adminwp February 1, 2007
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With some justification one could well argue that it was the English policy of Surrender and Re-grant enforced against Irish clan leaders that ultimately led to their defeat and exile. This year is the 400th anniversary of that event known in history as the Flight of The Earls.  

Even though the latter appellation is [correctly] evocative of English hegemony, it is generally accepted in Irish folk history as a worthy affirmation of these men’s community leadership qualities.

Much will be read and heard over the next twelve months of the Flight of the Earls and of the subsequent Plantation of Ulster, for which the former event paved the way. Reasonable analysts argue that towards the end of the sixteenth century the clan leaders had little alternative.  The range and influence of English arms was by then all-pervasive. If any jurisdiction at all was to be exercised by the clan leaders, it would have to be, such people would contend, under the ‘grace and favour’ of the English monarch.

The Earls in return had to surrender their men-at-arms, their weapons, their possessions, their lands – which would all (or in part) be re-granted to them under the Crown, provisional upon their proven and demonstrated loyalty to that Crown. They would have to supply soldiers to aid the English forces in their suppression of those who continued to be rebellious Irish. AND the slightest departure from subservient fealty would result in the withdrawal of the ‘Re-Grant’ clause.

No sooner, of course, was abject compliance ceded than the allegations began of most treasonable thoughts and actions! One by one the newly-created ‘Earls’ were picked off until eventually the bulk of the remainder saw no reasonable option but to flee into exile, there hopefully to eventually regroup and one day return to Ireland fortified by foreign arms and soldiers who might help restore their hegemony.

It never happened.

 Those who fail to learn the lessons of history, we are told, are condemned to repeat the errors of the past.

 

Britain continued to exercise this successful policy in many of the colonies it seized and possessed in the name of the British Empire. Indeed today, with its ally the USA it exercises a similar policy in occupied and war-torn Iraq.

It is tempting to see a parallel policy in the Ireland of today.

‘Call off your armed campaign, destroy your arms, explosives and ammunition, de-mob your private army, surrender all your principles and ideals, especially the one about a British declaration of intent to withdraw from Ireland, give up your socialist policies, recognise and accept the Queen’s writ, do not oppose the Queen’s armed forces in Ireland, call upon your people to give information to the police, acknowledge the independent and unaudited role of MI5 in suppressing the activities of rebellious Republicans, encourage your people to participate fully in the British apparatus of state 

AND, in exchange, provided only that you continually reaffirm your declarations of loyalty, we, the British state in Ireland undertake to ..

.. encourage the most recalcitrant Unionists to maybe join with you in a power-sharing Executive, located in the once-hated Stormont Castle.’

Deal or no deal?

Deal!

No sooner was the deal accepted in its entirety than the allegations of disloyalty began; from Unionists, of course, but also from the British, and from public servants, nominally under the supervisory control and influence of those same politicians.

‘ … scurrilous remarks about my officers, past and present .. bla, blah, blah’,  raved the morally-outraged English Chief Constable (father of a love-child conceived in an extra-marital affair with a subordinate police officer!) speaking from the USA.  … Nationalist and Republican .. bla .. bla .. must be ‘on the run’ etc.’  This message he felt important enough to relay to every individual member of his force!

Remarkably, the final deal, it was claimed, was intended to ensure that these self-same politicians control the excesses of the same Constabulary.

And all this in the same week that an independent investigation – sparked by the father of a murdered loyalist, and thus more likely to be investigated that the slaughter of innocent Catholics – found that state-paid agents had with impunity and with the support and full knowledge of those in the highest ranks of the RUC, murdered at will,  innocent Catholics and (in error) Protestants. 

‘Where’s the evidence?’  smirk the police, knowing well that their murderous colleagues have destroyed and suppressed all proof of their evil deeds.

We are about to suffer seven weeks of the dirtiest political campaigning in memory, before the inevitable repeated Unionist refusal to share power .. (‘We need more time to ascertain their loyalty … see them surrender the killers of Robert McCartney … hand over the robbers of the Northern Bank etc. etc’).

A new British Premier, Gordon Brown, in place shortly after will argue that we have come too far to give up now, that the prize is too close, that he must be allowed the opportunity to negotiate a final settlement where his predecessors failed. We in turn must have ever more patience.

Meanwhile, the gravy train rolls on …

Sinn Fein are not as foolish as all this appears to paint them. Their eyes are on a bigger prize, the imminent election in the other jurisdiction. The unpopular PDs are likely to fall below the minimum number of seats to prove to be a workable partner for Bertie’s Fianna Fail, who might well turn instead to their natural allies in the former Republican Party.

By the time the DUP are finally ready again to return to the negotiating table, they will find – in the words of the late David Ervine – much less to their taste on that same table.

Facing them, in the position of ultimate power might well be a Sinn Fein Minister from Dublin, with the External Affairs folio (how’s that for irony!) in his briefcase.

Perhaps that foolish remark by Pat Docherty of Sinn Fein – that their recognition of the police meant that a United Ireland was inevitable – was not quite as preposterous and hilarious as his adversary Ian Og Paisley (and admittedly, your editor) found it to be!

Still, it was good to see Baby Doc on TV consumed with genuine mirth, for a change!

 

 

 

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