Monthly Archives: July 2012

Ireland’s mid nineteenth century detente.


In the mid-nineteenth century the situation in Ireland calmed down a lot. The Young Irelanders more or less ceased to exist. The Repeal Association also ceased to be. Sectarian tensions much abated. Ireland’s MPs were either Liberals or Conservatives. The notion of unmaking the Union receded considerably.

Ireland gradually recovered its agriculture from the horrendous Famine that had dealt so much death. Industrialisation continued apace in the north.

The British Empire was moving towards its imperial zenith. It seemed that the United Kingdom was invincible. As Professor FitzRoy Foster said it became as natural for an Irishman to think of his capital being London as Dublin. The Union was the reality and it seemed to be strong. Many people just accepted it. Others positively liked the Union.

The Queen’s colleges established in Cork, Galway, Dublin and Belfast had produced a generation of highly educated young men. Trinity College Dublin had been open to Catholics since the 1790s. Since Trinity was run by the Church of Ireland many Catholics were loathe to study there. The Queen’s colleges in the south had a mainly Catholic intake. This cohort of young Catholic graduates rose through the civil service, the judiciary and in the professions. Many went to serve as officials in British colonies. The mercantile and professional class began to see benefit in being associated with Great Britain even if not in a full Union. The British Empire also offered attractive career opportunities.

Much is said about conflict in Ireland. Rather too much attention is paid to this because the conflict is so dramatic. In fact very few people were involved in the conflict and very, very few were killed. This is not to say that everything was happy. Emigration continued apace though not quite in the bumper numbers of the Famine era.

The Tithe War continued into the 1850s but had calmed down measurably. In 1855 the Government decided that tithes paid to the Church of Ireland were in need of major reform. The tithe was reduced by a quarter. The tithe was no longer taken directly from tenants – it was paid by the landlord. Most landlords simply increased the rent so that this covered the cost of the tithe. This passing on of the cost of the tithe through jacking up the rent seemed to work. The fact that everyone was financially supporting the Church of Ireland was no longer rubbed in the face or Catholics.

Sectarian tensions cooled. There were fewer clashes over loyalist marches in Ulster.

William Smith O’Brien the ringleader of the 1848 rebellion was released from prison in Australia after only 6 years. This showed incredibly mercy bearing in mind that he had first been sentenced to death. The Government’s extreme leniency was demonstrated by allowing him to leave Australia on condition that he did not return to Ireland. He lived in Belgium for two years. After that the Government felt so confident of the security situation in Ireland that they were kind enough to let him return to Ireland. He lived out his days in Ireland while remaining aloof from political controversies.



In the United States Irishmen who were avowedly opposed to Ireland’s membership of the United Kingdom decided to take decisive action. On 17 March 1858 they founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood in New York City. It was simultaneously founded in Dublin.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood was known as the IRB. Occasionally people called it by the name Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood though that is probably a misnomer applied by those who did not know what the initial IRB stood for. The IRB was colloquially known as the Fenians. The IRB included some veterans of the Young Irelanders such as John Mitchel. The Fenians were Irish heroes of the mythical and very distant past. In order to be a member of the Fenians of legend one had to be able to recite books of poetry, leap a river and perform extraordinary martial feats. These men of unexampled courage and virtuosity were supposed to be a model for Irishmen of the 1850s.

The IRB intended to buy arms in the United States and ship them to Ireland. Weapons would be stored in Ireland and men would be recruited into the IRB. They would swear an oath to help establish and Irish Republic and to obey the orders of their superior officers in the IRB so long as these orders were not contrary to the law of God. The IRB would then prepare for the day when a separatist rebellion could start. The aim was for Ireland to break away from Great Britain totally and Ireland would establish herself as a republic.

To an extent the IRB was also socially radical. It was against monarchy on principle and not just because the monarch was held to be a foreigner. The IRB was also against the Irish aristocracy. This was partly because the Irish aristocracy was largely foreign descended, Unionist and claimed to be exploitative. The IRB said that it intended to set up a democracy in Ireland. This was a radical proposition as very few countries allowed the vote to all men at the time. The United States had given the vote to almost all white men by the 1860s. France gave the vote to all men in 1848 though it soon took it away. The IRB’s international radicalism is evidenced by the links it forged with far left elements in Great Britain. An English Republican Army was founded within a mile of Buckingham Palace. The ERB did not take any terrorist action.

One of the founders of the IRB was James Stephens. James Stephens was  Protestant from Kilkenny City. James Stephens’ house still stands there near the cathedral. He took on the code name An Sabhac – pronounced ”awn shaw-ock”. In Irish this means the hawk. Stephens traveled all over Ireland, mostly on foot. He organised the IRB throughout Ireland. The IRB set up cells in towns and villages all over Ireland. The cell system meant that a member of the IRB should only know a few others. The idea was that should one of the IRB men be arrested he would be unable to identify more than a couple of other IRB men even if he wanted to. This was to ensure internal security – to stop the police learning who all the members were. In practice this system was seldom stuck to.

There was a man called the head centre in charge of the IRB in each county. The head centre of each county reported to the head centre of each province. There was a man who was the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Fenians. The Chairman of the Supreme Council of Fenians was the leader of the IRB. The IRB later developed the theory that the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Fenians was the President of the Irish Republic. The Irish Republic of course only existed in the minds of some IRB fantasists. The IRB soon had thousands of members.

Although it was an oath-bound secret society an organisation of this size could not escape the attentions of the Irish Constabulary. Soon the authorities were well aware of what the IRB was up to. The Irish Constabulary recruited some weak-willed IRB members as informers. James Stephens became known to the police by his nickname An Sabhac. One peer in the House of Lords mentioned him by calling him ”Shooks” which is close enough to the correct pronunciation. Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa from Co. Cork was another doyen of the IRB. There is some dispute as to whether Jeremiah O’Donovan is from Rosscarberry or another nearby town in West Cork. The nickname ”Rossa” is an allusion to his supposedly being from Rosscarberry. _________________________________________________________________


The Irish language went into severe decline. The counties worst impacted by the Famine had been those that were the most Irish-speaking. These were counties along the western seaboard. Irish-speaking people were therefore the most likely to have died in the Famine or been obliged to move abroad in search of a better life. Emigration from the western counties was especially pronounced. Soon abandoned houses dotted the hillsides. _____________________________________________________________________


Rumours of the Assad regime’s death are much exaggerated.

Rumours of the Assad regime’s death are much exaggerated.

The fighting in Syria is intensifying. Turkey is closing its border to refugees. Jordan has set up a camp for Syrian fugitives.

The UN observer of the now abandoned ceasefire has said that the overthrow of the Assad regime is only a matter of time. I wonder if this is wishful thinking. I would like it to be true. The evidence points the other way. A major assault has begun on Aleppo – the largest city in Syria. I think the Norwegian general remarked that Dr Al Assad’s rule is living on borrowed time to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. He perhaps hopes that regime figures will say – he is right you know. They may then abandon Assad. To defect might be unwise. Some have. But so many innocents have been killed that it would be difficult for the Free Syrian Army to forgive a lieutenant of Assad’s.

A bomb in a regime command post killed some senior figures. The bomb can only have been planted in the nerve centre of the regime if the rebels has help from the inside. The thought that there are fifth columnists inside the Assad regime must be especially worrying for Bashir Al Assad.

If Dr Assad was going to fall it would have happened long ago. If he was going to flee he would have done it. Russia and to an extent China have invested a lot of political capital in propping up Assad. They have thrown him a diplomatic lifeline. It is said that Russia ships arms to Assad via the Mediterranean. Despite Assad being reviled around the world I think that Russia will stand by her man – as Tammy Wynette said. They want to show the West – no further. Libya set a dangerous precedent and they do not want this to continue. No more ousting of pro-Russian tyrants just because they do something as petty as killing thousands of their own civilians.

There have been a number of massacres of civilians with each side pointing the finger at the other. The people killed in such slaughters have overwhelmingly been SUnni. It is unlikely that the mainly SUnni Free Syrian Army would do this. Would they do it just to blame Assad? This false flag operation could go badly wrong by being exposed and costing them support among Sunnis. They do not need to make Assad look like a brute – evidence for that is already superabundant.

