Political Positions of 1912


Kate Bortner

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Here's my uninformed question of the day:
I'm knee-deep in Senan's Irish Aboard and I've come across a title (I think) that I don't understand. What is an "Orangemen" and what was the "Rome Rule" that was passed in April 1912?? And maybe knowing what Rome Rule is would answer this question, but why was it suspended during WW1? Senan is wonderful about explaining things in this tome, but he gives no indication of what this is so, I'm sure it is something that I SHOULD know as common knowledge. Eeeek, the Ugly American raises her uninformed head, again!
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Inger Sheil

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G'day Kate -

Not a silly question at all, and one that's seminal to understanding Irish politics in the pre and post WWI period.

An 'Orangeman,' briefly, is an Irish protestant Loyalist (i.e. Loyal to the English state) who derives the name from William of Orange...how William gets into this is one of the longer, more convoluted questions and refighting the Battle of the Boyne would be potentially controversial, but essentially the battle, fought on 1 July 1690, cemented British rule in Ireland up until the 20th Century. The Orange Order is a secret society based on the Masonic model.

Ireland by 1900 (and long before, as the recurrent uprisings and rebellions such as 1798 demonstrate) was divided into Nationalists - symbolised by the colour green - and Loyalists who were embodied in the traditions of the Orangemen. Both sides had societies, some public and others secret, such Orange societies (Lodges etc) on the Loyalist side. The groups devolved generally - but not exclusively - along Catholic/Nationalist and Protestant/Loyalist lines. There are ugly, confrontational traditions that exist in the North of Ireland to this day - the marching season with its triumphalist parades that breed sectarian violence, the middle-aged 'Apprentice Boys' etc.

Home Rule had long been a burning issue for Ireland and Irish politicians. The great Parnell, the 'Uncrowned King of Ireland,' had almost secured it in the previous century but was brought down by what Kenneth Griffith appropriately called 'bigoted moralists'. By 1912 the Liberals had managed to put it on the agenda again, and it seemed indeed it was imminent.

'Rome Rule' was the term used by the Protestant minority to describe 'Home Rule', as it was held that the Catholic church would be politically dominant under a home rule government. While the Roman Catholic Church certainly did hold a tremendous influence in Ireland, it should be remembered that some of the greatest of Irish patriots - men such as Wolfe Tone and Parnell - were Protestants.

Unfortunately for Anglo-Irish relations, the transition to Home Rule was suspended at the outbreak of war. It should be remembered that the concept was resisted furiously by the Protestant elite of Northern Ireland (although not by all - Lord Pirrie was a pro-Home Ruler), and they had already formed a private army, the 'Ulster Volunteers' - the British government turned a blind eye as this group began arming themselves. The Irish Nationalists in retaliation formed the 'Irish Volunteers', who were actively supressed. As an example of the different treatment meted out to these groups, at the outbreak of war the Ulster Volunteers were permitted to reform in their own combat regiments for the front, whereas the Irish Volunteers were dispersed. Many Irish Nationalists volunteered to fight for England on the battlefields of Flanders, hoping that they might win the respect and ultimately support of their comrades in arms. In addition, they hoped that as Britain was supposedly defending the right of Belgium against the Germans even marching across her, it was to be hoped that they would respect the right of Ireland to self government.

By 1916 they were disillusioned, hence the Easter Rising. This revolt was initially a dismal failure - the citizenry didn't side with the rebels, the rising was crushed and the leaders were shot. The shootings, however, finally swayed popular opinion behind the cause that men like Pearse, Connolly (who was so badly injured he had to be shot tied to a chair) and Clarke died for.

In the general elections of 1918 the population voted overwhelmingly for Sinn Fein candidates. Having won, they refused to take their seats in Westminster and instead convened an Irish Parliament, the Dail Eireann in Dublin. What followed was the Irish War of Independence (also known by such names as 'The Black and Tan War' after the British forces who were sent to supress the movement - my mother can still recount their atrocities), as the Irish people sought to fight for the self-government that had been withheld from them. Thanks largely to the brilliant leadership of Michael Collins - IMHO the most remarkable man who ever lived - the British were finally forced to the negotiating table in 1922. The Anglo-Irish treaty established an Irish Free State - the Irish had won self-government, but they still had to swear allegiance to the British Crown and, most tragically of all with ramifications that are still so bitterly felt today, the country was partitioned. The result was the Irish Civil war between the Free State forces and the Republicans who refused to accept the treaty, although it was overwhelmingly supported at a national referendum.

Michael Collins - one of those to lose his life in the civil war, shot by Republicans in an ambush - was eventually proven right in his statement that the treaty was not the freedom that all nations aspire to, but 'the freedom to achieve freedom.' Eventually successive Irish governments were able to use the concessions in the treaty to peacefully create today's Republic of Ireland.

Phew. Clear as mud, eh? But I managed to get through it all without mentioning the Curragh incident or even Cromwell...
 

Kate Bortner

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Inger, thank you for your very detailed response. Of course now I have 10 NEW questions!
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You wrote:
'Rome Rule' was the term used by the Protestant minority to describe 'Home Rule', as it was held that the Catholic church would be politically dominant under a home rule government. While the Roman Catholic Church certainly did hold a tremendous influence in Ireland, it should be remembered that some of the greatest of Irish patriots - men such as Wolfe Tone and Parnell - were Protestants.

