Thursday, 4 January 2018
The Irish were Right to Vote for their Independence 100 Years ago
That election, the first British election in which all men, and any women at all, had the right to vote, saw Sinn Fein win 73 out of Ireland's 105 seats at Westminster.
The elected SF politicians, acting on their manifesto promise, created their own Irish Parliament, rather than attend Westminster, and subsequently declared Irish Independence in January the following year.
Sadly, the British government refused to recognise the authority of the democratically elected Irish parliament (The Dail) and there began the Irish war of Independence. It's strange isn't it, given that the British Government had just fought a World War to defend the 'Rights of Small Nations?'
Certainly, there appears to be a fair number of people who view Ireland's struggle for Independence as one that wasn't a just war, including, it seems, revisionist historians in the Republic Ireland itself. I, however, will argue that the Irish War of Independence was a just war from the Irish side, and I do so as a Brit myself.
And for the simple reason that the Irish had voted for Independence in 1918, and the British Government just wasn't recognising it. All that the British Government of the Day needed to do, was to acknowledge that Sinn Fein had won the Election, and that therefore, Sinn Fein had the right to govern Ireland, or at least excluding Unionist Ulster.
Instead what happened, was that Lloyd George's government refused to do that, the Irish War of Independence therefore started, and London subsequently sent in the Black and Tans. Even during the Treaty negotiations at the end of the War of Independence, when London was finally willing to concede an Irish Free State, the British Prime Minister threatened to wage 'immediate and terrible war' on Ireland unless they agreed to his demands, which included having the King of Great Britain as the Irish Head of State.
Now, excluding Unionist Ulster from the new Irish State was, I feel, reasonable and right, given that the Unionists there had voted to stay in the UK, but the other demands, I feel, were not. Forcing Ireland to be have a Foreign King as its Head of State, and making nationalist areas like Derry be part of Northern Ireland, can only be described as anti-democratic.
And it was those demands which divided Irish opinion and led to the Irish Civil War. The British further exacerbated the situation towards Civil War by forcing the Free State Army to shell the Four Courts and kill their own countrymen. Thus, I would argue that it was the British Government that was directly to blame for both the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War, and the divisions in Irish society that the latter caused.
Ireland, no doubt made the right decision the pursue Independence 100 years ago. The Conscription Crisis of the spring of 1918 made it clear that mere Home Rule within the UK was not enough, since it would have still allowed the Central Government in London to conscript Irishmen to fight in the British Army whenever the former so pleased.
Therefore, who knows, if Ireland had stayed part of the UK, you might have had Irishmen being conscripted to suppress the Malayan Insurgency and Mau Mau Rebellion, the latter in which we British could have incarcerated as many as 1 million Kenyans, according to research by Caroline Elkins.
At least in our own timeline, those Irishmen who joined the British Army after Irish Independence did so because it was there own choice, and not because they were forced to - and this was due to the brave actions of Irish Nationalists 100 years ago.
I therefore feel that anyone who believes in Democracy and the Rights of Small Nations would agree that Ireland's struggle for Independence 100 years ago was a just one.