Tan.

‘Twas the curse of unemployment
That drove him to our shore.
His jacket black and trousers tan
Like a badge of shame he wore.
“Subdue the rebel Irish
And shoot them when you can!”
“May God forgive me if I do,”
Prayed the gentle Black and Tan.

The burning of Cork city
Was indeed a mighty blaze.
The jewellers’ shops were gutted
Not before the spoils were shared.
Gold and silver ornaments,
Rings and watches for each man,
“But I only struck the matches,”
Said the gentle Black and Tan.

Croke Park and Bloody Sunday
Was our hero’s greatest test.
The spectators on the terraces
Nigh impossible to miss.
With salt tears his eyes were blinded
And down his cheeks they ran,
So he only shot Mick Hogan
The gentle Black and Tan.

So take heed you blinkered Nationalists
Fair warning take from me.
If you want to live in safety
And keep this land at sea.
Take heed of our three heroes
Murphy, Edwards and Yer Man,
Who will sing the fame and clear the name
Of the gentle Black and Tan.

By Breandan O hÉithir


34. sonofstan - November 2, 2009


There are too many proper historians around here for me to venture too much in the way of an overview of the whole Greece – Turkish conflict. i just know that the expulsion of Greeks from ‘Asia Minor’ as they still call it, remains a major wound in the Greek psyche: and it’s scale certainly puts whatever we can agree might or might not of happened to the protestant population here after the establishment of the Free State into some kind of proportion.


35. Niall Meehan - January 7, 2010

Thanks for the mention of the Irish Times piece. It is based on a longer article in the Autumn 2009 Dublin Review of Books in which the relationship of class and sectarianism (a potential minefield) is raised:

Frank Gallagher and land agitation

(Possibly, I could have come up with a snappier title.)

Part of the problem is in the diffidence in researching the Protestant population in the South, without which research there is a false impression of homogeneity and the equally false assumption of a British identity. The DRB article raises the issue of division, largely north-south, within Irish Protestantism between 1920-22. I return to it in a contemporary setting, on division within the Church over the Orange Order (Church and State No. 99, First Quarter 2010).

The best book on the subject, Kurt Bowen’s Protestants in a Catholic State, Ireland’s Privileged Minority (1983), is out of print, though it has not been surpassed. Bowen refers to the existence of distinctly Protestant working class communities in parts of Dublin, the disproportionate weight of Protestants among company directors and in the higher echelons of banking, insurance and finance.

Examination of class fractions within the Protestant community turns stereotypical (and very largely fanciful) notions of Catholic nationalism on their head. Significant numbers of the Protestant Business class were supporters of Fianna Fail’s policy of economic protectionism post 1932, because it protected their businesses against foreign competition. They were also well positioned to become directors of Irish subsidiaries of British firms that were required to have a majority of Irish nationals in beneficial ownership under Sean Lemass’s 1932 and 1934 Control of Manufacturers Acts (contemporary references to these Acts mention that Lemass abolished them in 1956, not that he enacted them in the first place).

New research on the historical basis of the Irish class structure and its relationship to the upheavals leading to southern Irish state formation, by Fergus Campbell, should help to turn around some of the simplistic notions that have grown up within sections of the left over the past 30 or so years (order it in your library as it is a bit, ahem, expensive):

The Irish Establishment 1879-1914, by Fergus Canpbell (OUP, 2009)

In History Ireland I wrote about a related issue raised by Jim Monaghan, above, promotion of Protestant employment by Protestant firms in the South, otherwise known as sectarian employment practices.

A PDF of the article can be accessed here:
Shorthand-for-Protestants, sectarian-advertising-in-the-Irish-Times

On the basis of the research, it appears to have been a pervasive practice and to have been accepted, or at least not contested much (though I would welcome additional information on this). It did not affect the working class so much as professional and petit-bourgeois occupations, and in areas giving rise to middle class pretension, such as in offices and some retail occupations (the now defunct class of drapiers and their assistants, etc). Also, where it happened lower down the occupational hierarchy, there were alternative positions that those from a Catholic background could occupy, due to the Protestant population being such a small fraction of the whole (and there also being disproportionately fewer poor Protestants in any case).

The superior class position of Protestants in a relative sense was reflected in over concentration in certain sectors and sectarian employment practices that, according to Bowen, led to the virtual extinction of a recognisable Protestant Working class in the 1970s. Protestants experienced discrimination, though positively from recruitment out of the working class by other richer Protestants. Economic self-interest helped to maintain the community and to generate a common outlook. The outlook was reinforced by Church of Ireland pamphlets explaining that Roman Catholicism was a foreign English 12th Century imposition and that the real church of St Patrick is the Church of Ireland. A different take on 800 years of oppression. It was one Protestant IRA man John Graham, explained to his audience of one while they shared space in Belfast’s Crumlin Road in the early 1940s. Meanwhile Graham tried from this vantage point to eject Alan Buchanan, a future Archbishop of Dublin, from his position in Graham’s local church for erecting a symbol of popish idolatry, a depiction of the Virgin Mary – as recounted in Brendan Anderson’s (2003) book on Graham’s cell mate, the famous IRA leader, Joe Cahill, who remembered Graham as ‘very convincing in his claims.’