What does the term "politically dominant" mean in relation to running the country? It sounds like the Nationalists had more in mind than just a "national religion", (think: national anthem, or official language, or state flower) Does this indicate that the Nationalists were pushing for the Catholic church to make political decisions? I guess I need to take a class in world politics!

Also, as an Orangeman, Titanic passenger Thomas Morrow wouldn't have been happy with Home Rule being passed in the British parliament? How would it have impacted his life if he had 1) lived and 2) remained in Ireland?
 

Inger Sheil

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G'day Kate -

The fear was that the Roman Catholic Church would have a tremendous influence in political decisions (to an extent this was borne out in the Republic of Ireland - reform of divorce laws, for example, was a long time in coming). Since the English Reformation, many British have viewed with suspicion the idea of Papal influence in society and politics - this was (and in some cases still is) regarded as a 'foreign' element.

However, the Nationalist movement has always placed great stress on inclusiveness - I've mentioned some of the great Protestant nationalists of the past who were tremendously influential in the Republic movement. The Irish Tricolour, symbol of the Nationalist movement, gives equal proportions to the colours Green, White and Orange. Green and orange represent Nationalism and Loyalism respectively, white symbolises peace. From its inception, the Dail has included Protestant representatives. In contrast, the Northern Irish Parliament, Stormont, established in Belfast in 1922, did not see a single Roman Catholic in the Northern Ireland Cabinet for the first 50 years of government.

The Protestants enjoyed a privileged position in Irish society prior the War of Independence - they received preferential treatment for Government posts etc. What Morrow and others feared was a loss of that dominance - they were part of a minority that had dominated Ireland for over 700 years, and finally that rule was coming to an end. It's difficult to say how exactly Morrow's life would have been affected had he remained in Ireland. What was perhaps more important was how Morrow perceived what Home Rule meant for him. The ugly side is that he - part of a minority - wished to override the will of the majority of the Irish people. But there can be little doubt that he genuinely felt that he was a British citizen, and that the influence of a 'foreign' doctrine was anathema to him. The abhorrence with which he viewed Papism (with its attendent connotations of idolatory etc) ran very deeply. I've run across the odd echo of anti-Catholic bigotry in England myself, fortunately not frequently. Centuries of sectarian mistrust are hard to undo in a few generations.

What did you think of Sen's remarkably sympathetic portrait of Morrow btw? This was one of the bios that struck me most forceably, a particularly poignant portrait of a man whose views are the antithesis of mine and yet whose story was told with such sensitivity that one couldn't be helped but moved...what a wonderfully light yet strong touch Molony has as a writer?
 

Kate Bortner

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I agree about Senan's writing. He is wonderful. I cannot put this book down! I am particularily moved by the bio of Margaret Mannion & the Kiernan brothers. (but if John Kiernan was supposed to be such a "hottie" a better picture is needed!
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) I just finished Bertha Mulvihill--poor girl. I hope she got lots of therapy! Thanks again for the history lesson. It is much appreciated.
 

Kris Muhvic

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Good day everyone-

I have read the above with great interest, and, unfortunatly, a slap of my own ignorance has hit me in the face! This however has got me thinking about what I have come across in so many written accounts from this era: the threat of war. (I figure this is the best place to query about a political/historical issue).

To move away from the typical school history lesson that gives one the impression that the year "1914" was the sudden crush of a world war, there was really such a, I don't know what to call it...an anxiety, an expectation even, of a war in the collective conscience for a few years before the Archduke's assasination. Yes, in the U.S. there was an isolationist thought-pattern, but a "globalisation" was already taking hold. I have come across references to overseas taxes and tariffs rising (hits the wallet- people take notice!) around 1910, probably before(?).

The only reason I say all this is because I imagine many a conversation on Titanic, in the smoke-room, and elsewhere I'm sure, would have revoled around this very real possibility of a world war. There were allusions in the press after the sinking- commentaries, that expressed the magnitude of death resulting from the disaster would only be multiplied thousand's- fold if a war were to break out.

Have no desire to sway the conversation from the original intent...only interested to understand the mind-set of this pre-war people who were on the edge of incredible change, that we today are still less/more/same reeling from.

Yours-
Kris
 

Inger Sheil

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Kate - I'm going to have to haul out the book and look at Kiernan again! I seem to remember that the author was rather taken by the very fetching Kate Gilnagh and her Mona Lisa smile (something to dig at him with whenever he has a go at me for what he suggests is my interest in square jawed, clean-cut types). The book is such an exquisite union of content and style - rich in material, dealt with very deftly. Certainly in the front rankers of Titanic books, I'd put it up there with Lord, Marcus and Reade.

Kris, I think you're quite right in suggesting that there was a certain sense of anticipation in 1912 regarding the potential for war. The world would have been all too well aware of increasing European tensions and the race for naval supremacy - many of the Titanic's crew were RNR and they would have followed the building of the dreadnaughts keenly, and the question of who dominated the seas would have been a topic of conversation in pubs and smoking rooms for at least the first decade of the new century. I came across a remark in a letter by one of the Titanic's crew about the imminent launch of the Imperator that underscores the national rivalries that weren't all that friendly.
 

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