(en) British Occupied Ireland by Jay Brophy <jayanne@igc.apc.org

Lyn Gerry (redlyn@loop.com)
Sat, 13 Sep 1997 18:26:21 +0000


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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- From: "Jay Brophy" <jayanne@igc.apc.org> Organization: Free Association To: redlyn@loop.com Date: Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:53:09 +0000 Subject: British Occupied Ireland Reply-to: jayanne@igc.apc.org Priority: normal

Concerning the Troubles in British Occupied Ireland

Emma Goldman in her essay on Anarchism wrote, "Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property the dominion of human needs; and Government the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man's enslavement and all the horrors it entails." In Ireland today these three forces are as always the root causes of what have come to be called " the troubles," and all the confusion that surrounds them. At least that is the way I see it and like Emma, I am an anarchist.

To me the struggle in Ireland is a struggle for national liberation, it's objective being the removal of Britain from the territory and affairs of Ireland once and for all. I base my support for that struggle on two principles, a peoples right to self determination, and that peoples right to self defense against an occupying army. The struggle is seeking freedom from British domination of the Irish people, and thus freedom for the Irish people to determine for themselves how they will organize their society. That they may not organize themselves the way I as an anarchist might like to see it done, should not and does not alter my support for the struggle one bit. There will be plenty of time for opposing any state a united and free Irish people may create once Britain is gone. Freedom comes in degrees and in this case the freedom from British oppression will be a condition of freedom the Irish people have been seeking for a long time.

I think the Irish people's troubles began in the fourth century AD with the arrival of Christianity into their land. As time would progress the practitioners of this religion would do all they could to destroy the Celtic culture and traditions that constituted Ireland prior to their arrival. The Irish adapted this new religion to their culture and so the tuaths (communities) would appoint their own bishops and little attention was paid to Rome or the Pope and the Catholic hierarchy. Monasticism became a dominant force by the seventh century and over 70 monasteries were created in the fifth and sixth centuries. These monasteries became centers of art and learning. Missionary work was considerable and this form of Catholicism had a large impact on Western Europe.

To stop the growth of this Irish church the Pope issued the Edict of Whitby, in 664 AD which ordered the Irish to stop appointing their own bishops and to halt their missionary work. This resulted in the Roman Catholics overwhelming the Celtic Catholics and started a major decline in Irish culture. (see Outlines In Irish History by Seamus P. Metress; Library of Congress Card Catalog # 95-67850) In the year 1156 Pope Adrian IV seeking to teach the pagan Catholic Irish traditional Roman Catholicism, insure the collection of a tribute called the Peters Pence was sent to Rome and insure the Papal objective of one king one church issued the Bull of Laudabiliter. This Papal bull granted the lordship of Ireland to the king of England Henry II and this right to conquer Ireland was confirmed by Pope Alexander III. The legal justification for this act was a document entitled the Donation of Constantine, which was a forgery that said the fourth century Roman Emperor Constantine bequeathed jurisdiction over the whole earth to the Pope. The communion of the Christians and the state in the creation of the Irish troubles is thus established.

King Henry II had Richard De Clare the Earl of Pembroke, known as Strongbow invade Ireland in 1170. Strongbow declared himself Ard- Ri (High King) of Lienster. These people intermarried with the Irish and eventually became more Irish than the Irish themselves. Henry II invaded in order to force homage of his barons and the Gaelic chiefs. The Papal legate forced the Irish chiefs to submit to Henry. However they recognized his authority but not his ownership of the land. In Ireland the land belonged to the extended family not the individual. These property relationships of land tenure are one of major points of contention throughout Irish history. Notice once again the Christians vis-a-vis the Pope, side with the British state against the Irish. This invasion fails over time due to intermarriage between the Anglo-Irish and the Irish and a process of Gaelicization into the Irish culture.

To counter this Gaelicization process the Parliament of Kilkenny under King Edward III in 1366 passed the Statute of Kilkenny. Among other things it forbade intermarriage as treason. This is an example of apartheid, or cultural racism in so far as it forbids the biological mixing of the two groups. This statute also outlawed Irish tenants from holding land by Gaelic tenure, tolerating or submitting to Brehon law and admission of Irish priests to monasteries, benefices etc.

Under the Tudors, feudalism was changing to an absolute monarchy. In 1494 Poynings Law was passed decreeing that Parliament could meet in Ireland only with permission of the English king and council had to approve any measures proposed. Henry VIII introduced the reformation which split the Christians into two distinct cultures, Protestant (English) Catholic (Irish). The English Christians tried to destroy the Catholic Christians demanding the Irish renounce their Catholicism to prove their loyalty. By this time Catholicism had become a symbol of Irish culture rather than a religious belief.

