Monthly Archives: November 2010

Michael Collins – why I despise him.

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My grandfather exalted Michael Collins. Yearly on the anniversary of Collins’ slaying my grandfather would travel down to West Cork and attend the memorial service on 22 August. He would meet old timers and tears who silently roll down his plump cheeks. His proudest possession was a photo of the bandaged corpse of The Big Fellow lying in state in the Shankiel Hospital Cork. My grandfather was a teenager at the time of Collins’ death and it had a profound effect on him.

However, despite my love for my late grandfather Donald Brennan, I cannot share his views. My opinions are shaped by my own reason and reading and not out of any blind deference to a relative however much I cherish his memory.

Collins was born in a republican family in 1890. His father was very old when Collins was born and died when Collins was 6. Collins joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood as he entered manhood. He moved to Great Britain as a very young man. Despite living in Great Britain he hated his adopted country. Rather an ingrate wasn’t he? A bit hypocritical I must say. He was in the Gaelic Athletic Association. He argued that the GAA should not allow policemen or servicemen to join nor indeed pensioners from these services to join. He took the bigoted position. A sports association should be about sports and not about shunning people, cultural purism, ethnic hatred and support for terrorism.

Collins took part in the Easter Rising. He was imprisoned in Frongoch in Great Britain and released after a few weeks. This leniency was astonishing. As it turned out it was very short-sighted. Legally he could have been executed. Look at what happened in Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary when people rebelled against their governments at this time? Some were rebelling for nationalistic reasons. They were executed in large numbers. The United Kingdom distinguished itself by its exceptional mercy. A fact that was never acknowledge much less repaid by the Irish republicans.

Collins was noted even among his IRA co-conspirators as being extraordinarily vicious. He liked to insult his comrades and wrestle with him. There were suggestions that he was homosexual. This tittle-tattle is neither here nor there. Most likely this is tart gossip. He was engaged to Kitty Kiernan right at the end of his life. The notions noised about being gay are merely that – there are no first hand accounts of anyone who had gay sex with him or who say evidence of this. It is likely that he was just being a man-child, horseplaying about. He called this, ‘grabbing some ear.’

Collins was happy to kill unarmed men. He did not do it by his own hand but ordered his subordinates to kill suspected spies.  He never bore arms himself in the 1919-21 period. The media somehow caught wind of his name. Newspapers wrongly attributed many attacks to him. His supporters in the Treaty debates lauded him as  ‘the man who won the war.’

He was chairman of the supreme council of Fenians. The Fenians was another name for the IRB. He went to London in the summer of 1921 to negotiate with His Majesty’s Government. He signed the treaty. This was breaking the IRB oath to secure a republic. It is true that a republic did eventually come to be Southern Ireland’s constitutional title in 1949. Collins’ defended his decision on the basis that it was the freedom to achieve freedom.

He was sent to negotiate as he had been unswervingly obdurate until then. Does that mean de Valera who wanted him to fail? This is illogical. De Valera repudiated the deal but de Valera had been kept informed of developments. Sean MacBride had gone back to Ireland many weekends carrying communiques. Moreover, de Valera was in London himself at times even visiting Downing Street. However, he did not negotiate himself. It seems odd though. People say he knew he would not get all he wanted and wished to distance himself from any deal that was less than the full republican demand. Prof. Roy Foster has said that the notion that de Valera wanted Collins to sign because he, de Valera, did not want to have to sell out, is a fundamentally flawed view. What do these people propose de Valera was hoping for? The Treaty to be signed or not? If it was signed for it to be enforced or not? How could any of these outcomes benefit de Valera and his cause?

Much as I loathe Michael Collins he was better than the republican fanatics who rejected the treaty.

They say that if the Dail had voted shortly after the Treaty was concluded on 6 December 1921 then it would not have been ratified. However, Teachata Daili went home to their constituencies for Christmas. They found that many of their constituents welcomed it and asked them to vote in favour of it. As Collins said that, ”the people are our masters and not our servants as some think.”

