Catholic Position In Northern Ireland Revealed
BY CONNOR DOWN
LL NE of the difficulties with which we have to contend is that if we make criticism of any kind
we are labelled as being disloyal . . .
This should not be.
" It is not the case in England, for there the people can criticise and fight the Government and still not be ostracised. In this small province we have no freedom of speech nor no liberty of action."
These words are from a speech in March, 1937, of Mr. W. J. Stewart, Unionist member for South Belfast in the Imperial Parliament. The speech was the outcome of Mr. Stewart's experience when, after years of service in the Orange interest, he dared to criticise the policy of the
Six-County ascendancy junta. .
Loyal and Disloyal The quotations serve to illustrate one application of a very much over-worked phrase—the password to Orange approval— loyalty. According to every species of Orange orator, from the Government benchers in Stormont to the back-street 12th July arch-unveilers, there are only two classes of people in the composition of the Six-County population: the loyal and the disloyal.
The Catholic body in bulk is classed as utterly disloyal, and with them are ranged the Protestants of independent mind, who refuse to worship the numbojumbo of Orangeism. All others are of the elect.
What is this strange fetish called loyalty? By a process of elimination the true components might be uncovered.
At the Derry Petty Sesions, on August 29, 1935, a man named Cecil McKimm was found guilty of conduct calculated to lead to a breach of the peace. The offence was committed on the eve of the Apprentice Boys celebrations in Derry. The defendant claimed to be a " loyalist," and Mr. Bell, the Resident Magistrate, asked him:
" What is your interpretation of the word loyalist? What does it convey to your mind?"
McKimm's answer was: "It means I belong to the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys."
Loyalty to Orange Order
The answer was not so amusingly absurd as it might sound to other than Ulster ears, and McKinun would not have been the only person in court to give such a reply had further opinion been solicited. It is the doctrine—in many cases the only form—that the rank and file of Orangeism receive from the earliest years. The Orange bands, who so spiritedly discourse "The Protestant Boys " and " Kick the Pope" through the main streets of Belfast, unfailingly conclude their limited repertoire with " The National Anthem." The "artists " who so lovingly dedicate the gable-ends of Belfast streets with loyal slogans like " God Save the King,' show their single-mindedness with the addendum "No Pope Here" —or, usually. a more obscene reference to the Holy Father.
The Orange party was inspired at birth to accept the English Crown as a form of party emblem; the British flag—" Under which all men are free! "—as their political, and particular, hall-mark (lavish use of which, they believe, infuriates and arouses bull-like propensities in the breast of the average Catholic citizen); the British National Anthem as their party tune for occasions outlined above, or as a protective measure against police interference when chanted in unison by a mob parading through a disloyal district.
If the term " loyalty" is to be accepted as meaning anti-Catholic, then the Catholics of Northern Ireland, in common with all Catholics in the British Empire, must stand condemned. But .1 respect for law and order, a desire to live in peace and harmony with one's neighbours while obeying the laws of the country is sufficient evidence, why charge the Northern Ireland Catholics with disloyalty?.
But this game, born with the first persecution of the early Christians, of branding Catholics as disloyal, is not an odd Orange complex, but a carefully conceived plan requiring continual attention in the form of periodic outbursts of Catholic-baiting to rivet English attention on the " hopelessness " of attempting an Irish settlement. These semi-feudal survivors of the old ascendancy party, in their last refuge in Northern Ireland, know that even to-day they could arouse a latent anti-Catholic hostility in England to any forced submission in the event of a united Ireland pact between the British Government and that of the Free State. Proof of this we had, just over two decades ago, when Mr. Bonar Law, later Prime Minister of England, and other prominent English politicians, prominently identified themselves with the Carsonite movement, whose rallying cry was simply : " Home Rule means Home Rule! "
In History Ulster loyalty, as then expressed by their leaders (1912-1914), led to a mutiny of British officers at the Curragh. This particularly scandalous piece of political trickery, more than anything else at the time, helped to kill Irish faith in fairdealing as a value of constitutional action. That same Ulster loyalty inspired by precedent the formation of the Irish Volunteers in response to the Carsonite threat of civil war; which was patiently tolerated by the benign British parent as the precociousness of a favourite child until the Nationalist " Cinderella " accepted the challehge. Loyalty to the Empire (Ulster model) inspired the landing of a ship-load of German rifles at Larne Harbour, with its threat to British peace and internal good order. The great European War which followed a few months later owes something to the self-same loyalists, as the Kaiser was fully assured that Carson & Co. had created sufficient trouble at home to keep England from fulfilling her treaty obligations to her Allies.
