others have done, Ruth Dudley Edwards -- self-professedly
both friend of David Trimble and reader of The
Blanket -- addressed the dustup involving what
Mr. Ahern has termed an insincere single transferable
speech, given by Northern Irelands former
First Minister on this most recent occasion to newspaper
reporters in Chicago.
Edwards wrote in the Belfast Telegraph: After
an uncharacteristically incoherent introduction about
how the Union Jack is slighted in Ireland[, Mr. Trimble]
said: If you took away Catholicism and anti-Britishness,
the state doesnt have a reason to exist. Its
institutions are British and American.
opinion thereon was that what David Trimble
said is true, and she asserted that those critical
of his assessment were talking rubbish.
trying to support that case, however, Dr. Edwards
raised some rather facile, and indeed false, points.
Among them, she claimed that Mr. Trimble should
know by now that if a unionist ever says anything
about the Irish Republic or Catholics without genuflecting,
cries of nationalist outrage will echo round the world.
bit more substantively, Dr. Edwards sided with Mr.
Trimble-whom she has earlier described as being as
long on realism as [he is] short on meaningless rhetoric-by
asserting: Now why is there an Irish state?
Because the vast majority of the Irish people held
on to their Catholicism and disliked their rulers
because they were a) Protestant and b) foreign, i.e.
British, or English or Saxon or Gall (Irish for foreigner,
but applied almost exclusively to our non-Celtic neighbours)
or however our poets, politicians and revolutionaries
chose to describe the enemy.
there have been, on both sides, emotional, chauvinistic,
and sectarian aspects to the centuries long British-Irish
tensions and conflicts.
Dr. Edwards greatly erred in trying to support her
friend, in this manner, regarding his assertions in
actually, is there an Irish state? Three valid points
present themselves immediately (though others, certainly,
might be added).
one: there is in humankind an impulse towards self-government.
Indeed that impulse, upon which the sun never sets,
manifested itself in and through the fall of the British
empire. (It might be noted in this respect that, although
Catholics composed over seventy-five percent of Irelands
population in the eighteenth century, religious exclusionary
laws meant that neither Irelands House of Commons
nor its House of Lords contained a single Catholic.
Nevertheless, by the Irish legislatures two-to-one
vote, the nation of Ireland ostensibly ceased being
on 1 January 1801, and the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Ireland was that day officially born.
Thus, that political union by no means exampled true
self-government in Ireland.)
two: for two and a half centuries at least, civil
governance by or with monarchies has been innately
and ineluctably inferior to governance through well-crafted
republics. See especially the writings thereon
of Englishman Thomas Paine. Put rather simply, people
in republics have the right and the power to throw
the bastards out every few years; conversely,
people in hereditary monarchies may be stuck for centuries
with an at best mediocre breed of sovereigns.
Irish nationalism, by no means an exclusively Irish
Catholic phenomenon, is and has long been, inter
alia, a manifestation of these facts.
three: established state religions, perhaps in all
cases a poor idea, are especially bad where sizable
dissenting minorities have felt thereby oppressed.
Relatedly, in response to Mr. Trimbles Chicago
comments, Mr. Mick Finnegan of Dublin recently observed
in a letter to the Irish News: The head
of Mr Trimbles state must be a Protestant ...
and head of a Church established by the state;
Mr. Finnegan might also have correctly referenced
the constitutional impossibility of any British head
of state even being married to a Catholic. Regarding
this unarguably and perhaps preeminently sectarian
aspect of United Kingdom society, the Rt. Rev. Mark
Santer, the Church of England Bishop of Birmingham,
called in March 2002 for the end of the ties between
the United Kingdom government and the Church of England;
Mr. Trimble, a Westminster M.P. and Nobel Prize laureate,
might have publicly added his voice to Bishop Santers
brave call, but-notwithstanding his apparent disdain
for Catholic sectarianism-he did not do
Centuries ago, and rather more succinctly, the French
distilled these political ideas and ideals as liberty,
equality, and fraternity.
the question why is there an Irish state?
might well be answered: Basically for the same
reasons that there is an American state. Maybe
those reasons are inadequate in Dr. Edwards
eyes, but a great many millions would beg to differ,
and a great many of them would do so not with outrage
but with, frankly, a measure of pity.
yet repeatedly, Dr. Edwards has herself rejected my
requests for assistance in trying to investigate formally
whether a fair and workable negotiated independence
might be feasible and broadly acceptable in Northern
Ireland, especially in the wake of this latest and
perhaps final failure of the Good Friday Agreement.
that I believe she has substantial intellectual potential,
I hope shell one day reconsider those requests
and reverse her position. After all, even her friend
David Trimble-as a Queens University of Belfast
teacher in 1988, before he succumbed completely to
the political bug-publicly (if, perhaps, hyperbolically)
asserted that Northern Irelands independence
was an inevitability.
Id accept that-if Dr. Edwards does genuinely
feel that Irelands southern twenty-six counties
should properly have been populated only with docile
subjects of the English crown-shell not invidiously
discriminate in that respect regarding Irelands
D.C. lawyer Paul A. Fitzsimmons wrote Independence
for Northern Ireland: Why and How (1993) (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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