Friday, 5 November 2010

Gladstone's Response to the TUV

My friend Michael has had some fun (tinged sometimes with righteous anger) looking in different ways at some of the Traditional Unionist Voice's approach to Northern Ireland. I think this excerpt from the 7 June 1886, from William Ewart Gladstone on the Second Reading of the First Home Rule Bill* is as pertinent today as then.

Now, Sir, I want to say a word upon the subject of Irish loyalism because we are obliged to use phrases in debates of this kind which cannot be explained from time to time when using them, and it is well that there should be little understanding beforehand. When I hear the speeches of the hon. member for South Belfast (Mr. M. Johnson) - and of some other gentlemen - it always appears to me that he is under the pious conviction that loyalty is innate in the Irish Protestants and disloyalty in (a slight pause) some other persons. I do believe that he is under the impression that at all times, in all the long generations of Irish history, that has been the distinction to be drawn between Protestants and persons who are not Protestants. (An Ulster Member - 'No, No!') Is Protestant loyalism a thing that has a date and origin, or is it not? Has the hon. member and the hon. and gallant member for North Armagh (Major Saunderson) inquired what was the state of Ireland in the 18th Century with respect to loyalty. As far as regarded the great mass of the population - the Roman Catholic population - they were hardly born into political life until the close of the century, and for a long period, in the time of Dean Swift, who described their incapacity of political action as something beyond belief, it would have been absurd to speak of them as loyal or disloyal. But at the close of the century the Protestants and Roman Catholics of Ireland were described in a short passage by Mr Burke, which I shall now read to the House. The date of it is 1796, and it is taken from a letter to Mr. Windham. He speaks of the subject of disaffection.

"It" - that is to say disaffection - " has deep roots in the principles and habits of the majority among the lower and middle classes of the whole Protestant part in Ireland. The Catholics who are intermingled with them are more or less tainted. (Home Rule laughter.) In other parts of Ireland, some in Dublin only expected, the Catholics, who are in a manner the whole people, areas yet sound; but they may be provoked, as all men may easily be, out of their principles."

What does that mean? That the Protestants, not having grievances to complain of, have become loyal, but in many cases the Roman Catholics, as Mr Burke says, have been provoked, as all men easily may be, out of their principles of loyalty. And these are words , and these are ideas, which show us whaat is the way in which to promote loyalty, and what is the way in which we can destroy it.

It would therefore, seem to me that the Grand Old Man had his finger on the pulse. The TUV's response to the OFMDFM's draft Cohesion, Sharing and Integration Strategy, shows the desire to let certain traditional sections of Unionist society to have no grievances, while ignoring the needs of any group that does not fit that perceived 'norm'.

*From Great Liberal Speeches (Politicos, London 2001) Ed. Brack & Little

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