In the event the Treaty was passed 64-57. Collins spoke well in favour of it. I do not deny his talents.

He had met Sir James Craig in London by accident in a government office. Collins made peace with the United Kingdom. The UK gave him weapons for the new Irish Army. However, he handed these to southern IRA units and these southern IRA units sent guns north. There was horrid sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. Collins was breaking his vow to be at peace with the UK. His bad faith is reprehensible. He was pouring fuel on the flames in Northern Ireland. The UPA was also committing ghastly crimes –  the squalid murders of hundreds of totally innocent people – of the elderly and of children. Collins’ actions cannot be interpreted as a misguided attempt to protect the beleaguered Roman Catholic populace of the Belfast vicinity. He wanted to start a guerrilla campaign in the North. He was against sectarian murders, was he? If so why not try to protect the Protestant community too?

Collins may have ordered the murder of Sir Henry Wilson. Wilson was a very courageous man and the most distinguished Irishman of his age. He was the Chief of Imperial General Staff. He was a stalwart opponent of the IRA and had recently been elected MP for North Down. He was shot dead on his doorstep in London after having unveiled a war memorial at Liverpool Street Station. Wilson was blamed, illogically, for the murder of Roman Catholics in Belfast. Two former Irish Guardsmen, O’Sullivan and Dunne, was were trying to escape from the crime. One of them had lost a leg at Ypres. Not the best choice for someone who needed to make a quick getaway. They were found guilty of the killing and hanged.

The Prime Minister Lloyd George demanded that Collins take action against the IRA. At this point Collins did. Was the slaying of Wilson the immediate cause of the Irish Civil War? Possibly. It might have been that J J ‘Ginger’ O’Connell was kidnapped by the IRA. J J O’Connell was a pro-Treaty man, a high officer in the Irish Army. In order to rescue him from the Four Courts the Irish Army went into its first action, a victorious one.

Collins was shot dead on 2 August 1922. Tim Pat Coogan in his book ‘The Big Fellow’ suggests that it was Sonny O’Neill who shot Collins. It is impossible to know at this distance. I favour the cockup rather than the conspiracy theory. The IRA ambushed Free State convoys all the time. The Free State Army attacked the IRA. There was nothing unusual in that.

Once the IRA engaged Collins’ entourage he could have ordered the roadblock cleared and sped on. One of his subordinates ordered the driver to do just this. In fact Collins countermanded him.  It would have been a much wiser thing to do. Collins may well have lived on for decades but for that. One cannot doubt Collins’ physical bravery at that point but that is not the only nor even the supreme virtue in a leader. It may well be rather unimportant or even harmful. We do not need a leader who feels the need to prove his virility in this manner. A political leader is about other things such as decision making. Militarily I presume that his decision was unsound. I am not tactical expert. His enemies were unknown in number to him – in fact 5 at that time. They were hidden and in an elevated position. Sunset was coming on. There was little chance that the Free State soldiers would do more damage than they would suffer. This proved to be the case. Only two others were hit in that engagement – in fact they were slightly wounded.

Collins’ reputation was saved by dying when he did. Death as a career move, often a good one. He was killed before the Civil War got really nasty. It was partly due to his demise that the gloves came off. IRA prisoners were executed in many cases –  at least 77. In Dail debates decades later it was said to be 84 or 85. There were unofficial killings of prisoners at Ballyseedy.

Would Collins have signed off on orders of frightfulness? Almost certainly he would have done so. He was noted for his extraordinary lack of mercy.

The IRA of course became extra vicious afterwards. They destroyed much of Ireland’s heritage in their torching of stately homes. They killed pro-Treaty politicians and their relatives. I must say this in their favour, I have never heard of the killing prisoners in this phase of the war but as they were on the retreat and doing hit and run they may never have had the opportunity to do so.

Neil Kinnock, why I respect him.

