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Hey Irish America! Arthur Guinness was a Protestant, a Unionist and Irish and British

20/03/2014 11:23 | Updated 19 May 2014

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The 'England get out of Ireland' banner in St. Patrick's Day Parade 2014, via Long Island Catholic Examiner, Deirdre Haggerty here.

Irish America needs to go buy a book and learn some history. They don't have a baldy notion. Here's some context.

March 17th every year, every where is the day to be Irish. To celebrate Ireland. To celebrate Irishness. But for many, being Irish is a very exclusive and static thing. Padriag Reidy (@mePadraigReidy) alluded to it in the Guardian and rightly slapped it down, saying that '"authentic" cultural events are for faschists.' But I want to take this further.

I'm like Padraig, I'm Irish. But unlike Padraig, I'm from Northern Ireland, I'm a Protestant and I'm a Unionist who sees himself as both Irish and British.

For many "Irish" people these credentials would preclude me from being "Offical Irish". For many, Protestants aren't proper Irish. Being Irish means being Catholic. That's Éamon de Valera's Ireland. Rural, Catholic, Gaelic. Ireland of the Irish-Irelander. Ireland of the "kindly Celtic people" who need protected from the "poison gas" of English culture. Ireland of the "fior Gael" (true Irish).

Taoiseach Éamon de Valera said in 1951:

"I am an Irishman second: I am a Catholic first and I accept without qualification in all respects the teaching of the hierarchy and the church to which I belong."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in 2013:

"I am proud to stand here as a public representative, as a Taoiseach who happens to be a Catholic, but not a Catholic Taoiseach."

Enda Kenny of 2013 speaks about the real Ireland. The real Ireland that was, and is, multi-confessional and multi-ethinic. The real Ireland that Protestants and Unionists have contributed to, and helped to make. Not this crack-pot de Valera Ireland "that never existed and whose like will never be seen."

Unfortunately some people still pursue the racist, bigoted, closed and sectarian de Valera "Ireland That We Dreamed Of."

Éamon de Valera of 1951 still speaks for a sizable number in Ireland. Worse still, it seems Éamon de Valera speaks for Irish America.

Firstly, because of their connection with "England" apparently people of Northern Ireland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland aren't Irish and aren't welcome to march as Irish people in the New York Saint Patrick's Day Parade. This is rampant bigotry and xenophobia. Look at the picture at the top, the tweet and text below:

Some more bigotry from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an exclusively Irish Catholic organization in the US that's hijacked Saint Patrick's Day Parade, here:

"The brits have breached the wall and sullied one of our most sacred institutions, The Saint Patrick's Day Parade with the presence of the PSNI and created a fair amount of dissension amongst the ranks."

Here's the rules of the parade:

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And here's the president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians National President, Brendan Moore for the skeptics:

"I wondered if the PSNI folks could possibly be aware that the only message permitted and seen continuously throughout the parade they seek to participate in consists of merely five words: "England Get Out of Ireland." Indeed, life is full of ironies!!"

Secondly, the parade is "exclusively and explicitly Catholic" and is "a celebration of Irish Roman Catholic heritage." Furthermore, "no group admitted have a political agenda or an agenda contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church." I can infer from this that Protestants and Unionists cannot march in the parade.

The AOH do make it pretty clear that they're talking about Nationalist Catholic - non-Unionist Protestant - Irish America:

"I see this (the inclusion of the PSNI) now as a very high-level British plot to destroy the parade and what's left of independent Nationalist Catholic Irish America."

Thirdly, just like de Valera, Irish America have an erratic and irrational belief that anything remotely British cannot be Irish.

The whole event is flat-pack "Irishness" held together by myth and make-believe.

One, by being exclusively and explicitly Catholic, the parade is made a nonsense. Most Irish-Americans are Protestant. Fintan O'Toole said:

"And - here's a thing that is almost always forgotten - most Irish-Americans are Protestant."

Professor John P. McCarthy of Fordham University said:

"I must acknowledge Mr [Fintan] O'Toole makes a valid note, often unappreciated in Ireland, about the substantial portion of the Irish American population, including many of the presidents, who were Protestant."

Two, many Irish in Ireland are Protestant, now and throughout history. As the Irish poet and Protestant W.B. Yeats said:

"We [Protestants] are no petty people. We are one of the great stocks of Europe. We are the people of Burke; we are the people of Grattan; we are the people of Swift, the people of Emmet, the people of Parnell. We have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence."