Assad is living in a parallel universe. He says life continues as normal. He holds risibly fraudulent elections. He calls unarmed people ”armed terrorist gangs.” He is an intelligent man and does not come across as unhinged. He may be living in a bubble. Does he believe any of this as Ceausescu did?

So far the AIR force has not been used. Maybe Assad reckons that air strikes would provoke the international    community into acting against him in a forthright manner – with military action.

I thought that Syria might be banned from the Olympic Games. This did not happen. Moral isolation of the Syrian government would have been a good gesture.

Bashir Al Assad claims that his enemies are Al Qa’eda types. This seems to be largely bogus. People say that Christians are full square behind Assad. I am not sure this is true. Apparently there are some Christians in the Free Syrian Army. I suspect that it is the case that majority of Christians are pro-Assad. Always keep a hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse! But the support is not universal as has been claimed.

There is only so much suffering that people can take. Ordinary Syrians hoping for regime change may grow despondent. They probably just want fighting to be over. They may decide that Assad hanging on is inevitable so they may welcome an Assad comeback as a means of getting peace.If Assad decisively clears the country of the FRA there will be the most horrendous revenge exacted on suspects. Whole villages will flee. Sadly that is the most probable outcome. Assad will be strengthened as his enemies will have been driven out of liquidated. The people will be too cowed to attempt to rise up again.

On this day I complete my thirtieth year.


I hear the clock ticking behind me
And so it seems Age stalks up to find me.
I sit scratching out doggerel verse
And I reflect how life could be worse.

I’ve just read Byron’s on this day I complete my thirty-sixth year”
For inspiration on an occasion so drear
I am happy till I think what I’d hoped to do
But still chances stretch far into the blue.

”I want to be an MP before I am thirty”
I said as an adolescent so shirty.
It struck me that setting my sites so high
That it would all probably go awry.

I have much to be grateful for.
A girlfriend, baby, job and more
Where will I be in ten year’s time?
Please not in a state less sublime.

Let me be in a stable job
And being not such a snob
In good health with a little wealth
In love with another – and myself
Having published a tome
And found a decent home
I know this is rather prosaic
But at least it is not elegaic.

Lay off twitterists.

Lay off twitterists.






David Cameron once said that two tweets make a twat. That minced oath was something he said live on radio before he became Prime Minister. Was he not making a twit of himself? He comes down hard on MPs in the Conservative and Unionist Party who say anything controversial. But he himself said something vulgar and offensive in the daytime. Children may have been listening. Oh horror!

A Greek athlete said something that many people found distasteful. She expressed support for the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn Party and she was chucked out of the Greek Olympic team. A Swiss footballer said something hurtful about South Koreans. He was turfed out of the Swiss football team. Correct me if I am wrong but sportsmen and sportswomen are selected for their sporting ability rather than anything else. One may say they are ambassadors for their country but tact and diplomacy is not the main requirement of wearing one’s national jersey and running out onto a field to play whatever. By all means have them apologise. Upbraid them – make them wear sackcloth and ashes. But do not throw them out of the team.

Excuse me, as for saying what one’s voting intention is, in a democracy people have the right to vote for the party of their choice. It is frightening that wanting to vote for a certain party is now an act that merits someone being thrown out of a team. I do not know what the manifesto of the Golden Dawn Party is. It may not be as bad as many say. This term ”far right” is bandied about excessively. But let me assume that the Golden Dawn really is a fascist party. I find racist, totalitarian, thuggish politics repellent. That is why I am so against the IRA. But people with horrific opinions are allowed to play sport.

Sportsmen have often behaved badly. Some are foul-mouthed, boorish, inebriated in public and violent. Some are promiscuous – although I consider that good behaviour and it is the only type of exercise that I like.

I do think we are much too touchy these days. Someone cracks a joke of dubious taste and is flagellated for it. GET OVER IT! Ignore these remarks. It is as though some people are desperate to take offences. A lot of contrived rage is worked up. Leftists then hurl bile and people who say anything that transgresses the rules of the PC Bible. They call anyone who disagrees with them a Nazi. How is that tolerance?

I wish we could rediscover a sense of proportion.

I think of left wingers who get away with shocking public statements. George Galloway said the assassination of Tony Blair would be morally justified. Morrissey said that George W Bush should be killed. These people should be sent to moral Coventry.

Ireland in the 1840s.

Ireland in the 1840s.


In the 1841 census the population of Ireland was proved to stand at some eight millions. The population was rising fast. There was some emigration but it was a trickle compared to what it would soon become. Emigrants moved to Great Britain, the United States, British North America (Canada) and Australia. Those convicted of a serious crime could be transported to Australia where they had to do hard labour for a term of 7 or 14 years and then be released. They were not allowed to return from Australia on pain of death.

The Repeal Association was reaching a peak. The Roman Catholic Church was fully behind this movement. They saw the prospect of a Parliament for Ireland with a clear Catholic majority as being a very good thing. It would make it likely that the Parliament would pass the legislation that the Catholic Church liked. The Catholic Church might even become the established church again. Daniel O’Connell was its leader. He was known as the Liberator for having secured Catholic Emancipation. O’Connell was the MP for Dublin City. In 1841 he was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin. He was the first Roman Catholic to hold this office since 1688.

The Repeal Association had formed an electoral pact with the Liberals in Ireland in the 1830s and achieved some success.

In 1841 the Repeal Association broke wit the Liberal Party. The Repeal Association contested only 22 of Ireland’s 100 parliamentary constituencies. The Repeal Association won 20 of them. The Repeal Association was only taking about 24% of the vote. This is a little misleading. The Repeal Association won 12 constituencies unopposed which therefore meant that no votes were cast in those constituences. The Repeal Association was strongest in the seats where Catholics were in a massive majority. In reality the Repeal Association’s support was rather higher than the figure of 24% implies.

Daniel O’Connell held enormous public gatherings known as monster meetings. In Great Britain the Chartists were doing the same thing.

O’Connell was the champion of reformist causes. He called for the emancipation of the Jews and an end to slavery. Frederick Douglass was impressed by O’Connell. Frederick Douglass visited Ireland spoke up for Repeal.

In 1843 Daniel O’Connell organised a huge public demonstration at Clontarf just outside Dublin. In 1014 Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland, had defeated the Danes at the Battle of Clontarf. The implication was plain. Brian Boru had asserted Ireland’s independence through force of arms. At the same spot 800 years later Daniel O’Connell would assert Ireland’s independence through force or argument.

The Government feared disorder and possible revolt. The meeting was banned. Daniel O’Connell was against revolutions. He refused to break the ban. Nonetheless he was arrested and put on trial. He was fined 2 000 pounds and sentenced to one year in prison. He won his case on appeal to the House of Lords. After 3 months he was set at liberty. People pulled his coach through Dublin in celebration.



The Young Irelanders were a group of men committed to separating Ireland from the UK and to bringing about a social revolution in Ireland. Some Young Irelanders had been members of the Repeal Association. They had grown disillusioned with Daniel O’Connell’s insistence on constitutionalism and his horror at violence. Not only did they disdain O’Connell’s pacific methods they also disliked his goals for being so limited.

The Young Irelanders rediscovered the violent revolutionary tradition in Ireland that had been dormant for almost half a century. Their word ‘Young’ in their name was redolent of that adopted by other nationalist movements in several European countries. There was Young Poland, Young Germany and even Young England. Young England was in fact a group of Conservative politicians who harked back to a semi-mythical romantic view of te Middle Ages.

Thomas Davis was a prominent Young Irelander. Davis was Welsh on his father’s side and Irish on his mother’s side. He was brought up as a Protestant. He thought that Protestants were Irish first and foremost and must embrace this identity. He edited a newspaper entitled, ”The Nation.” The nation referred to in this name meant Ireland and not the United Kingdom.

