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Revisionism December 3, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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A very interesting question asked here in this comment at the weekend.

Fergal

Revisionism … all good history needs it, digging up new sources/documents, questioning certain myths… Napoleon – History is but a myth we all agree on
In an Irish context what is the aim of revisionist History?
Nationalist…ultimately see a unified country
Republicans… a unitary Republic etc
Socialists… the primacy of class
What is the endgame for Irish revisionism? And let’s not think academic or professional historians don’t have an opinion…
Is it a return to all the country back in the UK?
A two nation solution forever and ever amen?
???

Some useful responses but any other thoughts on the question?

Comments»

1. terrymdunne - December 3, 2020

Universities expanded massively in the 1960s/70s – 100 years ago U.C.G. had only 200 students, consequently there was just much more research done after this expansion – and all of it had to be “revisionist” in some sense – not just in the sense of revising, but also in the specific sense of revising the traditional nationalist view of the Irish past (some of which was actually derived from liberal unionist historians of the 1800s). For instance, what I have looked a lot at is eighteenth and nineteenth century agrarian social conflict. What came into the historiographical frame in the 1970s was a more diverse social conflict than simply tenants versus landlords – against the idea of a homogenous downtrodden peasantry and also locating the Land War more in the extent to which alliances could be built across a diverse constituency (related to idea that Land War had to do with a depression after a long boom in which peoples’ expectations rose).

The “Troubles” came in on a process that was already on-going and would have been on-going anyways. Most of the foregoing re: agrarian social conflict was done by scholars not based in Ireland and if it had a contemporary political reference point was probably more part of the then new interest in the rural and agrarian on account of Third World guerrilla movements and land reform programmes.

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EWI - December 3, 2020

Universities expanded massively in the 1960s/70s – 100 years ago U.C.G. had only 200 students, consequently there was just much more research done after this expansion – and all of it had to be “revisionist” in some sense – not just in the sense of revising, but also in the specific sense of revising the traditional nationalist view of the Irish past (some of which was actually derived from liberal unionist historians of the 1800s).

This is not at all evidenced by either the popular understanding of how what we will term ‘revisionism’ came to be, or how its development is taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level in Irish history departments.

If I were to shoot the breeze and speculate, I would look at a toxic combination of old loyalist chauvinism, class prejudices, starry-eyed veneration of the UK and its institutions, the ancient split between the Provos and the Stickies, southern and British anxiety to socially-engineer the sentiments of a large part of the Irish population because of the Troubles, and Rankean vulnerability to placing too much store in documents (which can unduly privilege narratives by larger/imperial states).

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2. terrymdunne - December 3, 2020

The problem with scholarship on the Irish past is that it is not really that revisionist. The Kilmicheal controversy is a case in point where is the new way of thinking or fresh approach here, it seems to be just raking over old coals of what was, forgive me if I am wrong, a pre-existing dispute within the ranks of I.R.A. veterans. Even if that is not the case the controversy is entirely on the nationalist terrain – what is important is a military engagement already famed in song and story and in the image the Irish state projected about itself and its recent past. It is taking a very very narrow view of the Irish revolution – both in terms of what was going on in Ireland and in terms of situating Ireland in U.K., British Empire, European and Global contexts.

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EWI - December 3, 2020

The Kilmicheal controversy is a case in point where is the new way of thinking or fresh approach here, it seems to be just raking over old coals of what was, forgive me if I am wrong, a pre-existing dispute within the ranks of I.R.A. veterans.

This is to mischaracterise the supposed ‘controversy’ entirely. It was an invention of Peter Hart’s in order to breathe new life into old British propaganda about the ambush. Reheating ancient loyalist historiography is not ‘revisionism’.

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terrymdunne - December 3, 2020

There was a Kilmicheal controversy before Peter Hart (and a claim that there was sectarian killings in the period in west Cork, and disdain towards ex-soldiers is not hard to find). I am not that interested in to what extent he extrapolated madly from all that or not. What I am interested in is the fact that his definition of the revolution as equaling violence, in fact around fatal violence, seemingly goes unchallenged (that’s the one in his 1997 Past & Present article, re-published in the I.R.A. at War in 2003). The model of the revolution he was working with is the same as the one that is in the brightly colored and dramatic 1966 commemorative booklet I have. Its just a reverse image – instead of heroic rebels there are ruthless killers. That reversal is within the same framework, the same key events, the same presuppositions. Maybe I am wrong, maybe someone can point me to where loads of people have a go at Peter Hart over the equating of the revolution with fatal violence. I could totally have missed it.

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EWI - December 3, 2020

Maybe I am wrong, maybe someone can point me to where loads of people have a go at Peter Hart over the equating of the revolution with fatal violence. I could totally have missed it.

The deliberate equating of the Revolution solely with violence has been a goal of the revisionists (and their allies) for many years, and no, it doesn’t take a lot to find people having issue with it and favoured phrases out of Trinity such as ‘terror’.

Even this year there has been public pushback on efforts to present it in such terms, to the exclusion of other parts of the revolutionary struggle such as the Dáil, trade union activities, local authorities or the Dáil courts.

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terrymdunne - December 4, 2020

Fine, point us in the direction of where Peter Hart was taken to task over his definition of the revolution as being summed up by the incidence of fatal violence. Even an American military historian took issue with this in a review of the I.R.A. at War – arguing that Hart didn’t understand what made up guerrilla war! Somewhere in all that tons of ink spilled over ‘false surrenders’, getting them at last and what not, where is it that Hart was challenged on this point. It is after all an issue which seems at least as worthy of as much attention as all the others, to say the least. Like I say it could be there, I just have never seen it.

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EWI - December 4, 2020

Even an American military historian took issue with this in a review of the I.R.A. at War – arguing that Hart didn’t understand what made up guerrilla war!

Hart didn’t want to ‘understand’, at least on the level of putting an accurate and objective history down on paper. You mistake his purpose, all too evident from the very beginning of his books in the choices of covers.

As to revisionism’s focus on violence (for its own particular purposes), there has been more than enough ink spilled on this in relation to criticisms of Hart, though I do agree that he had too much success in keeping the attention on preferred territory with his fanciful claims.

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3. Pangurbán - December 3, 2020

The revising of history is a continuous process: some of the writings of first generation revisionists have now been revised : for example, the fate of Irishmen returning from the war;
Version 1 they were victimised;;that became mainstream as it suited the ‘shared remembrance “ industry.
Version current: veterans fared relatively well, and some of their strongest Dáil advocates were Fianna Fáil,
Similarly the strong role of AOH / devlinism in Ulster political culture is only now being explored

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EWI - December 3, 2020

Version 1 they were victimised;;that became mainstream as it suited the ‘shared remembrance “ industry.
Version current: veterans fared relatively well, and some of their strongest Dáil advocates were Fianna Fáil,

I would say that Version 0 was that they were well looked after by the British state, the free State and by legacy loyalist organisations and firms here. This was the common wisdom among republican veterans, and there is a basis for it.

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4. CL - December 3, 2020

” While not claiming it to be ‘state policy’, it can be argued that revisionism provided for a worried 26-county political establishment a historical methodology that would remove the national liberation struggle from Irish history. “- Robert Perry, Journal of European Studies

“An ‘Irish revisionist’ is not a deviant Marxist, a Hibernian disciple of the late Eduard Bernstein. An Irish revisionist is one who, like me, believes that the cult of Patrick Pearse and of blood-sacrifice has helped the emergence of the Provisional IRA, is in other ways unhealthy, and ought to be challenged. O’Casey’s sin, in the eyes of anti-revisionists like Mr Deane, is to have written plays—’Juno and the Paycock’ especially—that depict manic nationalism, and its consequences, in an unfavourable light. Yeats, on the other hand, was generally pretty sound on subjects like blood-sacrifice, as anti-revisionists see these matters. ‘The script calls for freshly severed human heads’.” – CCOB.
https://brianjohnspencer

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CL - December 3, 2020

” Sinn Fein academic chiefs cleared out pluralists (aka “revisionists”) as completely as the Nazis purged the Jews from German universities. Proof? Scratch an academic on an RTE panel and, many times, you’ll find a Sinn Fein apologist.” -Eoghan Harris
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/comment/why-a-campaign-to-shinnerise-the-irish-republic-no-matter-how-well-intentioned-can-only-corrupt-the-state-39006689.html

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sonofstan - December 3, 2020

Holy God.

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Fergal - December 3, 2020

Lol! Harris is ineffable … if that word can have a negative connotation…

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pettyburgess - December 3, 2020

That man’s fantasy life gets increasingly disturbing.

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EWI - December 3, 2020

” Sinn Fein academic chiefs cleared out pluralists (aka “revisionists”) as completely as the Nazis purged the Jews from German universities.

Harris terming his fellow Troubles warriors as ‘pluralists’ is a joke in poor taste (Fitzpatrick and O’Halpin are/were possessed of a certain starry-eyed regard for the British Empire).

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CL - December 4, 2020

Kevin Myers “morphed into perhaps the leading journalistic propagandist for Irish historical revisionism…
Irish revisionism reviles all matters that smack of nationalism or republicanism and there is no doubt that the great fear of the North that descended on the South after Bloody Sunday in 1972 was its midwife….
And so, in the wake of Bloody Sunday when the fever that had gripped the North threatened to contaminate the South, the Irish establishment – political, academic, journalistic – began to rewrite, revise and in the process revile crucial aspects of the origins of the State, most notably the character of those who had done the fighting that led to the Truce and Treaty….
And so revisionism was born, with one of its principal characteristics an eagerness to re-sculpt the founders of the Southern state in the image of the terrifying and diabolical Provos who now threatened the peace, prosperity and safety of the comfortable classes of Dublin and allied places elsewhere south of the Border.” Ed Moloney
https://thebrokenelbow.com/2017/06/08/the-death-pangs-of-irish-historical-revisionism/

“In the 1960s, the study of history in many European countries was transformed as historians increasingly began to employ the methodologies of other disciplines and to develop new theoretical approaches. In Ireland, however, the dominant approach continued to be based on revising and destroying the traditional nationalist view of history. This approach became known as ‘revisionism’. As the IRA campaign intensified, revisionism gained a new prominence, in the battle for Irish hearts and minds, and challenging nationalist mythology became an important ideological preoccupation of a new generation of historians. A number of leading academics justified this construction on the grounds that IRA violence was linked directly with nationalist myths, although empirical evidence has been less forthcoming….

On the eve of the Famine, Ireland had one of the tallest, sturdiest, best fed and most fertile populations in Europe. The ubiquitous, and highly nutritious potato, was largely responsible for this. But Irish agriculture was not monolithic. By the 1840s, apart from growing sufficient potatoes to feed over five million people, and large numbers of farm animals and fowl, Ireland was also growing large quantities of grain, and by the 1840s was exporting sufficient grain to Britain to feed approximately two million people. …
suffering, emotion and the sense of catastrophe, have been removed from revisionist interpretations of the Famine with clinical precision. The obscenity and degradation of starvation and Famine have been marginalised. Popular books on the Famine, notably those by Cecil Woodham-Smith and Robert Kee, which have placed suffering at the heart of the Famine, have been derided or dismissed by many within the academic establishment….
there is a persistent claim that the British government in the 1840s possessed neither the practical nor the political means to either close the ports or import additional foodstuffs to Ireland. This is nonsense….
revisionism has created an ideological minefield in Irish history, in which those historians who attempted to write traditional Irish history, based on a recognition that reality involves conflict as well as consensus, and cataclysm as well as continuity, were regarded as promoters of a backward nationalist ideology. In regard to the Famine, interpretations which hinted at the issue of culpability of the British government were pigeon-holed as being apologists and perpetrators of the nationalist struggle. Perhaps this accounts for the dearth of serious scholarly research on the Famine, most notably by historians within Ireland…..
For many decades, the tragedy and significance of the Famine have been minimised, sanitised and marginalised by leading revisionist historians (and their supporters in the media)….
The process of challenging and revising should be an integral part of all historical writing. Irish revisionism, however, has stifled rather than stimulated historical debate on the Famine….
Although revisionism claims to be objective and value-free (a philosophical impossibility), in reality it has had a covert political agenda. As republican violence intensified, so did the determination of revisionists historians to destroy nationalist interpretations of Irish history. This has sometimes resulted in an equally unbalanced view emerging which, in the case of the Famine, has thrown the starving baby out with the purified bath-water….
Revisionism has polarised historical debate in Ireland and has stifled the more theoretical and philosophical approach to history which has developed elsewhere. Revisionism has dominated Irish historiography since the 1930s, and more intensely since the 1960s. However, as a new generation of historians emerges and more research is undertaken, it is unlikely that this domination will continue.”
– Christine Kinealy
https://www.historyireland.com/18th-19th-century-history/beyond-revisionism-reassessing-the-great-irish-famine/

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Bartholomew - December 4, 2020

I think Kinealy is being a bit simplistic there. The first scholar to argue that the Famine had no significance was Raymond Crotty, and he’s nobody’s idea of a revisionist or an anti-nationalist.

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CL - December 4, 2020

Crotty did not say that the Famine ‘had no significance’

” the Famine has been removed from the centre stage of nineteenth century Irish history. Instead, continuity is emphasised and it is argued that trends such as the decline of the Irish language, the change to pasture farming, and the demographic decline, would have occurred without the Famine, which was merely an accelerator in these processes. These views have resulted in curious assertions. For example, Raymond Crotty has argued that 1815 was far more important in the economic development of modern Ireland than the Famine years. Econometric historians such as O’Rourke, Ó Gráda and Mokyr have exposed the absurdity of this assertion by combining statistical interpretation with common sense.” – Christine Kinealy.

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Bartholomew - December 4, 2020

From memory, Crotty’s wording was that the famine ’caused hardly a tremor’ in Irish agricultural development. Isn’t that the view that Kinealy is attributing to him in your quote?

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CL - December 4, 2020

I don’t think Crotty was arguing that the ‘famine had no significance’, but that long-term trends already underway were accelerated by the Famine.
But I quibble. Crotty saw the Famine as a catalyst, not as catastrophic. (I’m quoting someone here, I forget who). In this sense Crotty was a revisionist.
But as Kinealy points out this view has been empirically debunked by O’Rourke, Ó Gráda and Mokyr and so Crotty’s work offers no support to the anti-national, pro-imperial revisionists.

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Bartholomew - December 5, 2020

So Crotty was a revisionist! In fact his work was quoted approvingly by Foster and others, so that it did give them support. The fact that Crotty was wrong about the Famine is immaterial.

Looking again at that Kinealy quote, ‘common sense’ is a curious term to use about O’Rourke and Mokyr. I once looked at O’Rourke’s main article about the Famine, called ‘Did the Irish Famine matter?’ It’s a computational general equilibrium model of the Famine. I’ve no idea if it’s common sense, and I doubt if Kinealy does either. Similarly with Mokyr, his book ‘Why Ireland Starved’ is a series of regression analyses carried out on the 1841 census, because that’s the only data set from the time that is comprehensive enough for the sort of high-level statistics that the book does. What you notice is that most of his conclusions are heavily dependent on his assumptions. If you change the assumptions even slightly, the conclusions change.
(All this is leaving aside the problematic nature of ‘common sense’ in the first place.)

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terrymdunne - December 7, 2020

The problem with that article is Christine Kinealy says revisionists say this and claim that but no one is actually cited as revisionists in that article apart from Roy Foster, Raymond Crotty and Edwards & Moody, while thumbs up are given to Cormac Ó Gráda and James Donnelly – whose chapters were among the most relevant to the Famine in the then recent Oxford History of Ireland series (I think Donnelly supplied all the ones specific to the Famine) – representing where specialist writing on the Famine period was actually at IMHO. Roy Foster did have a book out around this time which I havn’t read and which this article maybe in response to – but without explicitly stating who, what, where it is hard to know. The article is of its time & place – but it is difficult to ‘get’ that time & place 25 years later in the absence of the identification of specific books and articles as exemplars of “revisionism”.

Now the revisionist claim that Crotty is guilty of is –

“the Famine has been removed from the centre stage of nineteenth century Irish history. Instead, continuity is emphasised and it is argued that trends such as the decline of the Irish language, the change to pasture farming, and the demographic decline, would have occurred without the Famine, which was merely an accelerator in these processes”

Pastoral farming was already on the rise in the decades preceding the Great Famine in specific areas like Clare and Meath. I don’t see how saying that makes you an apologist for British rule (if anything the opposite). Crotty was wrong in dating the switch for the entire country in 1815 no doubt. It was actually a drawn out process. Lots of social and cultural change in nineteenth-century Ireland gets telescoped into the Famine in ways which actually elide popular agency – personally I have moved away from the pre-Famine/post-Famine periodization for the simple reason that in terms of social conflict you will find a lot of pre-Famine ways of doing things in the post-Famine period and vice versa.

The article, rightly in my opinion, also argues against the seeing pre-Famine Ireland as particularly and universally economically backward. I agree with this. I don’t see how anyone couldn’t equally turn around and argue that this is a revisionist position – seeing as it certainly goes against “traditional Irish history”.

Finally, we have what seems to me anyways to be an elision of class –

“A more invidious variation of this theme is that the population of Ireland today is descended from the survivors—sometimes even described as the ‘winners’—of the Famine period, thus implying a collective guilt amongst Irish people.”

The thing is if you read the apparent good guys Cormac Ó Gráda and James Donnelly you’ll see lots and lots of evidence that the tenantry were sharply divided into, at the very least, different socio-economic strata, some of them were winners of the Famine, at least in that they got to expand their farms at their neighbours’ expense (not an easy thing to do in the years before the Famine!)

As a matter of fact a number of the people interviewed on this evening’s documentary are making quite that point – people who are generally credited as being very much post-revisionist!

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CL - December 8, 2020

Bartholomew.
Using ‘equilibrium’ in any analysis of economic history is epistemic foolishness; a concept derived from physics that precludes evolutionary process. Orthodox economists, suffering from ‘physics envy’ use it to give a pseudo-scientific sheen to their disquisitions.
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

The issue under discussion here is whether the Famine was a watershed in Irish economic history or did it merely accelerate trends underway, as Crotty rightly points out, since the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Looking at the raw data available, without any need for the fancy econometric foot work, shows that the Famine did see drastic demographic and economic changes severe enough to be viewed as a watershed,- a decisive break with the past and not merely an acceleration of existing trends.
Here’s Cormac Ó Gráda’ view:

“The Great Irish Famine was not just a watershed in Irish history, but also a major event in global history, with far-reaching and enduring economic and political consequences. In the 1840s the Irish cataclysm dwarfed anything occurring elsewhere in Europe. Nothing like it would happen in Ireland again. Individual memories of the
famine, coupled with ‘collective memory’ of the event in later years, influenced the political culture of both Ireland and Irish-America, and indeed still play a role (Cullen
1997; Donnelly 2000; Ó Gráda 2001).

“Modern research comes closer to supporting instead Amartya Sen’s surmise that ‘[in] no other famine in the world [was] the proportion of people killed…as large as in the Irish famines in the 1840s’

Click to access WP04.25.pdf

The persistence of memory is what bothers pro-imperial, revisionist historians such as Foster.
The historiographical combat continues because history has not ended and interpretations of the past have as much to do with current political and economic reality as with past circumstances.

” On Monday, RTÉ broadcast the first of two documentaries on our Great Famine. The Hunger: The Story of the Irish Famine, was chilling and provocative. Made in conjunction with UCC it relied on academics to offer disinterested — if that is possible — analysis.

