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Irish nationalism asserts that the Irish are a nation. Since the partition of Ireland, the term generally refers to support for a united Ireland. Irish nationalists assert that England has exercised varying degrees of rule or influence over Ireland since the late 12th century (see Norman Ireland).
- 1 History
- 1.1 Roots
- 1.2 Early nationalism: Grattan to O'Connell
- 1.3 Repeal Association & Young Ireland
- 1.4 Land League
- 1.5 Cultural nationalism
- 1.6 Home Rule beginnings
- 1.7 Transformation of rural Ireland
- 1.8 Home Rule crisis 1912–14
- 1.9 World War I and the Easter Rising
- 1.10 Militant separatism and Irish independence
- 1.11 Dividing Ireland
- 1.12 The Free State
- 1.13 "Éire" and the Republic of Ireland
- 1.14 Northern Ireland
- 2 Present day
- 3 Criticism
- 4 Organisations (1791–present)
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
The common perception is that Gaelic Irish resisted this conquest through military and other means, but their society featured small independent lordships and lacked a common political goal such as a centralised independent Irish state. The Protestant Reformation in England, introduced a religious element to the 16th-century Tudor conquest of Ireland, as many of the native Irish and Anglo/Irish remained Catholic. The Plantations of Ireland dispossessed many native Catholic landowners in favour of Protestant settlers from England and Scotland. In addition, the Plantation of Ulster, begun in 1609, "planted" a sizeable colony of English and Scottish Protestant settlers into the north of Ireland.
The closest Gaelic lords came to waging an identifiably nationalist campaign against the English presence, the rebellion of Hugh O'Neill in the 1590s (known as the Nine Years War 1594–1603), aimed to expel the English and make Ireland a Spanish protectorate. However, despite claiming to represent a movement of Irish Catholics against English Protestants, O'Neill's forces were a shifting coalition of clans and lords and many historians see O'Neill himself as primarily motivated by personal ambition – specifically the securing of his authority over Tyrone in Ulster.
A more significant movement came in the 1640s, after the Irish Rebellion of 1641, when a coalition of Gaelic Irish and Hiberno-Norman Catholics set up a de facto independent Irish state to fight in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (see Confederate Ireland). The Confederate Catholics of Ireland, also known as the Confederation of Kilkenny, emphasised the idea of Ireland was a Kingdom independent from England, though under the same monarch. They demanded autonomy for the Irish Parliament, full rights for Catholics and an end to the confiscation of Catholic-owned land. The Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649–53) destroyed the Confederate cause and resulted in the permanent dispossession of the old Catholic landowning class.
A similar Irish Catholic monarchist movement emerged in the 1680s and 1690s, when Irish Catholic Jacobites supported James II after his deposition in England in the Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689. The Jacobites demanded that Irish Catholics have a majority in an autonomous Irish Parliament, the restoration of confiscated Catholic land and an Irish-born Lord Deputy of Ireland. Similarly to the Confederates of the 1640s, the Jacobites were conscious of representing the "Irish nation", but were not separatists and largely represented the interests of the landed class as opposed to all the Irish people. Like the Confederates, they also suffered defeat: in the Williamite war in Ireland (1689–1691). Thereafter, the largely English Protestant Ascendancy dominated Irish government and landholding. The Irish Penal Laws discriminated against Catholics. (See also History of Ireland 1536–1691.)
This coupling of religious and ethnic identity – principally Roman Catholic and Gaelic – as well as a consciousness of dispossession and defeat at the hands of British and Protestant forces, became traditional enduring features of Irish nationalism. However, the Irish Catholic movements of the 16th century were invariably led by a small landed and clerical elite. Professor Kevin Whelan has comprehensively traced the emergence of the modern Catholic-Nationalist identity that formed in 1760–1830. Irish historian Marc Caball, on the other hand, claims that "early modern Irish nationalism" began to be established after the Flight of the Earls (1607), based on the concepts of "the indivisibility of Gaelic cultural integrity, territorial sovereignty, and the interlinking of Gaelic identity with profession of the Roman Catholic faith".
Early nationalism: Grattan to O'Connell
The Protestant dominated Irish Parliament of the eighteenth century repeatedly called for more autonomy from the British Parliament – particularly the repeal of Poynings' Law, which allowed the latter to legislate for Ireland. They were supported by popular sentiment that came from the various publications of William Molyneux about Irish constitution independence; this was later reinforced by Jonathan Swift's incorporation of these ideas into Drapier's Letters.
Parliamentarians who wanted more self-government formed the Irish Patriot Party, led by Henry Grattan, who achieved substantial legislative independence in 1782–83. Grattan and radical elements of the 'Irish Whig' party campaigned in the 1790s for Catholic political equality and a reform of electoral rights. He wanted useful links with Britain to remain, best understood by his comment: 'The channel [Irish sea] forbids union; the ocean forbids separation'.
It is also argued today that Grattan's movement was not fully nationalist because many of its members were descended from the Anglo/Irish minority. However, other nationalists such as Samuel Neilson, Theobald Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet were also descended from plantation families which had arrived in Ireland since 1600. From Grattan in the 1770s to Parnell up to 1890, nearly all the leaders of Irish separatism were Protestant Nationalists.
