They Mutilated Ireland – an election pamphlet [1964]

[This pamphlet by Desmond Greaves was published by the Connolly Association in anticipation of the 1964 UK General Election. This was held in October of that year and the pamphlet was reprinted from an article carried in the monthly “Irish Democrat” in June. The election narrowly returned the Labour Party under Harold Wilson with a four-seat majority. This ended Labour’s thirteen years in opposition since the 1951 general election. In the course of the election campaign Wilson gave a commitment to Mrs Patricia McCluskey of the Dungannon-based Campaign for Social Justice, with which the Connolly Association liaised, that he would do something about the discriminatory regime maintained by the majority Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. In the event Wilson did nothing significant. He held another general election in 1966 in which Labour increased its majority. The pamphlet essentially urged Irish people in Britain to vote Labour and gave reasons why they should not let the memory of the 1949 Ireland Act prevent them doing that.]

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The Tory record on Ireland

It has been said that before the British worker can take up a proper attitude to Ireland he must know more about his own country first.

Here’s an experiment to test this.

Ask a workmate if he knows why most Tory Party premises describe themselves as “Unionist” headquarters. If he hasn’t noticed it, tell him to look next time. And add that all the Parliamentary guides which put the letter “L” after a Labour man’s name, put not “C” but “U” after a Conservative.

Why is it?

The odds are he’ll give every explanation but the right one.

For “Unionist” means “standing for the maintenance of the Union of Great Britain and Ireland” that was foisted on the Irish people by unexampled bribery and intimidation.

In its name the present Tory Party proclaims itself the anti-Irish party.

But the Union its name commemorates had baleful consequences for the British people too. For what it did was to bring into the British Parliament a few score colonial landlords to “conserve” privilege and delay the development of British democracy in the early 19th century. This they did very effectively.

Only when the Irish people fought their way from political obscurity into the light of day were they replaced by Nationalist members who voted for the demands of the British people, then expressed by the radical wing of the Liberal Party, and the beginnings of Labour.

Thanks to this process Liberal Prime Minister Gladstone became convinced that the Union must go. The alliance of Irish Nationalist and British radical was getting too strong.

He thought the Irish people would be satisfied with a form of Federalism he called “Home Rule”. The great Irish leader Parnell was willing to accept this as an instalment.

After all, he asked, “who can set a bound to the march of a nation?”

Winds of change

At that point the Tory Party sprang to the defence of the Union and put the title Unionist in its hat.

Its leader, Lord Salisbury, contemptuously compared the Irish to “Hottentots and other races incapable of self-government.”

There were no “winds of change” in Africa – yet.

But there was a wind of change in Ireland. The people were demanding the land. Salisbury sent his nephew, “Bloody Balfour” as he was called in Ireland, to put down “agrarian crime”. He hired a young Dublin lawyer called Carson and sent him round getting convictions against Land Leaguers with the aid of packed juries.

There was no mistaking it. The Tory Party was the anti-Irish party.

But unfortunately for the theory that the Irish could not rule themselves their organisation stood firm.

The Tory Unionists then decided to create divisions among them.

The Tories and the Tories alone are responsible for stirring into a flame the sectarian divisions in the North-east which had slumbered for the best part of a century. It was deliberately done, and Winston Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the man who took the lead in it.

On February 16th1886, he wrote: “I decided some time ago that if the G.O.M. (Gladstone) went for Home Rule, the Orange card would be the one to play.”

The Orange Order had played a discreditable part in suppressing the United Irishmen in 1795-98. But despite occasional outbreaks it had quietened into a largely social organisation. Protestants met in the Orange Halls, had a drink and a game of twenty-fives, and betimes dressed up to make themselves feel important.

Now the landlords and Tory merchants moved in, bringing in upper-class venom and upper- class arrogance among the members. Bitterness seeped down into the working class, some of whose less stable elements were persuaded to see in Home Rule a Catholic plot.

In 1886 there were riots causing £90,000 worth of damage in Belfast.

And naturally, once the working class was split, the wage-freeze was clamped on with a bang. That is always the accompaniment of Tory politics.

Gladstone would have got Home Rule through if some of his own party had not ratted on him.

These became the Liberal Unionists who later merged with the Tories.

Joseph Chamberlain, the Birmingham imperialist, was the first man to propose that partition should accompany Home Rule. He sent his tout Labouchère to Parnell privately, asking if he would accept a proposal to “annex the area round Belfast to England” as the price of Home Rule for the rest.

Parnell contemptuously sent him packing and the proposal was kept secret until somebody wrote Labouchère’s life many years afterwards.