It detailed the circumstances that frame our relationship with Britain and how a preventable tragedy was used to deliver genocide. Though not by any means the last famine allowed to run out of control under British administrations an understanding of our famine and its legacy might, especially post-Brexit, help build relationships across these islands.”
https://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/ourview/arid-40120415.html

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Bartholomew - December 8, 2020

CL, I’m well aware of physics envy and the rest of it. I wasn’t endorsing O’Rourke’s article, just pointing out that Kinealy’s characterisation of it as ‘common sense’ is far from the truth. For the lay reader, a CGEM is just a black box. Data go in, conclusion comes out, but what’s going on inside is not clear.

‘The issue under discussion here is whether the Famine was a watershed in Irish economic history or did it merely accelerate trends underway.’
No, the issue under discussion is whether Crotty could be classified as a revisionist or not. Whether he was correct or not about the watershed is another question. The overall argument I was making is that some of those who overturned a nationalist narrative of Irish history wouldn’t normally be classed as ‘revisionists’ or ‘anti-national’. In the same category as Crotty I’d put Joe Lee and L.M. Cullen. Their talks/essays in the Thomas Davis lecture series ‘The Formation of the Irish Economy’ in 1969 demolished a lot of the nationalist interpretation of Irish economic history, as exemplified in George O’Brien’s 3 volume history published during the War of Independence. But neither of them could be said to be unionists, pro-imperialists or whatever.

I’d say what characterises revisionists as such is that their work and writing is almost entirely reactive, and is structured by the nationalist narratives that they are critiquing. That is also not true of Crotty, Lee or Cullen.

Terry – absolutely, that lack of specificity, the non-naming of names, was one of the most frustrating aspects of the whole revisionist debate. Similarly, there were frequent references to ‘the traditional nationalist interpretation’ but again no names. Maybe they felt they didn’t need to be specific, that it would be obvious who was meant, but it never seemed obvious to me, and presumably it was even less obvious to a non-Irish reader.

By the way, in the Wikipedia article about Irish revisionism, Ó Gráda is classed as a revisionist!

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CL - December 8, 2020

Bartholomew-
Crotty’s book was published in 1966. He did attempt to revise ( small r) the accepted notion that the Famine was the major event in 19th century Irish economic history. To argue that this long-term trend was more important than the shock of the Famine, – culturally, socially, economically, demographically, politically- has been refuted by O’Grada and Sen.
Certainly there are continuities between pre-Famine and post-Famine Ireland. But the Famine led to a million deaths and a million more emigrated, in a short period of time. To claim that this water-shed, catastrophic event is of lesser importance than the long-term gradual, process underway is to exonerate the British ruling class for their disastrous policy failure.

As for not naming names and thus suggesting that Revisionist historiography somehow does not exist or is not important, the Revisionist (Big R) historians are fairly well-known. Some of them and their views are mentioned below.
(Comment, 18)

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Bartholomew - December 8, 2020

So what you’re saying is that because Crotty was wrong, because he has been refuted, he wasn’t a revisionist? I don’t find that convincing.
(Note that I haven’t argued at any point that Crotty was a revisionist – I was just pointing out that by Kinealy’s criteria, he was.)

‘As for not naming names and thus suggesting that Revisionist historiography somehow does not exist or is not important’
Who suggested that?

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5. tomasoflatharta - December 3, 2020

We start with a tip, and two savage cartoons.

All political apologisers – such as the Sinn Féin Laois-Offaly TD Brian Stanley – forced to swallow and spit out his words of praise for IRA ambushes in 1920 and 1979 – do not believe any of the sentences they are forced to utter in humiliating public recantations!

Memorial Statue at Kilmichael Co. Cork, Commemorating an IRA 1920 Ambush of Black-and-Tan British Crown Forces
Nobody ever believes the recantation :

The same applies to apologies uttered under duress by former British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn. https://tomasoflatharta.wordpress.com/2020/12/03/apologies-and-recantations-the-strange-cases-of-two-elected-representatives-from-ireland-and-england-brian-stanley-td-sinn-fein-ireland-jeremy-corbyn-mp-england/

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roddy - December 3, 2020

SF have made a decision here to close this down .A hostile media were intent on escalating Warrenpoint to include civilians killed with Mountbatten on the same day and once you start explaining one event ,they widen it to include others which were hard to defend.For what its worth I see no difference in Kilmichael and Warrenpoint given that both the Auxies and Paras were murdering bastards. If anything Warrenpoint was a “cleaner” operation . Details of bayonets and stones being used to finish people off hardly depict a queensbury rules type of engagement.Apparently many of the Kilmichael veterans were badly affected,being previously unaware what actual “war” entailed.

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tomasoflatharta - December 3, 2020

Pull the other one Roddy :

Sinn Féin organises a “RA Jar” fundraiser for the DUP :

“SINN Féin have assured the media, the government and the public that they’re taking the Brian Stanley Twitter controversy seriously, and will make sure the Laois-Offaly TD will think twice about glorifying IRA violence the next time.

“Brian knows the deal; any time you say ‘up the ra’ or make a statement that is up-the-ra-ish in nature, you put a euro in the Ra jar” said party leader Mary Lou McDonald, pointing to a tall Maxwell House coffee jar overflowing with coins and paper money with the words ‘Ra jar’ written on a post-it note stuck to the front.

“From our TDs to our councillors to our boots-on-the-ground workers, we all have to pay if we ‘say the quiet part loud’, if you get me. It’s a euro per Ra down south, and a pound sterling per Ra up north”.

Stanley’s fine comes following his tweet about the Kilmichael and Narrow Water massacres which claimed a total of 35 lives, with calls coming from all angles for him to be removed from the party by means of trebuchet; something McDonald has stated will not be happening.

“Should Brian drop another hard R in public again, he’ll have to put two euro int he jar and so on; that’s how we handle our business around here” explained McDonald, who would not be drawn on whether or not money paid into the Ra jar could be claimed back as a TD expense.

McDonald went on to explain that at the end of each year the Ra jar money is donated to the DUP, as an extra incentive for party members to keep their ra-ing to a minimum.”

https://waterfordwhispersnews.com/2020/12/02/brian-stanley-ordered-to-put-a-euro-in-the-ra-jar/

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Tomboktu - December 3, 2020

SINN Féin have assured the media, the government and the public that they’re taking the Brian Stanley Twitter controversy seriously, and will make sure the Laois-Offaly TD will think twice about glorifying IRA violence the next time.

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EWI - December 3, 2020

I inadvertently (don’t ask) ended up at a SF fundraiser in Belfast in the mid-2000s for the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe. It was quite an eye-opener, given what their public stance on it was south of the border at that time.

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EWI - December 3, 2020

Details of bayonets and stones being used to finish people off hardly depict a queensbury rules type of engagement.Apparently many of the Kilmichael veterans were badly affected,being previously unaware what actual “war” entailed.

Bayonets are well within the rules of war, so long as they haven’t been modified in nasty ways. They are ubiquitous in issue to infantrymen the world over.

I very much doubt that men with rifles, pistols, shotguns and bayonets who have been unnerved by their first experience of close-up combat (as they clearly were) would be in a fit state to resort to something as visceral as rocks.

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6. roddy - December 3, 2020

My point is there is shite pedalled by those who should know better that “a good old IRA” existed who would have been ashamed of their counterparts 50 years later.Every action of the modern IRA was mirrored by participants in the Tan war.Many actions in my lifetime were to be deplored but to pretend they were’nt practiced in the 20s is a total falsehood. I was unaware of “the disappeared” for instance until about 94 and was sickened that such a tactic was carried out.It was only in recent years however that I discovered that “disappearing” was carried out on a much larger scale during the Tan war and was authorised on occasion by no less than Mulcahy.Also much more effort was made to locate victims remains since the 90s than was done after the Tan war. Revisionism is not the preserve of neo Unionists but is also practiced by those who laud 1916 and subsequent events but who pretend to be outraged by the Northern “savages” of 50 years later.I say that as someone who never wants to see another shot fired on this Island and who thinks that war and conflict can never be sanatised.

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EWI - December 3, 2020

My point is there is shite pedalled by those who should know better that “a good old IRA” existed who would have been ashamed of their counterparts 50 years later.Every action of the modern IRA was mirrored by participants in the Tan war

To a point. Indiscriminate targeting of civilians and forcing people to drive suicide car bombs were not practices in the WOI.

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roddy - December 3, 2020

Altnaveigh?Throwing hand grenades into trams transporting ship yard workers?

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dublinstick - December 3, 2020

Cases on indiscriminate sectarian murder was not a hallmark of the Republican cause until the onset of the Provos and INLA – there was no Kingsmill in the Tan War

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roddy - December 3, 2020

Altnaveigh?

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dublinstick - December 3, 2020

As for Warrenpoint, surely a supreme military action that few could only but admire, if the Provos had thought their war like that rather than willing killing children the same day they would not be an organisation whose history should be understood rather than celebrated.

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dublinstick - December 3, 2020

*fought

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Dr Nightdub - December 4, 2020

In May 1922, a group of IRA entered a cooper’s yard in Little Patrick St in Sailortown in Belfast. They lined the workers up and asked their religions. The one Catholic was let go. The four Protestants were shot. Three died, one survived.

But “there was no Kingsmill in the Tan War”…?

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EWI - December 4, 2020

Altnaveigh was retaliation for earlier sectarian attacks. One might approve or disapprove of such tactics, but they were not without reason.

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roddy - December 4, 2020

As was the despicable Kingsmill attack.Carried out in response to the killing of 2 families hours previously.But I will never attempt to justify it or Altnaveigh.

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Joe - December 4, 2020

The north is different. What’s known as ‘the north’, ‘Northern Ireland’, ‘the six counties’ is different from the rest of Ireland. The key difference is the sectarian and national allegiance make-up of the population in the north.
In the rest of Ireland, the population is overwhelmingly Catholic and the national allegiance is to a free and independent Ireland. In the north it’s different – 60-40, 50-50, whatever, there’s a large part of the population that is Catholic and Irish natonalist and a large part that is Protestant and British/Irish unionist.
That was the case in 1920 and it still is now (of course neither place was exactly the same as now in 1920 but broadly speaking, it was).

So I think it’s inevitable that when there’s war or conflict in the north, it’s going to take on a sectarian character. There’s going to be out-and-out sectarian atrocities. And there’s going to be a sectarian element to many other actions, attacks, killings that the people carrying them out may argue were not sectarian per se but something else.

So, I’m with Roddy. I don’t want to see a single drop of blood spilt on the national questions on this island ever again.
But surely history shows us that we, everyone on this island and on our neighbouring island, need to tread very, very carefully from now on and forever in order to ensure that me and Roddy get our wish.

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EWI - December 4, 2020

The key difference is the sectarian and national allegiance make-up of the population in the north.

Nope. A supreme example of southern self-delusion.

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Joe - December 4, 2020

And here’s the Supremes with their famous southern ballad/northern soul crossover hit “Self-delusion once again/I’m gonna make you love me”. Just for me and EWI.

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rockroots - December 4, 2020

“Also much more effort was made to locate victims remains since the 90s than was done after the Tan war.”

That’s a fair point, actually – there’s apparently a body hidden in a neighbour’s field for the last 100 years or so, but when I asked around a few years ago I got looks that said ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. And I’m sure there’s similar stories right across the country.

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Pasionario - December 4, 2020

The difference was that the War of Independence had solid democratic legitimacy stemming from the 1918 General Election and the First Dail. Political violence becomes justified when and only when constitutional and democratic means have been exhausted. That doesn’t justify sectarian killings by the Old IRA, but it certainly supplies justification for the Kilmichael ambush.

The Provos never had any such mandate. Their self-assumed mandate, grounded in the fiction of the Army Council as the true government of the Irish Republic, was pure republican mythology. And they didn’t even have the backing of the majority of the Catholic population in the North let alone wide support throughout the island.

What began as a justifiable campaign of self-defence in the late 1960s and early 1970s morphed into sectarian slaughter, where civilian casualities inflicted by the Provos rivalled military ones. It was predicated on the completely erroneous assumption that you could drive the British out of an area where their continued presence was supported by the majority of the population, as the Provos themselves eventually realized. And even if that goal had been achieved, it would have led to ongoing ethnic civil war of Lebanese proportions.

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Joe - December 4, 2020

What he said, what he said.

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terrymdunne - December 4, 2020

There was no mandate for 1916, plenty of non-combatants were killed in it, opportunities for civil resistance were not exhausted in 1920 (and were arguably more of an issue to the British govt. than a few dead squaddies), the I.R.A. in 1920/21 did not stop shooting somewhere between Dundalk and Newry but were out from the whole 32 (and of course there was sectarian conflict in the North) just the same as the P.I.R.A..

1916 et. al. was after decades of social reform enacted by the British state and provoked by popular mobilisation in Ireland.

Between 1968 and 1972 the British state and Unionism decided to go to war with the Catholic minority in the Six Counties, after decades of the Orange state (and earlier episodes of violence like in the 1930s). Some of that minority fought back using the same methods and in the name of the same ideals as was good enough for what became Fianna Fail and Fine Gael back in the day (methods and ideals which had, up until that point, been completely glorified by the southern establishment).

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 5, 2020

‘No mandate for 1916?’ No mandate for the First World War

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terrymdunne - December 5, 2020

Yeah but the comparison is Provos versus “Old” I.R.A. – not Redmond versus Pearse.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 5, 2020

Terry, you presented the Pearse v.Redmond comparison. I agree with you, however, that the resistance of ’69 became an armed struggle to drive out the Brits. The trouble was that, unlike that of 1919-21, it was unsupported by the majority of the Irish people.

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EWI - December 5, 2020

There was no mandate for 1916, plenty of non-combatants were killed in it, opportunities for civil resistance were not exhausted in 1920

The issue of electoral mandates doesn’t arise in unrepresentative colonial constructs which are being held by force. And the killing of non-combatants was largely by the British side.

Rayner, completely agree.

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Michael Carley - December 7, 2020

“There was no mandate for 1916”

It was clear that the UK government was not prepared to enforce discipline in its own army in order to stop armed resistance to its own Home Rule law. Once that happened, why should anybody have faith in a parliamentary process?

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WorldbyStorm - December 7, 2020

That’s a great point MC.

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WorldbyStorm - December 7, 2020

And it points to a further point, that the British government wasn’t some sort of honest broker in all this, anything but. In almost every respect it was linked into unionism and sought to underpin the ambitions of unionism to the greatest extent possible with the consequent reality that nationalism as was at the time was diminished and weakened.

The idea that democracy is a part of all this is near delusional.

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terrymdunne - December 7, 2020

If we want to argue that special conditions removed an apparent need for democratic mandates in 1916 & we want to say that these special conditions do not apply in 1981 then we need to show what changed in the years in between. South Armagh looked like a place held by force in recent decades, was the British State an honest broker during the more recent Troubles etc…

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WorldbyStorm - December 7, 2020

During, no, given the power relationship and the circumstances it could never be an honest broker in a real sense. That said I do think even in the period from say 85 onwards it had points where the circumstances forced it to orient itself differently than before and from 1997 until 2010 was closer to one than ever in its history. That other aspects of the circumstances forced that upon it to a considerable degree is ironic (I’d also think it’s possible to see a Tory govt re-elected in 97 setting matters back years, possibly decades).

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roddy - December 4, 2020

“civilian casualties inflicted by the provos rivalled military ones”. .Absolute bollocks .The Cain website states that of the 1700 deaths caused by the Provos 1000 were British state forces and 500 were civilians from all backgrounds(the other 200 were made up of IRA members other republicans, Loyalist paramilitaries etc .A majority of those civilians were indeed protestants but a sizeable number were catholics.Also a lot of these civilian casualties were killed in bombings where bungled warnings were issued and I do not defend these in any way or indeed on the few occasions where protestant civilians were deliberately targeted ,I condemn them unreservedly.An attempt was made to label attacks on the RUC/UDR section of the state forces as “sectarian” but tell me this – what would the Tan war IRA have done if a locally recruited militia like the UDR had been set against them?I would hazard a guess that they would have suffered a scorched earth policy whether on or off duty.If you are going to pontificate on the North get your facts right and I say this as someone who doesn’t want to see another conflict related death ever.

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Pasionario - December 5, 2020

The civilian victims of Provo front groups — such as the “South Armagh Republican Action Force”, which claimed responsibility for Kingsmill — are listed separately on the CAIN database, as are those of unidentified Republicans, most of whom can be assumed to be at least Provo adjacent.

That pushes the Provo-linked civilian deathtoll up to over 600 — Lost Lives puts it at 644 — so around two-thirds of the military total.

How far do you want to go down this dismal path?

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roddy - December 5, 2020

You are all over the place .First you say sectarian slaughter and then slyly try to include catholic civilians which would in fact total nearly half of the IRA’s civilian casualties.I think you’re really an adherent to the view that to attack the locally recruited RUC/UDR militias was “sectarian”.As I said before any Tan war equivalent of the UDR/RUC would have faced a scorched earth policy.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 8, 2020

To compare the occupation of south Armagh with the occupation of all Ireland, not to mention the even greater crime of World War One is giving equal signs to very different phenomena. Easter was a revolt against a state that had in fact no democratic authority embroiled in a major war, which at least Connolly hoped might be ended by the Rising. afterwards, as the reality became revealed, the Republicans were able to mount an aggressive war with popular support. The thirty years struggle began with a popular defensive fight against the Loyalists but developed into nationally unpopular war to drive out the Brits.

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EWI - December 10, 2020

The thirty years struggle began with a popular defensive fight against the Loyalists but developed into nationally unpopular war to drive out the Brits.

I doubt that it was the ‘fighting the Brits’ part that caused them to lose the majority of the goodwill they might have started with.

Allowing themselves to get boxed into a corner marked ‘criminalisation’ was always going to be a losing strategy, and one which generations of forebears’ experiences ought to have educated them about.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 10, 2020

EW, I don’t think that you can distinguish the fact that the Provo war was fought to drive the Brits into the sea from the ability of the British and Irish establishments to label it perpetrators as criminals.

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7. roddy - December 3, 2020

Dublinstick, you have conceded Altnaveigh then.And also I have observed a ceasefire of sorts with the sticks on here for a while but your organisation carried out sectarian killings and swapped weapons with the ultra sectarian butchers of the UVF.

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dublinstick - December 4, 2020

Afraid I can’t name any sectarian killing by the OIRA, one teenage Protestant was accidentally killed due to an issue with arms dumps but hand on heart can not recall one sectarian killing or even attack, yes there were attacks on loyalist paramilitaries. The relationship between the UVF and the OIRA was one which is widely acknowledged as assisting the growth of the wing of the UVF which gave rise to the PUP and a ‘left’ loyalism which played a key role in the peace process while also helping suppress the LVF and C Coy UDA, it was a relationship that on balance benefited peace.

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WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2020

Wouldn’t the attack on John Taylor have come close to being sectarian? Certainly most unionists and/or Protestants would have perceived it as an attack on a political leader from the UUP who was a non-combatant.

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EWI - December 4, 2020

Wouldn’t the attack on John Taylor have come close to being sectarian?

If you’re thinking of Lord Wotsit, then we’re talking about a notorious hardliner of the final Stormont government who claimed that the Catholic community killed themselves at McGurk’s Bar.

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dublinstick - December 4, 2020

I don’t think so, he was a hardline member of the regime, do you he was shot for his religion or politics? I certainly think the later, some of the OIRA members involved in that attack had earlier released unarmed UVF they had captured and also escorted drunks how had strayed into the Falls and were in danger of murder by sectarian killers, so certainly the Taylor operation was political.

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WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2020

Yeah, I’m only half serious in making the case, and yet the thing is that in the context of unionism was he really markedly more hardline than many others in political and broader unionism? The regime itself was outflanked by a considerable number of politicians and non-politicians by loyalists and Paisley’s crew and yet they weren’t targeted? But it does point up that all this is incredibly complex – to some that would be seen as a political attempt, to others it would be seen as sectarian whatever the intent. And of course that duality typifies the reality of such a conflicted space – that there’s an intertwining.