Modern Irish nationalism with democratic aspirations began in the 1790s when Theobald Wolfe Tone founded the Society of the United Irishmen, and wanted to end discrimination against Catholics and Presbyterians, in line with Grattan, and then to found an independent Irish Republic. Tone and most of the United Irish leaders were Catholic and Presbyterian and inspired by the French Revolution, wanted a society without sectarian divisions, the continuation of which they attributed to the British domination over the country. They were sponsored by the French Republic which was then the enemy of the Holy See. The United Irishmen led an armed uprising in 1798 (See Irish Rebellion of 1798), which was repressed with great bloodshed. As a result, the Irish Parliament voted to abolish itself in the Act of Union of 1800–01 and thereafter Irish MPs sat in London. (See History of Ireland)
Two forms of Irish nationalism arose from these events. One was a radical movement, known as Irish Republicanism, which advocated use of force to found a secular, egalitarian Irish Republic, advocated by groups such as the Young Irelanders, some of whom launched a rebellion in 1848.
The other nationalist tradition was more moderate, urging non-violent means to seek concessions from the British government. While both nationalist traditions were predominantly Catholic in their support base, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church were opposed to republican separatism on the grounds of its violent methods and secular ideology, while they usually supported non-violent reformist nationalism.
Daniel O'Connell was the leader of the moderate tendency. O'Connell, head of the Catholic Association and Repeal Association in the 1820s, '30s and '40s, campaigned for Catholic Emancipation – full political rights for Catholics – and then "Repeal of the Union", or Irish self-government under the Crown. Catholic Emancipation was achieved, but self-government was not. O'Connell's movement was more explicitly Catholic than its eighteenth century predecessors. It enjoyed the support of the Catholic clergy, who had denounced the United Irishmen and reinforced the association between Irish identity and Catholicism. The Young Irelanders when members of the Repeal Association, used traditional Irish imagery such as the Harp and located its mass meetings in sites such as Tara and Clontarf which had a special resonance in Irish history.
Repeal Association & Young Ireland
In the late 19th century, Irish nationalism became the dominant ideology in Ireland, having a major Parliamentary party in the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster that launched a concerted campaign for Repeal of the Act of Union or self-government. This period also saw the emergence of militant republican movement called the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) or Fenians, with an off-shoot named Clan na Gael in the United States, founded by exiled members of the Young Irelanders.
The Great Famine of 1845–49 caused great bitterness among Irish people against the British government, which was perceived as having failed to avert the deaths of up to a million people. Clan na Gael, led by John Devoy organised Irish veterans of the American Civil War to attack Canada, with the intention of demanding a British withdrawal from Ireland. The Irish Republican Brotherhood was set up in Ireland at the same time.
Mass nationalist mobilisation began when Isaac Butt's Home Rule League (which had been founded in 1873 but had little following) adopted social issues in the late 1870s – especially the question of land redistribution. Michael Davitt (an IRB. member) founded the Irish Land League in 1879 during an agricultural depression to agitate for tenant's rights. Some would argue the land question had a nationalist resonance in Ireland as many Irish Catholics believed that land had been unjustly taken from their ancestors by Protestant English colonists in the 17th century Plantations of Ireland. Indeed, the Irish landed class was still largely an Anglo-Irish Protestant group in the 19th century. Such perceptions were underlined in the Land league's language and literature. However, others would argue that the Land League had its direct roots in tenant associations formed in the period of agricultural prosperity during the government of Lord Palmerston in the 1850s and 1860s, who were seeking to strengthen the economic gains they had already made. Following the depression of 1879 and the subsequent fall in prices (and hence profits), these farmers were threatened with rising rents and eviction for failure to pay rents. In addition, small farmers, especially in the west faced the prospect of another famine in the harsh winter of 1879. At first, the Land League campaigned for the "Three Fs" – fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure. Then, as prices for agricultural products fell further and the weather worsened in the mid-1880s, tenants organised themselves by withholding rent during the 1886–1891 Plan of Campaign movement.
Militant nationalists such as the Fenians saw that they could use the groundswell of support for land reform to recruit nationalist support, this is the reason why the New Departure – a decision by the IRB to adopt social issues – occurred in 1879. Republicans from Clan na Gael (who were loath to recognise the British parliament) saw this as an opportunity to recruit the masses to agitate for Irish self-government. This agitation, which became known as the "Land War", became very violent when Land Leaguers resisted evictions of tenant farmers by force and the British Army and Royal Irish Constabulary was used against them. This upheaval eventually resulted in the British government subsidising the sale of landlords' estates to their tenants in the Irish Land Acts authored by William O'Brien. It also provided a mass base for constitutional Irish nationalists who had founded the Home Rule League in 1873. Charles Stewart Parnell (somewhat paradoxically, a Protestant landowner) took over the Land League and used its popularity to launch the Irish National League in 1882 to campaign for Home Rule.
An important feature of Irish nationalism from the late 19th century onwards has been a commitment to Gaelic Irish culture. A broad intellectual movement, calling itself the Celtic Revival grew up in the late 19th century largely initiated by artists and writers of Protestant or Anglo-Irish background who were concerned with furthering Ireland's individual native and cultural identity. Other organisations for promotion of the Irish language or the Gaelic Revival were the Gaelic League and later Conradh na Gaeilge. The Gaelic Athletic Association was also formed in this era to promote Gaelic football, hurling and Gaelic handball and forbade its members from playing English sports such as association football, rugby union and cricket.