The sector of Irish life maintaining a memory of the sectarian ceiling on employment is aspirant members of the catholic professional classes and bourgeoisie.

A Catholic accountant in the 1950s and 60s would have been acutely aware that the profession was dominated by protestant firms so up-front they advertised in the Irish Times for Protestant only employees. The Irish Times itself employed Protestant-only office staff above a certain level (as I point out in the History Ireland article). Manufacturing concerns (Guinness was mentioned by Jim Monaghan) also set a ceiling on the upward mobility of their Roman Catholic employees.

Ambitious though frustrated potential Catholic members of the middle class might have been attracted by reactive Catholic ideologies. It seems to me that universal equality as a concept won out because overt sectarianism is largely a pariah ideology within Irish nationalism, and because the arguments were essentially made from and dominated by the left. This is a genuine heritage of Irish republican and socialist ideology in the 19th and early 20th centuries, which defeated the defence organisations of Catholic Hibernianism promoted by sections of the Irish Parliamentary Party (that aspired to become the Irish Catholic contingent of the British Empire). It is important to point out that the Catholic version was not as virulent as the orange sectarianism that dominated and determined unionist politics. It is a victory that should be reclaimed from the attempts by ideologically revisionist historiography to create a Catholic nationalist whipping boy driven by atavistic hatreds rather than democratic energies. Catholic nationalism is about as useful a notion as that of Protestant imperialism (which no one in their right mind would think of promoting).

The practice of sectarian employment died out when objective employment criteria and equality legislation affecting women, first of all, came on stream in the 1970s. The largely familial character of the economy was superseded by employment in multinational firms. These changes in regulation were largely a product of the revolt against small-minded Irish conservatism by the left (including republicans), trade unions, women and youth that gathered pace during the 1960s.

Multinational investors also wanted professionally (not confessionally) trained employees that the state obliged them in training and providing. Some like to put the changes down to EEC membership, but that again is a self-serving conservative simplification. EEC membership and multi-national investment provided the elite with a means by which reform could be accommodated, the failed experiment of small-scale indigenous capitalism dumped, while not threatening the nature of the class structure. The extinction of Irish owned business under the lash of foreign competition was also the extinction of many of the flagship firms of the Protestant business class. The existence of structural sectarian privilege still exists (the rich are good at hanging on to their wealth, it is one of their necessary strengths), but the only person to comment on it consistently is Garret Fitzgerald, who seems to think it something positive to point out to unionists in the North.

While the dominant form of Irish conservatism was Catholic, because they were in the majority, there were equally conservative and self-contained parallel forces within the Protestant community. They acted as moral police force that was, for example, as oppressive of unmarried Protestant mothers as the Catholic variety, something I am currently researching – and again suggested in the History Ireland article. The main point is that the state originally made use of sectarian provision of health, education and social services from both Roman Catholic and Protestant providers on state formation. This generated a class of professionals whose economic well-being was based on the maintenance of these sectarian structures.

The Irish bourgeoisie happily abandoned Catholicism when it ceased to protect inequality and privilege, and adopted instead a new faith-based mantra of the market and ‘Europe.’ Secular superseded sectarian conservatism as the official outlook. It promoted the appearance of modernisation and convergence with other European societies.

The physical infrastructure of Roman Catholicism has declined markedly over the past 20 years, alongside Roman Catholic ideology. Catholics abandoned the petty and largely sexually based tyrannies (and hypocrisies) that were the basis of social control in southern Ireland. It could be argued, as Roy Foster has done, that Catholics became more protestant. But that only makes sense if we understand that Irish Protestants did too. The Protestant young felt equally trapped by the stultifying regime of Protestant only social and leisure pursuits in the 1960s. If official Roman Catholicism was characterised by an unreasoning anti-Protestantism, the low-church version of Irish Protestantism produced (in fact pioneered in the 19th Century) its very own exclusivist alter ego. It became as out of date as the Catholic variety, though the property relations remain in ownership of important parts of the education and health infrastructure.

Any attempt by the left to put in place alternative welfare-state based and universal provision will I think call forth significant opposition from the Church of Ireland on the basis that it undermines faith-based provision for the Protestant minority in health and education. They will be joined by the upper echelons of the Catholic middle class and intelligentsia, many of whom send their children to well-provisioned Protestant schools with the rationalisation that that these schools are more ‘liberal,’ and that this demonstrates their non-sectarian credentials. In the meantime Mary Harney abandons universal health provision for the over 70s and builds private hospitals that help reduce what is left of the Irish version of public provision to increasingly discredited squalor.

As I said, a potential minefield whenever the Irish left starts to confront these questions.


36. EWI - January 7, 2010

Protestants experienced discrimination, though positively from recruitment out of the working class by other richer Protestants.

Niall, do you have an email address?


37. Conall - January 26, 2010


Thanks for that post…


38. Crossbarry 19 March 1921 - Page 4 - March 20, 2010

[…] Since I can't be arsed to venture into my attic to locate the original texts, I fully admit I've lifted that from the Cedar Lounge. Nor did it end there. Assassination as a sectarian weapon continued in Cork. The murder of Admiral […]


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