Sunday, February 3, 2013

Carson Kidnapping Ulster (1914)

This is a detail from this cartoon from Puck Magazine albeit from a generation later than the previous illustrations I've posted, so alas no simian Irish folk. I think it's great. Edward Carson is making off with Ulster, beheading "Home Rule Ireland". The cartoon predicts, more or less, what was to transpire a few short years later with the partition of Ireland. Carson et al would have to however forego counties Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan in order to keep a strong Protestant/Unionist majority north of the border. And of course the rest of the island became the Irish Free State, latterly the Republic of Ireland after the War Of Independence. The irony being that Carson, the man history most associates with it, was against partition almost as much as he was against Home Rule.

Each time the idea of Irish Home Rule had been brought up in the British Parliament there had been significant opposition, mainly from Protestants of Scottish and English ancestry, the lion's share of whom lived in the north east of the island. By the time of the Government of Ireland Act 1914 (aka the Third Home Rule Bill), Dubliner Edward Carson had become the primary agitator against Home Rule and had used opposition in Ulster as a bulwark against any such measure. It became increasingly clear that partition was inevitable as the local Protestant majority in Ulster would not acquiesce to the likely rule of the Catholic majority on the island as a whole. Having been vociferously against any measure of Home Rule, Carson eventually came to support the establishment of Northern Ireland. I'll conclude this post with quotes showing a couple of contemporary opposing viewpoints on the concept of Home Rule.

"Politicians who, like ostriches, possess the happy faculty of shutting their eyes to unpleasant facts, may say that there is only one nation in Ireland; but everyone who knows the country is quite aware that there are two, which may be held together as part of the United Kingdom, but which can no more be forced into one nation than Belgium and Holland could be forced to combine as the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And whatever cross-currents there may be, the great line of cleavage is religion. Of course I am aware of the violent efforts that have been made ever since the commencement of the Nationalist agitation to prove that this is not so." Anonymous in Is Ulster Right? (1913)

"We find ourselves there in presence of a minority which, on the sole ground that it is a minority, claims that in the government of Ireland it shall be not merely secure but supreme. Sir Edward Carson as odd man out (and I do not deny that he is odd enough for anything) is to be Dictator of Ireland. If eighty-four Irish constituencies declare for Home Rule, and nineteen against Home Rule, then, according to the mathematics of Unionism, the Noes have it. In their non-Euclidean geometry the part is always greater than the whole. In their unnatural history the tail always wags the dog. On the plane of politics it is not necessary to press the case against "Ulster" any farther than that. Even majorities have their rights. If a plurality of nine to two is not sufficient to determine policy and conduct business in a modern nation, then there is no other choice except anarchy, or rather an insane atomism" TM Kettle in The Open Secret Of Ireland (1912)

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