Most of the Cultural nationalists were English speakers and their organisations had little impact in the Irish speaking areas or Gaeltachtaí, where the language has continued to decline (see article). However, these organisations attracted large memberships and were the starting point for many radical Irish nationalists of the early twentieth century and especially in the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 such as Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, and Joseph Plunkett. The main aim was to emphasise an area of difference between Ireland and England, but the majority of the population continued to speak English.
The cultural Gaelic aspect did not extend into actual politics; while nationalists were interested in the surviving Chiefs of the Name, the descendants of the former Gaelic clan leaders, the chiefs were not involved in politics, nor noticeably interested in the attempt to recreate a Gaelic state.
Home Rule beginnings
Although Parnell and some other Home Rulers, such as Isaac Butt, were Protestants, Parnell's party was overwhelmingly Catholic. At local branch level, Catholic priests were an important part of its organisation. Home Rule was opposed by Unionists (those who supported the Union with Britain), mostly Protestant and from Ulster under the slogan, "Home Rule is Rome Rule."
At the time, some politicians and members of the British public would have seen this movement as radical and militant. Detractors quoted Charles Stewart Parnell's Cincinnati speech in which he claimed to be collecting money for "bread and lead". He was allegedly sworn into the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood in May 1882. However, the fact that he chose to stay in Westminster following the expulsion of 29 Irish MPs (when those in the Clan expected an exodus of nationalist MPs from Westminster to set up a provisional government in Dublin) and his failure in 1886 to support the Plan of Campaign (an aggressive agrarian programme launched to counter agricultural distress), marked him as an essentially constitutional politician, though not averse to using agitational methods as a means of putting pressure on parliament.
Coinciding as it did with the extension of the franchise in British politics – and with it the opportunity for most Irish Catholics to vote – Parnell's party quickly became an important player in British politics. Home Rule was favoured by William Ewart Gladstone, but opposed by many in the British Liberal and Conservative parties. Home Rule would have meant a devolved Irish parliament within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The first two Irish Home Rule Bills were put before the House of Commons of the United Kingdom in 1886 and 1893, but they were bitterly resisted by an alliance of Liberal Unionists and British Conservatives.
Following the fall and death of Parnell in 1891 after a divorce crisis, which enabled the Irish Roman Catholic hierarchy to pressure MPs to drop Parnell as their leader, the Irish Party split into two factions, the INL and the INF becoming practically ineffective from 1892 to 1898. Only after the passing of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 which granted extensive power to previously non-existent county councils, allowing nationalists for the first time through local elections to democratically run local affairs previously under the control of landlord dominated "Grand Juries", and William O'Brien founding the United Irish League that year, did the Irish Parliamentary Party reunite under John Redmond in January 1900, returning to its former strength in the following September general election.
Transformation of rural Ireland
The first decade of the twentieth century saw considerable advancement in rural economic and social development in Ireland where 60% of the population lived. The introduction of local self-government in 1898 created a class of experienced politicians capable of later taking over national self-government in the 1920s. O'Brien's attainment of the 1903 Wyndham Land Act (the culmination of land agitation since the 1880s) abolished landlordism, and made it easier for tenant farmers to purchase lands, financed and guaranteed by the government. By 1914, 75 per cent of occupiers were buying out their landlords' freehold interest through the Land Commission, mostly under the Land Acts of 1903 and 1909. O'Brien then pursued and won in alliance with the Irish Land and Labour Association and D.D. Sheehan, who followed in the footsteps of Michael Davitt, the landmark 1906 and 1911 Labourers (Ireland) Acts, where the Liberal government financed 40,000 rural labourers to become proprietors of their own cottage homes, each on an acre of land. "It is not an exaggeration to term it a social revolution, and it was the first large-scale rural public-housing scheme in the country, with up to a quarter of a million housed under the Labourers Acts up to 1921, the majority erected by 1916", changing the face of rural Ireland.
The combination of land reform and devolved local government gave Irish nationalists an economic political base on which to base their demands for self-government. Some in the British administration felt initially that paying for such a degree of land and housing reform amounted to an unofficial policy of "killing home rule by kindness", yet by 1914 some form of Home Rule for most of Ireland was guaranteed. This was shelved on the outbreak of World War I in August 1914.
A new source of radical Irish nationalism developed in the same period in the cities outside Ulster. In 1896, James Connolly, founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party in Dublin. Connolly's party was small and unsuccessful in elections, but his fusion of socialism and Irish republicanism was to have a sustained impact on republican thought. In 1913, during the general strike known as the Dublin Lockout, Connolly and James Larkin formed a workers militia, the Irish Citizen Army, to defend strikers from the police. While initially a purely defensive body, under Connolly's leadership, the ICA became a revolutionary body, dedicated to an independent Workers Republic in Ireland. After the outbreak of the First World War, Connolly became determined to launch an insurrection to this end.
