John O. Whyte, Interpreting Northern Ireland (Oxford: OUP 1990).

PROPORTIONS: Catholic 28.0%, Protestant 53.5%, Not Stated, 18.5 [a high figure influenced by ‘civil disobedience’ of some Catholics in answering the census; the figure was 0.4 and 1.9 in 1951 and 1961 respectively].

Breakdown of Protestants: Presbyterian, 28.2 [45.5 of total Prot.]; C of I, 23.3 [37.5]; Methodist 5.0 [8.0]; Baptist, 1.1; Brethern 1.1; Congreg., 0.7; Free Presbyt. 0.5. Also others (Jewish, Agnostic, etc.): 2.3 [3.7 of non-Catholics]. The estimated total % of Protestants in N. Irel. is 62.2.


Bibl.: The Orange Order, ed. Tony Gray (1972); the ‘official history’, MW Dewar, John Brown, and SE Long (1967).

Gallagher and Worrall, Christians in Ulster, 1968-1980 (1982); ‘[the Order] protected the employment of Protestants by its influence over employers, which is a polite way of saying that it contrived systematic discrimination against Catholics.’ Open to male Protestants of all denominations and formally excludes Roman Catholics. Its membership in 1968 was about 32% of Protestant men, or 90,000; claimed at 95-96,000 by Grand Secretary of the Order in Irish Times interview, 10 July 1984.

.. strongest near the border, stronger where Protestants are in the majority, and stronger in the countryside than in the cities. [32]

small towns much less segregated than Belfast [34]

highly endogamous [40] the enormous importance of kinship ties. Normally it was only with their own kin that people got on to realy close terms; if all one’s kin came from one’s own community, then the way was blocked to getting to know people from the other community intimately, and prejudice flourished. … Intermarriage was rare [in Harris’s Ballybeg study, 1962] and when it happened it bridged no gaps because the husband dropped most of his former contacts. [40]

73% Caths ‘yes’ to integrated ed. (1989 Survey)

Rose found a ‘limited tendency for Ps to have higher occupational class than Cs,’ but that there are [on aggregate] more poor Ps than poor Cs in NI. [54] Aunger’s path-breaking study (1975, 1981) show Cs disadvantaged at all occupational levels.

FEA 1976

1985; declared political aspects by %: Irish: Protestant 3, C 61; Brit Protestant 65, C 9; Ulster, Protestant 14, C 1; sometimes Brit. and sometimes Ir., Protestant 4, C 7; others Protestant 2, C 2.

Ecological analysis is a technique by which the electoral returns are correlated with the census in such a way as to show how far party political voting patterns answer to the demographic divisions along lines of class, religion, etc. The NI correlations between Protestants and the United Unionist Coalition and Catholics and the SDLP were respectively 0.8 and 0.88, extraordinary figures on a world scale. [73]

1986, Party affinities: notable facts - Protestant: Official Unionist, 48%; Dem. Unionist, 22; Alliance, 10 [13 unstated]. Catholic: SDLP 41 [the only figure unchanged since 1971]; Alliance, 14; Sinn Féin 10. 25% unstated. [76]

In 1967, before the Troubles, in constitutional attitudes, the most popular solution on average was United Ireland linked to Britain, with Catholic 50%, C of Ireland 45, Pres 41, and others 32. At the same time, Catholic 30 wanted an independent Ireland as against Church of Ireland 1, while the situation as it was then was favoured by Church of Ireland 52, Presbyterian 53, and others 62, with Catholic 20 assenting also. [Belfast Telegraph survey]

In 1968, Rose found Protestant 68 and C 33 in approval of N. Ireland, with Protestant 10 and C 34 against it.

Jennnifer Todd (1987) finds that Ulster Loyalism derives its power from evangelical Protestantism, while the category assenting to the self-description as ‘Ulster British’ support a unionism that is not a product of prejudice but cherishes British ideals - British defined as progressive, liberal, and democratic.

Chp. 6: Traditional Nationalist Interpretation,

A historical underpinning given by Denis Gwynn in his History of Partition (1950) and by PS O’Hegarty in his History of Ireland under the Union (1952) … the most comprehensive statement of the case by Frank Gallagher in The Indivisible Island (1957).

Gwynn: ‘In Ireland the old suspicions of British imperialism still survive strongly. The conviction is deeply rooted that English policy is always inspired by the doctrine of Divide and Rule. The enforced partition of Ireland appears so obviously as a direct application of that policy, that most people in Ireland take it for granted that Partition was deliberately devised by English politicians as a means of retaining a grip on Irish territory which could at any time be expanded.’ (History, 1950, 23.