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I am a Tory and I detest the Labour Party. I wish to assure you of my deep burning hatred of the Labour Party whom I consider to be lower than vermin. I like to scorn Kinnockio.

I have been reading the orations of Lord Kinnock though and viewing them on You Tube. People like to deride him for getting a Third Class degree in Industrial Relations from Cardiff University. However, I must say I have a new-found admiration for his intellect as I do his rhetorical skill. They were delivered with more heart that Margaret Thatcher’s speeches.

I must underline the fact that I am expressing my respect for Lord Kinnock simply in terms of his talents not his views. The policies he espoused were as misconceived as they were worrisome. It is good that he did not succeed. I urge fellow students of politics to peruse his work. He was a conviction politician though he went a bit soft in the runup to the 1992 election. He was an able man. I am glad that he never had a taste of power.

Tha bailout in Ireland.

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 Ireland is in a state of chassis. Who first said it? By chassis a certain Dubliner meant ‘crisis.’ The government has massive spending commitments and little money coming in. Something has got to give. We grew accustomed to living high on the hog. We are no longer on the pig’s back. We must slash and burn and not trim and singe. Other EU states are coming to our aid. People may say thank heavens we are in the EU. Oddly the non-EU states do not seem to have been afflicted. Norway, Switzerland, Monaco etc… still thrive.  Even the poorer European countries like Belarus or Bosnia-Herzegovina have suffered but not as dramatically as the PIGS  – Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Greece.

Brian Cowen is known as BIFFO –  Big Ignorant Fucker From Offaly. Often this is bowdlerised into  Big Ignorant FELLOW From Offaly. He is not telegenic. We are insulted for having potato faces –  well he and Bertie Ahern certainly have them. Let me look at his good points, he is an assuming and a man of the people. He does not put on airs and graces.

Cowen was unlucky in succeeding to the Premiership just before the solids hit the whirly thing. Ahern like Michael Collins made his exit before he could be held responsible for the seeds he had sown. Admittedly Collins and Ahern exited stage left in rather different fashions. On the other hand Cowen was Finance Minister for years so he must bear responsibility for the short-sighted and grossly irresponsible policies pursued from 1997 onwards.

Eire was not the only country where missteps were taken. However, it has gone more drastically wrong there than elsewhere.

We are still not back to the mass unemployment of the 1980s with so many derelict buildings and miserable wages even for those who were employed. We are not half way there so maybe we talk ourselves down too much.

It is sad to see Sinn Fein profit from all this. They after all have done more to disseminate acrimony and to impoverish Ireland in every sense than any other political party.

Mr Cowen is pursuing some very unpopular policies. Politicians rely on popularity. They do not like to pursue unpopularity. Ergo he would only be pursuing this one if he sincerely believed it to be right. I think it is right painful though it undoubtedly it. However, politicians must pay too. They ought to have their salaries severely docked as well.

I think the bailout and the loan from the IMF is the right thing to do. We must be ruthless in cutting waste. I would shut down many embassies. Why do we need them in EU states anyway?

For decades the Irish Republic was becoming more attractive, not it has become less so. Maybe unionist opinion will harden.

Shame on Godfrey Bloom.

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Godfrey Bloom is MP who represents the UK Independence Party. He is no stranger to controversy. He is not a cardboard cutout politician. His  trademark blunt opinions are refreshingly welcome. This time he overstepped the makr. Martin Schulz is a socialist German MEP of a very europhile stripe. I profoundly disagree with Herr Schulz. Mr Bloom interjected ”Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer” during Schulz’s discourse. This was a shockingly bigotted thing to say. Bloom was citing the slogan of the Nazi Party. The socialists in Germany were among the most dedicated anti-Nazis.

Much as I dislike the EU for many reasons it bears no resemblance to the Third Reich. One should not compare to the two. Bloom’s interruption was disgraceful, puerile and racist. This sort of abuse reflects only discredit on the noble cause of eurorealism. It is ammunition in the hands of the europhiles who depict UKIP as made up of stripey-blazered swivel eyed foaming at the mouth militarists and crypto-fascists who are virulently Teutonophobic.

