Kevin Whelan, ‘Origins of the Orange Order’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, 2, 2 (Spring/Summer 1996), pp.19-36. [being a chap. in The Liberty Tree]

Whelan’s thesis at the emergence of the Order was part of a ‘sectarianism deliberately injected by government as a counter-revolutionary strategy of tension’ (p.19)

… appealing particularly to Anglicans squeezed between United Irish (Presbyterian) and Defender (Catholic) challenge, and without any political grouping of their own’ (p.20).

The United Irishmen continued to believe passionately in the power of th enational concept to harmonise the internal discordancies of Ireland. Their mistake was not, as frequently alleged, a narrowness of sympathy, but an overly optimistic, and therefore false, inclusiveness - a problem which was subsequently [32] to persist stubbornly at the core of the Irish nationalist project. (p.32-33.)

… The United Irishmen consistently underestimatedly the powerful groundswell of support for conservatism; the popular appeal of the Orange Order and the yeomenry indicated that this was not just a chimera engineered by establishmen politicians … in their reading it could only be artificially induced by governmentand Ascendancy connivance [and] unrealistically expected massive defections from the militia and yeomanry once the rebellion actually started. It was a fatal mistake; underestimating popular support for the regime, the United Irish revolution turned out not to be a painless coup, but a rancorous internecine struggle, in which the lines of demarcation all too easily split along confessional rifts. (p.33.)

In defence of the United Irishmen, it should be stressed that blame for the introduction of sectarianism into political life of the 1790s should not be laid at their door, but at that of the sectarian state itself. It has become fashionable to blame the United Irishmen for entering into an alliance with the Defenders [so that] the seeds of bitter sectarian rebellion were sown. That line of argument ignores the deliberate injection of sectarianism by conservatives, and ultimately by the government, as a counter-revolutionary weapon. (p.34.)

Bibl., M. Elliott, ‘the origins and transformation of Irish republicanism’, in International Review of Social History, xvii (1978), pp.405-28; Curtin, United Irishmen.

See David Dickson, review of The Tree of Liberty, Radicalism, Catholicism and the Construction of Irish Identity (Cork UP 1996), in Irish Studies Review, (6, 1 (Summer 1998), p.77f.: ‘Whelan had been writing prolifically on aspects of 1798 for more than a decade and has consistently emphasised the primacy of political factors over religious and economic ones in precipitating the explosion, especially with reference to County [77] Wexford. In the two central essays here - on the United Irishmen’s tactics of popular arousal and their propaganda techniques, and on the sectarian nature of the counter-revolutionary response - he develops his argument for political primacy persuasively.

Dickson further notes that his essay on ‘An underground gentry’ is obviously indebted to Cullen and Brendan Ó Buachalla, adding: ‘Whelan’s depiction of this shadow local authority is an eqloquent challegne to those who have championed an essentially benign view of social relations in Hanoverian Ireland. (p.78). The allusion is the Sean Connolly’s Religion, Law and Power: The Making of protestant Ireland.

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