William Smith O’Brien was another leading light of the Young Irelanders. Smith O’Brien came from an Anglican landowing family in County Tipperary. Smith O’Brien has the misfortune to attend Harrow School.

There was a rising tide of nationalitic feeling across Europe. In non-independent and disunited countries many people began to feel that a rebellion was called for. Such a feeling swept the many states of Germany. It was abroad in Romania which was then divided into Austrian, Ottoman and Russian zones. It stirrued in Hungary. In Poland too this sentiment burst forth. In Italy this urge was apparent. In France revolutionary passion mounted but admittedly not for nationalist reasons.

The desire for unity and independence was in many countries confined to cafe intellectuals. But nonetheless these  loudmouths were going to match their bombast with action.

Those of strong nationalist feelings drifted away from the Repeal Association. The Repeal Association began to lose steam. Many among the younger generation found the Repeal Association’s temperate language unattractive.



Once O’Connell decided not to go ahead with the Clontarf rally his movement went into a downward spiral. O’Connell lost face with the hotheads. O’Connell became increasingly frail and religiously obsessed.

In 1847 he went on a pilgrimage to Rome. He died en route in Genoa. He ordered that his body be buried in Rome and his heart in Dublin. Daniel O’Connell’s heart is buried under a round tower in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin. Glasnevin was to become the graveyard where the most prominent nationalists and republicans were interred.



Much of the Irish population was dependent on the potato for sustenance. In many areas of the west and of the south there was close to a monoculture. This was of course risky.

In 1845 it was noticed that some potatos as they came to be harvested were rotten. A disease had spread among potatoes turning them black and rendering them inedible. The authorities learnt of this before long. Sir Robert Peel, the Conservative Prime Minister, spent 100 000 of public funds on purchasing maize and cornmeal from the United States. The Government’s response at first was fairly quick and coped with the situation quite well. The trouble was that the UK Government believed that the problem had been solved and that was that.

In counties along the Atlantic coast many families quickly became malnourished. Malnutrition turned to starvation. Those who could traveled in search of work. Some too ship to Great Britain or America. People were known to commit a crime and hang around at the scene of the crime to be caught. They wanted to be sent to prison because this guaranteed them food. The prison authorities realised what people were doing and lowered the already meagre prison ration. Workhouses were inundated with people seeking indoor relief. Workhouses were made unpleasant deliberiately. The idea was to deter anyone from seeking assistance unless they were absolutely desperate.

In 1847 the Famine became much worse. People spoke of the year as ”Black 47”. Black being an epithet for anything negative. There is a band in the United States that supports Irish republicanism and it calls itself ”Black 47” for this reason.

The sytem of poverty relief was breaking down under the strain. There had never been so many people dependent on government help.

People debilitated due to being underfed were especially vulnerable to disease. Contagious diseases ravaged Ireland.

The main issue in UK politics at the time was the repeal of the corn laws. Eventually Sir Robert Peel with a small faction of Conservatives was able, with Liberal support, to have the corn laws phased out. This was partly to alleviate suffering in Ireland. A gradual reduction in the price of corn was insufficient in the face of a great emergency.

The British Government ordered Indian meal to be sent to Ireland. Soup kitchens distributed free meals to starving people. Modern dieticians have analysed the content of these soups and found out that they were not in fact very nutritious.

Some shopkeepers exploited the situation by raising their prices. They calculated that people on the verge of death would not quibble about the cost of life.

Irish republicans often claim that more food was exported from Ireland during the Famine than came in. In fact this is not so as demonstrated by Tom Wilson in ”Ulster – conflict and consensus.”

It is true that some Irish farmers exported food – mainly to Great Britain. These men wished to make money. They could try and sell their produce to famine victims. The famine victims tended to be poor tenant farmers whose only income was the crops they raised. These famine victims had little if any money with which to purchase food. Those who exported food from Ireland were often selling their produce in order to pay rent and tithes. Some of the rent was going to absentee landlords who lived in Great Britain.

There were landlords who were ignorant of what was going on in their estates. A few of them never visited Ireland. Some were aware and were simply callous. There were some benign landlords who deferred rents, reduced rents, temporarily abolished rents and sent relief.

The Prime Minister at the time was Lord John Russell, a Liberal. Lord John Russell took the view that Irish property should pay to help the starving. Irish property owners were often dependent on rent for their wealth. Tenants in the worst affected counties were of course seldom able to pay their rent because they had lost everything due to the Famine.

One Catholic bishop said that the Famine was divine retribution for Ireland accepting godless colleges.

Estimates vary as to how many died. It is known that when the famine began in 1846 the population was something over 8 000 000. By the time of the next census the population was 6 550 000. The drop in the Irish population was about 1 500 000. Not all of this figure of 1 500 000 is explained by death. Not all of the deaths are connected to the Famine. Some emigrated. There is another factor. When the Famine started the number of marriages decreased dramatically. Sometimes a man lost his wife or a woman lost her husband due the Famine. This is another reason when the birth rate suddenly fell. Those who emigrated were those who could most easily leave. This meant young single people or couples without too many children. The more children one had to take the higher the fare for passage would be. Often the very poorest could not afford the price of a ticket and it was those just one rung above penury who emigrated. The very poorest of course were those most likely to starve. The fact that people in the most fertile stage of their life were the most likely to depart Ireland’s shores again accounts for the sudden enormous drop in the number of births. Many people died from disease at this time. The Famine was a contributory factor to this.                                                   

Republicans want to inflate the number of Famine dead to make the Famine seem even worse than it was and as a means of heigtening anti-English feeling. Unionists are wont to reduce the number of Famine dead. Republicans sometimes claim a figure of 2 000 000 which is almost certainly a big exaggeration and 1 000 000 emigrated in the immediate aftermarth of the Famine. This figure of emigrants is again surely a major exaggeration if one only looks at the few years just after the Famine. The number of deaths is likely to be at least 775 000 – which is an estimate by revisionist historian R.F.Foster.

In the middle of a horrific humanitarian crisis Irish republican decided to do just what is needed in the midst of Famine. They chose to start a conflict. The Young Irelanders revolt broke out in Tipperary. There was an ignominious skirmish called ”The Battle of Widow McCormick’s Cabbage Patch.” The Young Irelanders were quickly defeated by the Irish Constabulary.

If the Young Irelanders had succeeded in causing a major conflict to break out then the Famine would have got much worse. It would have become much more difficult to distribute food and for people to emigrate. Roads and railways would have been clogged with troops. Roads and railways would probably have been sabotaged by the Young Irelanders. The Government would have been distracted from its mission to save people from starvation.

The UK Government tried to help the starving. The help was of course too little and too late. The notion that there was no help is false and offensive.

Private organisations tried to help too. Churches were the Non-Governmental Organisations of their time. The Religious Society of Friends – better known as the Quakers – distributed food. It is said that some Protestant churches demanded that starving Catholics convert to Protestantism before they be given life sustaining food. It is questionable as to whether this is true. An Irishman with a Native Irish name who is a Protestant is said to be a souper because he forbears are presumed to have converted during the Famine. For a Catholic to convert to Protestantism is to ”take the soup.”

Queen Victoria contributed money to a relief fund. Irish republicans invented a slur that she gave 5 pounds and an equal amount to Battersea Dogs’ Home just so she would not be seen as being pro-Irish. This falsehood was peddled those who wished to sow ill-feelings between Ireland and Great Britain. A statue of Queen Victoria stood by Leinster House for many years. Leinster House is the seat of the Oireachtas – the Irish Parliament. In 1949 the statue of Queen Victoria was removed. One politician came out waving a 5 pound not in reference to the poisonous myth. Her statue was sent to Sydney where is stands outside a shopping arcade. Irish republicans dubbed Queen Victorira, ”the Famine Queen.”

Irish republicans try to claim that they own the Famine. This is their event. Because of the event everyone should support Irish republicans and kill people in the 21st century. It is as though they think that all Famine victims were republicans and all survivors turned into republicans. On the Falls Road in 2005 a gable end mural dubbed the Famine, ”The Irish Holocaust.”