Chamberlain opposed Home Rule and Gladstone’s Bill was lost.

Gladstone tried again. Again there was rioting in Belfast. But in 1910 the Liberals came back pledged to a third Home Rule Bill and, what was more important, dependent on Nationalist votes to maintain them in office. Only now it was not the resourceful Parnell who led the Irish but the vacillating Redmond.

When Asquith brought in the third Home Rule Bill in 1912 the Tories raised the most incredible hullabaloo in modern British politics.

They completely abandoned their pretence of being the party of “law and order” and encouraged the big landlords and their followers to sign a “solemn Covenant” to resist Home Rule with force of arms.

On September 28th 1962 the jubilee of this “Covenant” was celebrated with great pomp and circumstance and public money by the authorities in Belfast.

Rebel Conservatives

After the “Covenant” came a “Provisional Government” which was to seize and hold the North of Ireland in defiance of the Union Parliament. It met behind an armed guard and directed the process of counter-revolution.

Then came the enrolment of Volunteers.
The Volunteers began to look for guns.
The Government ordered troops from the Curragh to protect arms dumps belonging to the British Army.

Fifty-seven officers tendered their resignation. The “Curragh Mutiny” which held the army powerless in the South was followed by the Larne gun-running on April 24th 1914, when 48,000 German Mauser rifles were landed.

In some cases police and coast-guards were taken prisoner. Telegraph wires were cut. Roads were blocked. All movements of people were forbidden.

This was done by the rebel Conservatives.

And once more, on April 24th 1964, the authorities of partitioned Ireland spent public money celebrating the jubilee of these illegal acts.

The Tory Party were in this up their neck.

One of them was the Marquess of Londonderry.

His family name was Stewart and the family fortunes had been made in plots against the supremacy of the Irish Parliament.

As Member for Co. Down his was one of some 20 votes bought by the Viceroy to prevent the Irish Commons making George IV King of Ireland while George III was in the madhouse. Once Ireland had a different King from England, it was feared, the two countries might separate. Stewart was created Baron Londonderry.

His son Robert took his seat in Down. He played the main part in bringing about the Union, and incidentally carrying out the counter-revolutionary terror against the United Irishmen.

Robert Stewart was created Viscount Castlereagh. Of him the English rebel poet Shelley wrote:

“I met murder on the way,
He wore the mask of Castlereagh.”

Strange too, it was a Londonderry who in the nineteen-thirties openly boasted that he had wrecked a proposal made at an international disarmament conference to prohibit the use of the bombing plane.

British Toryism wanted to bomb poor Indians on the North-west Frontier.

Let the campaigners for nuclear disarmament remember that!

Who else was in the plot?

Mr Carson moved up to become Sir Edward and finally Lord Carson on the strength of it.
“I intend to break every law that is possible,” he had said.

Sir James Campbell declared: “Civil war is the path of danger, but it is also the path of duty.”

Imagine a Tory magistrate in a holiday town admonishing a delinquent “rocker” with those law-abiding words.

Mr Joynson Hicks said: “Behind us is the Lord God of Battles.”

Mr Pretyman Newman MP said, “Any man would be justified in shooting Mr Asquith on the streets of London.”

Lord Milner, associate of South African imperialist Cecil Rhodes, was in it. Lord Willoughby de Brooke and Mr Walter Long MP delivered fiery speeches.

And the cynical careerist F.E. Smith duped and ranted his way to fame and fortune on the misplaced sentimentalism of the Liverpool Orangemen.

The outcome? Were any of them jailed?

What? You can’t treat a Conservative Party lawyer like a mutinous ship’s cook.

They found their way into the Cabinet and on to the Woolsack.

The Liberal Party capitulated to the Tories and destroyed itself. Its last years of office were in coalition with the Tories, and it was replaced by Labour as the main mass party of British democracy.

The Tory party decided the policy. The political arch-crook Lloyd George might be the label on the bottle. The contents were “ye olde unionism”.

It is interesting however that thanks to the Irish national resurgence of 1916-21, the Tory Party abandoned the Salisbury policy of “hold Ireland by force” and adopted cunning Chamberlain’s proposal of Home Rule with the annexation of the Belfast area to England.

Black and Tans

On 21st January 1919, following an 80 per cent election victory, Dáil Eireann, the Parliament of the independent Irish Republic, was established and a “Declaration of Independence” issued to the world.

In the effort to terrify the Irish people out of their allegiance to this Parliament, and to impose the Home-Rule-with-annexation settlement, the Tory coalition sent the Black and Tans.