Home Rule crisis 1912–14
Home Rule was eventually won by John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party and granted under the Third Home Rule Act 1914. However, Irish self-government was limited by the prospect of partition of Ireland between north and south. This idea had first been mooted under the Second Home Rule Bill in 1893. In 1912, following the entry of the Third Home Rule Bill through the House of Commons, unionists organised mass resistance to its implementation, organising around the "Ulster Covenant". In 1912 they formed the Ulster Volunteers, an armed wing of Ulster Unionism who stated that they would resist Home Rule by force. British Conservatives supported this stance. In addition, British officers based at the Curragh indicated that they would be unwilling to act against the Ulster Volunteers should they be ordered to.
In response, Nationalists formed their own paramilitary group, the Irish Volunteers, to ensure the implementation of Home Rule. It looked for several months in 1914 as if civil war was imminent between the two armed factions. Only the All-for-Ireland League party advocated granting every conceivable concession to Ulster to stave off a partition amendment. Redmond rejected their proposals. The amended Home Rule Act was passed and placed with Royal Assent on the statute books, but was suspended after the outbreak of World War I in 1914, until the end of the war. This led radical republican groups to argue that Irish independence could never be won peacefully and gave the northern question little thought at all.
World War I and the Easter Rising
The Irish Volunteer movement was divided over the attitude of their leadership to Ireland's involvement in World War I. The majority followed John Redmond in support of the British and Allied war effort, seeing it as the only option to ensure the enactment of Home Rule after the war, Redmond saying "you will return as an armed army capable of confronting Ulster's opposition to Home Rule". They split off from the main movement and formed the National Volunteers, and were among the 180,000 Irishmen who served in Irish regiments of the Irish 10th and 16th Divisions of the New British Army formed for the War.
A minority of the Irish Volunteers, mostly led by members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), refused to support the War and kept their arms to guarantee the passage of Home Rule. Within this grouping, another faction planned an insurrection against British rule in Ireland, while the War was going on. Critical in this regard were Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, and Thomas Clarke. James Connolly, the labour leader, first intended to launch his own insurrection for an Irish Socialist Republic decided early in 1916 to combine forces with the IRB. In April 1916, just over a thousand dissident Volunteers and 250 members of the Citizen's Army launched the Easter Rising in the Dublin General Post Office and, in the Easter Proclamation, proclaimed the independence of the Irish Republic. The Rising was put down within a week, at a cost of about 500 killed, mainly unengaged civilians. Although the rising failed, Britain's General Maxwell executed fifteen of the Rising's leaders, including Pearse, MacDonagh, Clarke and Connolly, and arrested some 3000 political activists which led to widespread public sympathy for the rebel's cause. Following this example, physical force republicanism became increasingly powerful and, for the following seven years or so, became the dominant force in Ireland, securing substantial independence but at a cost of dividing Ireland.
The Irish Parliamentary Party was discredited after Home Rule had been suspended at the outbreak of World War I, in the belief that the war would be over by the end of 1915, then by the severe losses suffered by Irish battalions in Gallipoli at Cape Helles and on the Western Front. They were also damaged by the harsh British response to the Easter Rising, who treated the rebellion as treason in time of war when they declared martial law in Ireland. Moderate constitutional nationalism as represented by the Irish Party was in due course eclipsed by Sinn Féin — a hitherto small party which the British had (mistakenly) blamed for the Rising and subsequently taken over as a vehicle for Irish Republicanism.
Two further attempts to implement Home Rule in 1916 and 1917 also failed when John Redmond, leader of the Irish Party, refused to concede to partition while accepting there could be no coercion of Ulster. An Irish Convention to resolve the deadlock was established in July 1917 by the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, its members both nationalists and unionists tasked with finding a means of implementing Home Rule. However, Sinn Féin refused to take part in the Convention as it refused to discuss the possibility of full Irish independence. The Ulster unionists led by Edward Carson insisted on the partition of six Ulster counties from the rest of Ireland stating that the 1916 rebellion proved a parliament in Dublin could not be trusted.
The Convention's work was disrupted in March 1918 by Redmond's death and the fierce German Spring Offensive on the Western Front, causing Britain to attempt to contemplate extending conscription to Ireland. This was extremely unpopular, opposed both by the Irish Parliamentary Party under its new leader John Dillon, the All-for-Ireland Party as well as Sinn Féin and other national bodies. It resulted in the Conscription Crisis of 1918. In May at the height of the crisis 73 prominent Sinn Féiners were arrested on the grounds of an alleged German Plot. Both these events contributed to a widespread rise in support for Sinn Féin and the Volunteers. The Armistice ended the war in November followed by elections.
Militant separatism and Irish independence
In the General election of 1918, Sinn Féin won 73 seats, 25 of these unopposed, or statistically nearly 70% of Irish representation, under the British "First past the post" voting-system, but had a minority representation in Ulster. They achieved a total of 476,087 (46.9%) of votes polled for 48 seats, compared to 220,837 (21.7%) votes polled by the IPP for only six seats, who due to the "first past the post" voting system did not win a proportional share of seats. Unionists (including Unionist Labour) votes were 305,206 (30.2%)
The Sinn Féin MPs refused to take their seats in Westminster, 27 of these (the rest were either still imprisoned or impaired) setting up their own Parliament called the Dail Éireann in January 1919 and proclaimed the Irish Republic to be in existence. Nationalists in the south of Ireland, impatient with the lack of progress on Irish self-government, tended to ignore the unresolved and volatile Ulster situation, generally arguing that unionists had no choice but to ultimately follow. On 11 September 1919, the British proscribed the Dáil, it had met nine times, declaring it an illegal assembly, Ireland being still part of the United Kingdom. In 1919, a guerilla war broke out between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) (as the Irish Volunteers were now calling themselves) and the British security forces (See Irish War of Independence).