The Famine hit Munster and Connaught particularly hard. Connaught suffered a 28% fall in population between 1841 and 1851. Ulster suffered a 16% fall during the same decade. Leinster suffered marginally less then Ulster. Overall Ireland sustained a 20% drop in population from 1841-1851. Of course not all deaths are attributable, even partly attributable to the Famine. In any population there will be some morbidity over the course of ten years. In the nineteenth century one expected the natural wastage of a population to be more than made up for by births. As has been explained the number of birth fell very sharply for a few years.

In Ulster it was Donegal was struck severely by the Famine. The Famine was almost entirely a Catholic experience. The Protestants in southern Ireland were very seldom among the poorest class. Poor Protestants in Ulster were not much affected by the Famine. The eastern counties of Ulster where Protestants were in the majority were not counties where potatoes were much grown. Because the the less windy and less rainy climate and the richer soil of that part of Ireland many other crops would be successfully raised there.

The fact that the Famine hit Catholics – especially in Munster and Connaught – and barely touched the Protestant majority counties drove another wedge between the two communities. The Famine was the single defining experience in the nineteenth century for Catholic Ireland. It was a horror that Protestant Ireland had the good fortune to mainly escape.

Irish republicans have claimed the the Famine was genocide. George Bernard Shaw was an Irish republican who had the temerity to spend his adult life in the country that he thought was the cruellest on earth – England. Bernard Shaw wrote a play called, ”John Bull’s Other Island” which was of course about Ireland. Bernard Shaw has a character hear someone speak of ”The Famine.” This Irish republican replies as the stage direction says, ”with a smouldering passion.” – ”Famine? There was no Famine. There can be no Famine in a country that was exporting food. It was the Great Hunger.” The name stuck. Irish republicans prefer to call this enormous tragedy the Great Hunger or in Irish, An Gort Mor.

Irish men who emigrated from Ireland before the 1840s had often been Protestant. Protestant emigration from Ireland slowed considerably. Catholic emigration had started to slowly pick up in the early 19th century. From the 1840s it became a flood. The great majority of emigrants after the Famine were Catholics. Many of these people were those who had seen their relatives die in the Famine. The destination of choice was the USA. Emigration to the United States was mainly from the west of Ireland – the place hit hardest by starvation.

Many people emigrated out of Great Britain as well. Again the most popular destination was the United States. However, the level of emigration from Great Britain was lower than from Ireland. Ireland’s preference for the US as a destination was more marked than that of Great Britain.

Not a few of the Irishmen who emigrated after the 1840s often took with them an abiding animosity towards Great Britain.



The late 1840s was a period of rising sectarian enmity. Times of hardship tend to be that way.

In 1849 there was a major clash at Dolly’s Brae. A brae is a Scots word meaning a hillside. Many Protestants in eastern Ulster spoke a dialect called Ulster-Scots – also known as Ullans. At this fight Orangemen defeated some Catholics. Loyalists commemorate this in a song about the clash.

The Orange Order which had one into abeyance in the early 1840s was revived.

On the political scene the Irish Repeal Association broke up in 1848 and never contested elections again. Irish Members of Parliament were thereafter either Conservative or Liberal. These two parties now used these names as official. The word Whig largely disappeared. The name Tory remained a soubriquet for the Conservative Party.

Ireland at the start of the 19th century.


On 1 January 1801 Ireland became part of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom was a war against France which was then ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Irishmen volunteered for the British Army and the Royal Navy and served in many lands and on many seas. Those who joined the army and the navy tended to come from poor families. They were mainly Catholic but a good few Protestants joined up as well. At home Irishmen could defend Ireland by enlisting in the Militia or if they had a horse in the Yeomanry. In practice these forces were recruited from the middling to wealthier citizens and were largely Protestant.

Napoleon Bonaparte was canny enough and conservative enough to make amends with the Catholic Church. The war against France could no longer be presented to Irish Catholics as a war against an enemy of their church. However, at the end of Napoleon’s reign he fell out with the Roman Catholic Church again and imprisoned Pope Pius VII.

The Prime Minister Pitt the Younger tried to introduce Catholic Emancipation into the UK Parliament. He wanted Catholics in all parts of the UK to have equality with Protestants. Pthis might be achieved. In people were hopeful that this might be accomplished. In the British colony of Canada Protestant and Catholics had legal equality. King George III was strongly anti-Catholic. He said that he had taken a coronation oath to uphold the primacy of Protestantism. He said of Catholic Emanicaption, ”that’s the most jacobinical thing I ever heard of.” The Jacobins were trhe most extreme faction of French revolutionaries. In fact the Jacobins hated the Catholic Church but not for the same reasons as George III. George III motivated the anti-Catholic element in Parliament o block any bill. William Pitt the Younger had to let the idea drop. Because he could not honour his intention of achieving equality for different religious denominations he resigned as Prime Minister.

Because the Union was not accompanied by a reform package for Catholics the Catholic population was very let down. Some turned against the Union.

On the other hand the Protestant Ascendancy withdrew its oppositon to the Act of Union. There has been 300 MPs and plenty of peers in the Irish Parliament. There were only about 132 Irishmen in the Parliament of Great Britain so not so many Irishmen could rise to office. Nevertheless the Irish upper class recognised that its interests were not undermined by the Union. In fact the elite’s position was more secure than ever. The super rich in Ireland were often elected for Irish seats but spent most of their time in London because that was there the UK Parliament was situated.

Irish MPs mostly identified with either Whigs or Tories. These were the two main parties in Great Britain and so they became the two main parties in Ireland. Some Irish MPs did not align themselves with either party. They was no separate political party in Ireland.

The Orange Order had been against the Union. As the Union did not weaken Protestant privilege the Orange Order withdrew its opposition to the Union. The Orangemen stressed their loyalty to the monarch. A united crown was just as agood as a divided crown to them.



The Society of United Irishmen had launched a bloody revolt in 1798. This had been put down with excessive violence. Bands of United Irishmen still held out in the woods of Wexford and in the Wicklow Mountains.

Robert Emmet was an Anglican Dubliner from an affluent family. Robert Emmet was a member of the United Irishmen along with his brother. Emmet had studied at Trinity College, Dublin. Emmet was eventually sent down for his radical activities. He was a member of the United Irishmen and the authorities wished to arrest him.

Emmet went abroad just after the 1798 Rebellion. He spent some time in France attempting to secure military assistance. Having backed one revolt in Ireland that ended as a dismal failure the French government was understandably reluctant to commit any of its stretched resources to what seemed to be a forlorn hope. Those who were minded to revolt had mostly been imprisoned or killed. Ireland had joined the UK so the notion of an Irish Republic seemed further away than ever. Most of the population were sick of figting and were willing to at least tolerate the Union.

The French Government agreed to military aid in principle – when the time was right. The UK and France made peace in 1801 which lasted into 1802. Emmet took the chance to return to Ireland. Later that same year, in 1802, war resumed between the UK and France.

Despite his radical politics Emmet was well-connected to the establishment. He was stepping out with Sarah Curran. Sarah Curran was the daughter of a well-known former Irish MP and judge – John Philpot Curran. John Philpot Curran was a man of fairly liberal views and supported equality for Catholics but he had no truck with revolution.John Philpot Curran saw that Robert Emmet was a man without prospects because of his revolutionary views – in fact he was dangerous to know. Curran forbade his daughter to see Emmet. They two met up secretly and had letters smuggled between them. It is hard to argue against Mr Curran’s assessment. Marrying Emmet was likely to lead to early widowhood for Sarah. Emmet conspired to start another rebellion. Emmet recognised that French support was probably essential for his insurrection to stand the least chance of success.

Robert Emmet set up a secret arms factory in Dublin.

In 1803 there was an explosion at Emmet’s clandestine weapons factory. Emmet was anxious because he felt that this would alert the authorities to his plot. Although his plan was not quite ready to go he believed that he had to strike immediately because otherwise he and his comrades would be rounded up before they had an opportunity to strike. On 23 July the revolt went ahead.