In the period before the arrival of the Black and Tans Tory militarism was bad enough. Thus from January 1919 to March 1920 the authorities were responsible for 17 murders, one death from prison treatment, 528 armed assaults against civilians, 22,279 raids on houses, 20 cases of wanton sabotage, 2,332 arrests, 151 deportations, 232 Courts martial, 759 sentences, and 402 proclamations or suppressions of public meetings.

When the Black and Tans arrived – so-called from the odd assortment of policeman’s black and soldier’s khaki in their hastily issued uniforms – things went from bad to worse.

The British Labour Party sent a Commission of Enquiry to Ireland.

Their report spoke of the “wanton destruction of economic Ireland” and said the Black and Tans were “compelling the whole Irish people – men, women and children – to live in an atmosphere of sheer terrorism.”

The number of unarmed persons killed by the Black and Tans and auxiliary forces in the year 1920 reached 203. This included six women and twelve children under 17 years of age. Forty-two creameries and other industrial plants were destroyed. There were 4,109 arrests and 24,171 raids on private houses. Up to October 12th 1920 the centres of no less than 98 towns were sacked and burned. There were many well-attested cases of torture or ill-treatment of prisoners.

In the Belfast area preparations for “annexation” were in full swing.

A witness told an American Commission of Enquiry that “on July 21st inflammatory speeches were made by speakers at the gates of the shipyards, and immediately after that Orange workers turned upon their Nationalist fellow-workers and expelled something like four thousand of them from the yards … Some of them were killed… The strike spread to the linen mills … until more than twenty thousand expelled workers and their families were living on relief.”

This witness pointed out that with the Nationalists who were known by their religion for the most part, Labour and Socialist workers were driven out as well, and that the riots, which went on for days, were instigated by the Unionist and Orange headquarters in Belfast, in other words by the Tory Party.

Tory terror

While the Tory terror stalked Ireland the Government was piloting through the British Parliament Lloyd George’s “Government of Ireland Act”, which became law at the end of 1920. This was the act that partitioned Ireland.

Little could the Irish do to stop it in the midst of the terror.

When it was put into force two elections were held, on different days. The people of Ireland were not allowed to vote on whether they wanted this Act or not. One election was held in six counties, another in twenty-six.

Once the partition was accomplished the British authorities invited the Irish to talk. They kept them talking six months while the six-county statelet was being consolidated. On the British side were Winston Churchill, F.E. Smith (now Lord Birkenhead ), Austen Chamberlain (son of Joseph Chamberlain), Worthington-Evans, and Lionel Curtis, the man who is credited with the invention of the name “British Commonwealth of Nations” to describe the robber Empire when imperialism became disreputable. Plus, of course, David Lloyd George.

While the six county statelet was being consolidated, negotiations were also afoot with America. Agreement was reached and the Washington Naval Treaty was signed. Part of the bargain was that America would disembarrass herself of her interest in Ireland.

At this point Lloyd George offered the Irish delegates the choice of a treaty based on the annexation of the Belfast area and six whole counties, with a limited dominion status for the rest of Ireland, or – if they choose to reject this – “immediate and terrible war”.

The settlement was embellished with much fine talk about a “boundary commission” and a “council of Ireland” – each of which depended on the six-county puppet statelet agreeing to come into it.

Civil war

Every Irishman has heard of the terrible tragedy of the civil war which broke out because the Irish people could not agree on the way to deal with this imposed settlement.

Some said accept it as a stepping stone. Others said reject it out of hand.

From behind the scenes the British Tories were inflaming the situation, setting one section of the Irish against another.

When in May it was announced that two sections had made an agreement, Winston Churchill wrote to Collins vehemently denouncing it, and declared that he had suspended the evacuation of British troops from Ireland.

Finally Republicans and Free Staters came to blows, and Lord Birkenhead said in the House of Lords: “They have destroyed in the course of their necessary operations some of the most beautiful and some of the most historic districts of Dublin. I for one rejoice that this task, painful, costly, bloody as it must ultimately prove, is being undertaken by those to whom it properly falls.”

In other words he had successfully split the Irish and got them fighting.
Having reduced Ireland to chaos and set her people at odds among themselves, the Tory Party then proceeded to disseminate the myth that the Irish people had “got what they asked for and now didn’t want it.”

The pretence was spread everywhere that Britain had nothing to do with the troubles in Ireland.

In fact, of course, the whole situation in Ireland was of Tory manufacture.

And that Britain still had a big stake in Ireland showed again very sharply when, after Mr De Valera took office in 1932, the Irish Government decided to withhold the Land Annuity payments which the Free State had agreed to pay the British Government.