O’Hegarty saw a spirit hovering over Ireland which made its own of every race that came there. It affected even the Irish unionists who, if they did not want home rule, did not want partition either: ‘partition was primarily an English Conservative Policy [117] designed and propagated to dish the liberals.’ Frank Gallagher saw partition as a product of British malignancy. [118]

Ernest Blythe, [de Blaghd], Briseadh na Teorann [The Smashing of the Border] (1955], argues with a new realism that Partition exists not because of the British but because of the Ulster Protestants and that the only way to bring about a united Ireland was by enticing sufficient northern Protestants to vote for it. Twice imprisoned by the British; Government. Min., and Northern Stock. See Ó Gradhra 1976 [119]

Michael Sheehy, Divided We Stand: A Study in Partition (1955) argues that the Northern Protestant had good reason for not wishing to join the South.

Donal Barrington, Uniting Ireland, a pamphlet (1959), argues that it is misleading to say Partition was forced on Ireland by the British Government, rather that Partition was forced on the British Government. by the North and South, who had intransigently attached themselves to incompatible solutions, Home Rule, and Union. [120]

.. The last 20 yrs have made it difficult for nationalists to argue that Protestant opposition to a united Ireland is artificial, blown out of proportion by a British machinations. [121]

Garret Fitzgerald, Towards a New Ireland (1972). ‘the Irish problem is quite simply the fruit of the Northern Protestant reluctance to become part of what they regard as an authoritarian southern Catholic state.’ [(88) 121-22]

C. Cruise O’Brien, States of Ireland (1972): ‘What is coming across to ordinary people is that our problem is not how to get unity, but how to share an island in conditions of peace and reasonable fairness, and that such conditions preclude unity as long as the Ulster Protestants reject that [unity].’ [(297) 122]

George Dangerfield, The Damnable Question: A Study in Anglo-Irish Relations (1977): In Ireland on the other hand [unlike Pakistan] the dissident minority was treated with indulgence [being] given a larger area than it was [demographically] entitled to, and supported financially and militarily by the imperial power [which] gave colour to the traditional nationalist argument that the unionists were encouraged to display intransigence … [125]

On the whole recent historians have been struck by the depth of Ulster opposition to a united Ireland separate from Britain, and the independence of that opposition from British support. [125]

it was not until Bonar Law became leader of the Conservative Party in 1912 that the Unionists felt they were in the hands of someone on whom they could rely. [126]

B[rian] M Walker, Ulster Politics: The Formative Years, 1868-86 (1989), argues that a powerful combination of Catholic and Presbyterian tenant-farmers opposed Church of Ireland landlords in the 1870s and 80s and that it was not until the general election of 1886 that the cleavage which marks North of Ireland politics was firmly established. Behind the split lay the growing autonomy of the Catholic electorate after Reform, the increased presence of the clergy in Home Rule and nationalist organisation, and the growing support of nationalist politicians for the Catholic line in education. [127]

Miller, Queen’s Rebels (1979) argues that the Northern Protestant is not so much a nation - as in the two nations theory promoted by British Government. in support of Partition - as a community adhering to a contractarian politics with the Crown. Ireland is therefore not two nations but a nation and a community.

James Loughlin, Gladstone, Home Rule and the Ulster Question, 1882-93 (1986), sees Ulster politicians of the period as having expressed no contractarian ideas, and a ‘high degree of ideological and emotional commitment to Britain and what they say was British values and traditions.’ [(156) 128]. Counterchallenged by Jackson (1989) who finds his sample untypical and considers the Ulster commitment to Britain more qualified than Loughlin imagines. [128-29]

Michael Laffan, The Partition of Ireland, 1911-1925 (1983) points out supremacist streak in unionist ideology and the double standards of British politicians. Whyte calls it the best introduction to the state of current historical scholarship in the area.

John Bowman, De Valera and the Ulster Question, 1917-1973 (1982). De Valera believed that the Ulsterman was an Irishman and that partition was a British creation. He also believed that the territorial unity of Ireland took precedence over the wishes and beliefs of the Northern Unionist. De Valera quoted approvingly Mussolini’s speech: ‘There is something about the boundaries that seem to be drawn by the hand of the Almighty which is very different from the boundaries that are drawn by ink upon a map. Frontiers traced by inks on other inks can be modified. It is quite another thing when the frontiers were traced by Providence.’ [(Bowman, 302); here 131]

Therefore, de Valera thought, Irishmen living in England should replace intransigent Unionists in Ulster (T. Ryle Dwyer, Eamon de Valera, 1980, 112) [131]. Whyte comments: there was no evidence that Irishmen living in Britain wished to return to Ireland, anymore than that Ulster unionists wished to go to Britain.