Robert Emmet’s rebellion consisted of little more than a tussle outside Dublin Castle. Lord Kilwarden (a judge) was coming out of the castle in a coach. Emmet’s men stopped the coach and pulled the noble lord and his nephew out of the coach. They were stabbed to death. Scrapping took place mostly around Thomas Street. It is thought that about 20 soldiers were slain and 50 rebels.

Emmet’s farcical uprising soon broke up and his men scattered that same night. Emmet had been horrified by the bloodshed – what did he expect? He had told his acolytes to abandon the effort. Emmet was not immediately taken prisoner.

Sarah Curran, Emmet’s girlfriend, has a maid named Anne Devlin. Anne Devlin had acted as a housekeeper at a premises that was a cache for Emmet’s weapons. Robert Emmet had taken Anne Devlin into his confidence.

Sarah Curran went into hiding. In order to find out more about the United Irishmen the authorities arrested Anne Devlin. They wanted her to reveal the whereabouts of wanted men and for her to testify against Robert Emmet. She refused to speak and members of her family were also arrested. She was eventutally released after 3 years and lived in Dublin to a great age. Bearing in mind the promiscuous use of the death penalty at the time her serving only 3 years in prison after having been deeply involved in high treason was lenient in the extreme. She is commemorated by the Wolfe Tones and their song Anne Devlin, ”In the Liberties of Dublin they will speak your name with pride.”

Robert Emmet was arrested on 25 August 1803. He was caught because he moved from hiding in one safe house to another closer to his paramour Sarah Curran.

Emmet stood trial in September 1803. He had defence barristers. He also gave a final speech from the dock before sentence was passed. He verdict had been a foregone conclusion. No one had the least doubt that he had done what he said he had done. Lord Norbury was the judge. One point that any fair-minded person must admit, even if they sympathise wit Emmet, is that he had proposed to bring French troops into Ireland. The purpose was to kick out the mainland British troops. Having got French soldiers in it would prove very difficult to eject them. Emmet said he sought French help but had no intention of allowing Ireland to be a vassal of France. He would have been willing to fight against France as well.

His stirring oration included the words, ”until Ireland takes her place amongst the nations of the world then – and not till then – let my epitaph be written.” His poise and eloquence redounded to his fame.

He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The sentence of the court was executed upon his body within a few days of the trial. He was put to death outside St Catherine’s Church which is an Anglican one. The Church still stands on Thomas Street. This street is where most of the skirmishing of his revolt took place. There is a pub on the street called The Bould Robert Emmet. ‘Bould’ being a Dublin pronunciation of bold.

The location of Emmet’s body is a mystery. Some say that the authorities buried it secretly to prevent it becoming a focal point of republican activity.

Sarah Curran moved to County Cork and wed. She had two children and died in 1808 aged 26.

Robert’s elder brother Thomas Addis Emmet fled to the United States. He became the Attorney General of New York. Robert Emmet is known as the Bold Robert Emmet. A song about him says, ”hark the bells tolling. I well know its meaning. Soon I will show them no coward am I. I will lay down my life for the Emerald Isle.”



The war against France raged on. Arthur Wellesley was an Irish-born general who commanded British forces in India and latterly in Iberia.

After 1803 the situation in Ireland was very calm with almost nobody wanting to fight.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was an English radical who felt sorry for Irish Catholics in their plight. He was also against the Act of Union. He sailed across to Ireland and met with reformers in Ireland. Shelley was against violence and wished to see a peaceful campaign for sweeping reform. He published his Address to the Irish Nation. His efforts achieved very little.

Eventually the exchequers of Ireland and Great Britain were united. Ireland became part of the sterling zone. In 1810 full free trade between the two islands became a reality.

In 1812 the Irish Peace Preservation Force was established. This was effectively a police force but the word police was not used. People in the UK were very suspicious of the idea of police which they felt was an instrument of state oppression. Ireland was felt to be a special case in view of its lawlessness and the fact that there had been the United Irishmen uprising with French aid.

The Irish Peace Preservation Force was at first only open to Protestants. Quickly this was changed and Catholics were also allowed to enlist.

In 1815 the Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley) scored a decisive victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The Duke of Wellington was the most celebrated Irishman of the age. The war against France that had gone on for 22 years (with two brief interludes) was finally at an end.

As the security situation had improved many in Ireland felt that some long overdue reforms were in order.

Irish Catholics pressed for equality. They also bitterly resented paying tithes to a church that they did not worship in. Presbyterians and members of other free churches also resented paying this tithe to the Church of Ireland but the Church of Ireland was at least a fellow Protestant church. Catholic committees were founded to campaign for the rights of Catholics.


Daniel O’Connell was a distinguished barrister from County Kerry. O’Connell was born into a Catholic family that had managed to retain substantial estates through Penal times. Some estates had been nominally owned by a Protestant friend of theirs to evade the law.

O’Connell founded the Catholic Association. This was deliberately set up as a mass membership organisation. It was one of the first mass membership organisations in the world. It was open to people of all religious denominations. Membership was set at a penny per household. The aim was to make membership affordable even for the poor. As people paid for the organisation they felt they owned it and were more likely to be involved in the movement. This membership fee was called Catholic rent.

Daniel O’Connell organised mass meetings to spread his message. The UK Government became rather worried. O’Connell was not a revolutionary and emphasised that he did not wish to separate from Great Britain. He merely insisted on equality.

In the 1810s and 1820s Catholic Emancipation became a tendentious issue in British politics. Lord Liverpool was the Prime Minister from 1812-27. He found the issue to divisive that he decided not to have a collective policy on it for his government. All members of the Cabinet were of course Protestants as the law dictated. But they were known as ”Catholics” if they supported Catholic Emancipation and as ”Protestants” if they did not support it.

The demand for emancipation became irresistible. People feared another rebellion.

The Duke of Wellington had long ago set his face against Catholic Emancipation. His protege was Sir Robert Peel. Sir Robert Peel had been the Chief Secretary of State for Ireland. Peel was briefly the MP for Cashel. Peel had been known as ‘Orange Peel’ owing to his strident defence of religious inequality.

Willaim Vesey FitzGerald was an Irish MP who sat for County Clare. Vesey FitzGerland was promoted to the Cabinet. In those days someone appointed to a new government office had to stand for election again. This was not changed until about 1920. Daniel O’Connell stood against him since there was no law disbarring a Catholic from standing for election only from taking his seat. O’Connell won convincingly. As O’Connell did not take his seat it was decided to hold the by-election again. Again there was the same result. The by-election was run a third time again with the same result. Something had got to give.

In 1829 Peel wrote Wellington a letter. He said that Catholic Emancipation was dangerous but not allowing it had become even more dangerous. The safest course was therefore to allow it.

In April 1829 Catholic Emancipation was passed. Catholics were allowed to hold almost all public offices. Oaths of office were amended to remove the parts objectionable to Catholics. Roman Catholics remained barred from being sovereign or the consort thereof; being a general in the army; an admiral in the navy or Prime Minister or Viceroy of Ireland.

Daniel O’Connell was returned as MP for Clare – he took his seat. Incidentally Vesey FitzGerald was in favour of Catholic Emancipation and there was no ill-feeling between him and O’Connell. O’Connell simply saw the by-election as a means of advancing his cause.



No sooner had Daniel O’Connell taken his oath to King George IV than he founded a new organisation. He set up the Loyal National Repeal Association. The word loyal was to underline the fact that it bore allegiance to the crown and was not revolutionary. For short it was known as the Repeal Association.

The Repeal Association intend to repeal the Act of Union. It wanted to establish an Irish Parliament in Dublin. Men of all religious denominations would have equal rights. There would still be a property qualification for the right to vote and an even more stringent one for the right to be elected an MP. George IV would be the King of Ireland as well as being the King of Great Britain.

Daniel O’Connell was a practising Catholic as were most Irishmen. He was thought to identify more and more with the partisan Catholic cause.

Daniel O’Connell stood for Parliament as a Repealer. He was elected. He sat for Cork City for a while and later for Dublin City. As Dublin City had the largest electorate in Ireland it was the most prominent constituency. O’Connell’s supporters also stood for election as Repealers. Some of them were elected.