These were the mortgage payments by which the Irish farmers were buying back the land that had been stolen from them in by-gone years.

The “National” Government was now in office in Britain.

Although it had the renegade Labour man Ramsay MacDonald as its figurehead for a year or two, it was simply a Tory Government under another name. When MacDonald had served his purpose, he was unceremoniously cast aside.

The Tories started the Trade War against Ireland. They clapped duties on Irish cattle which were designed, so it was said, to recover the amount of the land annuities.

Not for the last time was the British housewife’s larder raided to suit the international purposes of Toryism.

The Trade War went on until 1938.

Much play is made of the fact that it was Neville Chamberlain, son of Joseph Chamberlain, who called the Trade War off.

That he did so is not in dispute. Likewise it is not in dispute that it was his party that had started it.

But his change was not for love of the green fields of Ireland. He knew that war was coming. The one country Britain could be sure to get food from was Ireland.

He is also complimented for handing back the two Irish ports, held under the enforced settlement of 1921. Here again self-interest was at work.

The “Council of Chatham House” (Chairman Lord Astor) in 1939 published a survey of British strategical interests for the benefit of the Commonwealth Relations Conference. What it says about the Irish ports makes interesting reading: “In the event of war the naval bases would have needed to extend their control far inland, over most of Kerry and Cork and Donegal, and the establishment of such control in the face of an unfriendly or neutral island could not have been accomplished except by forcible intervention of British troops. The military occupation of a hostile Ireland, and the inevitable effects of such action in the United States, would have crippled Great Britain in the European war.”

In other words The Tories had made a mess of it. They had needlessly quarrelled with Ireland and now they had defeated their own object. To climb down was their only alternative.

America in the war

After America came into the war, the Tories thought Irish influence would no longer weigh very much across the Atlantic.

This is what had happened in the previous World War.

So Premier Churchill began to cast envious eyes on the ports once again.

He was helped considerably by rumours in the press where it was darkly hinted that German submarines were refuelling in Irish ports.

If this went on the British could be excused going in to stop them. Such was the line of propaganda.

In fact Irish neutrality was scrupulously maintained, unless it be said that her nearness made it inevitable that on balance Ireland was more helpful to Britain. She supplied plenty of food and plenty of workers. And volunteers too.

Churchill showed his gratitude in his famous attack on Irish neutrality. He wanted the Americans to intervene with Ireland and get Britain the ports. As has been explained, this meant the occupation of three more Irish counties.

Mr De Valera replied with a quiet dignity that won world approval.

After the war was over small tricolour flags were on sale in Dublin. They were British Government surplus. They had been intended for flying on British tanks and army wagons in the event of an invasion from the six counties.

Such being the Tory record on Ireland, it is no wonder that there was more rejoicing in Dublin than in London itself when Labour was triumphantly returned in the 1945 election.

The two previous Labour Governments had been in a minority. They could be unseated at Liberal pleasure. Now Labour had a huge overall majority. Now they would do their duty to Ireland.

A group of friendly MPs was formed to push towards the ending of partition.

Four years went by. But nothing was done. Disappointed, the 26-County Government declared a Republic and pulled out of the Commonwealth.

Immediately the Tory press sent up a howl of rage. Reprisals were demanded. The Commonwealth of “free” nations was only “free” until one of them dared to exercise her “freedom”.

The 1949 Ireland Act

Ireland stood firm. All that was needed was that Labour should stand firm too. But this did not happen.

The leaders of Labour were stampeded by the Tory outcry, and under new conditions, and in a different way, the same thing happened as happened to Asquith in World War 1. The more progressive party became the instrument of Tory policy.

The Labour Party introduced the Ireland Act.

The part of it that concerns us here is section 1(b) which runs:

“Parliament hereby declares that Northern Ireland remains part of His Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom and affirms that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of His Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.”

There was a lively debate. But not between the two front benches.

After Mr Attlee had introduced the Bill, Mr Eden rose to support him.

“Ulster must be entirely free to take her own decision at any time,” he said.

But it so happened that that was not in the Bill. Three counties of Ulster were already in the new Republic. The other six were, under the Government of Ireland Act, under the supreme control of the British Parliament. Thus the six counties were only allowed to decide to stay in. The British Parliament would decide if they wanted to go out.

Mr Eden was a bit worried at the acknowledged fact that this guarantee to the Ulster Unionists could not bind future parliaments, but on the whole he thought the Bill a good one.

The protest came from the opposition back benches and from nowhere else.