Clare O’Halloran, Partition and the Limits of Irish Nationalism (1987), finds that southern politicians of all parties held on to the unamenable traditional nationalist view of Ulstermen as Irishmen coerced by British politicians. Their irritation at the refusal of Unionists to share this view - either in its political or cultural versions - led not only to anger against Unionists but also against Northern Nationalists. [132] She sees New Ireland Forum Report as fundamentally restating old nationalist attitudes.

Gerry Adams, The Politics of Irish Freedom (1987) and A Pathway to Peace (1988) are condemned as superficial in regard to the historical and sociological facts. Adams maintains a traditional nationalist view of Ulster Protestant identity, and blames all on the British presence. He treats the Protestants as an Irish minority, whereas they see themselves as a British people. And: he attributes [the 19th c. growth of Unionism] to landlord manipulation, the machinations of the Presbyterian divine Henry Cooke, and the manoeuvres of British Conservatives … [overlooking] real differences in religious values, national identity, and economic interest. [135]

David Johnson, Interwar Economy in Ireland (1985), considers that the effects of partition on Ireland may have been economically beneficial to both communities, and Mary Daly, Social and Economic History of Ireland (1981) thinks the economic consequences, except in Derry and Newry, were very slight. Kennedy, Giblin, and McHugh (Economic Development, 1981) do not include partition as a cause of the indifferent economic performance of the southern state.

Whyte notes the value of autobiographical passages in Adams, but adds: he does not face the objections which anyone who does not already hold that doctrine [republicanism] might raise against it. [136]

Sean Cronin, Irish Nationalism: A History of its Roots and Ideology (1980). Whyte: Although he has sympathy for the traditional nationalist view that the British presence is at the core of the problem, it is not clear how wholeheartedly he subscribes to it. [137]

Desmond Fennell (The State of the Nation, 1983; Beyond Nationalism, 1985; Nice People but Rednecks: Ireland in the 1980s, 1986; The Revision of Irish Nationalism, 1989), is faithful to the traditional nationalist view of the British as the historical root of the problem, but repudiates the notion that the Protestant is an Irishman in disguise: ‘there is one nation, the Irish nation, and part of another nation, namely, the British nation’ and the ‘problem is ‘devising a state in which both these communities can share’ [excerpts from 1986 and 1983]. Revision &c (1989) is an attack on revisionist history.

The New Ireland Forum, 1983-84.
John Hume: ‘the belief by the Protestant tradition in this island that its ethos cannot survive in Irish political structures’; also … more and perhaps importantly [than theological differences] a strong expression of political allegiance to Britain which we cannot ignore and which we cannot wish away any more than unionists could wish away our deep commitment to Irish unity.’

Haughey’s submission: ‘the British military and political presence … distorts the situation in NI and inhibits the normal process by which peace and stability emerge elsewhere’; ‘the present situation in NI … is the cumulative effect of British policy in Ireland over many hundreds of years’; ‘partition … was never legitimate from a democratic point of view and cannot be made so’; ‘we need to apologise to nobody about the character or performance of our State, and we do not intend to do so.. If there are blemishes, they are small ones.’ Haughey apparently insisted as a condition of his signature on the phrase in the final report: ‘the particular structure of political unity which the Forum would wish to see established is a unitary state.’ [139] Yet the examination of joint authority - which FF shared - is significant [since] it implied an acceptance that the total withdrawal of GB from NI might not necessarily be a solution. [140]

Whyte considers the New Forum recognition that the problem is not British machinations but resident Ulster Protestant and Unionist ideology - or rather, clash of British ideology and Irish nationalist ideology on the same territory. This moves the question away from the old grounds of unitary state sovereignty in Ireland as a whole.