The UVF of 1912.

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People often say that the Ulster Volunteer Force was founded in 1912. This date is seen on countless gable end murals. However, this is wrong. It was discussed in 1912 but only established in 1913. This is insignificant and as the year 1912 is so closely associated with the UVF that is why the year 1912 has made it into the title. The UVF was founded by Sir Edward Carson, then leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance. The Liberal Government of the United Kingdom was reliant on support of the Irish Home Rule Party after the 1910 elections. I say elections – there were two of them that year. The Liberal Party had long been in favour of Home Rule for Ireland having tried and failed to get it through in 1886 and 1893. Edward Carson was a Dubliner who became a Conservative MP. Leading unionists met in a gentlemens’ club in London to discuss the UVF. They got a history book with the text of the Solemn League and Covenant signed in 17th century Scotland. The Protestants of Ulster are more of North British than South British stock. They decided to draw up a document based on that for their supporters to sign. The UVF ordered its uniforms from Moss Bros. The standard work on the UVF is ATQ Stewart’s ”The Ulster Crisis.” The UVF was prepared to resist Home Rule. Were they willing to fight against the British Army if it tried to enforce Home Rule? Possibly. Winston Churchill was then a Liberal politician. He saw the UVF as just shadow boxing. He believed that if Home Ruler were passed then the UVF’s bluff would be called and they would knuckle under. I suspect that the UVF would have split. Some hotheads would have meant what they said and would indeed have fought against the British Army to try to prevent Home Rule being imposed on Ulster. I suspect that half the UVF would have merely protested and used civil disobedience. The extraordinary thing is the succour the UVF received from the Conservative and Unionist Party. The Conservatives pride themselves on upholding law and order. Yet they were willing to countenance the UVF resisting the will of Parliament. It is a most shameful chapter in the history of the Conservative party. The minute the first soldier was killed by the UVF Conservative sympathy would have evaporated. The UVF set up committees ready to take over the government of Ulster if Home Rule were passed. We come to what Carson termed ”the question of definition.”  Where is Ulster? Is Ulster nine counties? Northern Ireland is six counties. Many of the more thinking unionists were beginning to realise that the nine counties of Ulster could not all be realistically claimed for the Unionist cause. The Unionists had perhaps 10% of the vote in Cavan. These marginal counties (Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal) would dilute their majority too much. By Ulster they began to mean perhaps less than 9 counties. The UVF seized police station and tied up RIC officers. They cut telephone wires. This was all for the importation of arms. These acts were blatant crimes. What if a policeman had resisted too much? He would have been murdered. It was shocking. The UVF believed that nationalists should obey all the laws they disliked but the moment a law came along that the UVF did not like they were perfectly entitled to disobey it. The UVF brought a ship in with great ceremony into the middle of Belfast. Its arrival was widely announce and keenly anticipated by thousands of UVF men. The RIC were there in force. The cargo was unloaded. Not a single rifle was aboard. This was a blind. The guns for the UVF were delivered in the middle of the night to several small ports around Ulster. The UVF had organised a slick and secret system of cars picking up the guns and distributing them to pre-arranged hiding place. This was April 1914. The approach of the Irish Volunteers in July 1914 could not have been more different. The UVF was almost all Protestant. They feared Roman Catholic domination. Most historians glibly dismiss these fears as totally chimerical. But it is hard to think that as these anxieties were so strongly and so widely felt that they were altogether without foundation. The Duke of Abercorn was the leading nobleman in Ulster and later Governor of Northern Ireland. He said ”Home Rule will be Rome Rule.” Given what happened in Southern Ireland later it seems that he was not fat wrong. The Solemn League and Covenant spelt out the concerns of the UVF. It was signed by almost half of all Protestant Ulstermen. The other half seldom opposed the UVF it was just that many of them were apolitical. There was a Presbyterian minister Armour who bravely went against the stream and advocated Home Rule.
 