The campaign created tensions between the political and military sides of the nationalist movement. The IRA, nominally subject to the Dáil, in practice, often acted on its own initiative. At the top, the IRA leadership, of Michael Collins and Richard Mulcahy, operated with little reference to Cathal Brugha, the Dáil's Minister for Defence or Éamon de Valera, the President of the Irish Republic – at best giving them a supervisory role. At local level, IRA commanders such as Dan Breen, Sean Moylan, Tom Barry, Sean MacEoin, Liam Lynch and others avoided contact with the IRA command, let alone the Dáil itself. This meant that the violence of the War of Independence rapidly escalated beyond what many in Sinn Féin and Dáil were happy with. Arthur Griffith, for example, favoured passive resistance over the use of force, but he could do little to affect the cycle of violence between IRA guerrillas and Crown forces that emerged over 1919–1920. The military conflict produced only a handful of killings in 1919, but steadily escalated from the summer of 1920 onwards with the introduction of the paramilitary police forces, the Black and Tans and Auxiliary Division into Ireland. From November 1920 to July 1921, over 1000 people lost their lives in the conflict (compared to c.400 up to then).
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Meanwhile, the British tried to solve the conflict with another, fourth Home Rule Act. This was largely dictated by Unionist leader Sir Edward Carson and simplified by Sinn Féin's abstentionism from Westminster. Carson secured a separate Home Rule regime for six of the nine Ulster counties (being the only four Unionist majority counties but also including two  counties with Nationalist majorities) as Northern Ireland, with the remaining 26 counties of Ireland forming Southern Ireland with its own institutions. This settlement, enshrined in the Government of Ireland Act 1920, was unacceptable to Irish nationalists, who sought to establish an independent and undivided Irish Republic. Elections to the Home Rule institutions were held in May 1921. The parliament of Northern Ireland first sat on 7 June, while most of the representatives elected unopposed for Southern Ireland, together with like-minded delegates from the north, constituted themselves as the Second Dáil and boycotted the devolved institutions. The legislation had allowed for a Council of Ireland that would enable cross-border links to be established, with a target of unity after 50 years, but this was also rejected.
Southern Ireland never became a functioning political entity, and, following a truce between the IRA and the British beginning on 11 July 1921, a political settlement was reached in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. Meanwhile, violence in the new territory of Northern Ireland continued. The Treaty offered Ireland as a whole independence within the British Commonwealth and a status comparable to that of Canada and Australia. The new "Irish Free State" would have control of its own army, police and economy, and British troops would be withdrawn.
Northern Ireland was to be permitted to opt out and remain as a separate entity within the UK. While in future years the resulting continuation of partition would prove the most enduringly controversial element of the settlement, the most contentious issue at the time was the link with the British Crown – the "Crown-in-Ireland" – to which Irish politicians would have to swear an oath of loyalty. To some, this was a betrayal of the cause of the Irish Republic. The issue of Northern Ireland was partially neutralised by a provision in the Treaty for a Boundary Commission that would redraw the border with Northern Ireland by 1925. It was widely believed that this would cede large parts of Northern Ireland to the Free State, and that Northern Ireland would cease to be an economically viable unit. In any event, the IRA were, under Michael Collins, already organising military operations against the Northern state by early 1922.
The Second Dáil ratified the treaty on 7 January 1922, and the subsequent general election on 16 June endorsed this decision. Anti-treaty "republicans", however, argued that the electorate only accepted the Treaty under threat of renewed war by the British. Anti-treaty politicians included the President of the Dáil, Éamon de Valera, and two ministers, Cathal Brugha and Austin Stack. Collins tried to negotiate a compromise between the pro- and anti-Treaty factions – for example, by proposing a constitution containing no references to the king – but the British insisted on strict adherence to the Treaty settlement. The IRA Executive disavowed the authority of the Dáil in April 1922, and in July 1922, Collins, under pressure from the British, attacked anti-Treaty IRA units who had occupied the Four Courts building in Dublin. This led to the Irish Civil War, fought between the new Free State forces, composed of pro-treaty IRA men and others (including thousands of veterans of the First World War), and the majority of the old IRA, led by Liam Lynch, who rejected the Treaty. The war had petered out by spring 1923, and the anti-Treaty forces laid down their arms in May. The Civil War cost more lives than the War of Independence – its most famous casualty being Michael Collins – saw the commission of atrocities by both sides, and generated bitter divisions that disfigured Irish politics and society for most of the rest of the century. It also removed IRA pressure from Northern Ireland at a crucial time in the latter's history.
The Free State
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After independence and the Civil War, and with the formation of The Irish Free State after the Irish general election, 1923, the government pursued conservative economic and social policies and took a firm line against the republican movement.