Whyte: ‘Scarcely anyone who puts himself/herself to the discipline of writing in a scholarly manner on the [NI] problem now stands over the one-nation theory. [141]. … when every plea of mitigation has been made, the British record in Ireland has been a sorry one. … to reject the traditional nationalist interpretation does not mean to exonerate recent British policy from blame for the current crisis’ [142] …

Britain’s long-term objective in Ireland is unclear [143]. The Future of Northern Ireland (NI Office 1972) says: ‘No UK Government for many years has had any wish to impede the realisation of Irish unity, if it were to come about by genuine and freely given mutual agreement and on conditions acceptable to the distinctive communities.’ [143]

The Sunningdale Agreement (1973) includes a declaration that ‘if, in the future, the majority of the people of NI should indicate a wish to become part of a United Ireland, the British Government. would support that wish’; while the Hillsborough Agreement reaffirms the commitment: ‘the two Governments. … declare that, if in future a majority of the people of NI clearly wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland, they will introduce and support in the respective parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish. [Art.I.] … The conditional nature of the British claim enables different people to draw different conclusions. [143] … it could be argued that with all its faults the British presence prevents worse from happening in Northern Ireland. [145]

Chap 7: Traditional Unionist Interpretation
MW Heslinga, The Irish Border as a Cultural Divide (1962), argues that the border actually represents an important spiritual divide (78), and sees no merit in the claim that Ireland should be one state. [147]

ATQ Stewart, The Narrow Ground: Aspects of Ulster 1609-1969 (1977); ‘the planters were frontiersmen … they faced the menace of a fifth column … the very essence of what is called the Ulster problem (47)’; ‘two diametrically opposed political wills must coexist on the same narrow ground (180)’.

The Northern Unionist objects not only to the fundamental nature of the claim to the territory of NI, but to the pseudo-legality which it affords to the Provisional IRA’s campaign of violence in NI [quoted 150] The arguments on which writers place most stress is the religious one, objecting to certain laws enshrining Catholic values … but it does not follow that changing these would dissolve the difficulties. [150]

The consensus of the literature is that the Southern Protestants are not a down-trodden group [152]

Jack White, Minority Report: The Anatomy of the Southern Irish Protestant (1975): ‘there is no single cause that contributes so much to the embitterment of inter-faith relations as the rule of the Roman Catholic Church concerning mixed marriages’ [153]

Desmond Clarke (Church and State: Essays in Political Philosophy, 1985) and Tom Inglis (Moral Monopoly: The Catholic Church in Modern Irish Society, 1987) take the most critical view of the Church. [155]

The fundamental right clauses in the 1937 Constitution were based on Catholic social teaching, and while the final decisions about their phrasing were De Valera’s, it is now known that they were framed only after extensive consultation with Catholic churchmen. [155]

The censorship board, once noted for its frequent [155] banning of books which seemed incompatible with a conservative catholic morality, was reformed by stages, in 1956-7 and 1967. The clause in the Constitution recognizing the ‘special position’ of the Catholic Church was repealed in 1972. [156]

Whyte considers that the graph of Church influence on legislation rose till 1950, and then declined, but that with the referenda (Abortion, 1983, and Divorce, 1986)

RC Church submission to New Forum (1984): ‘Every legal system throughout the world bears the traces of majority opinion and of the public ethos of the majority concensus. This is true of Protestant as well as of Catholic countries. It is true of non-Christian as it is of Christian countries. A Catholic country or its government, where there is a very substantial Catholic ethos and consensus, should not feel it necessary to apologise that its legal system, constitutional or statutory, reflects Catholic values … The rights of the minority are not more sacred than the rights of the majority.’

In oral submission, Bishop Cathal Daly of Down said more mildly: ‘The Catholic Church in Ireland totally rejects the concept of a confessional state. We have not sought and we do not seek a Catholic State for a Catholic people. We believe that the alliance of Church and State is harmful for the Church and harmful for the State … We are acutely conscious of the fears of the Northern Ireland Protestant community … What we do here and now declare, we declare with emphasis, is that we would raise our voices to resist any constitutional proposals which might infringe or might imperil the civil and religious rights and liberties cherished by Northern Protestants.’ [Forum, No. 12; Whyte, 157]

Dermot McAleese and Norman Gibson, foreword to McCarthy commissioned study on economic consequences of Irish unity: ‘A total and precipitate absense of such transfers [from UK to NI] would in our view require what can only be described as catastrophic economic adjustments. The disappearance and non-replacement of the British subvention would result … in an immediate loss of income equivalent to about 8% of the GDP of the combined economies [with] a fall in the disposable income of around IR£2,000 million. … it is doubtful if foreigners would be prepared to lend even if the authorities were willing to borrow. [160]. In the opinion of these consultants, re-unification simply is not practicable.