Mr Mulvey, veteran Nationalist representing Fermanagh and Tyrone, asked what about the third of the people in the border counties who wanted to be reunited with the rest of the nation.

Mr William Gallacher (Communist, West Fife) answered Mr Wells’s argument that because there was a Protestant community in the North-East, Ireland should be partitioned. He said: “If in relation of the whole of Ireland there is a Protestant minority in the North, there is a Catholic minority within it, so that the Hon. Gentleman’s argument for partition for the Protestant minority in the North, is also an argument for partition for the Catholic minority within it. That makes the whole thing ridiculous.”

Mr Hugh Delargy, Labour member for Miles Platting, said: “We are leaving the decision about Irish unity completely in the hands of men we know are already pledged to maintain the division of their country.”

Mr Jack Beattie (Irish Labour Party, Belfast West), said: “Even if it is as one man, and one man only, I shall go into the lobby against the Government because of the injustice which I see inflicted upon the country of which I am proud to call myself a citizen.”

These four speakers represented four separate strands of opposition.

A Tory Bill

When the division on the second reading took place it was revealed that the greatest Labour members’ revolt on record had taken place.

The revolt took the form of abstention. Something like a hundred Labour MPs abstained.

Those who supported the Bill included Ernest Bevin, C.R. Attlee, Chuter Ede, Hugh Gaitskell, Leslie Hale, R.H. Crossman and some who probably now wish they hadn’t.

The men who voted against the Bill – and in the case of Labour members this was a disciplinary matter – were as follows: J. Beattie, W. Gallacher, S. O. Davies, H. J. Delargy, R. J. Gunter, J. McGovern, N. MacLean, R. J. Mellish, P. Piratin, A. M. Skeffington, T. C. Skeffington-Lodge, and R. R. Stokes. The tellers for the “Noes” were Mressrs Mulvey and Cunningham.

This list contains the names of two Irish nationalists, one Irish Labour, two (British) Independent Labour, two Communist and six (British) Labour.

Not a single Conservative voted against the Ireland Act.

But the following were only a fraction of the Conservatives who went into the lobby to support it: Rt.Hon. Harold Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, Selwyn Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Oliver Lyttleton, Rt. Hon. Anthony Eden and S.H. Lucas-Tooth.

What happened?

The leaders of Labour had capitulated to the imperialist outcry and had passed a Tory Bill.

In the wilderness

While not the sole determinant of course, the Ireland Act was part of the general tendency of policy in the third Labour Government which led to the debacle of 1951 and the thirteen years in the wilderness.

Yet a recent history of the first Labour majority Government does not even mention it.

The Ireland Act wrecked the “Friends of Ireland” group of MPs, scattered the brave organisation of the Anti-Partition league, destroyed faith in political action and resulted in untold harm both in Ireland and in Britain.

It shattered the faith of thousands of Irishmen in the processes of British democracy. It started the train of events which led to the split in the Irish Labour Party and the foundation of a partitionist Labour group in the six counties. It has proved one of the most tragic errors in Labour history, above all because it left the Tories masters of the field in Anglo-Irish relations.

How did they use their mastery?

In 1955 when Tom Mitchell had been returned for Mid-Ulster, the Tory Attorney-General, Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, on behalf of the Government introduced a motion: “That Thomas J. Mitchell, returned as a member for Mid-Ulster, having been adjudged guilty of felony and sentenced to penal servitude for ten years, and being now imprisoned under such sentence, is incapable of being elected or returned as a member of this House.”

Thus, in spite of the fact that the people had twice given him a majority, his opponent became the MP.

When in the spring of 1962 the Nationalists handed Home Secretary R. A. Butler a list of complaints they wanted examined, what did he do?

He passed them to the Six County Government. Instead of arresting the burglar, the policeman handed over the householder’s complaint to the man who was helping himself in the kitchen.

He held a meeting with the Unionists at the Ulster Hall and said to them, “Your border is our border.”

There was seldom a truer word. It is not an Irish border, it is a British border – a British Tory border.

No wonder that when Captain O’Neill feels the draught from both Labour and Nationalists in Belfast, he comes to Sir Alec Hume for comfort.

Such is the Tory record.

Surely then no friend of Ireland will think the Tories should remain in office?

The friends of Ireland are to be found among their opponents. And obviously so, for the Tory Party is the party of land, business, wealth and privilege, all founded on Imperialism.

These facts should be borne in mind when the general election comes. It may not be possible to return a Government pledged to end Partition. It is possible to recognise the enemy and secure the return of a number of our friends. Then we must carry on the fight from there.

[June 1964]