This letter is written in response to a letter titled “The Irish Case” written in November 1973:
The Irish Case
Dear Sir, and Fellow Students,
Many British citizens- ask “what does the IRA want- why don’t they come out in the open and fight etc?” This is understandable. However, so long as there is a cause for which men and women are willing to die, the struggle to solve the problem will continue ad infinitium. The Irish cause has existed for hundreds of years, but as long as the average Britisher was not directly affected, (as they have been lately) they could not give one damn for the Irish people’s wishes.
Every British schoolchild learned how and why the conquest of Ireland was accomplished. But how many of us ever learned that well over three million Irish died from starvation, noose, pipe, pitch cap, and from slaughter in general. Genocide was practised on at least two occasions.
We British should ask ourselves if the “shoe wer on the other foot”. And France, under Napoleon, had treated the English as we did the Irish, would we not struggle as the Irish have done and are still doing?
Some of your readers may not realise that Ulster was created as a colony, in order to control the native Irish and to protect Britain’s western flank from France and from Spain. Northern Ireland is today, merely 4 continuance of that same colony. In fact, Northern Ireland is he world’s only white colony, outside of the Iron Curtain (nothing for Britain to be proud of)
We say that the majority of citizens in NI wish to maintain the British connection. Quite true. But, and here we may become enlightened the results of the ALL IRELAND VOTE, held in 1918, yielded the following results: for continuing the Union with Britain- 308,713, as opposed to those who wishes to break the connection- 1,207251. A tremendous majority one must admit.
After three years of revolt against the 70,000 British troops of occupation the country was forcibly divided. Even the division was a botched affair, for at least two of the six counties did not want to be included in NI.
It is interesting to read the statement of the General in charge of the British troops in Ireland, General Gough wrote- “law and order have given way to bloody and brutal anarchy, in which the armed agents of the crown violate every law in aimless and vindictive savagery. England has departed from her standards and further from the standards of any nation in the world, not excepting the Turk and the Zulu, than has ever been known in history before.”
The solution is simple. We must first realise that Ireland is a Nation in her own right. We should also admit that Britain has treated her in a most disgraceful manner. By now we should realise that:
“On Britain’s West, no more is there
Danger from France or Spain.
Call home those, who’ve served you well (the Unionists)
And save Old Erin Pain.”
The Opposing Irish Case
Dear Sir, and Fellow Students,
It is my great pleasure to inform you (though I suspect you would have no such similar reaction) that fifty years on from your letter, Northern Ireland remains loyally a part of the United Kingdom. I won’t pretend that this has been an easy achievement – more keen historians than me could count the hundreds killed and dozens of treaties violated that threatened to derail a resolution to the conflict – but I think it would be fair to say that we have today achieved a lasting peace of the kind that you would never have dreamt possible.
Your argument, that conflict would continue so long as there remained a cause for which people were willing to die for, grossly underestimated, plainly, the drive of others to bring about peace, a determination which in the end bested the thirst for more senseless violence. We can be thankful for men unlike yourself, who were able to look beyond abstract historical grievances in studying the situation of the day – and who, I might add, were able to refrain from so blatantly twisting the facts to suit their own agendas. Your supposition that an island-wide vote held fifty years before your own time provided a valid mandate for Irish unification is brazenly ignorant of the actual cultural makeup of Ulster, then and now, and was clearly only intended to justify an inane desire for neat borders on a map.
You treated readers then to a poem that simplified all the complex cultural and religious nature of the territory into a straight case of British imperialism. Putting aside that crass disregard for the desires of the people of Ulster themselves, let me concern you with my own excerpt, from a song published in 1984.
“All rights and all wrongs have long since blown away,
For causes are ashes where children lye slain,
Yet the damned UDL and the cruel IRA
will tomorrow go murdering again.”
That song gets to the heart of the matter. 257 children died in The Troubles, according to the Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). 23 of them were 5 and under. In no world could protesting “the world’s only white colony” justify the deaths of, for instance, Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry, 12 and 3 years old, killed by an IRA bomb hidden in a litter bin in the town of Warrington, England. What possible relation could their lives have held to the conflict, besides the cruel fashion in which they were ended?
The simple truth is that no struggle, however righteous, becomes anything more than an irrelevant grievance the instant the first child dies. Once, in your time, it might have seemed impossible that Unionists and Nationalists could have found anything in their myriad ideologies to agree on. Now, however, we can see that what wins out in the end over any agendas of blood, soil, or creed, is an overwhelming urge to simply stop the deaths of innocents. And thank heavens for that.