Ireland's Political Dilemma
From Eire Nua essays first published in the 1980's
The Government of Ireland Act, enacted by the British Parliament in 1920 and ratified by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, divided Ireland into two dominion states of the British Empire, the 26-county Irish Free State and the Northern Ireland State. This Act, not only divide Ireland, it also divided its people. As was mentioned in an earlier issue of this newsletter the Anglo-Irish Treaty was the most insidious of all the tragedies perpetrated on the Irish people. In effect it denied the people of the Catholic and Protestant traditions the opportunity to work together to build a nation in which they both could prosper and live in peace. What it did instead was perpetuate British control and create a climate for self-serving politicians in both states to enrich themselves at the people's expense.
The Northern Ireland State includes the six northeastern counties of Ireland, Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry. It covers an area of 5,400 sq. miles, approximately 17% of the whole island area. It has a population of 1,528,000 amounting to 35% of the total island population. The inclusion of six counties in the make-up of the new state instead of the nine historic counties of Ulster was the option favored by the Unionists because it gave them the greatest possible majority 78% to 22% in a six county state versus 52% to 48% in a nine county state. Prior to 1972 when the British reestablished direct control, self-professed bigots who openly discriminated against the nationalist population governed the Northern Ireland State.
The Irish Free State includes the remaining 26 counties. It covers an area of 27,136 sq. miles and has a population of 3,670,000. In 1948 the Dublin parliament enacted the Republic of Ireland Act wherein the 26-county Free State ceased to be a British dominion. Since its creation in 1922 political families whose primary goad was, and still is, to hold on to power at any cost in order to protect their privileged lifestyles have governed the 26-county state. Although power passed back and forth between political families and parties in the interim, the primary goal did not change, the status quo prevailed, the governing elite grew richer and emigration, the system's built-in safety valve, continued to export Ireland's greatest resource, its youth. Ireland, with its youth, would indeed have threatened the status quo.
The consequences of the ill-conceived Government of Ireland Act and the attendant Anglo-Irish Treaty can be measured in terms of their effect on Irish society. The most immediate effect is the ongoing war and the loss of over 3,000 lives since 1969. Secondly, the stagnant Irish economy, which depends on bailouts and handouts from the EEC, has spawned one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. This in turn has fueled emigration to the point where it has become a way of life for the youth of Ireland. Finally, in a blatant affront to civil rights, authorities in both states use special government powers to silence their critics. The methods used include surveillance by special police and military units, arrest without warrant, and imprisonment for extended periods without trial. In those cases where an individual is brought to trial it is generally before a military or a non-jury court where the desired verdict is rendered 99% of the time.
The only solution to the problems that Ireland faces today is to start over again. This would entail the abrogation of the aforementioned Anglo-Irish Treaty and the Government of Ireland Act. This action would provide a legal mechanism and a starting point for the British to negotiate an orderly withdrawal from Ireland. The Eire Nua program, as explained in earlier issues of this newsletter, is the logical vehicle on which to proceed from there. It provides a detailed blueprint which in- corporate the four historic provinces of Ireland into a new all-Ireland Federal Republic. It also provides for a new constitution incorporating provisions for a Bill of Rights, separation of Church and State, a new Government structure and an independent Judiciary. Finally, it details the steps to follow in pursuit of these goals, which in turn will lead to a peaceful and prosperous Ireland.
Contributor - Tomás Ó Coisdealba