The majority of Irish Members of Parliament remained either Whigs or Tories. The Tories were all against the proposal to repeal the Act of Union. Some Whigs stood as Whig Repealers and others stood as Whig Anti-Repealers. The majority of Irish MPs were still against repeal. This may not represent majority opinion. This was still a pre-democratic era. Even after the 1832 Great Reform Act only about 8% of Irishmen had the right to vote.

O’Connell found little sympathy among the Whigs and none among the Tories. He was astute enough to ally with Whigs and Radicals in the Lichfield House Compact to bring down the Tory Government. Some Whigs of very advanced views had broken off the Whig Party in the 1820s and called themselves Radicals. O’Connell found a sympathetic hearing among them.



The Irish population had been growing rapidly – reaching a peak of around 8 000 000 in 1841. The population therefore doubled in around 40 years. Potatos had been grown in Ireland since the early 17th century. The fact that the potato is a hardy crop and will grow even in thin, stony and gale-lashed soil made it an ideal staple food for Ireland. Some take the fast growing population as evidence of an economic boom in Ireland. This could be a benefit of the Union.

There was a growing dissonance between Protestants and Roman Catholics on the issue of the union. The division and even enmity between Protestants of different religious denominations all but disappeared in the early 19th century. Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Wesleyans, Baptists, Unitarians and Plymouth Brethren seemed to have formed a pan-Protestant alliance. The earlier traditon of radicalism particularly among the Presbyterians was largely forgotten.

Ulster’s economy grew substantially under the Union. The industrial revolution had taken off in Great Britain in the early 19th century. The north-east corner of Ireland. Factories were being set up and shipyards expanded fast. Belfast has been a town of 20 000 at the turn of the 19th century. By the 1840s it was home to over 100 000 people.

A fundamentalist Protestant preacher known as ‘Roaring’ Hana became an outspoken Unionist. He said, ”look at Belfast harbour and be a repealer if you can.” He was referring to the dozens of ships one would see there. They were often built in Belfast – providing work for people. The shipbuilders were mostly Protestants from the province of Ulster. Ships that were not built in Ireland sailed into and out of that harbour. They carried away Irish exports and brought in imports from other places. Ulster’s prosperity was closely tied to trading with Great Britain and with colonies in the ever growing British Empire.

One must not take care not to exaggerate. Ulster was mainly agricultural in the 1830s but the south of Ireland was even more agricultural. The industrial part of Ulster was only Belfast and a few towns in the east of the province. Ulster was only about 55% Protestant at the time. In the eastern counties this majority was much higher.

In Great Britain the major political parties were Whigs and Tories. These parties did well in Ulster. The Tories were more strongly identified with Unionism. Catholics were more likely to vote for the Whigs unless they voted for the Repeal Association. Protestant normally voted for the Tories.

The Tories from 1828 were very gradually starting to be known as Conservatives. The term was coined by an Irish MP – John Wilson Croker.



The Repeal issue was to an extent an issue of high politics. The most numerous category of Irishman was a Catholic renting a small farm from a Protestant landlord. Such a man tended to resent paying rent. No one likes it but it is all the more galling if one thinks that the property should not belong to the landlord but to oneself. This is especially so if one regards the landlord as an exploitative foreigner who subscribes to an apostate religion and until recently tried to deny one rights on the grounds of one’s faith. Paying tithes to the Church of Ireland also aggravated Catholics.

Which Parliament controlled Ireland was somewhat academic. Paying rent and tithes was a bread and butter issue. This could not fail to hold the attention of even the most apolitical person.

In the countryside, especially in the three southern provinces, Ribbonism was rife. Ribbonmen were called that because they wore ribbons on their clothes to identify themselves as they went about their activities at night. The ribbon was green which had became the colour of Irish nationalism and of Irish Catholicism. Catholicism and nationalism were seen as increasingly one and the same thing. A song of the late 20th century about Irish republicans alludes to the Ribbonmen of the 19th century, ”all around my hat you know I wear the tricoloured ribbon-o.” The Ribbonmen were divided into lodges on a geographical basis. A lodge was simply a group of men. They usually did not have a building they met in as a lodge.

They Ribbonmen were pretty much exclusviely Catholic and perhaps anti-Protestant. Ribbonmen took action against landlords who were thought to charge too much rent. If a landlord evicted a tenant in a manner that the Ribbonmen thought unfair they would take action. If someone rented a property from which another person had been evicted within the past three years this new tenant would be subject to sanctions enacted by the Ribbonmen. The Ribbonmen also opposed those to tried to levy tithes on behalf of the Church of Ireland.

Ribbonmen went around at night. They would cut the tails off cattle belonging to a hate figure and possibly kill the cattle, sheep and horses of their enemies. This caused economic loss to the enemy but also served as a warning. Next time it will not be an animal that is killed but you. By not stealing the animal it was difficult to prove who committed this action. If one was caught with a stolen beast then the evidence was there. Ribbonmen could also say they were actuated by high minded motives – they were not stealing. They vandalised property of their enemies. They would gather several men or perhaps dozens and surround the house of an enemy in the dead of night. This was an act of intimidation. This perhaps could be beaten or occasionally killed.

Ribbonmen sent poison pen letters sometimes containg death threats to those whom it considered to be enmies of the ordinary Catholic tenant.

The succeeded in having landlords lower their rents; be slow to evict tenants and have the Church of Ireland reduce its tithes and sometimes not attempt to collect tithes at all.

The Royal Irish Constabulary was founded in 18_____. This body of men was open to those of all religious persuasions. It soon became a largely Catholic force. It was issued with firearms. In Dublin the Dublin Metropolitan Police provided security and they were not issued with guns.

The RIC had a hard task controlling the Ribbonmen. The Ribbonmen was an illegal organisation. It was oath-bound. It harked back to the Defenders. The Ribbonmen kept very few documents so as not to compromise its secrecy. What is known of it largely comes from police reports and court records.

In Ulster Ribbonmen sometimes clashed with their Protestant counterparts. The Oakboys, Peep O’Day Boys and Steelboys were in decline. The Orange Order largely replaced them. The Orange Order was by its founding documents a Protestant only society.

The Orange Order was a dodgy organisation. It allowed Protestants of all churches to join in the early 19th century. It had been originally only for members of the Church of Ireland. It took action against unpopular landlords. It also fought against Ribbonmen. Both organisations wanted people from its denomination to rent the land.

Sometimes pitched battles were fought between the two sectarian factions.

The Orange Order was disapproved of by the authorities. In the 1820s it was outlawed briefly.

The Orange Order set up lodges in Great Britain and in other places where Irish Protestants ventured. It had lodges in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and India.


Basescu will probably survive – just.

Basescu will probably survive – just.

Today is polling day in the Republic of Romania. Romania is holding a referendum on whether President Basescu – currently suspended – should be removed from office and impeached. I saw an opinion poll saying that 60% of people would vote for the USL and only 20% for the PDL and the rest for minor parties. I did not see any results on how people intend to vote in the referendum. The PDL is Basescu’s former party. He is formally independent but unofficially backed by the PDL. Therefore one assumes that PDL supporters will vote No to impeachment.

On the face of it one would assume that Traian Basescu will be turfed out. Only 20% of people back his party. I have seen so many posters for the YES campaign and only a handful of leaflets for the NO campaign. Then I found out why. President Basescu initially urged his loyalists to vote NO of course. But the constitutional court said that for the referendum to be valid at least 50% of registered voters must vote. Therefore even if the Yes campaign wins 99% of the votes cast if turnout is below 50% then the No campaign will win. This is why President Traian Basescu is telling his followers to boycott the referendum. I have not detected much enthusiasm even among those who loathe Basescu. I have not seen queues outside polling stations. It is Sunday and most people are off work so it is easy to vote. A good idea to increase turnout. Romania has been doing this for years.