The Catholics of the Six Counties, like their Catholic brethren throughout the Empire, are not always in agreement on matters of political belief. The idea of a purely Catholic party has always been scouted, as the people think nationally, and Irish Nationality has no religious boundaries. Proof of this is shown in the present and past history of the country that has honoured leaders regardless of their faith. And in Northern Ireland there exists a strong body of non-Catholic patriots who have been black-balled and well-nigh outlawed because of their national opinions.
Catholic Service to State It would be a waste of valuable space to make more than a mere passing reference to the value of Irish Catholic service to the State.
In the Army, Navy, Air and Police forces, in all ranks and in all places, they are to be found in their thousands. In every department of the Civil Services— Imperial and Colonial—where their religion is not a barrier to entrance or ultimate success, our clever young people have made their successful way. The British Dominions know and value their services. In Australia and New Zealand, at least, we find the sons of Irish Catholic emigrants at the head of their respective states. How many of these public servants have ever been found disloyal to their trust? Only in the North East corner of their own land. where the Catholic faith is an almost insuperable barrier and Orange patronage holds sway, are they damned as disloyal and
denied a fair chance to serve their province and Ireland.
Disloyal to what? A political abortion which was never seriously intended to be perpetuated. A dictatorship, the oldest in Europe, but without a single progressive idea or a leader worthy of the name. A slice of Ireland's richest northland—the spiritual and natural home of its virile Catholic minority—now changed to a semifeudal state by the Orange organisation, as determined on papist suppression as were its " unknown immortal " founders of the organisation in 1795; and whose contribution to Irish understanding and progress since its inception has been to foster racial and religious enmity through the medium of its various Orange and Protestant societies throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire. But if not one in political thought, on a major issue all Irish Catholics are agreed : the stupidity of needless prolongation of the long feud between the two countries and a fervent desire to see true peace established. And there lies the danger to Orange ambition and the reason for the ultra-loyal numbojumbery. The one basis of lasting peace with England must embody some form of union of the four provinces of Ireland. It might spell the doom of Orangeism, whose sole aim and object is the preservation of a Protestant ascendancy in the North East.
In the nightmare months of late summer, 1914, when the desolation of war was working its ghastly way through Europe, and the British Empire, with a small fighting force available, was faced with a seemingly impossible task in Europe, Redmond, trusting in England's honesty of purpose, promised the entire and whole-hearted support of the Irish nation. But the political carrions with Orange sympathies, still concerned with petty intrigue against a united Ireland idea, gave further proof of their loyalty. Having the car of the War Office, they succeeded for a time in nullifying the practical application of Redmond's offer.
Catholic Recruits In her splendid chronicle of the birth of the New Ireland : The Irish Republic (Gollancz, 25s.) Miss D. McArdle gives a brief and striking picture of Irish Catholic experience in those critical days of " muddling through," which I take the liberty to quote.
" It was almost impossible for a Catholic to get a commission : the National University was not permitted to have a training corps for officers, although Trinity College had its O.T.C. The presentation of colours to Irish Regiments was discouraged and they were permitted to march only under the Union Jack; the wearing of Irish badges was not allowed. An offer made by Colonel Moore and other Nationalists to form Irish Brigades under Irish officers for foreign service was r fused. John Redmond offered to provide Home Defence; the Government gatie its consent and preparations were started, but the consent was then withdrawn. The Ulster Volunteers, on the contrary were privileged in every way; Sir Edward Carson persisted in their being enrolled as a separate unit with their own colours and their own recruiting officers. All this was conceded to them, and the officers they preferred— those who had been instructing them in their preparations to resist Parliament by force of arms—were 'released from their regiments to become 1 officers in the new unit."
All sorts of small-minded difficulties were raised to dam the tide of Irish recruits; the appointment of Catholic chaplains in sufficient numbers was delayed on one pretext or another. In soite of all this the flow of Irish manhood to the fighting forces was stupendous. It is estimated that by the end of the year !1914, 250,000 Irishmen were under arms in British service. As an illustration of Northern disloyalty, almost an entire Brigade, afterwards the backbone of the famous 16th Irish Division, was recruited exclusively in the Catholic districts of Belfast and its environs.
(Continued on page 12).