The plantation of English settlers began with the plantation of Leix, Offaly, Wicklow and North Munster by Queen Mary. Queen Elizabeth planted Munster; the plantationers included Walter Raleigh and Edward Spencer. The Irish resisted and many rebellions ensued. The resistance ended with the final battle of the Nine Years War in 1601 and the flight of the Earls in 1607. With the flight much of the Old Gaelic Order ended, the destruction of Brehon Law ensued, poets began to disappear, and Gaelic culture began to decline. The Earls were accused of treason and their lands were confiscated, leaving much of Ulster open to plantation. Herein lies the socio-political basis for the current division of British Occupied Ireland (Northern Ireland) today.

Racism was encouraged by the Tudors in portraying the Irish as savage, inferior, inhumane and needing to be civilized. The British on the other hand saw themselves as civilizers needing to use extreme measures to humanize the Irish. "The roots of modern anti-Irish racism began to flourish during Tudor times." (ibid.) The plantation of Ulster by James I left the Irish with less than 1/40 of the land and the poorest of the land at that. The Ulster Tenant Right was established by the English crown. This protected Scots and English tenants from eviction and guaranteed a financial interest in any land improvement. The Irish could be evicted at any time without compensation for improvement. The Irish clans rebelled but the rebellion ended with the death of Owen Roe O' Neill on his way to meet Cromwell. Cromwell invaded Ireland in 1649 with an army of Papist-hating Christians (Puritans) determined to exterminate anything Irish Catholic Christian. When it was over in 1652 the population of Ireland had been reduced from 1,448,000 to 616,000, mostly from starvation and disease caused by Cromwell's forces. The Irish Catholic Christians were cleared to west of the Shannon River, and about 100,000 were sold into slavery in Jamaica, Barbados etc. Most of the land was taken from the Catholic Christians by the Protestant Christians. A new class was created the Protestant ascendancy. Cromwell joined Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert as butchers of the Irish people.

Most Englishmen didn't want to live in Ireland, so speculators moved in and created a new landlord class to rule Ireland. Irish were needed to work the land and returned to work their own land as serfs. The Irish had survived by living in bands in forests and mountains.

Things got worse for the Irish during the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II. More land was given to supporters of the king, (Royalists), economic restraints were imposed to inhibit Irish economic development and keep it dependent on England. Religious persecution of Christian against Christian continued; Catholics were prevented from being elected to Parliament in Dublin in 1672. In 1678 Catholics were executed for treason. With the ascension to the thrown of a Catholic James II, the Protestants in the British Parliament invited William of Orange to come to the throne of England, William was a Protestant Christian. He landed on November 5th 1688 and James fled to France. William agreed to a Bill of Rights for Parliament limiting the power of the king. He also agreed to an Act of Settlement that no Catholic could succeed to the throne and marriage to a Catholic invalidates any claim to the throne. This act is still in effect today.

Richard Talbot who had been appointed Earl of Tyrconnell by James II refused to recognize William as king, invited James to Ireland to claim his crown. What ensued was a continental struggle not a religious struggle. This can be seen by the fact that following William's victory at the now celebrated Battle of the Boyne the Pope in Rome backed the Protestant William and a mass of thanksgiving was said in Rome to celebrate his victory. The Irish more interested in property rights than in gaining their own freedom gave their lives to the cause of their enemies. They missed the opportunity to drive both James and William into the sea.

Following William's victory the largely Protestant Parliament in Dublin refused to ratify the Treaty of Limerick, and confiscated Catholic lands in violation of the treaty. They imposed a set of Penal Codes which were largely anti-Catholic and anti-dissenter in character. This repression only succeeded in causing a reform and revitalization of the Irish Catholic Church and closer ties with Rome. By the end of the 18th century the church was stronger than ever. Worse yet Catholicism became identified with being Irish, culturally even more than religiously. The codes concentrated 95% of all the land and political power in the hands of the Protestant ascendancy. This reduced the Irish to impoverished serfs. This gave new life to the Irish nationality and the creation of the secret agrarian societies. It also created a group of dissenters within the Protestant camp especially the Presbyterians.

(There is much more to Irish history, for a quick run through it from ancient times to the present check out " Outlines in Irish History" by Seamus P. Metress, Ph.D. published by: Connolly Books P.O. Box 24744, Detroit, Michigan 48224.) I have taken all of the information for this article from it. It has a pretty good bibliography for those interested in investigating any period more thoroughly. The British repression of the Irish with the Catholic hierarchy on the side of the British continues right up until today with the church advising it's faithful to not vote for Sinn Fein candidates in elections. In the interim the Irish people have been subjected to burnings, looting, flogging, hangings, torture, pitch capping, crucifixion, massacres and pogroms, which still occur today in one form or another.