I think that Basescu will cling on narrowly. One thing I am unsure about. Supposing the NO campaign carries the day and over 50% of registered voters both to vote – there is a presidential election. Is Basescu entitled to stand then? One person said to me that would be daft if he has just been chucked out of office. But if most people want to put him back in then why not? At the moment he is standing against nobody. Once electors see what the aLternative is they may decide that Basescu is all right.

Basescu is often under estimated. It is hard to find someone who likes him. Yet he defeated the incumbent Adrian Nastase in 2004. He fought off another such referendum vote in 2007. He was returned to office in 2009. He has won three polls.

By the way the word on the street is that Nastase is not injured. He made no attempt to kill himself. If he wanted to he could easily have done it. The neck is a bad place to cut if you want to make a parasuicidal gesture. It could easily go wrong. They just put the bandage on so he can go to hospital instead of gaol. Why kill yourself over a 2 year sentence when he will serve half and come out to his wealth?

An old woman told me she voted against Basescu and stamped on the floor to show what she would like to do to him. The bald head cut her pension. But will a new president raise it? Where is the money coming from? I do not see how changing the prrsident will improve the lot of people like this old lady. In fact since this political furore erupted the leu has lost 10% of its value. That took only a month. It may slide further aas the situation grows ever more uncertain. The International Monetary Fund is discussing giving ROmania billions more. The IMF is getting cold feet because of the jumpy political situation.

It is easy to criticise. The USL have upbraided him but not offered practical solutions to Romania’s travails.

Basescu got Romania into the EU in the end. It was touch and go as to whether Romania would be admitted in 2007 or made to spend a few more years getting its house in order. Surely it was the wrong decision for the EU. Romania has been able to have people go abroad and get work which reduced unemployment. It also meant that many Romanian criminals went abroad. This cut crime in Romania but further damaged Romania’s reputation abroad.

If there is corruption I am reminded of the leeches fable. Do not brush away bloated leeches because new hungrier ones will come.

I can see one advantage of booting out Basescu. It would punish him and his cronies. It would show that misgovernment is penalised and not tolerated. It would be a warning to his successors.

It shows Romania should never have been allowed into the EU. Politics is unstable and too partisan. Corruption is still widespread and the courts can be knobbled.

I think it will be some time before Basescu has to go back to being a sea captain.

Ireland passes the Act of Union.


In the aftermath of the 1798 Rebellion it was decided by establishment figures in Ireland and Great Britain that the two kingdoms must unite. William Pitt, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, was strongly of this view.

Amongst Irish politicians there were those who were Unionists and those who were Anti-Unionists. The word nationalist was not used in relation to Ireland at the time.

Many of the Unionists had in the 1770s and 1780s pushed for legislative independence and declaimed in the purplest of language their willingness to die for their cause. It seemed as though they had undergone a volte-face. This is not quite so. If Ireland and Great Britain united then Ireland would of course be represented in the new parliament and would have a say in the affairs of the whole realm.

Many of those who had set their face against the United Irishmen in 1798 opposed the bill of Union in 1799. Irish politicians almost all believed that the propertied classes should govern. Just how much property one should own before one had the right to vote was a subject of some discussion. The basic anti-democratic principle was accepted by just about everyone. Irish MPs were all loyal to the crown – so they opposed the United Irishmen on this point.

William Pitt the Younger believed that Roman Catholics should have equal rights. He wanted Catholic Emancipation to accompany the Act of Union. The Protestant minority were fearful of Catholic domination. Many opposed religious equality because they were worried that Catholics would discriminate against them. Pitt’s argument was that if Ireland joined the United Kingdom then there would be a Protestant minority in the UK as a whole and therefore Protestant anxiety about Catholic denomination would be allayed. It would be safe to grant Catholic Emancipation. Pitt the Younger wanted to fund the Catholic Church and to terminate the obnoxious practice of compelling people of all faiths to pay tithes to the Church of Ireland.

Whether safe or not discriminating against someone on the grounds of their religious beliefs is manifestly unfair but that was not the way most people saw it in the 18th century.

Lord Clare supported the Union but opposed allowing equality to the Catholic majority. Henry Grattan was the other way around. He was against the Union but had for years been calling for Catholics to be given the same rights as Anglicans. Grattan had been out of Parliament for years but in the middle of the night bought Wicklow Borough and travelled post haste to Dublin to be there one morning in January 1800 for a debate on the Union. He was cheered to the rafters. Henry Flood was an Anti-Unionist who was against granting the same rights to Catholics as were enjoyed by members of the Church of Ireland. Lord Kilwarden voted for the Union and campaigned against religious equality.

It may be seen that there were two separate issues – religious equality and the Union.

In 1799 a Bill of Union was introduced. It was first defeated in the Irish Parliament. The Irish House of Commons voted it down by 4 votes. 109 voted against and 104 voted for the bill. Considering that the House of Commons had 300 members it is notable that a great many people were absent. It seems that many MPs did not take a great interest in what was a very important matter. Perhaps because of the controversy many wished to be seen as neutral.

Robert Stewart was a prominent Irish politician. He hailed from County Armagh and was raised to the peerage with the title Viscount Castlereagh. Lord Castlereagh was later awarded a very noble title – The Marquess of Londonderry. However, he is generally known as Lord Castlereagh. Lord Castlereagh pushed for the Act of Union. He said, ”we must find the fee simple of Irish corruption.” In more modern language he was saying that Irish politicians must be rewarded to support the Act of Union. He wanted to pay the lowest price that the government could get away with. These inducements took the form of hard cash and noble titles or ignoble titles as some saw them.

The Government of Ireland and the Government of Great Britain did their best to offer sweeteners to persuade Anti-Unionists to become Unionists. Some were offered peerages either for titles relating to Ireland or to Great Britain. They and their relatives were offered public offices. There was plenty swill in the trough. This was a standard means of buying political support in the British Isles and many other countries. To some extent of course it still goes on.

The Orange Order did not support the Act of Union. It did not oppose it either but chose to remain neutral on the question. The Orange Order was happy with Ireland’s position as a sister kingdom of Great Britain. Some within the movement wanted to join the UK and others not. One issue that made Orangemen chary about the notion of Ireland being incorporated nto the UK was that Pitt the Younger made it plain that he intended that the Act of Union be followed shortly by Catholic Emancipation to which the Orange Order was resolutely opposed.

It is difficult to disentangle the reasons why many gongs and much money was given out to Irish politicians around 1800. Some of these rewards were clearly for supporting the Act of Union. The trouble if that people were rewarded for all sorts of different things. Men were rewarded for meritorious service in putting down the 1798 Rebellion and in fighting France. Rewards were handed out to Anti-Unionists as well as Unionists.

Offering douceurs for people to back or oppose a policy was legal at the time. People made no secret about it. Constituencies were effectively controlled by major landowners. These landholders made no bones about this. Constituencies were openly bought and sold. They even used the words buy and sell.

The Roman Catholic Church supported the Act of Union. They had been against the 1798 Rebellion and the Union seemed to make a recrudesence of violence less likely. Moreover, they were excited by Pitt’s avowed intention of ensuring that Catholics had equal rights after the Act of Union. In Cork the Union was especially popular.

The Catholic masses were largely quiet at the time. It was before an era of mass politics. Politics was something for the elite. Most Catholics were poor farmers. Many could not read or write. Those who were literare were often literate to a low level. Ireland did not have many newspapers. Such newspapers as there were circulated chiefly on the east coast. Ireland was by no means exceptional in having a large number of people who were illiterate at the time and disengaged from politics. In fact literacy was probably higher in Ireland than in most of the world at the time.

Ireland was allowed two Members of Parliament from each country and two from each city with a corporation. Irish peers were not to gain the automatic right to sit in the House of Lords. Irish peers would elect from among themselves men who would sit as representative peers in the House of Lords. A similar formula had been used when Scotland formed the United Kingdom along with Wales and England. This was because Scotland (and Ireland) had a lot of peers in relation to their population. Irish peerages were considered a pleasant gong before 1800. They were sometimes awarded to people who had never set foot in Ireland such as Clive of India. Irish peers who were not made representative peers in the House of Lords were free to be elected as MPs for constituences anywhere in Ireland or Great Britain. Even before 1800 some Irish peers had been elected to the House of Commons of Great Britain. For instance the aforementioned Robert Clive was made Baron Clive of Plassey in the County of Clare. Plassey is the site of his victory in India. There is no Plassey in Ireland. His title had to be attached to a county in Ireland and for no obvious reason he was assigned to Clare. Clive was an Englishman with an Irish title and was elected for an English seat to the Parliament of Great Britain. Clive died some years before the Act of Union.