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EWI - December 5, 2020

and yet the thing is that in the context of unionism was he really markedly more hardline than many others in political and broader unionism?

In 1972, when he was shot, Taylor was ‘Minister for Home Affairs’, which as with the British Home Office meant internal security for the Stormont regime.

As such he was responsible in large part for what was going on (which is how he comes into the story about McGurk’s Bar).

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roddy - December 4, 2020

Oh really.Page 192 the lost revolution- ” in response the OIRA picked up David Walker,a 16 year old mentally retarded protestant boy on suspiscion of being a loyalist spy.He was questioned about recent murders,then shot dead and his body dumped in O’Neill street” Or page195 – “a squad was formed which had permission to carry out retaliation attacks on pubs frequented by the UVF or UDA”.Are you having a laugh that the carving up of territory with the UVF to maximise profits on the building site rackets was to boost the peace process.The UVF who never once fired a shot at anybody who could shoot back,99% of its victims were non combatant innocent catholics,many of whom were subjected to unimaginable deaths in romper rooms by Lenny Murphy and his Shankhill butchers.

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WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2020

It’s precisely because of the examples you point to that I am very deeply sceptical of trying to find clear good and bad in all this. Of course there was individual brutality and worse and individual acts of good conscience but people caught up in those events were often carried along in ways that in more normal political contexts they would not have been. And that holds across the board within the North. It’s wny I have a particular dislike of some in the South and many of those in political circles in the UK who had the luxury of a certain detachment that could have allowed them to work through more positive approaches and yet didn’t for the first decade or two of the conflict. And I have a deep antagonism to those who in the media made the situation arguably worse, particularly when the peace process was clearly underway.

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dublinstick - December 5, 2020

The Walker murder I refer to above. The attacks on Loyalist Paramilitary pubs did not result in deaths. I can not think of any incident where the OIRA killed an individual because of their religion, this is not the case with other paramilitary groups. Indeed their are incidents of the OIRA attacking the Provos, ie of Sam Llewellyn in 1976 IIRC, for sectarian murder. As for the Shankill Butchers etc I made clear it was the ‘Leftward’ wing of the UVF, as we know talking between paramilitary groups was needed the simple them ‘uns approach leads nowhere but death.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 5, 2020

Frankly, DS, reading you reminds me of the fable of the horse fly on the coach wheel.

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dublinstick - December 6, 2020

I think your wrong. Any account of the political evolution of the UVF emphasis the role played by interactions with OIRA and also outside. That Republican paramilitarism was not a monolith played a key role. The WP can be criticised for some of its members crude revisionism but its other positive roles are quick to be dismissed, of course these elements would also dismiss the positive role of elements in the UVF which I think is all simplistic- this dynamic played around, perhaps minor compared to others but still one worth consideration.

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dublinstick - December 6, 2020

That’s OIRA in the prisons and outside

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dublinstick - December 6, 2020

*played a role

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 6, 2020

What accounts?

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dublinstick - December 6, 2020

Hutchinson’s new book.

Cusack’s UVF

Ervine’s account

Gusty Spence’s biography

Des O’Hagan also wrote articles for the UVF magazine – so did the NF – there was ideological division

Leading UVF man Billy Mitchell his out with the Sticks during one of their feuds. He and Ervine both related to me personally that these contacts opened their thinking to seeing the possibility of common ground with at least a version of republicanism.

For a period UVF prisons were housed beside the OIRA in Long Kesh.

The links developed politically and criminally.

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dublinstick - December 6, 2020

Mitchell ‘his out’ with Sticks during a UVF feud, all these men were the section of the UVF that developed into the PUP

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dublinstick - December 6, 2020

*hid out

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dublinstick - December 6, 2020

At the very same time the UVF (another wing within) targeted the ‘communist’ sticks in particular- wasn’t the McGurk bar bombing aimed at a stick pub that was found to be defended so they just took the easy target instead. Also the bombing that led to the ‘77 OIRA/PIRA feud was a UVF operation- a new book on the UVF is due out soon and will hopefully have a better analysis of the divisions in the UVF concerning its political direction – one that resulted in the PUP the other the ultras of the LVF

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 10, 2020

Is that the same Billy Mitchell as the prime suspect in the Dublin bombing.

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dublinstick - December 10, 2020

A prime suspect in some minds but with no evidence whatsoever, are those behind the bombings, or quite possible the ones used to carry out the bombings on behalf of some section of the British security apparatus not largely established to be elements of the mid-Ulster UVF? But on that who was behind Bloody Friday? The actions of combatants was reprehensible but who is peace made without getting them to stop their actions.

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WorldbyStorm - December 10, 2020

Agree completely, but weren’t you earlier adding in a couple more hurdles for the Provisionals in particular to clear despite having carried out a cessation, prolonged ceasefire and decommissioning?

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8. CL - December 4, 2020

“The ongoing succession of commemorative events for the violent actions that took place during the War of Independence has become increasingly narrow with State broadcaster RTÉ churning out successive programme reinforcing a cowboys-and-Indians version of history….
we seem to be growing increasingly attached to a comic book version of this country’s story as 700 years of unending oppression….
Just look at the way the attempt by former Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to commemorate members of the Royal Irish Constabulary killed during events of a century ago was distorted and misrepresented.”
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/stephen-collins-decade-of-commemorations-stoking-cult-of-violence-1.4426670

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Fergal - December 4, 2020

Always amazes me how people like Collins get hot and bothered about ‘ a cult of violence’ here but then seem to think that commemorating a war for imperialism and mass slaughter such as WW1 is a sign of ‘maturity’
Like the great and good in Europe meeting to commemorate the start of WW1 in a field in Belgium in 2014… surely, the end of such a disaster should be commemorated, hardly its outbreak.

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lcox - December 4, 2020

+1. Killing abroad – and encouraging others to sign up to kill and be slaughtered abroad – is apparently fine.

The only thing that “really” matters in that mindset is Irish people killing other Irish people in Ireland. Anything else isn’t really real somehow, and it would apparently be terrible to pass moral judgement on it.

The irony of in effect condoning WWI and getting desperately upset about the Easter Rising is … bizarre.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 4, 2020

‘Killing abroad – and encouraging others to sign up and be slaughtered abroad – is apparently fine.’
This was the view of a certain Jesuit, Fr. Francis Shaw (son of a Cuman na Gael TD) who wrote a diatribe against the commemoration of the Easter Rising, published in Studies in 1971. His work had been praised by many revisionists as a brilliant defence of democracy y and internationalism .

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EWI - December 4, 2020

This was the view of a certain Jesuit, Fr. Francis Shaw (son of a Cuman na Gael TD) who wrote a diatribe against the commemoration of the Easter Rising, published in Studies in 1971. His work had been praised by many revisionists as a brilliant defence of democracy y and internationalism .

Shaw very much a forerunner of Séamus Murphy SJ, another priest with an apparent high toleration for imperial war and this one gifted with a prominent IT op-ed in 2016.

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EWI - December 4, 2020

There was no ‘distortion’ or ‘misrepresentation’ of what Flanagan and the HARP group were and are about – trying desperately to rehabilitate the RIC, including the Tans and the Auxies, and throwing every bit of mud that comes to their fevered imaginations against the Irish side.

We even got a re-hash by another one of the RIC’s fans in the Paper of Record a few days ago, just to remind us of who we’re dealing with here.

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9. lcox - December 4, 2020

Agree with Terry that Irish history – revisionist and otherwise – has remained dominated by a focus on states, violence and its legitimacy. Not to the complete exclusion of a discussion of the social history of the revolution (and of other kinds of struggle before that period) but certainly to its marginalisation. Notably a lot of the work on these areas is done outside Ireland, outside history or outside academia. Thinking of Terry’s own work on Whiteboys, Theresa O’Keefe’s on women republicans, Liam Cahill’s on the Limerick Soviet, Terry Fagan’s on working-class oral history, Linda Connolly’s on sexual violence in the revolution, Liam Hogan’s on the “Irish slaves” narrative etc.

There’s an obvious reason for that, which is that the historical profession – especially but not only in post-colonial states – is closely tied to the national narrative as promulgated by the state. It is a more tightly-controlled, and more high-status one, than most other academic disciplines, whose subjects are not as central to the political legitimacy of the state. That hasn’t changed now when the establishment’s view is paradoxically hostile to the revolution that founded its state: the relationship remains the same, as does the focus, but good and bad are reversed. Not that nothing good gets through, but … it struggles to do so.

Alongside that, and partly underpinning it, is a shift in how the classes who feel the state is theirs identify themselves. In an older generation, it was a point of pride to identify at some level with the people of the mud-walled cabins, for professors to dress up as if they were just off a hard day’s work on the bog, and to automatically take sides with what were seen as other colonised peoples. Of course that was always a partial untruth in many cases, but the feeling was there even among Irish elites. Today many of the Irish middle classes find it easier to identify with the people of the big houses, opera and rugby have been adopted as class signifiers, and so on – though the foreign policy dimension keeps on bumping up against gut popular feelings in the other direction.

Anyway, one thing is actually widening the view to look more closely at working-class experience and struggles, at women, at people who were neither settled Catholic nor Protestant, at oral history, at written documents from below etc. Which remains badly needed. Another is keeping the narrative of the revolution as one about parties and armies but changing the signs.

Of course it’s also worth remembering that there was never a golden age either – it’s not that a “1966 historiography” produced a radical state, or was not conveniently aligned with the needs of a dodgy establishment and a rising middle class – both of whom started to move sharply away from it once the ghosts of the past that they had been using to justify their own positions came back from the dead and started an actual war that called on them to take sides.

As usually in history, we can’t really understand the sins of Irish revisionism without understanding the sins that produced it. It is absolutely important to resist the ahistorical rubbish it offers – but that does not mean that the Christian Brothers view of history is what we should aspire to. If anything socialists should be aspiring to a view of history that speaks for the communities that the Brothers brutalised.

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EWI - December 4, 2020

Linda Connolly’s on sexual violence in the revolution

Connolly is an academic but not a historian, and does have a focus on establishing narratives about ‘military’ violence (just against women). There have been criticism that this has led to blindness, intentional or otherwise, to the participation of women in at least some of these incidents as well – the ‘gendered’ bit is over-egged.

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lcox - December 4, 2020

Brian Hanley must have written something good about Irish revisionism, even one of his talks posted on this site?

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lcox - December 4, 2020
CL - December 4, 2020

” how the social base of republicanism in Ireland has changed over the last century.” – Brian Hanley.

” A disproportionate number of the “active” IRA men were teachers; medical students; shoe-makers and boot-makers; those engaged in building trades like painters, carpenters, bricklayers, etc.; draper’s assistants; and creamery workers.[7] The Canadian historian Peter Hart wrote “…the guerrillas were disproportionately skilled, trained and urban”.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Republican_Army_(1919%E2%80%931922)#cite_note-7

So in what way has the ‘social base of republicanism’ changed over the last century?

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terrymdunne - December 4, 2020

The Volunteers of 1916 or the Tan War, in so far as they were working class, tended to be from the strata with higher-status, better incomes, more job security etc… A few years ago, at least in urban areas in the 26 counties, the Sinn Fein vote tended to be clustered among people with lower status jobs (or no jobs), lower incomes, less job security etc..I would say the same would have been true of the North also?

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CL - December 4, 2020

The available empirical record shows that during the Tan War and during the more recent northern ‘troubles’ the vast majority of IRA fighters were from the working class,

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terrymdunne - December 4, 2020

The problem is the working class is not in the empirical record, it is a concept you bring to that empirical record, if you think that classes are homogeneous then if the empirical record shows that the majority of the I.R.A. in 1920 were workers and the same is true of 1980 then there has not been a changing social basis to republicanism. If on the other hand you think classes are heterogeneous, you might notice the difference between grocers’ assistants et. al. in 1920 and unemployed people in 1980. Or we might recognize there were sharp status differences in 1920 between different strata of the working class. In any case Peter Hart’s statistics are at the very least questionable. I am not counting but I know of instances of farmer dominated I.R.A. companies in the Tan War period.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 4, 2020

There were certainly many Farmer-led Volunteer Companies in 1919-21. I would say, however, that the impetus for the movement came from the artisans and small business people of the towns. Interestingly, this tended to be the case in the Land Wars.

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CL - December 4, 2020

Concepts are necessary in analyzing any empirical records. Facts do not speak for themselves.
The composition of the working class is indeed heterogenous, and some jobs become obsolete, and other job category are created, over time.
As for rural IRA men there were many, but if one is doing hard physical labour all ones life, and living in a capitalist economy, one’s material conditions are not that much different from urban workers.
Too much is made of the rural divide. Those heroes of the American labour movement, the Molly Maguire, had deep roots in peasant Ireland.
To say that the IRA over a 100 year period was predominantly working class is not saying anything startling. The bourgeoisie have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Discontent is inherent in the working class because, to survive, their labour power is commodified. Whether that discontent is always appropriately channeled is another matter.

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terrymdunne - December 4, 2020

The largest single occupational category among males in the 26 counties in the 1920s was farm labour (i.e. being employed by a farmer for a wage), the largest single occupational category of organised workers in 1920 was farm workers (about 50,000 of them in the ITGWU). If we start lumping farmers – employers – into the working class we are gonna have difficulties with understanding what was going on. Even non-employing small farmers were sharply differentiated in terms of status and ‘respectability’ from labourers.

The I.R.A. in 1919-21 was a cross-class organisation and, as I said, its working class membership tended to be from the upper tiers of the class – skilled workers, white-collar workers and the like. They seem to have often been trade unionists but trade unionism had traditionally been dominated by workers with the market-place bargaining power that came from specialised skills – different from the people who possessed no special skills and were general labourers (the sort of people who joined the Transport Union and from whom were recruited the rank and file of the British Army – hence the interpretation of a social angle to clashes between separation women and Volunteers).

In terms of the urban groups being the leading sectors of the Volunteers I wonder what the geography of that looked like? Also I wonder how urban they were and for how long? – like do recent migrants show up as ‘urban’ – I ask because a further complication is that we don’t really grasp ‘class’ if we just make a conglomeration of occupations – surely a lot of the time some of the better-off layers of the working class were coming from non-working class backgrounds? Like farming backgrounds for instance.

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CL - December 5, 2020

Everything you say is correct but it does not refute the empirically verifiable fact that the majority of IRA fighters in the Tan War and during the northern ‘troubles’ were members of the working class. And also during ‘Operation Harvest’.
IRA men from the middle class were the exception. Kieran Conway a middle class IRA man, a Southside Provo, recounts how shocked he was, when staying in working class homes, at the conditions in which working class people live.
Bourgeois IRA members have been quite scarce over the last 100 years.
Outside of Dublin, urban areas were and still are mostly country towns.
Certainly not everyone in the IRA was dependent on selling their labour power in order to live. But the majority were. Describing the IRA as a ‘cross-class’ organization is a misrepresentation.
From the Molly Maguires to Mike Quill experiences in rural Ireland were instrumental in developing working class organizations,-including the IRA.

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terrymdunne - December 5, 2020

CL I agree with you we should look to ‘experiences in rural Ireland’ but rural Ireland in 1919-21 was a society sharply divided into different classes and social strata and the I.R.A. was no exception to that (not to mention very different social forms in very different regions).
I have a recent article on this –
https://www.theirishstory.com/2020/11/24/the-cattle-drives-of-1920-agrarian-mobilisation-in-the-irish-revolution/#.X8tK-LfgrIU
Indeed over the couple of counties I have looked at there were a number of incidents where republicans were in fact on opposite sides in 1919 or 1920 – precisely because of the cross-class and socially diverse nature of the movement. My case on this thread is that all of that, and much more, has gone out the window in favour of massively detailed discussion of individual small-scale military engagements as if they were either great battles or terrible atrocities.

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CL - December 5, 2020

Tmd. Sure, broadly I agree.

The IRA was part of a broader republican/nationalist movement. The IRA saw themselves as part of a national movement, not as being engaged in a class struggle. And as your very interesting article shows there were conflicts within republicanism over social issues.

But on the social background of IRA members I don’t think Peter Hart has been empirically refuted.
” A disproportionate number of the “active” IRA men were teachers; medical students; shoe-makers and boot-makers; those engaged in building trades like painters, carpenters, bricklayers, etc.; draper’s assistants; and creamery workers…. Farmers and fishermen tended to be underrepresented in the IRA.”-Wiki
That over the last 100 yrs or so IRA fighters were mostly drawn from the working class is not surprising; soldiers everywhere are usually working class.

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terrymdunne - December 5, 2020

(1) It doesn’t make much sense to be arguing against “revisionism” on the one hand and then hinge another argument on what Peter Hart says ….
(2) In any case Peter Hart didn’t actually claim that the I.R.A. in the revolutionary period was predominantly working class, in fact he argues something quite different. Indeed the list you quote from wikipedia includes medical students, farmers, and men from the skilled construction trades – something which clearly amounts to a cross-class movement (medical students? medical students in a time when how many people went to university?).

If you read Hart’s article rather than the wikipedia summation you will see things like 40% to 29% of Tan War (‘active’) Volunteers being farmers or farmers’ sons, that for Cork a study of 1,000 Volunteers found that the majority had farming fathers (i.e. the white collar Volunteers were from farming backgrounds), and for the same county that farming I.R.A. members typically had above average farm valuations. Indeed the third line of the abstract of the article refers to “young men of the middling classes”.

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CL - December 5, 2020

Hart isn’t necessarily wrong in everything he wrote. Men from the skilled construction trades are working class.

“40% to 29% of Tan War (‘active’) Volunteers being farmers or farmers’ sons” And the other 60% to 71% ?

“young men of the middling classes’ – some might regard these as urban skilled workers.

People with ‘white collars’ can be seen as working class.

Working farmers a 100 yrs ago engaged in a lifetime of hard physical labour. They lived by their labour power in a capitalist system.

Apart from the officer corps the bourgeoise are usually not soldiers.
The IRA never was a cross-class alliance between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Its sounds comical to even say it.

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terrymdunne - December 6, 2020

“Men from the skilled construction trades are working class” yup and when they are in a movement with farmers and medical students and so on that is a cross-class movement.

The largest single occupational category for male workers in the 26 counties in the 1920s was farm labour (as in wage labour on farms), the largest single group of workers in the I.T.G.W.U. in 1920 was farm labourers (v. roughly 50,000 or so, in comparison to the next biggest group which was dockers with about 4 to 5,000), who was employing them?

Moreover farmers themselves were by no means a homogeneous group – according to Hart’s article I.R.A. farmers typically possessed farms of above average valuation – this at a time when there was a massive mobilisation of the poorer strata of farmers for land re-distribution.

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CL - December 6, 2020

The vast majority of IRA fighters were under the age of 30. Its unlikely that these were property-owning employers,

According to your figures 60% to 70% of the IRA were not farmers or farmers sons. Perhaps these were entrepreneurial businessmen.

The IRA fighters in the War of Independence were in close-knit units based on locality, united in a common social and cultural ethos, members of the same class. Many had day jobs either rural or urban doing physical or mental labour.

To substantiate your cross-class thesis give a list of IRA fighters over the last 100 years with a bourgeois background.

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terrymdunne - December 6, 2020

“According to your figures 60% to 70% of the IRA were not farmers or farmers sons.”

There not my figures. They are what you described as the “available empirical record” based on a wikipedia summation of a Peter Hart article. If that gives us 30% or 40% from a non-working class background that equals a cross-class movement (based on what you describe as the “available empirical record” – Peter Hart via wikipedia).