There are three governments directly involved in present negotiations, the British, as bigoted today as it ever was and trying to maintain this last outpost of the now defunct British empire, the Stormont Government in Ulster, backed by it's police force the Royal Ulster Constabulary, various racist-fascist paramilitary forces and the British army that supplies them all with intelligence, arms, prisons, and a no jury diplock court system. All to insure through a system of murder, torture, imprisonment, burning of people's homes and churches, robbery and mayhem that the land of Ireland remains divided. Then there is the government in the so called Free State (the 26 counties in the south), that appears, for reasons of state no doubt, guided by the principals of the free market, neoliberalism and it's economic dependence on Britain, to do as little as possible to support the cause for a United Ireland. Considering the fact that these Free Staters are the forces that negotiated the partition and fought a civil war to insure it, it should come as no surprise that they spend a great deal of Irish tax payers money securing a border for their British allies, who supplied them with the weapons that enabled them to defeat the forces favoring a United Ireland.

As for the Christian religion, its adherents have been squabbling over issues of dogma and heresy since day one. The early Christians, themselves being Jews, were the first heretics when the apostle Paul started admitting Gentiles to the Christian church without requiring them to be circumcised or to obey the Law of Moses. These practices were approved by James said to be the brother of Christ and spokesman for the entire Christian church, at the Council of Jerusalem in the year 49 AD. Since that time the Christians have been warring, slaughtering, executing, torturing and plundering fellow Christians (heretics) and non believers (crusades in the Middle East and Europe, the Inquisition, the invasion of the Americas and forced conversion by missionaries and soldiers, the religious wars in Europe culminating in the 30 Years War, their support for fascism in Spain and Italy, and Nazi fascists following their defeat in WWII, and their responsibilities for the Irish "troubles" from the 4th century to this very day) all in the name of their Prince of Peace, of course. The Irish people would best be served by abandoning this most brutal form of superstition, the sooner the better. (see "A History Of Heresy" by David Christie-Murray; Oxford University Press; ISBN 0-19-285210-8)

Of course property was the main impetus for the seemingly endless persecution of the Irish people by the church and state from the very beginning. Whether it was the collection of the Peters Pence for the coffers of the church hierarchy in Rome or the value to be derived from the ownership of Irish land and the value derived from Irish labor, the invasions always sought to exploit the Irish peasant and worker from the very beginning. I stopped the history where I did because 95% of Irish land was in the hands of the Irish Ascendancy, and the Irish people in a virtual state of slavery or serfdom. Today the land and wealth of Ireland is in private hands and the labor value of her people is stolen through a system of wage slavery. Indeed although the Protestant Christians make up only 4% of the population in the so called free state they possess more than 30% of it's wealth. This is a good indication of how they might be treated should Ireland become whole once again. No doubt the new rules of the neo-liberal economy of laissez- faire, free market capitalism will be applied in Ireland as it is around the world today. The last time these rules were applied the Irish were allowed to starve to death by the British during the potato famine. Food that was stored and could have been used to save lives was denied because to do so would have violated the rule which demanded the government stay out of the economy and allow the market to rule. Relief food sent from abroad was not distributed because it would undermine the price of food available for sale by private merchants. The vast majority of the Irish had been displaced from the land by the landlords and were left destitute and roaming the roads till they fell down and died. The Social Darwinism of the time was expressed in economic terms by the economics of Malthus, which viewed such catastrophes as natural occurrences of population control, based on the theory of Darwin's survival of the fittest.

The forced emigration and starvation was praised as wonderful occurrences by the British press of the time which openly expressed that all the Irish should either starve to death or emigrate, thus removing them at last as a social problem that the British had to endure for such a long time. Today in Ireland under the rubric of neo-liberalism this same kind of economic system seeks to preserve the interests of the capitalist class in British Occupied Ireland by dividing the people by class, religion, political affiliation, gender, sexual preference etc. If ever social justice is to be realized this system of private property privilege will need to be replaced with a social organization that recognizes the rights of all people to the necessities of life including but not limited to, housing, health care, unlimited education and the freedom from all coercive institutions such as the state. The purpose of such a society being to provide for a condition of freedom that will allow the individual to develop his or herself to the maximum of their abilities. In Ireland the march toward the realization of such a society has already begun. Freedom for the 26 counties from British colonialism was a first step, the next step must be reintegration of the six counties so Ireland will once again be a united land. Irish mythology is dominated by the theme of the security and integrity of the land of Ireland not one or the other of it's constituent parts.