Fintan O'Toole said that being Irish has nothing to do with religion, but that Ireland is diverse, plural and multi-ethnic:

"Our Irishness, if "our" has any meaning in this context, is pluralist and non-sectarian. A Taoiseach "for all the people" surely understands that the people are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox, atheist and 100 shades of belief and non- belief."

Three, being a Unionist and British does not preclude anyone from being Irish. Arthur Guinness, the father of Guiness, was Protestant, and a "a committed unionist," and Irish and British. Ireland's Guinness was once called 'Guinness's black Protestant porter'.

Here's what Benjamin Lee Guinness (1798-1868) said of people who support the kind of "England Out" policy that the AOH promotes:

"Those wicked and worthless adventurers who would not only deprive our country of the advantages which, as a part of the British Empire, we enjoy, but who would overturn all the social arrangements of society."

Ireland and Irish identity and culture has to find a way to accomodate Britishness and its British heritage. Irish America needs too get past the false "celtic nationalism" of Eamon de Valera which makes Irishness and Englishness incompatible. As Fintan O'Toole said:

"[A] new [Irish] identity has to be positive rather than negative. But it also has to find a way to include Britishness." As Brian O'Connor said: "Being Irish involves a lot more than some uber-Gael, Provo-lite, pub-patriot wet-dream. It always has."

Four, "England" is not in Ireland. There is no occupation. There are however people, like me, who wish to remain in the Union with great Britain. As John McCallister said: "I am no settler. No colonist." I am one of 800,000 citizens who want "England [in]". This language of "England Out" and British occupation is incredibly dehumanising. This is the sort of debasing language which allowed the IRA to murder innocent civilians and serving officers. As Tom Hartley, Sinn Féin strategist, said:

"In a way we made them [Unionists] a non-people... We didn't even see them as part of the problem, never mind as being part of the solution."

You can't just say Brits-Out. What does a United Ireland actually look like? Do people realise that health care is free in Northern Ireland but not-free in the Republic? As Alan Hynes said:

"Surely [Irish republicanism] should mean more than 'Brits Out'?"

As Garrett Fitzgerald said:

"You cannot bomb a million Protestants into a united Ireland."

Bombing protestants is incredibly counter-productive and makes unification impossible. As Orange Order member Brian Kennaway said:

"[IRA violence] knocked the Irish heart out of Ulster Protestants."

As David McCann said:

"The horrors of the IRA drove Protestants away from a cultural identification with Irishness."

Five, "England" is in Ireland by way of democracy. But let's make a correction first. Those people of "England" aren't English, they're Irish people who happen to consent to remaining in a Union with Great Britain. A link with London. As was made law by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, "Ulster should remain out until she chose of her own free will to enter an All-Ireland parliament."

The Ulster Covenant was signed by was signed by 237,368 men and by 234,046 women. Irish men and women who wanted to remain British came together in a huge mass movement pledging their determination to maintain Ireland's Union with Great Britain.

The Irish Proclamation of Independence was signed by 7 men and threw "a mental cordon sanitaire around Unionism." There was no mandate for the violence then or ever.

In a age of intense religiosity and divergent economic ideology, partition was a means to protect minority interests. Americans of all people should be alert to the terror of majoritarianism and the need to safeguard minorities. Democracy decided that "England" should remain in Ireland until the "English" chose of their own free will to enter an All-Ireland parliament. Two points show that.

The General Election of December 1910:

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Following the 1910 election the leader of the the Irish Parliamentary Party, John Redmond, agreed in 1914 that an amendment should be made to the Irish Home Rule law that six counties of Ulster should remain under London administration for a trial period of six years, of for a time to be finally agreed. This was conceded by Redmond as a compromise to Ulster Unionists and to avoid civil war.

The General Election of December 1918:

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There were many splits in the country that made partition inevitable. Two in particular.

One. The reality was that Irish nationalists sought to spurn industrialism in favour of a rural, agrarian, protectionist economy. Unionists sought an industrial economy and sought to be active in the global capitalist economy.