If you read the article you cite you would see that the category of farmer’s sons refers to an occupation designation – the non-farming occupation group in the Peter Hart article includes people from farming backgrounds because in a study of 1,000 Volunteers (in the Peter Hart article you describe as the “available empirical record”) the majority of them were from farming backgrounds. These are not classed as having the occupation “farmer’s sons” because they do not work on the farm.

This is the “available empirical record” you present – it shows the I.R.A. of the Tan War as a cross-class movement. I agree with it.

Otherwise the various conflicting roles played by different I.R.A. Volunteers and units makes no sense.

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terrymdunne - December 6, 2020

Farms are family-run businesses. The son of 19 or 20 will not hold the deeds. Anyone in rural Ireland in 1920 would have understood that son as being in a different position from a farm labourer.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 6, 2020

The membership of the 1919-20 IRA was mainly farmers or farmers’ sons. In many cases, there was division of labour: the son went off to fight with the father’s blessing , the latter having to work the land. In other cases, the son was already gainfully employed in the local town and was influenced by the urban Fenians. And, of course, many farmers were old Land Leaguers and/or old Fenians.
Yes, the IRA was a cross=class alliance; it included farmers. If it had not included members of that huge section of the population. it would not have been as effective as it was. (On the other hand, the proportion of farmers and sons in the army was less than their proportion in the population as an whole.)
However, the whole thing was inspired by the petty bourgeois of the towns: the small businessmen, the shop assistants and other skilled employees (Some of the latter being farmers’ sons, but usually seeing their future as townies). These urban classes were radicalised by the continuing crisis of of urban Ireland, the shrinking of the towns and the closing of their economies. (At the same time, the opposite was the case in the cockpit of south -west Tipperary. where there had been an economic revival around the creameries giving these classes a measure of confidence along with their fears.
Ideologically, in so far as one can talk of this, the Army saw the future in terms of capitalist nationalism: small businesses protected by tariffs,and the other trappings of a twentieth century nation state. this might have changed had the organised general workers thrown their support behind the struggle on a socialist programme, but, after Connolly, they were held back by their leaders.

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CL - December 7, 2020

” the Provos are the first working-class Republican fighters in Irish history.” -Eamonn McCann
https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/mccann/1979/10/provsoc.htm

Again, no empirical studies referenced for these assertions.

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terrymdunne - December 9, 2020

Rayner some questions –

Where is the best exposition of the thesis of the developmentalist urban petit bourgeoisie as the mainspring of republicanism in early C20th?

Obviously this thesis dovetails somewhat with urban support for O’Connell, with Griffith’s ideas and with F.F. policy in the 1930s but did anyone actually articulate a similar programme during the years of the revolution?

It would be really interesting if anyone ever did a geographic analysis of urban vs. rural participation in the I.R.A. – I’ll go back to Hart’s Social Structure of the I.R.A. article, which you are right about, it is a very informative approach.

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roddy - December 4, 2020

Just a couple of quick points.The vast majority of those who joined the IRA post 69 would have done so on the back of events happening around them ,not as a result of “Nationalist mythology”.I come from an area that produced several “most wanted men in Ireland” and 2 hunger strikers and not one of them or their comrades would even have known what a Christian brother was.Also the “middle class” among the people I know never had the pretensions of their Southern counterparts.They kn ew where they came from and didnt regard themselves as superior.

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lcox - December 4, 2020

Roddy, I don’t disagree with any of that.

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WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2020

One real problem is an attitude amongst the Irish upper middle class that Irish people in general, and the working class in particular (though they tend to stray away from saying that quite so bluntly) are credulous fools who are unable to bring any critical faculties to bear on these issues. Stephen Collins today in his column typified this – talking about how:

“the State-sponsored decade of commemorations is breathing new life into the cult of violence which has bedevilled this country for more than a century.

The increasingly one-sided presentation of what happened during the struggle for independence 100 years ago is helping to craft a narrative in which the population is being encouraged to believe a version of the past in which independence was achieved solely by violent acts. That in turn underpins Sinn Féin’s support for violence in more recent times and its current drive for Irish unity.”

Now, there’s so many problems with what he says in terms of the actual history, for example not a word about how the British resiled from implementing HR, or the reality that violence was largely the motor of change in the late 1910s or the manner in which he frames Irish unity which is of course an entirely legitimate goal and is written into the GFA/BA – but note how ‘the population’ is painted as passive, undiscerning etc. And this has been of a piece with CCOB, EH, etc, across the years despite all evidence to the contrary in how actual Irish people in the main tend to view these matters and act.

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sonofstan - December 4, 2020

“One real problem is an attitude amongst the Irish upper middle class that Irish people in general, and the working class in particular (though they tend to stray away from saying that quite so bluntly) are credulous fools who are unable to bring any critical faculties to bear on these issues”

Not just the Irish upper middle-class.

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CL - December 4, 2020

The revisionist propaganda offensive continues to exert considerable influence.

“the revisionist enterprise I criticised is not the commendable practice of refining and/or correcting previous historical accounts in the light of new evidence or deeper insights. Rather, it is an enterprise designed to debunk the traditional nationalist version of Irish history by engaging in an orgy of iconoclasm against the heroes of the nationalist pantheon and to filter out the trauma of Ireland’s catastrophic history – ruthless military conquest, colonisation, a discrimatory legal code, immiseration – by normalising it or simply ignoring it altogether. The Irish people deserve better than that. They also need something better since history has inflicted a deep scar upon the collective psyche.”- Brendan Bradshaw.
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/revisionist-history-1.192046

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Gearóid Clár - December 4, 2020

“One real problem is an attitude amongst the Irish upper middle class that Irish people in general, and the working class in particular (though they tend to stray away from saying that quite so bluntly) are credulous fools who are unable to bring any critical faculties to bear on these issues.”

Absolutely. You can feel that in Collins’ article, how he really really wants working class people to listen to his words of wisdom. There’s an irony in that, though, where Collins would probably be shocked to learn that any working class people read the paper of record. Perhaps the local poet reads it aloud to the villagers in the hedge school.

Excuse the sarcasm. It just amazes that people like Collins and Harris, intelligent men, can’t see that the arguments have moved on from here for most people. I saw a meme recently which was Varadkar and a “plain person of Ireland”, with Varadkar going on about how Sinn Féin did this and that during the troubles and the person replying “That’s great, but where am I going to live?”

How do they still not get it.

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CL - December 4, 2020

For Stephen Collins….

“First, British institutions and policies are mentioned in passing and approvingly, but they are not analysed. Second, Westminster is associated with tolerance but not with any of the violence or misdeeds of colonialism or imperialism. Third, Redmond is associated with politeness and order, but not with the problematic aspects of the imperial order he increasingly identified with or with the bloody deaths to which he sent Irish young men. Fourth, in contrast, presumably, with the clean, constitutional and democratic killing carried out by those wearing British uniforms during the First World War, the violence of the Irish Civil War is “vicious”. (It is the obfuscation of British- and Redmond-sponsored violence here that is objectionable, not the appropriateness of the term “vicious”.) Fifth, the behaviour of the Tory establishment in 1912-14 and the willingness of the British government to go to war in order to deny the democratically expressed wishes of the Irish people in 1918 are dealt with in only glancing fashion…..

What emerges most clearly from this journey through Fr Shaw’s article is how deeply rooted his thinking is in a pre-Great War, bourgeois, Redmondite Ireland. …
John Bruton and Stephen Collins wish to simplify history, to bypass the complex challenge to the Republic and its narrative posed by the Troubles, and to invent an easy and morally simplistic path through history to where they stand today….
The political-intellectual wing of the neo-liberal order is creating a historical alibi for the dissolution of Irish autonomy by refounding the hollow appearance of an Irish state in a Redmondism that was happy with the hollow appearance of autonomy while power remained with Westminster and the Empire.” – Barra Ó Seaghdha
https://www.drb.ie/essays/history-as-a-moral-tale

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 9, 2020

Thank you , Terry. the socio-economic programme of the Irish revolution after 1916 was encapsulated in the motions passed at the sinn fein unity Convention in October 1917. They constituted a very good blueprint for a bourgeois democratic order and were executed after the Treaty by Cuman na nGael and more rigorously by Fianna Fail.

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terrymdunne - December 10, 2020

Rayner I found this http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000528323 which I will have a look at sometime. There is a 1971 article on the convention but it doesn’t seem to cover the actual programme. Thanks.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 11, 2020

I agree, as to your last point ,Terry. Believe me, discovering the motions involves trawling thru’ the newspapers of the time. Historiographically, they were overshadowed completely by the row over Kings/Lords/Commons v.Republic. Almost certainly, most of them went thru on the nod. Nonetheless, they did go thru and were applied to the best of the members’ ability.

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10. CL - December 4, 2020

” The concept of his role’s independence has come up again this week in his reply to the letter sent to him by Foster denouncing Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley’s tasteless tweet about the Kilmichael and Narrow Water atrocities.” – Harry McGee, Irish Time today.

So Kilmichael the key battle in the War of Independence is now an ‘atrocity’.

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EWI - December 4, 2020

So Kilmichael the key battle in the War of Independence is now an ‘atrocity’.

A cynic might say that to the Irish Times, Kilmichael has always been an ‘atrocity’ so at least they’re being consistent.

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Fergal - December 4, 2020

Think Éamon McCann has a story that chimes with what Roddy said above.
Fintan O’Toole has been talking about how dangerous and traumatic the 1966 commemorations has been and had undoubtedly helped to fuel violence up north… McCann explained that at the Easter rising commemoration in Derry, the following year in 1967, there were around 70 people, 3 or 4 of whom were special Branch… that’s the story more or less, the detail may not be 100%…
Of course the first killings of the modern day troubles were done by Gusty Spence’s modern UVF in 1966 and the huge official commemorations up north for the Somme

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sonofstan - December 4, 2020

It’s funny how really big official war stuff, like the Somme, is never an ‘atrocity’.

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CL - December 4, 2020

As Brendan Behan said:

A terrorist? Someone with a small bomb.

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roddy - December 4, 2020

I had similar experiences of being taken to Easter commemorations as a child up to and including 69 and there was next to nobody there.A handful of oul fellas wearing medals and less than a hundred people listening to what I considered boring speeches.Having read Dan Breen I had expected something more exciting and was severely disappointed! Older siblings of mine would have been pre split Republicans but a series of family tragedies including death for one in an accident and a severe life shortening illness leading to an early death for another meant neither were involved in the troubles.However scores of their “apolitical” friends and contempories were swept along by events into the ranks of the Republican movement.

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Bartholomew - December 4, 2020

The same word is used by Emma de Souza, also in the IT today:

‘The controversy and upset caused when Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley posted a tweet about the Kilmichael and Warrenpoint atrocities highlights the negative consequences that can come from segregated education.’

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/three-different-versions-of-our-shared-history-being-taught-on-the-island-1.4426815

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EWI - December 4, 2020

Did she use that word, or did an IT editor substitute it in?

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tomasoflatharta - December 4, 2020

Good Question – I wonder can anyone directly contact the author and ask the question?

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Pangurbán - December 4, 2020

Another example of revisionism in the foreword of
The dead of the Irish revolution; of the civilian ex servicemen killed 47% were killed as spies by the IRA but 53% were killed by crown forces; now is this ‘bad’ or ‘good’ revisionism?

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Colm B - December 4, 2020

Headlines you will never see in the IT:
“Most ex-servicemen murdered by…er…em… servicemen”

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Bartholomew - December 4, 2020

Seems like a bit of a concidence all right.

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11. Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 4, 2020

The originators of revisionism were a pretty disparate lot. They included TW Moody, who saw himself as being in the Wolfe Tone tradition and voted Fianna Fail, and Dudley Edwards (father of you-know-who) who was cynical supporter of Fine Gael. What they had in common was the need to seek and produce accurate history at a time (the early 1930s) when historiography was in the doldrums. Although lip service was paid the the national struggle, there was little done to explain or clarify it. Dorothy MacArdle’s epic ‘The Irish Republic’ was in the future, and then it had to be revised by Cearbhal O’Dhalaigh. Otherwise the student was dependent on Dan Breen (often surprisingly percipient, but still a single book) and on the vagaries of his teachers.
The trouble was that the current revisionist programme was developed in an accepted capitalist context. Its general acceptance of the post-treaty order fitted in to the policies of national autarchy followed by Fianna Fail. Once those policies collapsed in the late’50s, and the new open economy line prevailed, the way was open to historians to to use their predecessors strictures as the excuse to throw the baby truth out with the bathwater of myths. The military troubles hastened this process,
The new revisionists used the plea for truth in history as a cover for their own bias and, more importantly, for their selection of facts to justify their bias. The old nationalists had not bothered too much to justify their arguments; they produced little history. The new lot had to argue their positions against consensus. to bolster their positions anything went. They treated the writing of history as total war. Their claims as truth seekers were destroyed by the fact that they did not investigate the obvious myths of their opponents but accepted them, merely changing their attitude towards them. One example is the old republican view that Connolly had given up on socialism when he joined the Easter rebels. This can be refuted easily by anyone who has read the contemporary documents, but the revisionist do not do this; they prefer to change the view that Connolly did a good thing to one that he did a bad thing.Again, tho’ Hart uses valuable statistical information as the the social standing of IRA Volunteers in his notorious book, these are but a cover for his main thesis portraying that Army as a sort of Catholic Isis.
Finally, as to the question: what do the revisionists want, the answer would seem to be that, while a number of them (like Hart) are in mourning for the Union, most of them are neo-Redmonites seeing Ireland’s salvation in the provincialism and believing that the treat of partition could have been eliminated by nationalist and Unionist achieving comradeship as common killers of a sufficiency of Germans and Turks.

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Fergal - December 4, 2020

Touching on what a few people have mentioned above, there’s academia, school history and then there’s an unwritten people’s history or folk history…
And without knowing anybody here in person , I’m pretty certain that we all have a store of stories relating to us and the past…
And what people like Collins and their ilk don’t get and will never get is that this folk history is sophisticated, complex and discriminating… so, in my own family relatives had fought and died in WW1 while others had fought in the Tan war… both were spoken about at home… with the latter being lauded, I suppose, for being out for the Republic while the former were remembered more with pity….

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sonofstan - December 4, 2020

Something I’ve been thinking about a bit recently: Collins and the IT crowd see themselves as sophisticated and cosmopolitan whereas actually, given the circumstances of Irish history, its as likely that the rural poor and the urban working class would be the ones who would have regular contact with family in Britain or America and quite possibly experience themselves of living elsewhere.

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EWI - December 4, 2020

The ‘cosmopolitanism’ of London being the centre of your universe.

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12. tomasoflatharta - December 4, 2020

Perhaps I am misinterpreting : it looks like the SF leadership is going to sacrifice Brian Stanley TD. Party Leader Mary Lou McDonald states :

“At my request, Teachta Stanley will take next week to be with his family, for whom this period of public controversy has proven very difficult.

“Teachta Stanley has this afternoon written to the Ceann Comhairle to request time to make a full personal statement to the Dail on December 15.”

Mr Stanley had being facing mounting calls to appear before the Dail following a series of controversies.

On Wednesday, he publicly apologised for a tweet sent last weekend, which appeared to glorify historical killings of British soldiers by the IRA.

But he insisted he has “no apology to make” over a 2017 tweet he sent that appeared to comment on the sexuality of Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar.

The Laois-Offaly TD has now deleted his Twitter account.

On Friday, Taoiseach Micheal Martin rejected Mr Stanley’s explanations to date, and said the Public Accounts Committee was being undermined by him remaining as chairman.”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/republic-of-ireland/brian-stanley-to-make-statement-to-the-dail-about-tweet-controversy-39827152.html

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CL - December 4, 2020

“I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the nature of the apology that was made. It’s part of a wider agenda by Sinn Fein to essentially justify the narrative of the last 30-odd years. That’s a problem for me and I think it’s a problem in terms of making sure that younger generations, growing up in this country are not hoodwinked or not misled into thinking that all these deeds over the last 30 years were glorious ones, they were far from it.” – Taoiseach Micheal Martin
https://www.thejournal.ie/brian-stanley-delete-twitter-facebook-5288468-Dec2020/

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13. tomasoflatharta - December 4, 2020

Once you start apologizing for and recanting your own opinions, opponents smell blood and keep going.

Here is a quote from a December 2 2020 constituency newspaper :

“ LAOIS-Offaly Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley, at the centre of a tweet storm this week, has never shied away from his support for the Provisional IRA.

When voters powered him back into Dail Eireann in February, the poll topper defended his right to wear a badge which depicted Martin McGuinness in Provisional IRA regalia.

The badge pictured McGuinness, a leading figure in the Provisionals from the time of their formation in late 1969, wearing the black beret which is associated with the IRA.

Mr Stanley, speaking to the Tullamore Tribune at the count after winning his third successive Dail election, confirmed the badge illustrated McGuinness’s IRA membership.

After the 1994 ceasefire the Derry man went on to become one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement and became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland in 2007. He died in 2017.

Mr Stanley said he had worn the badge a lot when he was canvassing during the election campaign and he had met a lot of people while doing so.

“People from other political parties are full of respect for the late Martin McGuinness, for the role he played,” said the Portlaoise man.” https://www.offalyexpress.ie/news/home/592971/poll-topper-stanley-defended-wearing-mcguinness-ira-badge-at-election-count.html

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14. Pangurbán - December 4, 2020

Before getting into a lather about a few academics , some of whom are dead two things should be remembered
1 most historical product created before to release of the bureau of military history and pension board files is now obsolescent

2 rule 1 above does not apply to Neil Jordan whose 1995 film on Michael Collins is the standard version in the minds of most school,students and history undergraduates. If the revisionist conspiracy was so vast why was it blown away by a single movie?

The Collins movie hit a collective nerve, I remember the late Alan Rickman , when as Dev was addressing a frenzied election crowd remarked just before the scene started to be shot “ somebody did a good job of firing up the crowd extras .” Only to be told that they were not extra but ordinary Dubliners who by special union exemption worked for nothing

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 5, 2020

Actually, the Collins movie appealed to the emotions rather than the intellect. It is as much myth as history. I wonder how many of those extras applauding Rickman’s speech were pleased at the finished product.
As history, the honest fiction of Ken Loach’ ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’ manages to be far more accurate.

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roddy - December 5, 2020

Sometimes fiction can be uncannily accurate in predicting events in the future.I recall a novel during the troubles(sorry name and author elude me) that had Gerry Adams as “minister for water in the power sharing government”.My reaction at the time was “how absurd a preposition could you possibly get and is the author totally devoid of any sense of reality”.Fast forward a few years and Martin McGuinness (regarded at the time the novel was written as a hawk)was jointly running the North with Paisley!

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EWI - December 5, 2020

If the revisionist conspiracy was so vast why was it blown away by a single movie?

I don’t see how it was ‘blown away’ by anything, and there are multiple strands within revisionism itself (the FG/anti-Dev one was very pleased by the Tim Pat Coogan movie).

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Bartholomew - December 5, 2020

‘If the revisionist conspiracy was so vast why was it blown away by a single movie?’

I agree. And where is the revisionist cinema? At the time of the Coolacrease controversy, it was rumoured that Perry Ogden was making a feature film about it. It never appeared. There was a film of ‘The Last September’ with Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Fiona Shaw (plus Jane Birkin of all people) but it hardly made an impression.

In terms of capturing the public imagination, about the War of Independence at any rate, I don’t think revisionists ever got started. They were faced with Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts, Aidan Quinn, Cillian Murphy and a Palme d’Or. No contest.