The Irish Republican Army is an army of liberation, a descendant of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, founded in New York and Dublin, March 17, 1857, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizens Army, all of which fought in the Easter Rebellion of 1916. It was led by Michael Collins in what is known as the Irish-Anglo war (1919-1921) to free Ireland from British rule. Michael Collins who was inexperienced as a negotiator and under British threats of escalating the war to include aerial bombing of cities, signed a treaty on December 7,1921. This treaty included the creation of an Irish Free State in the 26 counties of the south under authority of the British crown, with six counties ( British Occupied Ireland), to remain temporarily under British control. It is important that this partition excluded three counties of what was the province of Ulster, Donegal, Monaghan, and Cavan, where a large Sinn Fein majority existed. This gerrymandering assured a 60% to 40% majority of unionists in the remaining six counties. Donegal is the northernmost, and is part of the Free State, so to call British Occupied Ireland, Northern Ireland is inaccurate. The IRA had fought a guerilla war which defeated the British and their infamous Black and Tan forces, that were recruited from British prisons, pardoned for their crimes and sent to Ireland. They were extremely brutal and used all forms of torture, assassination and murder against the Irish people. Hitler and Mussolini copied their social composition for the Nazi SS and other fascist forces.

The IRA was split into two factions following the signing of this treaty, which was approved by the Irish Parliament (Dail Eireann) January 7, 1922, 64 votes to 57. A civil war broke out that divided the entire society between those that approved the terms of the treaty (Free Staters) and those that disapproved (Republicans). The Free State proponents were armed and backed by the British and defeated the Republicans who went underground to carry on the struggle for a United Ireland. The IRA carried out a border war against customs posts and Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks from 1956 to 1962. In 1963 the leadership took on an ultra leftist (Marxist) orientation which excluded the guerilla warfare that had been it's hallmark. In 1969-70 following an ideological split the Provisional IRA was created. This split largely had to do with the Official IRA proposal to recognize both the Stormont and Dublin Parliaments and it's inability to defend against loyalists attacks on Irish areas in 1969. In 1969 loyalist pogroms in Irish areas resulted in 524 houses being burned down and again in 1971 two whole streets were burned out and 200 homes destroyed. The British Army was sent in on the pretext of separating the warring factions but actually to prop up a crumbling loyalist state. It quickly took the loyalist's side and became the focal point for increased repression of the Irish population. On Sunday January 30, 1972 British paratroopers murdered in cold blood 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators on the streets of Derry. The commanding officer of the unit was later decorated with the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England. This naive attempt to resolve the problems of British colonization of Ireland by peaceful means further demonstrated the need for an Army of Resistance.

The Glover Report, an internal British army report made public in 1978 describes the IRA as a well trained, highly disciplined guerilla force that was a nationalist movement with working class roots. It stated the IRA had no direct international connections or Marxist orientation. It further admitted that the British Army could not defeat the IRA.

In view of the massive sophisticated repression by the British, their puppet government in Stormont and it's terrorist police force and paramilitary organizations, it would be impossible for the IRA to exist as a guerilla force without the significant support of the Irish people. Election of the IRA hunger strikers to the Parliament in Stormont and polls indicate significant support for IRA goals and methods. The IRA has made it a matter of policy not to attack some loyalist paramilitaries such as the Ulster Defense Association and the Ulster Defense Force, except in self defense, since their fight is with the British occupation forces.

The values under which British Occupied Ireland were founded are inequality, privilege and sectarianism. Those who support this occupation are mostly Protestant and are referred to as Unionists and Loyalists. The privileges these forces receive in return for their loyalty are political, economic and social. These privileges allow an elite group to dominate finance, housing, industry, the police, the judiciary, civil service, and public services. The majority of the loyalists are working class and receive preferred access to housing and jobs. In return they act as the shock troops for the elite ruling class who seek to maintain their privileges by keeping Ireland divided under British occupation and rule. Many provide this violent repression of the Irish in return for the privilege of living in ghetto housing and low wages. The British and their elite bigoted supporters use religion to divert attention from the real reasons for the struggle which are political and economic deprivation. It is against this colonial system of occupation, privilege and oppression that the IRA fights for Irish freedom and liberation.

As an anarchist I support this struggle of the Irish people to be free once and for all of British domination. It would be lovely if the British and their puppet regime in the occupied six counties would agree to an all Ireland plebiscite and resolve the struggle peacefully, but it is doubtful they ever will. National liberation struggles are progressive because they represent the desires of the oppressed people to be free of colonial domination. Emma Goldman understood this and supported not only the Irish struggle against Britain but also the Cuban and Filipino struggles against Spain as well. It is my firm belief that all anarchists should realize this to be the case and support the Irish people in their struggle for independence. It is a progressive step in the long march toward a society of individuals free of religion, property and the state, which Emma so eloquently stated represents "the stronghold of man's enslavement."(Anarchism and Other Essays" by Emma Goldman; Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-22484-8)

Jay Brophy

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