The Solemn League and Covenant said that Home Rule would be destructive of their civil and religious liberties, would make them lose their citizenship of the United Kingdom, would weaken the Empire, would be economically diastrous to Ulster and the whole of Ireland. It is notable that they were concerned with the whole of Ireland. They believed that if they could prevent Home Rule coming to Ulster they would prevent it for the whole of Ireland. They did not wish to expel southern Ireland from the UK!
 
Unionists rallies oftenn had banners saying ”we will not have Home Rule for Ireland.” Unionists happily called themselves Irish but saw no contradiction between this and being British. For them one fitted inside the other just as one may be English within British or Welsh within British. The Unionists in the north were only beginning to stress their Ulster identity more as Home Rule seemed more and more probable for the south and the need to plead a special case for Ulster seemed ever more apparent.
Belfast had a bigger population than Dublin then. Belfast was industrial and the centre of shipbuilding. Belfast built the Titanic. It was not the fault of the seawrights that she sank. She was admirably built.
 

A CELTA dream

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I dreamt last night that I was doing CELTA again. I did that wretched qualification several years back. Gemma was the name of my assessor. Anyhow, there was a page of things to read. I could not read her blue handwriting. I had to change the verb forms or something. I could not for the life of me make head nor tail of it. I called her over and sought her help.

It was frustrating and humiliating. I was sure to fail.

I found that dashed course frightfully difficult. I almost failed in reality. I was at a party at my colleague Robyn’s house last night. I was half drunk and told my colleague Annie about the CELTA course and how I came within an ace of failing it.

The successes of the Irish Republic.

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John Waters wrote ”An intelligent person’s guide to modern Ireland.” I am not sure what especial claim he can lay to pen such a work. What a great marketing ploy. Entitle the whole series of books such that they appeal to the vanity of the readership. If I buy this it must mean I am intelligent. In this turgid yet trite work he makes some worthwhile observations. For instance, he says that up to and including the 1970s the Republic of Ireland had been an economic failure. Half the young emigrated. People were bred like cattle for export, I do not recall who said it.

Prices were higher than in the UK yet taxes were higher too and wages were lower.

There were many other things to loathe. The crushing Catholic conformity. In migration we look at push and pull factors. The push factors were not all economic. We were a virtual theocracy. I must own that was how most wanted it. Politicians passed laws that pleased the Roman Catholic church because their constituents demanded it. For the minority of secularists it was a cold house indeed. Personal liberty was restricted in the spheres of divorce, contraception, literature etc….

Anyhow, the Irish Republic began to sort itself out. Shedloads of EEC cash helped. The infrastructure was improved markedly. It took until about 1990 before the Irish Republic became very prosperous. After so many lean years we suddenly had fat years.

In 2000 I saw a statistic saying something like 20% of all the houses were under 20 years old. Jobs were plentiful. We liberalised in other ways – allowing homosexuality and divorce. The unattractive side of the Republic of Ireland was vanishing.

I have long been a unionist. This is chiefly due to us being on the British peoples. The other thing is that the Republic of Ireland was unappealing. But it got its house in order and became increasingly attractive in the 1990s. The Celtic tiger pounced. But there were notes of caution sounded. Was it all getting too good too fast? Was the economy overheating? I actually do not know what that means. Was the Irish Republic setting itself up for a big fall? Well it happened. It seemed pessimistic to sound a warning. Anyone who said these things was denounced as a naysayer and a defeatist.

Taxes were low and made lower. It was splendid. It was a beacon to the capitalist world. The Irish Republic became one of the richest and freest countries in the world.

We borrowed too much. Like the 1920s people assumed that the value of investments could only go one way. It was myopic.

Maybe unionists softened their stance partly because the Republic of Ireland became prettier. They may harden up again now.