Ireland had a population of about 4 000 000 at the time compared to 8 000 000 in Great Britain. If anything Ireland was to be under represnted into a new House of Commons of about 600 seats. This was partly owning to wealth. Seats represented wealth more than population. A constituency may be poor but the effective ownership of it was a form of wealth.

The 28 representative peers were to enjoy the right to sit in the House of Lords of Great Britain and Ireland for life.

Peerages awarded for places in Ireland after 1801 did carry an automatic place in the House of Lords.

Some bishops of the Church of Ireland were made ex officio members of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. The Arcbhishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Dublin were made automatic lords spiritual. There was a total of four Anglican prelates from Ireland who were to sit in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom at any one time.

The Irish pound was retained for a period of years. The Irish pound was to remain distinct from the pound sterling for a set number of years. Ireland assumed a portion of the public spending liability – 2/17ths.

There was to be free trade between Ireland and Great Britain. This had long been a goal of the commerical lobby in Ireland. Certain goods were still subject to duties for 10 years.

The act stated that Ireland and Great Britain were to be ”henceforth and forever united”. Moreover, there was created ”one united Protestant Church of England and Ireland.” The Church of Ireland was and remained a carbon copy of the Church of England. Despite the legislation the churches did not actually unite. Clergy moved from one to the other smoothly. The Church of England toom a great interest in defending the interests of the Church of Ireland in the early to mid nineteenth century.

In June 1800 the Irish Parliament passed the Act of Union. 158 to 115 was the breakdown. The Parliament of Great Britain also passed the act. It is fascintating that more voted against in 1800 than had voted against in 1799. Of course a lot more voted for it in 1800 than had voted for it in 1799. It seems that the abstainers had been won over and not the Anti-Unionists.
The act took effect on 1 January 1801.

The Parliament of Great Britian passed an identical act at the same time.

Scintillatingly the Parliament of the United Kingdom had never repeealed the said act. It remains in force – this is why Northern Ireland still forms part of the UK. Of course some acts have superceded much of the Act of Union. The Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1869 and the majority of Ireland left the UK in 1922 by an act of the parliament of the UK.

Academy schools are a step forward.


It is a case of back to the future. In the 1970s the Prime Minister, James Callaghan, lamented that he could not control what was taught in schools. Jim Callaghan was an honourable man and a patriot despite being in the Labour Party. He probably had the right instincts concerning education. He valued it probably precisely because he never went to university. That was a very sore subject for him.

Through the 1980s the national curriculum was developed. The germ of it was a good idea. We had communist teachers – no exaggeration – indoctrinating children with absolute guff. The leftists decalred war on grammar and spelling as being bourgeois oppression, racist and a means of making those with non-standard accents feel embarrassed. People were taught the same thing over and again. Crucial topics were skipped completely. There was no statement of what people were supposed to learn and by when. The national curriculum was designed to address this. It metamorphosed. It became a monster. Like so much that is wrong in the UK something bad started under the Conservatives and got much worse under Labour. The Conservative and Unionist Party has got it wrong many times. They are not the party that gets it right – they are the only party that might get it right. Brown once said – we are best when we are Labour, except he was not governing as a true socialist but that’s a good thing. Well for the Conservative Party – we are best when we are Conservative. The small government nostra of the party got lost in the 1990s.

Academy schools are a case of back to the future. Until the 1980s it was largely teachers who ran schools. Local education authorities and central government mainly kept their noses out of it.

The less government the better. The system before the national curriculum had its faults. But I would take that over the current kettle of fish any day.

Academy schools are stated funded by will be mostly independent. They will be allowed to hire teachers who have not qualified as teachers. Independent schools have been doing this all the time. Independent schools tend to get much better results. Independent schools are often not better equipped or funded than states schools. Their intake is not always richers. SOmetimes they have many overseas pupils, many with English as a second language and so on. Less regulation is better. I did not say no regulation but much less. Let us turn back the clock 30 years. Take back our freedom. Hurrah!

A government letting go of power is a refeshsing sight. Power happy do gooders like to accrue power to themselves because they think they are so wise and so benevolent that if they can only take all choice away from people then all problems will disappear. Experience shows that the reverse consequences is more often the case.

The shortage of teachers especially in languages will be partly addressed by this measure. Many of those employed by academcy schools will have qualified as teachers but in countries outside the EU. Currently only EU qualifications are recognised. Headteachers do not want idiots working for them. They are trying to select good people. Getting rid of an absurd QTS rule will improve education.

Some trades unions have tried to defend the closed shop.THEY have prophesied doom because of this reform. Their grim prognostications will be proved to have been very misplaced. I can see why they are dishchuffed. They have spent years filling out inane forms. Now this rubbish is being well, rubbished. They had to go through the pain so why shouldn’t everyone else?

Aidan Burley must be free to speak his mind.


Aidan Burley is rapidly carving out a role for himself as the gaffmeister of the Conservative Party. Of all the class of 2010 he alone has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. The hapless Aidan Burley MP represents Cannock Chase. You may recall that he unwisely attended a stag go at which another guest gloried in wearing an SS uniform and read aloud his paean to the Third Reich. Now call me a lily livered liberal but I am not enamoured of the Third Reich.

Anyhow, Burley was watching the Olympics. He tweeted that the Opening ceremony was leftie multicultural crap. He wanted to see the Rollings Stones and other more traditional expressions of British culture. The Queen was there as were ageing British rock stars, James Bond and soldiers in uniform. These are fairly staid expressions of Britishness. Maybe that was after he made his ill-judged comment.

I feel sorry for Mr Burley. He is entitled to his an opinion. Isn’t that why we elect MPs to voice their opinions? He took a lot of stick. He backtracked somewhat and said that he is not against multiculturalism per se but against the mishmash of the opening ceremony.

The trouble is if one touches a Politically Correct shibboleth one gets caned for it. Therefore people will only say things which are totally anodyne. We then have basically only one view expressed by Parliament and that does not give voice to the full range of opinions. Who said Parliament is the nation’s conversation with itself? ANyway he was right. We need different viewpoints to be expressed in our national debate.

I thought the opening ceremony was pretty good except for the deaf children singing the national anthem. Considering that they were deaf it was fantastic.

One thing I saw was some zoot suited black people. I took them to represent the Windrush generation. The SS Empire Windrush came to the UK in 1948 with several hundred Afro-Caribbean people aboard. This mark the start of large scale black immigration into the UK. I am happy to have that celebrated. It was a significant event. It has had some positive consequences and some negative consequences. The PC brigade would pretend that it has been all good news. The immigrants were overwhelmingly good people.

Where do I stand on multiculturalism? I am unsure on the definition of the term. I have no problem with immigrants having affection for the old country. I do not object to people wearing olk dress of another land or eating any cuisine.

I may be against multiculturalism if it means different laws for different people. If it means that Burley cannot voice his thoughts. I am against banning racially themed jokes and criticism of any faith. I am against racial discrimination – that includes anti-white discrimination.

The UK is somewhat multicultural. Certain cities clearly are mulitcultural but most of the countryside is not.

The UK is multiracial. Only about 11 % of the population is non-white. Many of the whites are of other nationalities such as Polish, French, Italian, German etc…

This 11 % non-white is only going to grow. Of babies being born the figure is much higher. What % of Britons will be non white in a century’s time? It will be far higher. Maybe 50%. I have no objection to this. I would have no problem with a Prime Minister or monarch of any race or religion.

I wonder if Prince Harry will wed a Bahamian beauty. SOme Labourites suggested that Prince Charles should have done this.