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15. CL - December 5, 2020

“Official Sinn Fein, the Workers Party and finally Democratic Left, became the principal political vector of revisionism, both social and national” – Kevin Whelan
……………………………………………………

In effect, the civil war was a counter-revolution, designed to wipe out Sinn Féin, the party that had shattered the Irish Parliamentary Party at the polls in 1918 and whose Democratic Program in1919 was an imaginative statement of social justice.
The first phase of revisionism is conventionally dated to 1938, when T. W.Moody and R. D. Edwards founded Irish Historical Studies as a technical journal for historians, dedicated to archivally-based research, and self-consciously opposed to nationalist myth in the name of scientific objectivity….
The revisionist coterie believed that an enlightened elite could emancipate the country from nationalist tyranny…..

Doubts about the received revolutionary ideology surfaced in the early 1960s within republican circles, responding to the disastrous border campaign of 1956-1961 and the growing influence of Marxism in decolonization movements worldwide.
Eventually these discussions precipitated a full-scale split between Marxist and nationalist factions. In the Republic, the Marxist group, – mutating through the variants Official Sinn Fein, the Workers Party and finally Democratic Left, became the principal political vector of revisionism, both social and national….
The English left also espoused this extraordinary analysis that partially explains the remarkable failure of their theoretical left (Hobsbawm, Gellner, the Andersons, Nairn, Hall) to make any tangible contribution to understanding the Northern crisis. Many of those earlier active in espousing these allegedly leftwing views – Paul Bew, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Eoghan Harris – have finally followed the logical evolution of their arguments by ending up explicitly as Unionists in the 1990s….
By the 1980s revisionism had become the academic orthodoxy within the discipline of history.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249874338_The_Revisionist_Debate_in_Ireland

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WorldbyStorm - December 5, 2020

There’s something in that but I think it’s not simply about SF or splits on the left or the WP/DL etc, which in some ways were pretty frothy stuff with less tangible impact on Irish society politically or otherwise than another dynamic – that being a certain part of the Irish middle class and upper middle class who from the off sought societal stability within the context of the 26 and the primacy of the state and state institutions. Revisionism in part is the academic expression of that, one that developed when the reality of partition and perhaps a part failure of the state had become evident in the 60s as the 50th anniversary appeared (one can make a case that Clann na Poblachta were an earlier precursor of that in a different way at the 25th anniversary). CCOB, EH, etc in a way are almost outriders given the adherence to that line of successive governments in the South. One can see the heavy gang as the exemplar of that. It didn’t need EH or OSF to bring that into being, it had been there from the off in one form or another within the state. This isn’t to exonerate EH etc from their meddling (though it’s worth keeping in mind that ‘high period’ EH publicly was when he had left the WP, and of course he never had any truck with DL), rather it is to say that they were actually a symptom rather than a cause. Indeed if we look at the peace process what was his or DLs impact? I’d say a lot less than his own self-mythologising would have people believe. Where it ran into the buffers was under Bruton in particular (and of course Spring in the earlier Reynolds administration, though he partly switched). That was the state and roots that long existed for many decades. A very southern and bourgeois state.

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CL - December 5, 2020

Some year ago I read a piece by Ellen Hazelkorn in some journal. The gist of it was that Marx and Engels In their writings on Ireland were seduced by a romantic nationalism and so their views on Ireland were not really ‘marxist’
Hazelkorn, I believe, had some influence on the WP.
The IIR was close in its position to Bill Warren’s pro-imperial tract.
Plus CCOB, Bew, Patterson would seem to have had some influence on DeRossa, Gilmore, Rabbitte etc.

There thus appears to have been a ‘left’ revisionism which was influential, not least on English left historians, such as Hobsbawm, that contributed to their views on Irish nationalism.

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WorldbyStorm - December 6, 2020

It’s a horrible thought and I’m not in a position to judge but even there the effect at state level was perhaps marginal. The GFA/BA was created over the heads of those who might have been influenced by that line, at the end of the day SF was a key and necessary component.

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CL - December 6, 2020

The successful opposition to the blueshirt attempt to honour the Black and Tans signaled a defeat for the propagandist, pro-imperial revisionist project.
Revisionists still have influence, especially in academe and in the media, and continue to give aid and comfort to the status quo structures of power.
The rise and rise of Sinn Fein shows the political failure of the anti-Marx marxism of ‘left’ revisionism, but its comprador historians and journalists have not gone away and continue to influence political debate.

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Pangurbán - December 6, 2020

Interesting take on a conversation with ranger ( coauthor with hobsbawm of ‘ the invention of tradition’ in Vincent Morley’s ‘Cúrsaí staire

The RIC commemoration began to unwind with an attack by an FF councillor in Clare, and an article in, of all places the Sunday independent by breandán Mac Suibhne

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16. roddy - December 6, 2020

DS, I dont know where to start. Spence and Hutchinson were multiple blatant sectarian killers.Anyone who would use Cusack as a credible source has lost all credibility and as late as the 80s that count Seamus Lynch was blaming the Provos for McGurks bar only rivalled in his cynicism by that reprobate Fitt.

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dublinstick - December 8, 2020

The UVF tactic was sectarian murder to drive a wedge between the Catholic community and republicans, there is no excusing that. The later tactic was targeted killings of republicans which some would consider to have been more effective in terms of the loyalist and British aim of bringing the Provos towards an end of their campaign. That some in UVF were moved beyond these purely violent responses to a politics that aided peace was a positive – if for many an unsavoury activity to be involved in. I concur on Cusack, I mentioned him as Henry McDonald was the other author and his credibility might be even less.

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roddy - December 8, 2020

Spence and his cronies were involved in random sectarian murder 3 years before the troubles kicked off and the UVF were still killing random catholics after the IRA called a ceasefire.Hutchinson was arrested for questioning after the killing of teenager Thomas Devlin years after the ceasefire ,

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

Yeah, we know that Roddy, Adams and McGuiness were on the PIRA AC when the chaining of workers to trucks carrying explosives that were blew up with them in them while there families were held hostages was signed off on, or if it was wasn’t the AC should have had those responsible executed. I welcome the Provos move to politics, Spence and Hutchinson live with the murders they were involved in and have discussed them, there is an obvious lack of such candour from most Provos, then again maybe their off the hook because they’ve ‘confessed’ their sins like the band balladeer, is it Bik?, who machine gunned drinkers in a pub. This Provo hollier than though attitude needs to end and should be called out every time – and Roddy I say this as one who’d like to see an SF led government in the Republic for its policies now not to absolve a sectarian campaign.

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roddy - December 9, 2020

You’re a hypocrite.Bik served time for an attack that the officials replicated on numerous occasions ie an attack on a UVF bar.The sticks killed 2 workers in Derry by booby trapping their car which was transporting them to work in an army base.Spence was a lying bastard who denied to the day he died that he was guilty of the murders he carried out. It’s you that’s the holier than thou spoofer.

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

The Derry killing was an accident as was Aldershot, these are sad events but not comparable to the tactic of the human bomb, that is on a different moral plain. Also Aldershot resulted in a ceasefire.

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17. terrymdunne - December 7, 2020

I don’t want to be defending history departments, which are conservative institutions, but most of this has much more to do with second-level history teachers, journalists, politicians and the like & maybe at the most some academic historians writing popular general histories. Like the first draft of the history of the revolution was the memoirs and accounts of participants not something coming out of history departments (the first academic histories of the revolutionary period were written when?). As for the big bad revisionism I wasn’t next nor near TCD or UCC history department in the 1980s so I could have missed a lot but, for instance, it was the likes of Kevin Myers and John Bruton who really pushed the remember the apparently forgotten veterans of the 1914-1918 war in contrast to 1916.

The great bulk of what is seen as revisionist at the moment is Charlie Flanagan and yer man from the Irish Times i.e. much more a media and parliamentary phenomenon than anything else.

Apart from that pretty much any historical research is OMG! Revisionist! when it meets with apparently infallible nationalist presuppositions about the Irish past.

On a broader scale the turn against the traditional nationalist worldview (in the South) beginning 50 odd years ago related to the actual concrete conditions of the time – just the same as the embrace of the traditional nationalist worldview (in the North) in the same period related to actual concrete conditions there. These were not simply ‘top-down’ processes.

Aside from the Provo bombing campaign (and the slow tottering of the country towards civil war) – which for people in the South was not off-set by the reality of British Army occupation, loyalist violence etc.. as it was for people in the North, the fact of the matter is the Free State had by the 1970s been run for 50 years by the ‘wrap the green flag round me’ brigade – it was wearing thin.

Now we are in a very different context – the Long War is long over and the main left-wing party is Sinn Fein. Because of the former people are a lot more comfortable with 1798 or whatever (and that anniversary shin-dig was 22 years ago) and the latter is part of how gushing patriotism is much less of an establishment thing than it was in 1966. Different times.

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banjoagbeanjoe - December 7, 2020

“Apart from that pretty much any historical research is OMG! Revisionist! when it meets with apparently infallible nationalist presuppositions about the Irish past.”

Yep. That’s what the academic study of history is, isn’t it? There is a first, a standard, an accepted version or take on what happened, put together by historians. Other historians come along and research what happened, using new methodologies, maybe newly-found sources that weren’t available to the earlier crowd – and they write a new version. A revision. It’s an addition to the previous version. There’ll be truth in both.

Now I know that people on here, that when they talk about ‘revisionism’, they mean a particular set (or sets) of historians who have produced revisionist takes on various aspects of Irish history. And most people on here and many, many historians argue that these revisionist takes have an agenda – a pro-British imperial agenda or whatever. And some or all of them probably do.

But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need revisionism.

This isn’t a perfect example but anyway… You could argue that there once was an establishment narrative about mother and baby homes in Ireland. Back in the forties and fifties and sixties the narrative would have been ‘Aren’t the nuns so good to those fallen women and their babies’. Well that narrative was pretty much blown out of the water by, among others, the historian in Tuam who did the research which found the evidence about death rates among those babies and disgusting burial practices and all the rest.

We need that kind of revisionism. We need revisionism.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 7, 2020

I would say : we need openness to facts. The point about Revisionism, per se, is that it is closed to all alternative facts to those it selects.

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terrymdunne - December 8, 2020

Actually Joe Tuam is a good example – Catherine Corless is a local historian not a salaried academic, we know about her research thanks to the mass media & the whole thing has to be seen in context of a broader process of social change i.e. the diminishing power of the church hierarchy.

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WorldbyStorm - December 8, 2020

It is true that all historical research is revisionist small ‘r’, but I do think that that is distinct and different to Revisionism in the sense that many use the term here, as DRO’C says. It’s also important not to underplay the reality that Revisionism in its political sense while more marginal than some of its detractors would make out is at the same time championed by some pretty prominent voices in the media and adjacent to or within politics. A former Minister for Foreign Affairs, a former Taoiseach, a raft of newspaper columnists. Even if these are not historians as such they have a reasonably high profile and certainly higher than most historians.

Again there’s a degree of truth that revisionism small ‘r’ and R were inevitable in the 1960s – as I’ve noted above, the nationalist project was stale, restricted to 26, and filled with pieties and self-justifications that were wearing thin. The problem isn’t that there was revision but that part and parcel of that was this revisionism for as bluntly simplistic a political end as that it was ‘revising’ – in other words the orientation of the history to a greater rather than a lesser degree just flipped from unthinkingly pro-nationalist (and a very specific view of nationalism at that) to unthinkingly anti-nationalist (and de facto supportive of aspects of the British state project both historically and more important on the island of Ireland). This actually did have shoots that predated the conflict in the North but that gave it greater political emphasis that it might otherwise not have had.

I actually tend to the view that it’s an over-simplification to say that Revisionism ruled the roost in Irish history studies or academia subsequently and here I’d agree with you Terry. It seems to me that actually there’s a broad middle (and in a way middle-class) ground that is entirely comfortable with an Ireland independent of the UK and with future Irish unity, that Revisionism isn’t the major strand, though what is is a hostility or indifference to class. This predates but was accentuated by the end of the conflict where the sharper political aspects and implications of that conflict finally ended or became mcuh much more submerged (to the chagrin one suspects of the Revisionists who thrive on certain dynamics).

But that being the case I’d still have a deep antipathy to Revisionism for all the reasons stated above, but by the same token I think the nostrums of Irish nationalism until the 60s were unbelievably uncritical – whereas of course revisionism is entirely necessary.

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banjoagbeanjoe - December 8, 2020

Grand so. That’s that sorted :).

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WorldbyStorm - December 8, 2020

Glad to be of help. I’m here all week. 🙂

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Alibaba - December 8, 2020

‘I would say : we need openness to facts. The point about Revisionism, per se, is that it is closed to all alternative facts to those it selects.’

Would that I could put this telling observation on Revisionism as succinctly as DRO’C.

Additionally, ‘It’s also important not to underplay the reality that Revisionism in its political sense while more marginal than some of its detractors would make out is at the same time championed by some pretty prominent voices in the media and adjacent to or within politics.’

The issues raised on this thread are good ones and big ones. Revisionism hasn’t gone away. I do believe it just reinvents itself in more subtle forms and whether in old or new versions, it needs to be called out unashamedly.

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terrymdunne - December 9, 2020

WbS – absolutely this “a hostility or indifference to class” is what is pre-dominant.

I think making a differentiation between Revisionism and revisionism is a start, we probably need to define what we mean beyond that though.

My main point there is that history – views and understandings of the past – is a society-wide process not necessarily even anchored in history departments (not to mention the fact that often the best historical work in academia done by geographers, anthropologists and sociologists).

We are also talking about something that was on going 50 or 60 years ago so we are getting into the history of history. Mostly above I mention the expansion of academia and the Troubles but there was much wider contexts than that. Brian Hanley’s recent book on the Troubles in the 70s in the South is interesting in regard to the Troubles end of it and the varied ways people thought of what was happening.

I am just about old enough to remember the 75th anniversary of the Easter Rising, there was no official state commemoration (as I recall anyways, it was fairly muted if there was). So I was in secondary school at peak-revisionism, this was (in this context) all bound up with the Troubles – but wasn’t actually outside the bounds of nationalism at all – it was more ‘constitutional’ nationalism good, ‘violent’ republicanism bad, I.P.P. versus Sinn Fein, pro-Treaty versus anti-Treaty.

Since then we have had 150 years since the Famine (can’t say I paid much attention to what was going on at the time), 200 years since 1798 and 100 years since the Revolution. In the latter two we have gone pretty much a long way back into the traditional nationalist mode. I still have the RTE documentary series on 1798 on VHS tape somewhere. I am sure in so far as it talked about politics it emphasised secularism as opposed to faith and fatherland but otherwise it could have came out in 1948 – all about battles & Ireland vs. England. Above CL posted a link to an Irish Examiner editorial mostly bashing Sinn Fein and then having a go at the Brits and claiming the Great Famine as genocide. The recent documentary the Examiner was referencing ended on a nationalist note seeing the revival of hurling, the Gaelic revival, and Irish independence as a response to the Famine. These positions are only possible with an elision of class.

No state will forego nationalism as a central part of its legitimation process – ‘we are all in this together, we need to tighten our belts to get through’ etc… is just too powerful a message. In the context of the Troubles the Irish state faced a very particular situation – also certain takes had a broad resonance, for a variety of reasons, but mostly simply because the Provos were blowing up pubs, shopping streets and the like. Charlie Flanagan didn’t get to have his R.I.C.. commemoration. The proposal made no sense and there was a big push-back. The whole framing has moved on IMHO.

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WorldbyStorm - December 9, 2020

“My main point there is that history – views and understandings of the past – is a society-wide process not necessarily even anchored in history departments (not to mention the fact that often the best historical work in academia done by geographers, anthropologists and sociologists).”

Completely agree.

Just re your point on constitutional nationalism, I think – though I’m absolutely open to correction, that Revisionists like Stephen Collins have, in a way, doubled down not on say 1921 Free Stateism (for want of a better term) but rolled back to Home Rule which puts them at odds in some respects with both FG and FF. I think Collins stance is clearly Revisionist capital R. But like the RIC commemoration I don’t think there’s any great appetite for it. Indeed that’s one of the things that’s struck me about capital R Revisionism, that in many respects it has been a failure on its own terms. Not merely did it not invalidate Republicanism of any strand, we now see Republicanism in the form of SF within reaching distance of state power in this state. Nor did it quash the idea of a UI etc, etc. There’s softer forms of Revisionism that may or may not prevail – I think if we examine FF’s tactics in recent times it is clear that Martin has moved them onto terrain that does not see them championing a UI, but whether that is specific to Martin’s leadership or will have a currency beyond it I don’t know. So FWIW I see Revisionism as multi stranded in itself, with stronger and weaker forms. And with equally variable purchase on the broader society.

Interesting point re 1991 and the 75th anniversary of the Rising. I was 25 then and living in the UK so it completely passed me by. I’ve no idea what it was like here. Anyone know?

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EWI - December 10, 2020

I’ve no idea what it was like here. Anyone know?

For one thing, Bruton refused to attend the 1916 commemorations, as I understand it.

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terrymdunne - December 10, 2020

I dunno if you can say revisionism is defeated because I am not sure how you define capital R revisionism. But if you mean a sort of intellectual counter-insurgency – that the point of it was to be anti-Provisional – well the insurgency, apart from some minor remnants, is over. Exactly who was defeated is a different question. I think we can all agree that S.F. c.1990 and S.F. c.2020 are two very different beasts. When the insurgency resumes at some point in the future perhaps there will be a resumed capital R revisionism, perhaps one that acclaims the memory of peacemaker Gerry Adams by contrast with the blood-dripping savage gunmen of the present-day.

I looked back at a Henry Patterson article on Irish Left Archive c.1980 and what it said was it is necessary to oppose loyalist sectarianism and recognise “Protestant desires to stay within the United Kingdom have to be respected”. Not sure how that is a million miles away from the measures of the G.F.A. i.e. internal reform plus the Unionist veto aka principle of consent.

Are we looking at “revisionism” (of the Workers’ Party variant) in the context of Kingsmills et. al. – the mid-70s moment of sectarian slaughter when to some anyways things looked to be on the brink of all-out civil war or are we looking at it from the perspective where we remember howls of outrage at the Hume-Adams talks c.1990?

At the moment arguments about “the North” in mass media in the 26 are mostly to do with bolstering the F.G. base (and the arguments about history are about “the North” by proxy). I think from a left perspective (or simply from an actual history perspective) considering the Home Rule movement what we should be interested in is its articulation with popular mobilisation and the significant difference that made to peoples’ lives through serious social reform and how it actually made nationalism popular in rural Ireland. History from below. Not sure if Home Rule versus 1916 is a useful or interesting terrain.

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18. CL - December 8, 2020

” The revision of Irish nationalist orthodoxy is not necessarily objectionable. And it should not be seen as a heresy to be critical of
nationalist philosophy and politics. …
By its very nature the study of history involves continual reflection on the past,based on systematic investigation of the widest possible array of sources….

Two books, one by Garret FitzGerald entitled Towards a New Ireland (1972), and the other by Conor Cruise O’Brien entitled States of Ireland (1972), put revisionist concerns on the political agenda…
FSL Lyons in his book Culture and Anarchy in Ireland 1890–1939 (1979), … described the contemporary struggle as ‘the battle of two civilizations, one Anglo-Irish, pluralist, essentially non-sectarian, which is progressive and liberal’ and the other as the heady resurgence
of Gaelic separatist values….
Two further titles of this anti-nationalist revisionism:
Patrick O’Farrell’s Ireland’s English Question: Anglo-Irish Relations 1534–1970 (1971) and Oliver MacDonagh’s States of Mind: A Study of Anglo-Irish Conflict 1780–1980
These two books, added to Lyons’ work, have ‘in large part’ shaped the character of Roy Foster’s Modern Ireland 1600–1972 (1988). ..
Peter Gibbon, in The Origins of Ulster Unionism: The Formation of Popular Protestant Politics and Ideology in Nineteenth Century Ireland (1975) attempted to encourage the view that partition was not a violent imposition but rather a natural or even an inevitable evolution…
Paul Bew and Henry Patterson, The State in Northern Ireland 1921–72: Political Forces and Social Classes (1979) and Henry Patterson, Class Conflict and Sectarianism: The Protestant Working Class and the Belfast Labour Movement 1868–1920 (1980), whilst using leftist vocabulary, represent an articulation of a traditional unionist interpretation….