In 1925, the Boundary Commission set up under the Treaty completed its report. Leaks to the press generated shock among some nationalists: instead of ceding large areas of the North to the Free State, the latter would receive only a small part of south Armagh and Fermanagh, and would actually lose part of eastern Donegal. As a result, the report was never published or acted upon. The Free State, the British and Northern Irish governments accepted the 1920 border almost exactly, and in return the Free State's obligation under the Treaty to pay part of the British national debt was cancelled. At the same time, the Council of Ireland was shelved.
The post-Civil War divisions in Irish nationalism, which also reflected earlier divisions between constitutional politicians and radical separatists, were institutionalised in the Free State's two main political parties, Cumann na nGaedheal (later becoming Fine Gael) and Fianna Fáil. The latter party was founded after Sinn Fćin voted in March 1926 to continue abstentionism from the Free State institutions. Éamon de Valera resigned as its leader in response and set up a new, semi-constitutional republican party with a view to entering parliamentary politics. Up until the late 1930s, street violence between Free State and republican partisans was still common, especially between the quasi-fascist Blueshirts and the IRA. The latter's support, however, fell away after the creation of Fianna Fáil, which vigorously cracked down on it in the 1930s. The thirties also saw the onset of a period of extreme economic stagnation brought about by the Anglo-Irish Trade War.
The Free State had an intensely nationalistic culture. Irish was made compulsory in education and for all civil and public servants, although it has not been successfully revived as an everyday language yet. A Catholic ethos was also prominent in public life; divorce and contraception were banned, and a censorship system with heavily religious overtones was established.
"Éire" and the Republic of Ireland
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In 1937, the Fianna Fáil government secured the enactment of a new constitution, drafted mainly by Éamon de Valera. Under this document, the Free State was replaced by a new political regime named simply "Ireland" ("Éire" in Irish) which claimed jurisdiction over the whole of the island. The last-mentioned provision enormously antagonised Unionists in Northern Ireland, who viewed it as an illegal extraterritorial claim, and it was eventually revised in the 1990s under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.
It was also in the 1930s that the Irish government were given back control of the "Treaty Ports" from the British. This helped the Irish state to maintain a policy of neutrality in World War II. At the same time, the Fianna Fáil governments of de Valera interned and executed IRA men for attacks on Northern Ireland.
In 1940, the government of Neville Chamberlain promised to accept the principle of a united Ireland and to work towards achieving the same in return for Irish participation in the War. De Valera refused.
In 1948, the First Inter-Party Government pulled Ireland out of the Commonwealth and formally declared that the Irish state was a Republic. The British government of Clement Attlee responded to this unilateral move by giving the Northern Unionists a guarantee that they would not be forced into a united Ireland without their agreement.
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In Northern Ireland, the mainly Catholic nationalists formed a minority in a largely Protestant and Unionist state. From 1922 onwards, the northern unionists never felt persuaded to join the Republic for any reason. Most nationalists were of a moderate outlook. In 1918, they had largely voted for the constitutional Nationalist Party rather than Sinn Féin, a pattern repeated in subsequent years. They did not generally support the IRA's "Border Campaign" in the 1950s. Even after the outbreak of the "Troubles" in the late 1960s, Sinn Féin failed to win a majority of Catholic votes until 2001.
In the meantime, left-wing activists, inspired more by contemporary student radicalism and the American civil rights movement than by traditional Irish nationalism, had launched a campaign for civil rights. Starting from 1968, this professedly cross-community campaign ignited fears of IRA-inspired subversion among Unionists, and the resulting violent backlash in turn created the Provisional IRA (the "Provos") as an armed extremist grouping. The PIRA launched a violent campaign against the state of Northern Ireland, with the aim of creating a new, all-Ireland, socialist Irish Republic. The "Troubles" that emerged from these struggles lasted until the late 1990s. (See History of Northern Ireland.)
In the meantime, Northern Ireland's Nationalist Party (a very different entity from the pre-partition Nationalist Party) began to be seen as an irrelevance, and was replaced as the majority voice of moderate nationalism by John Hume's Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in the 1970s.
The SDLP advocated power-sharing with Unionists within Northern Ireland. While many northern nationalists came to support the IRA, whom they perceived as their defenders, especially in the early years of the Troubles, Sinn Féin did not take part in electoral politics. Sinn Féin candidates began to displace the SDLP from some nationalist constituencies after the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike, when the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands was elected to the British Parliament in a by-election. In the by-election that followed Sands's death, Owen Carron, who had been Sands' campaign manager, won with an increased number of votes. This awakened the Sinn Féin leadership under Gerry Adams to the possible gains they could make in future elections and by a political, as distinct from "military", strategy. Since the IRA ceasefire of 1994, Sinn Féin have become the largest nationalist party in the Northern Ireland, overtaking the SDLP in 2001. They have also won an improved share of votes in the Republic of Ireland.
In 1998, both Sinn Féin and the SDLP signed the Belfast Agreement, which instituted power sharing within a devolved government in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin says that its long term goal is still a united Ireland. The implementation of the Belfast Agreement has been the subject of protracted struggles over the last few years, and continues to be so at the present time.