Southern economic inequality is much greater and social mobility much less than in the UK. See Kennedy, Giblin, McHugh, The Economic Development of Ireland in the Twentieth Century (1988). And there is a substantially higher proportion of university students from working class backgrounds in NI than in the Republic.

The big difference between the Republic and Northern Ireland is not that one is nationalist and the other unionist, but that one is homogeneous and the other mixed. [163]

Since the opening of the relevant British Cabinet papers, it appears that the British saw partition as temporary, that they at first urged a separate historical Ulster of nine counties, and acceded to the Unionist demand for six - which the Unionists thought they could hold - because Sinn Fein were then boycotting Westminister and the Government. needed the support of at least one Irish party in the parliament where the relevant legislation was to be passed. Failing a nine-county partition, which might of its own demographical composition tend to collapse, the British preferred a four-county area in which there was a clear majority of unionists, but the unionists were interested in the largest territory that they thought they could govern. Whyte remarks: ‘the fact might be used by their critics to argue that the Unionists sought, not equality, but supremacy.’ [164]

Patrick Buckland, History of Northern Ireland (1981): ‘Unionist regime neither as vindictive nor oppressive as regimes elsewhere in the world with problems of compact or irrendentist minorities … [bit] power of Government. was used in the interests of the Unionists and Protestants with scant regard for the interests of the region as a whole and for the claims and susceptibilities of the substantial minority.’ [(72) 167]

Tom Wilson, Ulster: Conflict and Consent (1989) mentions the siting the NUU at Coleraine instead of Derry.

Basil Brooke ‘had not a Roman Catholic about his place’ and thought that ‘Catholics were endeavouring to get in everywhere and were out with all their force and might to destroy the power and constitution of Ulster. He would appeal therefore, wherever possible, to employ good protestant lads and lassies.’ (Fermanagh Times, 13 July 1933; quoted Barton, Brookeborough (1988).

Whyte, on the conflict between the respective claims of Unionists and nationalists to self-determination: the international trend [of thinking on the principle involved] has been towards accepting that the problem is intractable, and instead stressing protection for the rights of minorities in whichever political unit they find themselves. … in the Irish case too, appealing to the principle of self-determination is not enough to solve the problem. However - in the language of S. Kuhn - they both operate within the same paradigm, sharing that key assumption about self-determination. [172]

Chp. 8: Marxist Interpretations

Connolly, 3 vols Collected Writings, ed. Desmond Ryan 1948-51; vol 2: Socialism and Nationalism (1948).

Later Marxian works are Bernadette Devlin, The Price of My Soul (1969); Owen Dudley Edwards, The Sins of Our Fathers: Roots of Conflict in NI (1970); Liam de Paor, Divided Ulster (1970); The Sunday Times Insight Team’s Ulster (1972); Desmond Greaves, The Irish Crisis (1972). [177]

Eamon McCann, War in an Irish Town (1974, 1980) [Derry]; McCann accepts that Protestant workers had much to fear from emerging nationalism, and blames the Catholic Church as much as the unionist bourgeoisie for creating conflict. [181] ‘It can seriously be doubted whether NI would have survived the first two decades … had not the Free State become increasingly repellent to Protestants.’

Nationalists first at pains to say they were not a colony: ‘we don’t feel ourselves to be a colony but a nation’ (Griffith, Treaty Negotiations 1921).

Liam De Paor was the first to apply the colonial analogy rigorously to Ulster (1970). The colonial analogy is perhaps more apposite when applied to the whole of Ireland under British rule before 1921. [179]

Cruise O’Brien’s States of Ireland contains a critique of Connolly’s Marxism, pp.89-99.

Bew, Gibbon, and Patterson, The State in Northern Ireland, 1921-1972 (1979), has opaque Marxist chapters, first and last, disagreeing with Connolly

The internal-conflict interpretation of the Northern troubles epitomised by the Cameron Commission (1969) which found that six out of seven of the causes were purely internal (endogenous rather than exogenous), such as housing, B Specials, &c.

Dervla Murphy, Changing the Problem: Post-Forum Reflections (1984), a pamphlet: ‘By successfully establishing an Independent NI, the British and Irish governments could release the Northern Irish into a wholly new world where the instinct of self-preservation would compel them to abandon the cultivation of sectarian division and concentrate instead on fostering that unity without whcih their new State would fall apart. Freed of the destructive pulls of the London and Dublin magnets, the two communities would soon find their interests naturally converging. [(17) 222]

Chp. 9: Solutions

Bibl. Whyte, ‘Has research been worth while?’ (QUB 1983).

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