It would be wrong to assume that the revisionists all speak with one voice. There are revisionist writers addressing a diverse range of subjects who have expertise or interests in an extensive field of research.There is, in other words, no common denominator. There may be revisionists, but there is no ‘school’ of revision that they rigidly and dogmatically adhere to…They seek to differentiate the historiography, as they see it, from the hagiography of the old traditional nationalist approach that preceded them; they prefer iconoclasm to the praise of patriots. ….

Foster defends this controversial band of writers from their detractors. ‘We are all revisionists now’, he says.and he goes on:
To blame every unwelcome development in Irish history on British malevolence, disallowing economic, social and political forces within Ireland, is an attractively easy option. It also implies an Irish moral superiority which leads too easily to self-righteous whinging….
It thus became necessary to break out of what he termed ‘the straitjacket’ of historiographical piety in the South….
In conclusion, Roy Foster declares: ‘In a country that had come of age history need no longer be a matter of quoting sacred mysteries. And to say “revisionist” should just be another way of saying historian’…

TW Moody is firmly of the view that it is absolutely crucial to confront and to demythologize the Provisional IRA’s interpretation of the past, which allows them to justify an ‘irredentist war’ to end partition….
For Joseph Lee revision is essentially the reaction of a group of scholars, and to a lesser extent journalists, to what they see as a nationalist interpretation of Irish history. ….
For Evi Gkotzaridis, at the heart of Irish revisionism is a determination to reintroduce the ‘other’ in the pages of history, i.e. the Ulster Unionist or Southern Protestant or dissenting voices within nationalism….

There was also the view that a specific ideology and/or a specific community were the target in all of this. While recognizing that such sentiment does indeed exist, and with some justification, there was no all-embracing revisionist school of thought. There were different types of histories; there are also different types of historians. All bring their
concerns, interests and prejudice to the diverse range of subjects that go into making Irish historiography what it is….

Speaking in 1998, David Trimble said, ‘The Cold War in this island is over’. If the conflict is over then it is likely that debates about Irish history will increasingly be seen not to have any relevance to Irish politics – this is an understandable assumption. With the removal of the conflict, then, there is likely to be a corresponding decrease in intensity, emotionalism, passion and fervour. Historical revision will lose the attention that it has had in the past. It will thus cease to be a controversial subject – in a real sense the ending of the conflict will mean an end to the controversy. Arguments about history will be for academics to resolve – – not politicians or political commentators. Articles in academic journals entering the political arena will become
fewer. ” – Robert Perry, 2010

Click to access Journal%20of%20European%20Studies-2010-Perry-329-54.pdf

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Dr Nightdub - December 9, 2020

“Paul Bew and Henry Patterson, The State in Northern Ireland 1921–72: Political Forces and Social Classes (1979) and Henry Patterson, Class Conflict and Sectarianism: The Protestant Working Class and the Belfast Labour Movement 1868–1920 (1980), whilst using leftist vocabulary, represent an articulation of a traditional unionist interpretation….”

Must go back and re-read them, are you saying they’re basically the academic wing of the 1920s UULA?

I kinda like the idea of revisionistically messing with shibboleths via exemplars:
– Rory Graham: son of a Prebyterian minister. Staff officer with the IRA’s 3rd Northern Division in 1921. Said his baffled comrades viewed him “as a white blackbird.”
– Charles McCaul Stewart: also Prebyterian; in 1920, around the time of the shipyard expulsions, he was an apprentice welder in H&W; joined the Belfast IRA, ended up in an anti-Treaty IRA flying column in east Mayo in the Civil War
– 6th Connaught Rangers Research Group: set up by former Official IRA prisoners to uncover the history of family members who joined the British Army in WW1, some of whom then joined the Belfast IRA during the pogrom

Revisionism can be fun.

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WorldbyStorm - December 9, 2020

That’s all good stuff Dr Nightdub. Great examples.

I’ve had an idea for a research thesis for years which would look at people involved in the IRA, historically and more recent times (PIRA and OIRA), who came from backgrounds that were mixed either in religious terms or in terms of one parent being British or other. Quite a lot of people seemed to have that background.

Re Patterson I’d argue his Politics of Illusion is Revisionist capital ‘R’.

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Fergal - December 9, 2020

Yes… a fascinating topic…
George Plant, Tipperary man, Protestant and executed by De Valera…having been freed by him in 1932…
George Gilmore,
Denis Ireland, John Graham, Ronnie Bunting,

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WorldbyStorm - December 9, 2020

Seán Mac Stíofáin.

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

Liam Clarke – son of Presbyterian Minister
Tom Berry
Stephen Hilliard – became CoI official

All OIRA volunteers

Noel Little – INLA

On a historical note I would reckon up to 10-15% of ICA that were out in 1916 were Protestants – CoI, Presbyterian and Plymouth Brethren all represented.

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

Through student involvement and offspring of mixed marriages in Catholic areas there was a fair few non-Catholics were in OIRA.

In this group was a nephew of Gusty Spence’s how later joined the INLA and a son of Jean McConville who IIRC was in the stick cages when she was murdered.

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WorldbyStorm - December 9, 2020

Great examples. I think you and I once had a brief chat about this.

Ronnie Bunting.

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banjoagbeanjoe - December 9, 2020

Pádraig Pearse.

And there were a few Belfast Protestant OIRA volunteers in the early seventies. One of whom iirc was killed by the Provisionals in one of the feuds. And others listed above who went INLA.

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EWI - December 10, 2020

I’ve had an idea for a research thesis for years which would look at people involved in the IRA, historically and more recent times (PIRA and OIRA), who came from backgrounds that were mixed either in religious terms or in terms of one parent being British or other. Quite a lot of people seemed to have that background.

Lots and lots. Enough that there are academics who specialise in the area.

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dublinstick - December 10, 2020

“Ulster unionists were imported and planted in a colonial scheme to achieve exactly these sectarian facts on the ground, if you want to go back to the actual root cause of it.”

Here’s a different reading on what you highlight. Populations moved across the north channel for millennium, Picts to Ulster, Scots to Strathclyde, Highland and Island Gaels to the Glens, Irish to the western highlands, due to famine and political upheaval a population moved from south west Scotland in the early 17th century, just another population flow, but this one brought a new religion – Presbyterianism – from the adherents of this religion – with its links to the Scottish Enlightenment and through this to Revolutionary France – the bedrock of a new creed, that is Irish Republicanism was born. So these ‘sectarian facts’ are not static and this group you highlight created republicanism whereas the Anglican population was initial bastion of loyalism – the sectarian facts resulted from an interplay of these populations and ulster gaels – and could have played out differently and may again in the future if we seek change rather than accept 400 year old ‘facts’.

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Colm B - December 10, 2020

Your point about population flows is factually correct but to call the Ulster Plantation just another population flow is only possible if you ignore fundamental historical facts. As a plantation, it was planned and implemented by the state/monarchy, with of course the involvement of private entrepreneurs, the London Guilds etc. It involved the dispossession of native population, though not necessarily their removal. It was in effect Britain’s first truly successful settler colony.

These are just uncontentious historical facts – the implications for today are a matter of debate.

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WorldbyStorm - December 10, 2020

That’s my problem precisely with that idea of the Ulster Plantation just being a population flow. Moreover while Presbyterianism was indeed key to the development of Republicanism it doesn’t do to place undue weight on that relationship beyond the context of the times in which it occurred, obviously much happened subsequently (anymore than the fact so many in the south in military positions of leadership were Anglicans). Their involvement is important but historically it was an aberration and the history after that doesn’t suggest an easy way to link back to that period. In any event the conceptual/political/social conflict between an independent Republic and continued Union with Britain don’t seem to me to be easily bridgeable simply by dint of the fact that at one point in the history of the island Presbyterians and Catholics and Anglicans made common cause (or some did). These are political questions, not questions of religious affiliation and the inflections subsequently are so powerful that one has to suspect that the commonality would have to be established some other way (and as with the Belfast riots I’m not sure class jumps in automatically to fill that void either).

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terrymdunne - December 10, 2020

The Ulster Plantation was not a “population flow”. Funny thing is though a lot of the Scottish influx came about 100 years after the Plantation. Perhaps to do with subordinate position of Scotland in those years, and perhaps a reason why that Plantation had more long-term viability?

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dublinstick - December 10, 2020

It was not just a population flow as in something without a political context, either were any of the other movements which also included displacement of populations (in most cases) and war, but the republicanism of the United Irishmen was about changing these ‘facts’ of separate communities- the ‘republicanism’ of SF and others is to accept them and work for power within the framework of sectarianism, it is a different ideology. As for the link of Presbyterianism and republicanism in Ireland, it is not a factor but the key link to France, America and these ideals due to the colonial nature of British rule and the suppression of the Catholic Church there was no dynamic for the development of an anticlerical republican ideology among the Catholic population, United Irishmen from this tradition got on to the ideas emanating from Belfast.

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WorldbyStorm - December 10, 2020

The Norman conquest did not involve displacement of large populations. My understanding is that this was effectively a change of rulers rather than of the ruled. Indeed the Normans appropriated or assimilated language etc from those around them. Surely that’s a key distinction with the Plantation.

Re Presbyterianism, keep in mind that Catholics and other denominations bar Anglican suffered under the same discrimination of the Penal Laws. This was a ferment of ideas and there is the local aspect of how these impinged more on the former in the north east. And nor were opinions homogenous in respect of how the Penal Laws should be reversed in relation to Catholics.

But Tone himself was not a Presbyterian. The Irish Volunteers whatever their original purpose were mostly Anglican for a considerable period. I’m not seeking to say there was no influence or that they didn’t provide a significant factor or that the links and awareness of other struggles didn’t exist, but it’s all a bit of a mixed bag of dynamics and motivations and so on.

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terrymdunne - December 10, 2020

One of the things we need to bear in mind when talking about pre-modern times is that populations were a lot smaller than they are now. So displacement was not necessarily what we would think of now. But undoubtedly on the prime real estate either in the Ulster Plantation (or from Scottish migration in subsequent decades) or in the Medieval English settler-colony there was a big change in the ethnic composition of who was in the nice lowland river valleys. There was actually believe it or not a separate Old English identity as late as the opening decades of the 1700s. I think the big change in the Medieval English settler-colony was there was a Gaelic in-migration and an English out-migration post-Black Death so there was more of an ethnic mix. That’s all just by-the-by really. Though I suppose it does show that being in ethnic boxes based on something from hundreds of years ago is not inevitable. We mostly tend to hear about diversity when there is conflict (and conflict that harks back to the past) but there are of course lots of places with diversity that this doesn’t apply to . . . or where there is diverse origins that have been largely forgotten about. I am not sure where surnames come from, i.e. that they were not just adopted by people in more recent centuries, but names like Walsh and Power that you have in the south-east are non-Gaelic in origin.

Also on the eighteenth-century it is important to remember that there were very few Catholics in what is now the greater Belfast area. The sectarian fracture-zone in south Ulster was experiencing something very different to the United Irishmen’s fraternal embrace. It is also worth bearing mind that Catholics and Protestants were always tearing into each other all over Europe – e.g. there was sectarian conflict during the French Revolution in places in the south where there was still some Protestants left.

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rockroots - December 10, 2020

“Though I suppose it does show that being in ethnic boxes based on something from hundreds of years ago is not inevitable.”

I’m often amazed by just how many people I talk to who have mixed-religious ancestry, and that’s just the ones that know about it. I seem to remember a news story once that had Gerry Adams’ family origins as Planters from Yorkshire.

As a side-note, I’ve just been reading a study of the ‘Anti-Union riots’ of Dublin in 1759 – a kind of precursor to the republican movement. I hadn’t heard of the riots before, to be honest, but the gist was that a rumour went around that the Anglican parliament was planning an Act of Union so a mob of Presbyterian weavers from the Liberties besieged College Green and forced the MPs to swear against it. London tried to blame Catholics, despite the RC church leaders declaring their loyalty to the crown.

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terrymdunne - December 14, 2020

I have not read of the article on the anti-Union riots of 1759, sounds interesting. Southern Ireland was way more Protestant in the past – about 500,000 left the three southern provinces in first half of nineteenth century. The Liberties was very Protestant, also other little textile villages and towns elsewhere. The Old English urban population (or its Catholic part) was expelled under Cromwell and, if I remember right?, this was not reversed under Charles II? making eighteenth-century towns quite Protestant.

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rockroots - December 14, 2020
dublinstick - December 9, 2020

We did, although I’d never want my views here to closely associated with me off line😁 this issue of course interested me as a proud atheist Presbyterian. One more Roy Johnston and many a stick sent their kids to Proddy schools in the South. As a kid I liked the Provo war until the day I read about Kingsmill and realised even as a socialist republican I would have machine gunned in a ditch – that’s the day I realised their ‘cause’ was not for me.

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

*i would have been machine gunned in a ditch.

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WorldbyStorm - December 9, 2020

I wonder though – I could say the same given half my family was CofI/CofE (and English to add!), but I’m not sure I’d see it in those terms at all. I don’t know if I’d characterise PIRA’s campaign as sectarian as such, not least because there were Protestants within the organisation and its goals (and there’s the additional issue of different phases of the conflict and different phases of the IRA and SF), even given a range of sectarian murders committed by members, any more than one would say the British state was sectarian as such even though members of the UDR and British Army were involved in sectarian murders too and British Intelligence was also involved in same.

I also don’t think litmus tests or talking about ineradicable stains is at all helpful in all this. SF has disowned Kingsmill and said it was wrong. That took a long time to get to but creating further hurdles at this point in time seems to me to serve no useful effect any more than demanding OIRA or UVF or INLA members should do more time. There’s more immediate needs for NI, and indeed the island that should be met.

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

In my view Kingsmill and other events made clear the tribal underbelly of Provo ideology, the same tribal ideas that underpin loyalism. That is not to say this movements can’t and did not change and local circumstances also played a role – but it is not an ideology that I understand as socialist republicanism which must be actively anti-sectarian, not nonsectarian or just publicly anti sectarian, but has anti-sectarianism as its very core – to some extent I’d even be prone to the early United Irishman position that the Catholic Church is an overtly political organisation and needs to be opposed in the public sphere – the Provo campaign did not meet that litmus test but I think modern SF maybe getting there and within the Provo movement there may always have been socialist republicans but it’s not a high horse position it’s just an idea of republicanism as an ideology that must create a new secular identity rather than ever seek to be the defenders of one tribe – and yes this approach was an Achilles heal for Official republicanism that left the space for the Provos to grow but when it comes to ideology this can happen. The Provo campaign was not just sectarian it was also war against the security services and loyalist but it did allow, organise and execute sectarian attacks, that I think must be accepted, understood and apologised for – it’s campaign was not a success and helped the forces of reaction, but it is very understandable why it happened but it must be analysed and those failed aspects of its ideology decommissioned as was most of its weaponry.

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WorldbyStorm - December 9, 2020

Don’t disagree with the need for analysis, but I think it’s difficult in the context of very dynamic events and indeed repression for groups to be able to detach themselves from the contextual aspects of those dynamics. So of course in a sectarian society – one where sectarianism was part and parcel of the overall order from the top of the society in NI there’d be sectarian aspects to all those functioning within it to some degree or another. And for those who tried to step out of that entirely – as with the WP, the reality was there was nothing much left to build on (Alliance arguably could do so to a more successful degree because of the nature of the middle class and aspirant middle class, as well as being functionally unionist in many ways). On the figures the sectarian aspects of PIRA’s campaign was a fraction of their total orientation which was overwhelmingly towards British Forces – and again it seems to be weighted towards a very specific period of the conflict.
Again, my read is they actually have apologised and condemned those attacks.
This isn’t to give them a free pass any more than I’d say the DUP got a free pass because they only dabbled with outright paramilitarism during the Third Force stuff as distinct from their usual MO on these things. Ultimately – and this in way brings me back to a different discussion re Brian Stanley etc – there has to be a much greater degree of engagement by republicans in SF with all this and also – and this I think is key, an understanding that they’ll have to craft something a bit better in order to move on from a cycle of perpetual attacks from others and defensiveness from themselves if they are to progress matters forward and to be part of that process of progress. Part of that is engagement and critical engagement with their own past in order to move beyond it.

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dublinstick - December 10, 2020

I don’t think their ideology allows for a serious analysis of the conflict, unlike the Officials have to some extent done and I think some in the UVF have but that’s not saying it’s because their flawed – victors, in terms of continued political momentum, don’t tend to go in for the self critical analysis as do those movements who have stalled or failed.

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WorldbyStorm - December 10, 2020

Perhaps not institutionally – not yet. But I’ve known a large number of SF members in the past two decades and my experience FWIW is that on a personal level they’re pretty reflective about all these things. I think that the process of the GFA and having to defend it brought something different into the mix as well as having to work at close quarters with unionists (even where much of that latter was conducted in frosty or worse terms). That does change perspectives.

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EWI - December 10, 2020

In my view Kingsmill and other events made clear the tribal underbelly of Provo ideology, the same tribal ideas that underpin loyalism.

This is not to excuse the guilt that those people would have to live with for their deeds, but the Ulster unionists were imported and planted in a colonial scheme to achieve exactly these sectarian facts on the ground, if you want to go back to the actual root cause of it. The same state was just employing them for the same purpose 400 years on.

As to the Provos, I’d imagine they would bear in mind what happened to the gentlemen who ‘Ran Away’ in the late Sixties and failed to offer the protection or deterrent that the British state was refusing to provide.

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WorldbyStorm - December 10, 2020

In a way that was the short term genius of the plantations. The installation of a distinct group of people from those already in situ whose allegiance was for religious, social, political and econonomic reasons tied to Britain to a greater or lesser but mostly greater degree. They weren’t an organic flow of people into a geographic area arriving, slowly intermingling, working with, having relationships with etc those already there, they were a deliberate effort to establish an almost garrisoned population who would supplant those there and would not develop the relationships that occurred in previous (and subsequent) instances of arrival (compare and contrast with say many of those English who arrived in Dublin in later years who intermarried, etc). Sectarianism wasn’t a glitch or unintended byproduct, it was a feature. It had to maintained and extended in order to retain the coherence of the loyalty of those who had arrived, after all in other instances people had come in often relatively easily and with much less conflict than might have been expected. The last thing that was intended was for this coherence to break up.

Re PIRA and sectarian murder, that’s an important point too and doesn’t exculpate anyone. When I was in the WP around 1984 I remember we in our branch were approached by communities over the drugs issue which was well out of control where we were. And it was a very clear approach that because the party was seen as having access to certain items it’d be in a position to push back. The response was that that wasn’t something the party now did and there was considerable hostility to that response. I actually think that the party made a mistake in treating the issue as one where PSF involvement meant that it wouldn’t touch it. But be that as it may, in a context of sectarian murder one could see the pressures on any formation to provide some sort of response, however abysmal the response might be (Ed Moloney IIRC has always argued that catholic defenderism was a key strand of PIRA – I’m less convinced but think he’s probably right about the early to mid 1970s iteration of that organisation). I don’t for a moment think that responding to sectarian murders by sectarian murders was right, but I can see how in the context of the place some would make that terrible counterproductive mistake and worse than mistake.