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Republic of Ireland
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Irish nationalism has changed dramatically since the Free State era, and particularly since the 1960s, with growing prosperity signalling new economic and social priorities. A changing relationship with Northern Ireland has also had its effect.
Emotional allegiances and rivalries dating from the Civil War have faded to a large extent, but the influence of the Civil War is still apparent in the differing interpretations of the State's history espoused by Fine Gael, whose predecessors founded the Free State, and Fianna Fáil, the descendants of the Anti-Treaty Republicans. Both parties, however, aspire to a United Ireland. Irish Governments have stated since the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 that they will respect the will of the people of Northern Ireland to decide its future. However, the Agreement also stated that the Irish government had a legitimate role in Northern Irish politics as "advisor". In 1998, as part of the Good Friday Agreement, Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland, which claimed de jure sovereignty over Northern Ireland and created great resentment among unionists, were amended to remove the explicit territorial claim.
Until 1985 Sinn Féin refused to take its seats in the Republic's legislature, continuing the policy of their predecessors in the 1920s, due to their refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the Irish state. This stance is now maintained only by the small Republican Sinn Féin party, though Sinn Féin itself still at certain times takes an ambivalent attitude towards recognising the legitimacy of the State.
Nationalism in many modern European countries may find expression in hostility towards foreign immigration – for example, in the Front National of Jean Marie Le Pen in France. At present, this is not true of Irish nationalism, despite large and rapid immigration into Ireland in recent years. Currently, no major Irish nationalist party campaigns explicitly against immigration. This does not, however, mean that there is no anti-immigrant sentiment in Ireland. In 2004, as a result of the Chen case Ireland revoked, in a referendum, a clause in the constitution added in 1998 that any born in Ireland was automatically an Irish citizen, although this definition of citizenship remains in ordinary law. The concern of the Irish people was that this was subverting the control of immigration by entitling any couple who had a child to stay in the country, regardless of their legal status. This referendum was opposed by the Labour Party and Sinn Féin and has drawn criticism from some human rights bodies, including Amnesty International as it has led to a situation where Irish citizens are being deported, with their parents, to countries where they may have no right of citizenship.
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Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom, but has a substantial nationalist minority who would prefer to be part of a united Ireland. In Northern Ireland, the term "nationalist" is used to refer either to the Catholic population in general or the supporters of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party. "Nationalism" in this restricted meaning refers to a political tradition that favours an independent, united Ireland achieved by non-violent means. The more militant strand of nationalism, as espoused by Sinn Féin, is generally described as "republican" and was regarded as somewhat distinct, although modern Sinn Féin is a constitutional party committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
For historical reasons outlined above, almost all nationalists in Northern Ireland are Catholics. The traditional nationalist view of Northern Ireland was that it was created artificially out of the only part of Ireland that had a Protestant and Unionist majority. According to this view, the last time that an all Ireland election happened was in the December 1918 election, when a majority of seats (73 out of 105 seats) with 46.9% of votes in Ireland went to Sinn Féin and for Irish independence. This view has been superseded by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which was supported by the Irish government and both Sinn Féin and the SDLP, and was endorsed by referendums held simultaneously in both parts of the island. The Agreement stipulates that the status of Northern Ireland cannot be changed without the expressed consent of a majority within Northern Ireland. In theory, northern nationalists are now committed to "power sharing" with unionists, with a long term goal of a united Ireland achieved with unionist consent.
There is a perception among some nationalists, and in Great Britain, that Catholics will come to outnumber Protestants in the coming decades, with the result that a majority in Northern Ireland will favour a united Ireland. Catholic religious affiliation, however, does not translate straightforwardly into support for a united Ireland, and opinion south of the border is also somewhat ambivalent towards the prospect, which would entail a significant financial burden for the southern 26 counties. A recent BBC Northern Ireland survey however shows that most Catholics in Northern Ireland would not vote to dismantle the border in any current referendum.
Irish nationalism has been criticised as failing to take into account the diversity and complexity of the cultural and religious identities of people living on the island of Ireland, and in particular those of the people of Northern Ireland. Irish nationalism failed in the opinion of most modern authors and commentators because they insisted on telling Great Britain to "get out of Ireland", not understanding that it was the unionists of Northern Ireland who were insisting on staying in the UK. The nationalist demands for democracy for the "majority of the people" didn't take into account that unionists were in fact themselves entitled to secede from a United Ireland as they had done in 1922 and to maintain a separatist state in exactly the same way as Irish revolutionaries had done.
The most obvious challenge to traditional conceptions of Irish nationalism is posed by the Protestant population of Northern Ireland. While Irish nationalists consider this community as composed of fellow Irishmen and Irishwomen, most (but not all) Northern Ireland Protestants consider themselves to be primarily or exclusively Britons, or identify as neither but as Ulstermen instead:
- A 1971 study found that only 20% of Protestants named "Irish" as the way they thought of themselves.
- The 1984 report of the nationalist New Ireland Forum recognised that Unionists generally regard themselves as being British (but also stated that they generally regard themselves as Irish).
- Four polls taken between 1989 and 1994 revealed that when asked to state their national identity, over 79% of Northern Ireland Protestants replied "British" or "Ulster" with 3% or less replying "Irish".
