The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Celebrate 100 Years by Undoing Betrayals

Dr John Coulter maintains the centenaries of the formation of both the Ulster Unionist Council and Sinn Fein provide opportunities for unionists and nationalists to undo two of the greatest political betrayals of the 20th century.

Dr. John Coulter • 17 January 2005

Unionism and republicanism share a common celebration this year - the centenary of two of the most influential movements within their respective histories, the formation of the Ulster Unionist Council on 3rd March, 1905, and the founding of Sinn Fein by Arthur Griffith on 28th November, 1905.

Rather than be viewed as major landmarks in the development of the two ideologies, they should be used as an opportunity to undo two of the greatest political betrayals in the turbulent history of this island.

For unionists, the formation of the UUC - now the 900-delegate governing body of the Ulster Unionist Party - represented a betrayal of the tens of thousands of Irish unionists who lived outside the geographical nine-county province of Ulster, then an integral part of an Ireland united under British rule.

The naming of the body formed to mobilise Protestant opinion and people against Home Rule using a distinctive 'Ulster' title, was in effect the beginning of a 'retreatist' policy by Northern unionists.

Less than two decades later, when the Treaty was signed in December 1921 creating Northern Ireland, unionists had not only condemned the pro-Union community in Leinster, Munster and Connacht to a 26-county, republican Free State, but they also abandoned three of the geographical Ulster counties to a similar fate.

In reality, the UUC should have been established as the Irish Unionist Council, thereby providing a rallying point for all unionists throughout the island and not just in the Protestant-dominated north-eastern counties of Ireland.

The heroes of traditional unionism - Lord Edward Carson and Sir James Craig - must bear the blame for what we can now label in the 21st century as the 'Great Unionist Betrayal'.

In this year of unionist commemoration, this great betrayal can be undone by the DUP and UUP either working towards the creation of a single Unionist Party, as well as officially opening a Unionist Embassy in Leinster House to represent the dwindling Southern Protestant population.

However, Irish nationalism, too, does not escape the shame of its own 'Great Separatist Betrayal'. With no less than half a dozen nationalist and republican parties and groups claiming to be the true political descendents of Arthur Griffith, the sad reality is that had he been alive today, he would probably have disowned the lot.

Indeed, Griffith must be spinning in his grave at the political shambles which the modern Provisional republican movement has created 100 years on from the launch of the party in Dublin.

In fact, if Griffith made a Lazarus-style comeback from the dead, he'd probably call for the disbanding the new millennium version of Sinn Fein as a gross betrayal of the original principles of the movement he founded.

The time has now come for the middle class, educated doves within Sinn Fein to take the party back to the strategy of its founding father. Griffith was a separatist, not a republican and believed passionately in the concept of passive resistance, not the mass slaughter tactics of the Provos.

Griffith's Sinn Fein proposed a dual monarchy system for ruling Ireland to be achieved entirely through a passive policy of abstention rather than by an armed struggle.

Unfortunately, his peaceful protest movement was hijacked by nationalist extremists and Far Left socialists who virtually reduced Sinn Fein to a non-entity because of the disastrous Easter Rising of 1916.

Griffith would have died of shame, not exhaustion, in 1922 had he known his party was to become the apologists for ethnic cleansing, punishment beatings, and - according to Chief Constable Hugh Orde - the biggest bank heist ever on the island.

A journalist by trade, he once edited a newspaper called The United Irishman. His vision for Sinn Fein was more akin to the policies of radical Irish Presbyterianism than the Marxist rant of the Workers' Party, the revolutionary clap-trap of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, or indeed the extreme socialist agenda of the Provos.

He would have laughed at the political dinosaur language of Republican Sinn Fein and the 32-County Sovereignty Movement. Attempts by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to claim a link to his 1905 movement, Griffith would have dismissed as electioneering rhetoric.

It is somewhat ironic that Provisional Sinn Fein will probably be the most vocal throughout 2005 in claiming Griffith as its mentor. Why? Because for almost a generation its military wing conducted a border ethnic cleansing policy against Presbyterian farmers - the very people who inspired Griffith to form his policy of Sinn Fein - We Ourselves - in the first place.

If the modern day Sinn Fein wants to truly become the party which Griffith intended it to be, then it has to ditch the IRA in the same way that Ian Paisley's DUP eventually dumped the red berets of the Ulster Resistance Movement in the late 1980s.

Griffith took no part in the Easter Rising, and eventually lost his influence with extreme nationalists. It was only recovered when he was jailed with other Sinn Fein members by the British in Frongoch, a detention camp in Wales in the latter half of 1916.

After his release, he masterminded the Sinn Fein General Election victory of 1918 when the party took 73 seats, polling almost 500,000 votes across the island.
He proved that a political strategy worked, which was why the outbreak of the Irish Civil War had such a heavy toll on his health. He died in Dublin a matter of weeks after the war erupted.

Sinn Fein must not commemorate its centenary by heaping further insults on its founder. It must again become a party of respectable separatists, not a movement for physical force, diehard republicans and closet communists.

The power to restore the true Griffith vision of Sinn Fein lies in the hands of the Catholic middle class of Ireland. They, and they alone, can bring back the ethos and enthusiasm which inspired the real democratic policies of radical Presbyterianism and the Cumann nan Gaedheal (Society of Gaels).

If this became a reality, then Griffith would be smiling rather than spinning; indeed, all Irish eyes would be smiling.




Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

17 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Fed Up With the Lies
Michael Benson

Dolours Price

Brian Mór

Strategically induced crises pay rich electoral dividends for Sinn Fein
Anthony McIntyre

Old Foes Discover New Ideas
David Adams

Celebrate 100 Years by Undoing Betrayals
Dr. John Coulter

Saor Eire
Bob Purdie

‘At No Costs to Prisons': Three Books on Beckett
Seaghán Ó Murchú

14 January 2005

Criminalising Republicanism
Anthony McIntyre

Brian Mór

Leading Human Rights Solicitor "Shut Down" by Law Society
Sean Mc Aughey

A Little Known Republican Military Group: Saor Eire
Liam O Ruairc

Too Bad The North's Future Depends On Tony Blair's Bravery
Paul A. Fitzsimmons

Free Tali Fahima - an anti occupation activist in the Israeli prisons
Iris Bar

Marie Wright
Anthony McIntyre



The Blanket

http://lark. phoblacht. net



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to:

webmaster@phoblacht. net