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terrymdunne - December 10, 2020

(1) was it not actual Provisional I.R.A. policy to launch sectarian attacks in the mid-1970s as opposed to response to local community pressure? There was even a debate about this in their newspaper! The P.D. newspaper even called Kingsmills ‘inevitable and necessary’.

(2) Hasn’t ‘Irish Ran Away’ been pretty much debunked?

(3) The Six Counties is a sectarian, communally-divided society, that is built-in – hence, whether it is 1921/22 – and guerrilla war by the people who went on to form FF & FG or the 1970s and guerrilla war by either O.I.R.A. or P.I.R.A. in both cases communal sectarian conflict will be a feature and was a feature (likewise in any future scenario).

If anything thing the remarkable thing about Irish separatism – in any of its variants – is its lack of sectarianism – ability to assimilate a few Prods though doesn’t really make much of a difference to the actual on the ground dynamics – which is that the bulk of the Protestant community want to remain part of the U.K. and many are willing to staff the local apparatus of repression to make sure things remain the same.

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WorldbyStorm - December 10, 2020

Ed Moloney’s “A Secret History” suggests that the policy was to respond to sectarian attacks by the UVF etc with reprisal attacks at least until the 1980s where the policy changed under the Adams leadership and where only named targets involved in organising such attacks could be attacked.

The phrase IRA I Ran Away has been, but the Provisionals were keen to paint themselves as defenders – weren’t they?

Tend to agree re your point about sectarian conflict built into conflict in the North.

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Pangurbán - December 10, 2020

Re the origins of the northern state, Michael portillo in his recent TV documentary as the only group , in this era of state formation who accepted less territory than they were originally offered ( Donegal Cavan Monaghan)

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terrymdunne - December 10, 2020

WbS re: P.I.R.A. policy on sectarian attacks – yes it is talked about in ‘Voices from the Grave’ & ‘Southside Provisional’ also – and in ‘Boiling Volcano’ there is a mention of this actually being debated openly in the republican and pro-republican left press (which is obviously not the same as an actual policy but does give some impression of the climate). I expect the C.A.I.N. index of deaths would show a clustering of republican sectarian killings in the mid-1970s. We can see this as a response to U.V.F. et. al. (and I wouldn’t disagree with that) but also what do people expect to be happening after the ‘year of victory’?

Yeah the Provisional Republican Movement base has always been about the interests of the Catholic/Nationalist community. I don’t say that as a criticism btw. Provo policy has not always dovetailed with that. If it wasn’t the case that this is where the mainspring of Provisional support was coming from then the move of the Provisionals away from their policies of the 1970s and 1980s would have surely encountered more opposition.

Once we recognise the communal/sectarian dynamic to Northern Ireland, then following from that surely is recognising the local factor to the conflict there (which is not to say that the British state is a neutral referee!) and then we are a long way down the road to all kinds of revisionism.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 10, 2020

Face it, Puss; the Unionists accepted the maximum territory they could be sure of controlling. It might be added that, if Townsend is to be believed, Balfour wanted to restrict their province to two and an half counties. So they ended up with the most possible.

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

Just a final word on Kingsmill, until SF comes out and completely disowns those involved to the extent of demanding they do their 2 year prison term in line the GFA, I think they can not ever clean themselves of this stain, the largest sectarian slaughter since 1798 – can anyone name a larger? ie where people were directly picked out due to their religion, whether practicing or not, and murdered – it’s one of the most unrepublican actions imaginable.

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roddy - December 9, 2020

As I said before the Sticks carried out sectarian killings and multiple attacks on pubs in Loyalist areas which could have resulted in multiple deaths.They also swapped weapons with the sectarian butchers of the UVF and funded them through joint rackets.The Northern IRA in the Tan War also carried out multiple sectarian attacks which resulted in large scale deaths and attacked trams carrying shipyard workers . Also the Provos had protestant members, a protestant MLA ,a protestant clergyman and the head of the entire SF stormont operation was Sam Porter.So less of the sanctamonious rhetoric ,mr Dublin Stick.

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

Roddy, please give me named sectarian murder victim of the OIRA, beyond the disputed Walker death. The ‘sectarian butchers’ of the UVF do not claim to be republicans, the sectarian butchers of Kingsmill did.

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EWI - December 10, 2020

I think they can not ever clean themselves of this stain, the largest sectarian slaughter since 1798 – can anyone name a larger?

North King Street (15 dead)
Bloody Sunday (14 dead)
Ballymurphy (11 dead)
Bloody Sunday (14 dead)
Dublin & Monaghan bombings (34 dead)
Reavey & Dowd killings (6 dead from two families) the attack for which Kingsmill was retaliation

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dublinstick - December 10, 2020

Nope don’t cut it for me, in none, apart from perhaps the last of those events was direct religious affiliation the reason to kill. Yes, those killed were Catholics but in North King Street the killings were brutal attacks on the civilian population to the best of my knowledge religious affiliation was not asked or perceived. I talking about clear sectarian murder, not people killed for attending a political event, being in a certain area etc but actually lined up or some way sorted where the decision to kill was purely on professed religion, it’s a level of raw sectarianism those other events did not have but unfortunately did occur in some places in ‘98

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roddy - December 10, 2020

You have consistently ignored Altanaveigh and the incident in Belfast during the tan war where workers were asked their religion,the catholic let go and the 4 protestants shot.

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dublinstick - December 10, 2020

Your correct, that is sectarian murder, I don’t believe the ‘old’ IRA was anything great, look at the two main political parties it gave rise to.

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

That’s Tom Berry. We won’t count converts but one former leading stick is now active in the utilitarian church (not Chris Hudson who was never a member) and Phil Flynn (let’s say a Provo minded person) now active in the CoI

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dublinstick - December 9, 2020

Tom Berry was in response to banjo. An finally I know of an Armagh stick, from a mixed background, who was related to UVF members and would attend family functions together – also iirc the scum security agent Billy Wright had mixed marriages in his family, he claimed to have played GAA at one stage also. Reading the Hutchinson book the reality of a sizeable community which mixed freely across religion lines existed among the working class until the tribal drums began to beat.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 10, 2020

Yes, there was a certain readiness in mixed areas for members of the different religion-political groups to mix, just as long as religion and politics were kept out of things.
It was the rise of NICRA that started the tribal drums beating.
The Prods could co-exist with the crappies just as long as the latter lay down.

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roddy - December 10, 2020

Lying down went to great lengths and went along with the ” everything was great before the troubles” line.After Bloody Sunday a number of Catholics took the courageous decision to walk out of a factory they worked in about 5 miles from my home.One man who loved to be thought of as “non sectarian” refused and the exact words he used were “What the hell were they marching about anyway? ,was’nt the thing all right”.The factory Nestle was one of the few that allowed catholics in the door but still they would have been a small minority .This man feared the consequences in the days ahead and was of the opinion that orange supremacism dare’nt be annoyed.He cloaked this in “am’nt I a great “non sectarian” hero altogether?

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19. roddy - December 9, 2020

Our local SF rep (poll topper at local,then Stormont,then local again) is the son of a Scottish member of the British army.He silenced a number of Unionist councillors at a meeting when he revealed “My father fought the Nazis all through Europe”( Practically all of the Unionist cllrs fathers avoided service)When the troubles broke out Ian joined the Republican movement and had a history unrivalled in terms of the armed campaign.3 terms of imprisonment totalling nearly 20 yrs,an escape from Portlaoise jail and being listed on a poster as one of the 3 most wanted men in Ireland.

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Fergal - December 9, 2020

John Turnly (IIP)… any women?

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Fergal - December 10, 2020

World, another book for you to write could be on OperationHarvest…specifically the Brookeborough attack… what became of those who took part in it… where they ended up politically …
Sticks, Provos, labour involvement/unions, giving up, RSF…

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roddy - December 10, 2020

Some of the 50s men ended up as pillars of the establishment in business circles.

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20. roddy - December 10, 2020

I think it’s still to early for a history of the troubles .Things are just too raw and I’ll give you an example.A recently published book “Anatomy of a killing” by Ian Cobain is making news.It details the killing of an RUC photographer and it’s effects on all involved.It seems to be a really worthwhile read and Mrs Roddy offered to get me the book for Christmas.More details emerged yesterday on radio and a very interesting interview with the author increased my interest. The man who was killed it turned out photographed “suspects” in Castlereagh interrogation centre and was as far as I can recall was involved in pigeon racing.He seemed to be someone who like many others was a loving family man and whose death was brutal.However as the day wore on,my thoughts turned to Castlereagh and I decided to unearth some books and pamphlets concerning that place from years ago. As I went through them anger and indeed hatred which I thought I never could feel again built up in me. The randomness of the selection of many for interrogation ,torture including water boarding, sexual assaults on both men and women, straightforward bone breaking assaults, mock strangulation and threats to families.Nobody understands how little it took to get you taken to this place.I know of people who lost family members to loyalists for example and who were “lifted” purely on the perverted reasoning that they would thus be “sympathetic” to the IRA,Being a cousin of an IRA member would have also been enough and the idea of being suspected of any particular offence was nonsense. To sum up ,I told Mrs Roddy not to buy me the book as at this stage decades later,I couldn’t read it in any dispassionate way .

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banjoagbeanjoe - December 10, 2020

Good post Roddy. I agree that things are too raw. And no matter what happens, whether histories are written, whether there’s a border poll, whether it’s a majority yes or no for a UI, no matter what – things will be raw for at least another generation or two. After 30 years of terrible conflict how else could it be?

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WorldbyStorm - December 10, 2020

+1 to you both.

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dublinstick - December 10, 2020

If the history is not done now it never can be properly- by the nature of convert organisations, personal testimony is essential.

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WorldbyStorm - December 10, 2020

Agree and the problem is…well there’s a problem!

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dublinstick - December 10, 2020

Yes, I believe the Boston Tapes controversy benefits two groups the most, SF in that it stops those who might discuss PIRA that would embarrass them, and the British State, it stops Loyalists focussing collusion. Isn’t that a happy coincidence.

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dublinstick - December 10, 2020

*discussing not focusing

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 11, 2020

Statements by contemporaries are useful building blocks for history. The work itself involves choreographing those statements and the primary data.

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21. roddy - December 10, 2020

Those who took the Boston soup threw all the shite they had to do what was demanded of them ie “get Gerry Adams”.They have nothing left in their armoury. Their mission is complete.

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22. CL - December 11, 2020

” For national communities, as for individuals, there can be no sense of identity without remembering…
In Ireland … the interpretation of the past has always been at the heart of national conflict….
memory is itself historically constructed…

We must balance institutionalised memories with oral or folk traditions if we are to understand the ways in which past events have been creatively reworked by different social groups…
That the remembrance of injustice and persecution, endurance and deliverance has been fundamental to the shaping of modern Ireland is indisputable, but how should we characterise the relationship between past experience and present antagonisms?…

what we choose to remember is dictated by our contemporary concerns…
As a historian trained in the broadly Marxist tradition, Hobsbawm emphasised the manipulation of symbols and memories by official elites which sought to indoctrinate the masses with accepted values and behaviour through the repetition of collective rituals.”
(Ian McBride, ‘History and Memory in Modern Ireland’)

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CL - December 11, 2020

” Following Hart, most of the essays in this volume study terror examining isolated events, “Easter 1916”, “Bloody Sunday” (1920), “Kilmichael”, “Balbriggan”, or categories of atrocity like the murder of informers, attacks on policemen or civilians or “social deviants”. In these approaches ‑ local, personal, intimate ‑ the greater political forces at play – abstract, impersonal, universal ‑ too easily can go overlooked where the spectacle of the terror diverts our gaze….
Revisiting Hart’s work, we discover the “the history of the last atrocity”. To use Dolan’s terminology again, this explores the practicalities of terror and terrorism sometimes at the expense of providing political context.
It also marginalises ideology as a motivational factor….The “last atrocity” approach dramatises intimate moments of terror by exploring human tragedy and its aftermath, long-term and short. The study of history, it is true, must deal with the whole of human experience including human suffering. And too often this goes unseen in clinical expositions on “revolutionary struggle”, “contested ideologies”, “imperialism”, “self-determination”, and the like. But in the rush to the crime scene the ideological forces giving meaning and sense to any act of terror may be overlooked. …
For those who believe that the historical endeavour is about understanding the past, and moreover explaining why things happen, examining the practicalities of terror may be unsatisfactory…..
To understand terror we have to make the mental effort to comprehend those forces giving context and meaning to it. And it is worth reflecting that in twentieth century Ireland ‑ governed from Westminster, Stormont, or Dublin ‑ the health of the constitutions people lived under conditioned their behaviour, belligerent and pacific. ….
In 1920, as again in 1970, the British constitution ‑ unwritten, abstract, fundamental – shattered in Ireland, where servants of the Crown resorted to extra-legal means –torture, reprisal, murder ‑ to restore order. It is only by understanding those contexts that we begin to make sense of, as opposed to describing, the terrors accompanying collapses. The victims’ stories are always heartrending and should be explored. But devoid of context, biographies say little that is historical, as opposed to newsworthy.

In the 1970s, as later, reductive media approaches facilitated explanations of Northern Ireland’s violence as being the product of the “implacable” and “atavistic tribal” hatreds of warring “tribal” communities. This view endorsed what some now call the “primitivist interpretation” of the Northern Ireland conflict. O’Brien again was a leading exponent of the primitivist view, and its assumptions and lexicon were embraced by several, like Roy Foster and Marianne Elliott, inside the academy. Part of the function of the primitivist explanation was to undermine claims that militarism-republicanism was ideologically led, as opposed to being an expression of sectarian impulses….
Primitivist explanations of the origins of the contemporary violence helped close down discussion on structural problems like partition, southern Irish nationalism, and British rule. Those who raised these or said the Provisionals’ violence could in any way be understood as ideologically driven were decried as “terrorist apologists” or worse….
he task of the research historian must be to do justice to the personal and the immediate, while addressing the abstract and the remote. This is to argue that a discernible thread connects the battered corpse of some suspected informer in a lonely West Cork ditch to the division lobbies at Westminster. The burning of Irish towns or the poison letters sent to a policeman, the murder of British officers in Dublin or West Cork are all described in gruesome detail in this volume. But what we find in some approaches is the abandonment of context. …
The casualties are victims of acts of isolated terror and terrorism, but they are not victims of anything so impersonal as a constitutional crisis. ….
Do we describe the past as a place where terrible things once happened? Or do we try to understand those events? ” – John M. Regan.
https://www.drb.ie/essays/the-history-of-the-last-atrocity

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CL - December 12, 2020

David Fitzpatrick is not amused:
https://www.drb.ie/essays/the-history-of-the-last-atrocity

Nor is Diarmaid Ferriter:

“as Ronan Fanning has much more recently asserted, during the Troubles “political imperatives prevailed over historical truth”.
This is hardly revelatory; reordering the revolutionary generation as pro-State democrats or anti-State dictators was common, as numerous scholars felt it vital to define the IRA in 1922 as anti-democratic in order to undermine the Provisional IRA during the Troubles, a manifestation of southern 26-county nationalism….
Regan provides no evidence for the assertion that “projects begun in southern universities on revolutionary republicanism in the 1960s and 1970s were in some instances delayed or abandoned altogether”. Conor Cruise O’Brien, understandably, is a prime target because of his obsession in the 1970s with what he saw as the “wrong” history, and he crudely reduced historical perspective to supporting either the State or its enemies, but Regan exaggerates his influence. For all those O’Brien converted, many more were unimpressed by his cartoon history.”
https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/picking-a-fight-over-the-rights-and-wrongs-of-our-history-1.1747128

And Regan replies:

“Prof Ferriter undermines himself with careless mistakes. According to him I accuse some historians “of a deliberately selective use of evidence in writing about the history of the revolutionary period [c 1912-25] as a response to the impact of the Northern Ireland Troubles from the late 1960s”. Introducing the book, I write: “It was partly in response to the IRA’s ‘border campaign’ [1956-62] that the new, embryonic foundation-myth began to emerge”. Continuing, the Troubles were “the occasion for a historiographical turn, not its motivating reason.”

In my discussion nowhere do I describe seeing a “deliberate conspiracy” or a conspiracy of any kind. What I identify is a consensual approach by some historians to specific issues,…

If the technical words I use jar on Ferriter partly it is because he has little or no experience of publishing research in journals. More concerned to write and broadcast history for the general public’s consumption, scholarly journals are irrelevant for Ferriter’s purposes.”
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/myth-and-the-irish-state-1.1761902

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Gearóid Clár - December 12, 2020

If the technical words I use jar on Ferriter partly it is because he has little or no experience of publishing research in journals. More concerned to write and broadcast history for the general public’s consumption, scholarly journals are irrelevant for Ferriter’s purposes.

Ouch. Regan is certainly not the only historian I’ve heard or seen criticise Ferriter for this though.

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WorldbyStorm - December 12, 2020

Wow. That’s… quite a crique by Regan. Got to say though, I love his book “The Irish Counter-Revolution” and I’m not unconvinced by aspects of his thinking re the 1970s and revisionism.

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EWI - December 12, 2020

Regan is certainly not the only historian I’ve heard or seen criticise Ferriter for this though.

Ferriter has a very practiced and forceful public speaking style, liberally illustrated with pieces carefully selected to appeal to his audience’s emotions (and Anne Dolan has most certainly copied and refined his style even further).

It’s certainly powerful in the moment, but reading their papers afterward is not usually an edifying experience.

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CL - December 12, 2020

Ferriter says that Regan exaggerates the influence of CCOB’s ” cartoon history “.
But O’Brien has some influential converts to his comic book version of conflict in Ireland….

” Conor Cruise O’Brien was a great contrarian who liked to take on unpopular causes, according to historian Roy Foster who was among speakers at two events organised by Trinity College Dublin to mark the centenary of O’Brien’s birth this week. ….
Other speakers at the symposium included Paul Bew, Professor of Irish Politics, Queens University, Belfast; Susan Dunn, Professor of History at Williams College, Massachusetts; and David Rieff, New York Institute for the Humanities. Journalists Stephen Collins, Eoghan Harris, Susan McKay, Dennis Kennedy and Deaglún de Bréadún also addressed the conference as did Noel Dorr, former secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Brendan Halligan, former general secretary of the Labour Party, TD and MEP.”
https://www.tcd.ie/news_events/articles/legacy-of-conor-cruise-obrien-examined-at-trinity-public-lecture-and-symposium/

So Regan has a point as does Ronan Fanning when he asserts that during the Troubles “political imperatives prevailed over historical truth ”

‘ Contrary to conventional wisdom, Roy Foster is not a historian….
Alongside his intellectual mentor Connor Cruise O’Brien, Foster would undoubtedly be a begrudger. His understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the last 30 years is fatally undermined by his own political prejudices. The result is a narrow minded, and at times bitchy, account of a peace process that despite its flaws is actually working.’ – Eoin O Broin.
https://magill.ie/archive/roy-foster-political-polemic-not-history

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EWI - December 12, 2020

‘ Contrary to conventional wisdom, Roy Foster is not a historian….

As with Fitzpatrick, Foster had a chair invented and funded specifically for him in circumstances which give rise to certain suspicions.

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terrymdunne - December 14, 2020

Is there not a kinda elitist subtext to the academic history good, public history bad, take? Obviously above I am arguing that all this has much more to do with “public history” than “academic history” so the distinction does chime with me somewhat, but I can point to a good number of books and articles on the 1913-23 period, esp. local studies, which are not at all inferior to the output of peer-reviewed scholars, despite being written by ex-journalists, trade unionists, musicians, school teachers etc…, indeed sometimes that non-academic output is superior. There are not a massive amount of people in the hallowed halls of Irish history departments with labour history as a research area, to say the least.