- A 1999 survey revealed that 78% of Protestants felt "Strongly British", while 51% felt "Not at all Irish" and 41% only "weakly Irish".
- Data from other studies up to 2006 confirms the predominantly British identity of Protestants.
The polls also show that not all Northern Ireland Catholics consider themselves to be Irish, and some consider themselves British to a certain degree.
The 1998 Belfast Agreement, which is endorsed by the Northern Ireland nationalist parties (the SDLP and Sinn Féin) and the main parties in the Republic of Ireland, recognises the validity of alternative loyalties, containing a commitment to "recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.".
- Clann na Poblachta
- Saor Eire
- Saor Uladh
- Republican Congress
- People's Democracy
- Provisional Irish Republican Army
- Official Irish Republican Army
- Social Democratic and Labour Party
- Workers' Party of Ireland
- Irish Republican Socialist Party
- Irish National Liberation Army
- Continuity Irish Republican Army
- Real Irish Republican Army
- 32 County Sovereignty Movement
- Irish National group
- Robert Erskine Childers
- Mary Alden Childers
- Michael Corcoran
- Thomas Davis
- Kevin Izod O'Doherty
- Michael Doheny
- Charles Gavan Duffy
- James Fintan Lalor
- Terence MacManus
- John Martin
- Thomas Francis Meagher
- John Mitchel
- D. P. Moran
- John Dooley Reigh
- Patrick O'Donoghue
- John Edward Pigot
- Thomas Devin Reilly
- Irish Race Conventions
- Protestant Irish nationalists
- Cultural imperialism
- Welsh nationalism
- Scottish nationalism
- Cornish nationalism
- Celtic League
- List of active autonomist and secessionist movements
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp. 9–15.
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp. 12–13.
- The Tree of Liberty: Radicalism, Catholicism and the Construction of Irish Identity 1760–1830 1996, Cork UP; and see some online notes on Whelan.
- Valone, David A.; Jill Marie Bradbury (2008). Anglo-Irish Identities 1571–1845. Bucknell University Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-8387-5713-0.
- Jonathan Swift: Volume III by Irvin Ehrenpreis
- Jonathan Swift and Ireland by Oliver W. Ferguson
- Kelly, J. Henry Grattan (Dundalgan Press 1993) pp.27–35 ISBN 0-85221-121-X
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 243–290
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 179–232
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X p 173 et passim
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 179–193
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 170–178
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 330 et passim
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 351–376
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 15–21
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 364–376
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 299–311
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 330–351
- Sean Farrell Moran, "Patrick Pearse and the European Revolt Against Reason," Journal of the History of Ideas, 1989; Patrick Pearse and the Politics of Redemption, (1994),
- Johann Norstedt, Thomas MacDonagh, (1980)
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 422–426
- Ferriter, Diarmaid, The Transformation of Ireland 1900–2000 (2005) pp. 38+62
- Ferriter, Diarmaid, The Transformation of Ireland 1900–2000, (2004) pp 159
- Sean Farrell Moran, "Patrick Pearse and the Politics of Redemption", (1995), Ruth Dudley Edwards, "Patrick Pearse and the Triumph of Failure," (1974), Joost Augustin, "Patrick Pearse," (2009).
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 548–591
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 591–719
- ME Collins, Ireland 1868–1966, page 240
- Sovereignty and partition, 1912–1949, p. 59, M. E. Collins, Edco Publishing (2004) ISBN 1-84536-040-0
- Sovereignty and partition, 1912–1949, p.62, M. E. Collins, Edco Publishing (2004) ISBN 1-84536-040-0
- B.M. Walker Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801–1822
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 651–698
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 611 et passim
- Kee Robert, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, (1972) ISBN 0-297-17987-X pp 651–656
- "Now, IRA stands for I Renounce Arms". The Economist. 28 July 2005.
- Richard Rose, Governing without consensus: an Irish perspective, London 1971
- 1984 report of the New Ireland Forum[dead link]
- "in, Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland: The Fifth Report". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
- "Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey". Ark.ac.uk. 12 May 2003. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
- "Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey". Ark.ac.uk. 9 May 2003. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
- Institute of Governance, 2006. "National identities in the UK: do they matter?" Briefing No. 16, January 2006. Retrieved from http://www.institute-of-governance.org/forum/Leverhulme/briefing_pdfs/IoG_Briefing_16.pdf on 24 August 2006. Extract: "Three-quarters of Northern Ireland's Protestants regard themselves as British, but only 12 per cent of Northern Ireland's Catholics do so. Conversely, a majority of Catholics (65%) regard themselves as Irish, whilst very few Protestants (5%) do likewise. Very few Catholics (1%) compared to Protestants (19%) claim an Ulster identity but a Northern Irish identity is shared in broadly equal measure across religious traditions."Details from attitude surveys are in Demographics and politics of Northern Ireland.
-  University of York Research Project 2002–2003 L219252024 – Public Attitudes to Devolution and National Identity in Northern Ireland
-  A changed Irish nationalism? The significance of the Belfast Agreement of 1998, by Joseph Ruane and Jennifer Todd
- Text of the Belfast Agreement
- Bruce Nelson, Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.