Two. The call that Home Rule was Rome Rule was justified and has been largely vindicated by history. The health care system and schools were co-opted to the Catholic Church, and law-makers deferred to priests. De Valera's Ireland was Bishop John Charles McQuaid's Ireland. Not only did Irish nationalists want self-determination, they wanted homogenous self-determination. Ireland was a Catholic State. Just as Northern Ireland failed the petitions of Carson and became a Protestant State. As James Craig, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, said:

"Since we took up office we have tried to be absolutely fair towards all the citizens of Northern Ireland. Actually, on an Orange platform, I, myself, laid down the principle, to which I still adhere, that I was Prime Minister not of one section of the community but of all, and that as far as I possibly could I was going to see that fair play was meted out to all classes and creeds without any favour whatever on my part... The honourable Member must remember that in the South they boasted of a Catholic State. They still boast of Southern Ireland being a Catholic State. All I boast of is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State."

Six, the language is not only dehumanising but hyper-hypocritical. America is the great empire, imperial force and hegemonic occupier and coloniser and brutaliser, bomber, invader and droner. Yes Britain mistreated the Irish. Never would I work to whitewash that. But I would remind America, the real imperialist, of the countless ills they have and continue to visit upon people at home and abroad. America is the great condescender.

US violence is "noble" and "civilised" while Muslim violence is "primitive" and "without rational cause".

The acts you accuse "England" of, you commit against Muslims to a far greater degree without good cause or democratic legitimacy. There's 11 miles between the Britain and the island of Ireland. We are caught in an inevitable network of inescapable mutuality. To suggest that I am a British planter, settler or occupier is grotesque in the extreme. They say Britain oppressed the Irish, yet Americans now oppress Muslims all around the world. As Glenn Greenwald said:

"Our violence is understandable, noble, well-intentioned, necessitated by their pure evil. By stark contrast, their violence is sub-human, senseless, and utterly unrelated to anything we do."

Seven, Irish America continues to use the language of English and British oppression. Of the Irish famine and the purported "genocide" that England caused. Yes this was wrong, but it's easy to travel on another man's wounds. If we want to make this the rules of the game, then we need to make serious reparations to native Americans who were egregiously oppressed and whose lands were stolen.

But I don't think we should actually make this the game at all. To make this the rules of the game is to be anti-Christopher Columbus, to be anti-American. The whole history of America and the west has been the disproportionate and violent command over the world's natural resources. As Christopher Hitchens said:

"Those who view the history of North America as a narrative of genocide and slavery are, it seems to me, hopelessly stuck on this reactionary position. They can think of the Western expansion of the United States only in terms of plague blankets, bootleg booze and dead buffalo, never in terms of the medicine chest, the wheel and the railway."

He further wrote of the anti-Columbus Movement and its effects:

"I can never quite decide whether the anti-Columbus movement is merely risible or faintly sinister... It is sinister, though, because it is an ignorant celebration of stasis and backwardness, with an unpleasant tinge of self-hatred... The transformation of part of the northern part of this continent into "America" inaugurated a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation, and this deserves to celebrated with great vim and gusto, with or without the participation of those who wish they had never been born."

What happened was wrong but reality is that it wasn't just Britain who committed wrongs against Ireland.

Sinn Fein and other Irish-Irelanders would have you believe that Ireland was a homogenous unit for centuries. History would tell you otherwise, that Ireland was a homogenous grouping of disparate and warring tribes.

By being an exclusively and explicitly Catholic parade, and anti-Protestant Unionist, and opposite to the Northern Ireland police force, the parade is the antithesis of what it is to be Irish. It's racist, bigoted, backward and intolerant. It's out of step with every single political party in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, even Sinn Fein. They share the same page only with violent dissident republicans.

This is not Enda Kenny's modern Ireland but James connolly's wildly xenophobic, racist intolerant, and jingoistic Ireland. A "homogenous" Ireland, free of "Brit-Huns", "the bull-dog breed", and the "English", "Welsh" and "Scots" he called the "swarm of locusts".

This is a warped and make-believe racially pure Ireland, on par with North Korea. And the city that is the melting pot of the world tolerates this intolerance? The country that codified classical liberal values into the greatest constitution that world has seen, erecting a wall of separation between church and state, has allowed a vocal Irish diaspora group to create an identity that perfectly mixes religion with national identity?

Shame on Irish America and those people who have allowed them to build and sustain such a racist, bigoted and sectarian system. Contrary to what some people thing, this isn't a question of "Getting the british out of Ireland and on that day all will be well."

Anne Anderson, Ambassador to the US, where are you? You have close links with the powerful Irish-American community, why are permitting this grotesque intolerance?