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Gearóid Clár - December 14, 2020

Terry, there could be an elitist subtext. My take on it though is not that Regan is dismissing “local historians” or other, non-academic instituionally-based researchers or their activities.

I think his criticism is on Ferriter holding such a prestigious academic position while not seeming to have to do any of the slog that comes with working in academic e.g. publishing research in journals.

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EWI - December 14, 2020

I think his criticism is on Ferriter holding such a prestigious academic position while not seeming to have to do any of the slog that comes with working in academic e.g. publishing research in journals.

This is exactly what Regan is criticising – to borrow a phrase from another field, ‘celebrity historians’

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terrymdunne - December 16, 2020

John Regan’s case is all about poor scholarship resulting from (1) the influence of present-day political concerns and (2) failures of the scholarly review process e.g. “systemic failures to test Hart’s work in review, in refereeing for Oxford University Press and in the examination of Hart’s 1993 Trinity College doctoral thesis”. The logical corollary of this is surely that anything produced outside of the framework of scholarly peer review, doctoral examination et. al. and also concerned with contemporary issues would indeed also constitute poor scholarship?

On the other hand, it is hard not to recognise a lot of what gets put forward as historical understanding in the public sphere in his various complaints e.g. “what his public already knew to be true” & “impart to their audiences messages, not understanding” & “there is always public demand for historical certainties populated by villains and heroes, victims and perpetrators”.

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Bartholomew - December 16, 2020

I’ve no desire to defend Foster or CCOB, but still, I think of two things in this context:
– Conor Cruise’s ‘Parnell and his Party’ (1957) is still one of the best books on the subject. It was his PhD, and it was completely ground-breaking at the time because of the way it placed the Irish Party in a material context. It looked at party finance and organisation, the social background of the MPs and the consequences of the payment of MPs and so on.
– before becoming a professor in Oxford, Roy Foster taught in Birkbeck College, originally the London Mechanics’ Institute, and one of the people who picked him for the job was Eric Hobsbawm.
So they may have ended up as begrudgers, but they did have their day.

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banjoagbeanjoe - December 16, 2020

Also, in defence of the Cruiser. When he was the Irish diplomat at the UN and ‘Red’ China was seeking admission and the De Valera government had publicly stated that they would be voting for ‘Red’ China to be admitted: The Cruiser’s office was being bombarded with phone calls from the Irish media asking for official comment – the Indo, the Irish Times and so on. The phone rang and his secretary (Máire Mhac an tSaoi?) answered. She listened, then put her hand over the receiver and said to the Cruiser: “It’s the Irish Catholic, what will I say?” To which the bould Conor answered: “Offer him ten pounds for his horse”.

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EWI - December 17, 2020

The logical corollary of this is surely that anything produced outside of the framework of scholarly peer review, doctoral examination et. al. and also concerned with contemporary issues would indeed also constitute poor scholarship?

A look at some PhDs coming out of Trinity in recent decades would say nay. At least two prominent cases of fabrication.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 16, 2020

Yes CCO’B’s ‘Parnell and His Party is a good book, probably the best he ever wrote. However, it shows the symptoms of what would develop into a debilitating disease. Basically, it is about a select group of men in a room. How they got there and who put them there are confined to the margins. This same mandarin like quality would come to dominate his work after 1970,

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23. CL - December 14, 2020

” What Richard English juxtaposes are Irish revolutionism and a determined, Whiggish, interpretation of British constitutional advancement. And this starkly demonstrates an elemental problem to be found elsewhere in this study. It is fully impossible to understand Irish separatist nationalism under the Union, without comprehending the failures of British unionist nationalism for ultimately, it is contended here, they are of a piece when studying nationalism in Ireland. ….

Cruise O’Brien …wrote, ‘those who want to oppose fascism in Ireland will start opposing it where it is really to be found: at the heart of the Republican Movement’. The equation of fascism with extreme (and here not-so-extreme) separatist nationalism is a hangover from political interpretations framed in the war between militarist republicanism and the British state in Ireland after 1970. In that extraordinary context it suited some commentators to explain ‘Irish violence’ in terms of Irish irrationality of which the extreme nationalism of the Provisionals blithely approved of by some was but one expression….
It can be argued, though Richard English does not do so explicitly, that any drive towards self-determination would bring separatist and unionist nationalisms into a sectarian conflict across Britain and Ireland, concentrating inside Ulster. Moving toward national self-determination, therefore, came with an analogous sectarian price: ‘In time, the cost of this [Easter 1916] was to be felt in north-east Ireland where the largest concentration of Protestants lived’ (p. 275). That mobilised separatist nationalism held within it the inescapable logic of sectarian violence seems to me a good argument, if not a historical fact. But this is only part of a picture, which requires viewing in its full panorama. If it is to be accepted that any mobilisation of separatist nationalism inevitably would lead to the alienation of Protestant unionists or worse, then the converse argument has also to be acknowledged. British nationalism used religion to hold Ireland (or part of it) within the Union often alienating Catholic communities in the process. Again Richard English is alive to some of this when he notes, ‘[i]f the Catholic Ireland defined itself as the nation, then historically the process had also worked the other way, as a Protestant Britain had effectively defined itself in exclusive ways too’….
It remains indisputable that from the late 18th-century mobilised separatist nationalism contained within it a strong Catholic ethos, which sometimes equated the ‘Irish nation’ exclusively with the ‘Catholic people’….
But the sectarian organisation of Irish society was also an inheritance of the conquests and settlements of the 17th century, and one would be shocked not to find sectarianism expressed in later political life because it remained integral in muted form to the realities of daily life
.
The function of the failed Protestant reformation in Ireland, as with colonial plantations, the establishment of a Protestant ascendancy, and Ireland’s inclusion under the 1801 Union, were initiatives to protect Britain’s strategic defence interests, which lasted to the conclusion of the Cold War. Religious conformity for the confessional British state, was one among many strategic tools used to protect Britain from the danger of a hostile Ireland, and beyond it a hostile Europe. Sectarianism was therefore integral to making and keeping Ireland ‘British’, and was also to be part of the attempt to reverse those policies….
Terms such as ‘sectarianism’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘anti-Semitism’, and not least ‘nationalism’ are employed not as analytical categories to be rigorously tested, but rather as moralising projectiles thrown in all directions, but aimed only in one. The approach owes its debts to a historiographical mode framed in response to the Northern Ireland crisis, and the threat from resurgent separatism carried within it. That war thankfully is now over. With its passing should go too the moral imperative to see any species of nationalism as something primarily to be undermined, rather than understood.”
https://reviews.history.ac.uk/review/704

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Dr Nightdub - December 15, 2020

“It remains indisputable that from the late 18th-century mobilised separatist nationalism contained within it a strong Catholic ethos, which sometimes equated the ‘Irish nation’ exclusively with the ‘Catholic people’….”

The predominantly Presbyterian United Irishmen of 1798 in Antrim and Down would beg to differ.

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EWI - December 17, 2020

The predominantly Presbyterian United Irishmen of 1798 in Antrim and Down would beg to differ.

The prominent non-Catholics and anti-clericals who would feature in the Young Irelanders and IRB also.

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WorldbyStorm - December 21, 2020

I’ve seen the dynamic you both describe of attempting to diminish the input of non-sectarian or dissenting Catholic/nationalists into these events as a means of ‘evening-up’ or trying to find an equality of sectarianism, and this carried through to the present day.

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banjoagbeanjoe - December 21, 2020

“It remains indisputable that from the late 18th-century mobilised separatist nationalism contained within it a strong Catholic ethos, which sometimes equated the ‘Irish nation’ exclusively with the ‘Catholic people’….”

The predominantly Presbyterian United Irishmen of Antrim and Down in 1798 and the prominent non-Catholics and anti-clericals in the Young Irelanders and IRB would surely concur with that statement? No?
Read it carefully please.

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24. CL - December 15, 2020

” Regan’s contention is that since 1968 Irish historians have laboured under the burden of what he terms ‘an ethno-religious civil war’. As a result of this, he claims, many historians produced work designed to legitimise the southern Irish state against the threat of insurgency, some of them deliberately ignoring or misusing historical evidence that might have bolstered contrary views. …
There can be little argument about Regan’s assertions regarding the centrality of the Northern war. In 2004 Professor Tom Dunne explained how that conflict ‘was to overshadow all our lives, and to influence profoundly the kind of history my generation would write’….

On the thorny issue of sectarianism Regan describes as a ‘fundamental blind spot’ the failure of republican interpretations of revolutionary violence to grasp the ‘inescapable logic that in Ireland . . . religion and political identity are intertwined’…

Nor is it the case that historians dutifully followed ‘the Cruiser’s’ lead. John A. Murphy consistently disputed the idea that defending the Easter Rising either legitimised the modern IRA or inspired violence in the North, arguing that ‘if 1916 was never commemorated in the South, it seems to me that the unfulfilled nationalist aspiration of the northern minority would still latch on to 1916’. Murphy also warned that what he described as O’Brien’s ‘revisionism’ involved not just ‘distortion’ and ‘compromise with intellectual honesty’ but was leading to ‘something like a neo-unionist position’. Tom Garvin criticised O’Brien for ‘sentimentalising’ the historic relationship between Britain and Ireland, arguing that the 1916 Rising was the ‘natural result’ of British misrule. Indeed, he suggested, the Rising helped Ireland to avoid a bloody sectarian war, as it defined the struggle as ‘between England and Ireland, rather than between Catholics and Protestants’. This was because, Garvin claimed, Irish nationalism had ‘usually practised an essential anti-sectarianism, unlike Irish unionism, which historically has always had deep difficulties with Irish Catholicism’. Such views suggest a diversity of opinion among historians that Regan tends to ignore…..
As the historian Liam de Paor, a critic of revisionism, argued in 1973, it was what he called the ‘bloody folly’ of the IRA’s bombing campaign that had opened the door to a ‘sustained attack’ on Irish republicanism. Assessing the impact of this means applying as close an eye to popular history and its practitioners as to ‘the academy’ and being aware that elision can occur there as well.” -Brian Hanley
https://www.historyireland.com/book-reviews/myth-irish-state/

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25. CL - December 17, 2020

– ” those who are in power control to a very large extent the presentation of the past and seek to make sure that it is presented in such a way as to buttress and legitimise their own authority” – Bernard Lewis. (quoted by Ronan Fanning)

There is no better description of how and why throughout Northern Ireland’s long war the British and Irish political establishment sought to control the presentation of the history of 1912-22 in order to legitimise and buttress their own authority while at the same time denying legitimacy and authority to the Provisional IRA and other paramilitary forces….

One of the more unfortunate by-products of the revisionist debate about twentieth-century Irish history is that it legitimised the self-delusions of the intellectual heirs to the constitutional nationalists who had been so resoundingly defeated by the republican revolutionaries –
– Ronan Fanning, ‘The Fatal Path’, 2013.

-Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.- Orwell, 1984.

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26. CL - December 21, 2020

” The central tenet of classical Marxism (re Ireland) … is the view held by Marx and Engels themselves that it is English intervention in Ireland rather than internal Irish conditions that historically has been the prime political cause of the country’s problems….
While traditional Marxist historiography on Ireland was sympathetic to Irish Nationalism, it regarded the simplifications of much nationalist history, with its centuries-old heroic and ‘pure’ national struggle against alien oppression, culminating in the establishment of an independent Irish State, to be part of the myth of origin of that State’s bourgeoisie…..
For Connolly, British imperialism is not merely armed occupation but an expression of a highly developed form of capitalism that was supported by a large section of the Irish capitalist class….
Strauss, Greaves, and T.A. Jackson share a common subscription to the classical nationalist view of the Northern problem as being primarily due to Britain’s insistence on maintaining sovereignty and politically underwriting Ulster Unionism.This is what principally differentiated them from revisionist Marxism or neo-Marxist historians.
The political thrust of this neo-Marxist school has, broadly speaking, been to produce an apologia for British involvement in Irish affairs, and for Ulster Unionism, that parallels the work of non-Marxist revisionist historians….
Austen Morgan…Bew, Gibbon, Patterson…call for a decisive break with Irish Marxism’s subordination to bourgeois ideology, that is to say, to Republican objectives. What the authors substitute is an ideology of Unionism expressed in Leftist vocabulary….Their history is neo-Unionist…and is akin to conventional revisionism in providing an apologia for British Government policy in Ireland ” – Anthony Coughlan, (Interpreting Irish History, ed. Ciaran Brady, 1994)

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CL - December 22, 2020

” Marxist theorist Bill Warren argued as early as 1973 in “Imperialism and Capitalist Industrialization” in New Left Review that dependency in poor countries was in “irreversible decline” due to “a major upsurge” in capitalist development in the third world. According to Warren, Marx, in articles such as “The British Rule in India,” had seen colonialism/imperialism as playing a constructive role in underdeveloped countries. This was later mistakenly “reversed” by Lenin in his Imperialism, which represented an “about-turn” in Marxist theory, giving rise to dependency theory. The problems of development facing the poorer countries, Warren argued, were not primarily external, as depicted by dependistas, but could be traced to “internal contradictions.” This outlook, though not widespread in the 1970s when Warren first introduced it, was to gain considerable influence within the Western left by 1980, when his posthumous Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism was published.”
https://monthlyreview.org/2019/07/01/late-imperialism/

“It is interesting actually that Cockshott and Warren’s revision – or, even, outright rejection – of Lenin on imperialism was first motivated by their attitude on the Irish question….
Warren and Cockshott were members of a strange little group in Ireland which was originally called the Irish Communist Organisation.
When republican resistance to British imperialism in the here and now began however, around 1969-1970, the ICO shifted dramatically to the right. In the early 1970s they even changed their name to the BRITISH and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) and began discovering progressive qualities in imperialism. This was to legitimise their reactionary politics in Ireland, where they increasingly saw British rule as a progressive force and Irish resistance as reactionary. Warren came up with the cock and bull theory that imperialism was the precursor of capitalism, rather than its last epoch, the epoch of decay and transition….
, Austen Morgan…wrote an extraordinarily dishonest ‘political biography’ of James Connolly, published by some British university press, which was so crude that it even contained fictitious quotations of Lenin about the Irish Citizen Army, the workers militia led by James Connolly, Michael Mallin and Constance Markievicz in the 1916 rebellion.” -Philip Fergusonhttp://www.marxmail.org/archives/january99/cockshott.htm

“This article examines the anti-nationalist Marxist school of thought that is associated with, amongst others, Paul Bew and Henry Patterson…

Part One examines the orthodox Marxist tradition, theory and heritage. This ‘anti-imperialist’ analysis of Ireland can be said to derive from the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and the contribution of James Connolly to Marxist political thought….

Part Two looks at ‘anti-nationalist revisionism’. The term refers to those Marxists writing on Ireland who have questioned, and rejected many of the basic tenets of the traditional ‘anti-imperialist’ approach. It identifies this school with Paul Bew, Henry Patterson and Ellen Hazelkorn, and their collective projects. I would acknowledge the contribution of Peter Gibbon, Austen Morgan and indeed, the British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) to Revisionist Marxism,”
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03017600801892789?scroll=top&needAccess=true&journalCode=rcso20

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Colm B - December 22, 2020

Then, having bequethed us with the left-overs of that strange orange Marxism in the form of Harris and his Provo-paranoid groupies, the BICOs morphed into an even more bizarre conservative nationalist group with a penchant for singing the praises of Iran’s clerical regime and, most ironic of all, going to war with their own bastard revisionist off-spring (ideologically speaking) on the battlefields if the War of Independence.

An old comrade used to say that the WP was the most ideologically bizarre left wing formation that ever graced a western European country but the BICO grouping put the WP in the halfpenny place.

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EWI - December 22, 2020

An old comrade used to say that the WP was the most ideologically bizarre left wing formation that ever graced a western European country but the BICO grouping put the WP in the halfpenny place.

RCP/Living Marxism/Spiked!/Institute of Ideas – whatever you want to call them, the Furedi cult puts them all in the shade.

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Colm B - December 22, 2020

Unfortunately the RCP gang are far cleverer, having positioned themselves at the ideological sweet spot (for the moment) of the ‘libertarian’ right. They are adept at placing their cadres in all the the right places – they pop up everywhere. They also have a good nose for where the money is at – Koch, Tobacco money etc. They are an altogether despicable bunch of shils but far more effective than any other sect in these islands. One can only hope that when Furedi passes away they will fade.

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27. roddy - December 22, 2020

Orange Marxism held sway in the Dail for a period of time in the 80’s with WP,Kemmy and a section of Labour.Only Tony Gregory held out against it and Stagg did a volte face at one stage and embraced more of a CPI line. Thankfully the neo unionist tendancy would be in a minority position again in Leinster house “Leftism”.

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terrymdunne - December 22, 2020

Articles 2 & 3 of the Free State constitution – the changing of which was a Kemmy demand – was changed 22 years ago with a massive majority for doing so – since then the Unionist veto aka the principle of consent has been written into the Free State constitution. Provisional S.F. signed up to this with the G.F.A. also. Even before then a focus on divided people(s) as opposed to divided jurisdictions was typical Hume-ism – at a time when the S.D.L.P. was the main nationalist party in the Six Counties.

As I recall the main point of the “revisionist” Marxists was that partition was not the result of a modern Whitehall policy but had an autonomous local impetus – I mean that is just a straightforward recognition of reality and it is an inescapable reality recognized also by the Provisional Republican Movement either in the mid-1970s when it was launching sectarian attacks or today when it is sharing power with the D.U.P. – either policy accepts the existence of Ulster Unionism as something other than an ephemeral by-product of British rule – otherwise why either fight with it or treat with it?

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EWI - December 22, 2020

Mysteriously the revisionist Marxists were fierce critics of the Peace Process and continue to go to battle on behalf of Ulster Unionism to this day, including stuff like Brexit.

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28. CL - December 23, 2020

” Almost nowhere are politics and history so intimately bound up as in Ireland. Over the course of several hundred years rival political and religious camps have shaped their identities according to particular interpretations of their shared history. As such, any re-examination and revision of Irish history has the potential to have a very real impact upon wider society. Defining revisionism in historiography as a reaction to contemporary conflict in Ireland, this book looks at how intellectuals, scholars and those who were politically involved, have reacted to a crisis of violence. It explores how they believed that revisionism in historiography was necessary – that a deconstruction, re-evaluation, and revision of ideology and therefore history was crucial in such a crisis of violence.
This at times provocative approach seeks to better understand, clarify and de-mystify the ongoing revisionist debate in Ireland, through a critique and exposition of the theory of change and the process and product of change.
Perry argues that revisionism should not be seen as solely a neutral form of academic or intellectual discourse, but one that is fundamentally linked to politics at the widest possible level; that revisionist assumptions underpin the validity and legitimacy of partition and the Northern Ireland state; that revisionism is widely judged to be anti-nationalist and pro-unionist; and that it is myopic with regard to the shortcomings of loyalism and unionism and has therefore a related ideological effect, if not intended purpose.”
(Robert Perry, ‘ Revisionist Scholarship and Modern Irish Politics’)

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29. Daniel Rayner O'Connor - December 24, 2020

Seasonal greetings to all Lounge Lizards.
Just on this subject, I think we should beware of confusing the original;l revisionists with their later heirs. Moody, Edwards and Beckett each had a very different view of Irish history; their revolt against the nationalist orthodoxy was guided by the need to know what happened. their successors started out with an alternative orthodoxy and were even less open to criticism than the old nationalists.

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