David Sheehy, Divided We Stand (Faber & Faber mcmlv [1955]), 104pp, with Forward Foreword by John J. Horgan

‘[... O]ne of the most remarkable contributions to Irish political philosophy for many years. For the first time a Southern Irish writer of the younger generation has courageously faced the problem of the Partition of Ireland [and] come to conclusions at once convincing and logical. [...] The fallacy that underlies and dominates the approach of our Southern politicians to Partition is the extraoridnary idea that geographical and political unity are necessarily identical. (p.9.)

Reading Mr Sheehy’s impartial and detached survey of the events which led inevitably to Partition, one is struck by the way in which Carson’s integrity, courage and intelligence dominated the scene. He was, indeed, a northern Parnell, sacrificing both political and professional advancement to serve the cause of Ulster. He finally realised that a federal solution was th eonly way out of the Ulster impasse.’ [11]

Anyone who saw, as I did, the smoking inferno to which the German [13] bombs reduced Belfast in May 1941, could not doubt the tenacity, courage and loyalty of the North.

‘It must be admitted that the Irish community has never adopted a sane and realistic view of the problem caused by its division [i.e., Partition]. It has never been willing to allow the Northern Protestant community independent and separate rights so as to make Irish unity a question of voluntary agreement on the basis of a frank discussion of the problems involved in unity. It has failed to make a fair and thorough examination of such problems, to assess the degree of harmony between Northern and Southern aims, and, what is more important, to consider the vital relation which exists between these aims and the predominant international needs of our time. The Irish community has, indeed, completely ignored the fact that the division of Ireland is the result of a fundamental internal spiritual opposition. Such an attitude distorts the essential character of the problem of Partition and makes it solution a practical impossibility. (p.19.)

The consistent Southern failure to appreciate the independent character of the North’s refusal to accept a Dublin government is very striking. For this independence of view, separate from, and indeed opposed to, that adopted by the British Government, is one of the conspicuous features of modern Anglo-Irish history. The distortion of vision form which springs this blindness results partly form Ireland’s obsession with the idea of British Imperialsm, an obsession which remakins in spite of the evident liberality of present-day British foreign policy, and partly from a preoccupation with a concept of Irish unity derived from the past. In the Southern view, the Northern polity should not exist; and therefore, by illogical inference, it has no real existsence, no separate will, no rights as a separate entity. But the Partition of Ireland had to be explained as the result of some cause or force. To the Southern Anglophone that force could only be England. It may be observces that this distortion in the Southern outlook, which prevents an objective view of Anglo-Irish relations, became intensified with the growth of separatist nationalism. Introspection feeding on national pride and past humiliation, had produced an unhealthy and unbalanced state of mind, divorced as much form the sanity of a genuine christian outlook as form the har, unaccommodating realities of the present. […]’ (p.78.)

Extreme nationalism has led the South to view the problem of Irish unity exclusively from her own point of view, and to [80] require that the North adapt herself to a Southern policy which is uninfluenced by any consideration of Northern neeeds. To such an extreme has this unilateral approach been taken that the North is, presumably, expected to adopt a doctrinaire and synthetic Gaelic culture instead of the culture she now enjoys. The Protestant North is absolutely hostile to a culture which embodies exclusively the view and way of life of a community traditionally regarded as an enemy. Such a culture would exclude the regional culture of the Northern community, which has its roots in Protestantism and Non-conformity, in its divergent political history and, above all, in the immediate and practical realities of the present. Obvioiusly, a Southern cultural policy consistent with the aim of Irish unity should be one seeking to achieve a synthesis of Northern and Southern life, and not one which, by definition, excludes the North.
 A Southern Gaelic policy has not even the justification of being successful within the limits of the Twenty-Six Counties. [… 81]

The adoption of the Gaelic concept of a national culture represented in effect the victory of nationalism over Catholicism. The emphasis was not on our common humanity but on our distinctly Gaelic character, not on our membership of the community of nations but on the unique and exclusive nature of the Irish people and the Irish state
  Morover, all attempts to give the Gaelic cultural concept a precise significance and content were influences by the prevailing Irish puritanism which redeuced it to a naïve and immature idea of life, suggesting arcadian simplicity with a minimum of spiritual activity, philosophical, artistic and scientific. Our Revivalists do not ask us to embrace an hypothetical Gaelic culture of the past but rather a synthetic culture of their own devising, Gaelic inded in language but falsified and sentimentalised out of any relation to life as it was, ois, or could be lived. Such was the popular and operative concept of a Gaelic culture which, if taken seriously, would amount to frustration. It was understandable and no doubt of use in the context of the Anglo-Irish struggle; but when Ireland took her place among the community of nations and [83] was faced with the conflicting values and complexities of modern life, it proved utterly inadequate.

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