Page 13, 29th October 1937

29th October 1937
Page 13
Page 13, 29th October 1937 — An range Dictatorship nd The Catholic Minority
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An range Dictatorship nd The Catholic Minority

THE peace that came to Northern Ireland in July, 1922, after two years of bloody progrom directed against the Catholic minority, was not a declared peace. No armistice was arranged, no terms outlined, nor was any assurance given to the outraged victims that their rights as citizens would in the future be respected. No change of heart was called for; the pogrom lifted and gave place to a sullen indifference that boded ill for the unwanted section of the population.

Though hundreds of Catholic families had been driven out of the province by the terrorists, four hundred and twenty thousand Catholics still remained; a body . welded not by political lies, but unified and disciplined by suffering and love of their religion. They were now prepared to forgive and forget, to work with their nonCatholic neighbours towards a better understanding with the South and the prosperity of their own province. But the puppet Government, swayed by Orange century-old anti-Catholic hate, would have none of-it.

Post-War Employment Of the five thousand Catholic men and boys driven out of the Belfast shipyards in July, 1920, less than three per cent. found re-employment there in 1922. This was due in part to a new scheme giving loyalists

first preference, and to a general decline in shipbuilding. The same conditions applied in other places of employment from which Catholics had been expelled. The plight of the older men was pitiable. Many of them had for years held posts of responsibility, now they were on the scrap-heap; too old to break new ground under a more Christian government, despair and speedy death was their only hope of relief from this "peace."

The Northern Government was generously spending, but not in attempting to alleviate the terrible conditions for which it was largely responsible. The Exchequer returns show that in 1923 the cost of the Special Constabulary (the Northern "Blackand-Tans") was £2,871,278, and for the regular Constabulary £597,112: a total of £3,468,390. Thus in a province not larger than Yorkshire and with no greater population, the cost per head per annum for the forces of "law and order " was approximately £3.

Release of " Suspects" The process of releasing those who were interned without charge progressed very slowly. Hundreds of innocent people had been rounded-up as " suspects " and incarcerated in the local gaols or on board the Argenta—a prison hulk anchored in Larne Harbour. The only crime necessary to warrant this hospitality of the Six-County Government was to be a known political opponent.

A large number of these internees— mostly young students and intellectuals when released were ordered 10 leave the Six Counties and forbidden under pain of imprisonment to return without Government sanction. Today numberless men are political exiles unable to share home life with their own people. (Has any European dictator improved on this torture?) Under these circumstances it was impossible to expect that the minority would settle down to a calm acceptance of such bonds of utter servitude. It seemed too bad to be really true. At no time throughout the long struggle for Irish self-government had the question of partition been seriously considered as a final solution of the " Ulster Question." if minorities were to have special consideration, as in the case of " Ulster " loyalists, then what of the large minority now almost ostracised in the Six Counties? The Boundary Commission would rectify all this. was the whispered assurance that helped to compose Nationalist uneasiness for a time.

1922 Elections The 1922 elections for the Imperial Parliament showed the first fruits of the new tactics. All the parliamentary divisions in the Six Counties had been carefully regrouped—henceforth to be known as the process of gerrymandering—and all the craft of the garrotter had been brought into play to silence the voice of the minority.

Joe Devlin did not contest his old constituency which he had so faithfully served for over sixteen years. It had been too carefully " treated " for any hope of his success.

The gerrymandcrers, without topographical concern, had detached two large sections of Orange voters from North and South Belfast and grafted them on to the West division. The seventy per cent. Orange vote in 'the city was now assured of one hundred per cent. representation. Tyrone and Fermanagh in spite of all the new artifices, returned two anti-partition candidates. One of these, Cahir Healy, was still interned on the Argenta.

In this way the Northern Government ushered in a practical application of the boasted tenets of Orange civil and religious liberty.

From the outset its mouthpiece has declared it to be a sectional Government, and not once has a generous impulse stirred it into making a friendly overture to the minority that might very easily have bridged the unnatural division amongst the people. Instead, there is the recorded speech of Sir E. M. Archdale, when Minister of Agriculture, in ;925, in which he states: " I have 109 officials, and, so far as I know, there are four Roman Catholics. three of whom were civil servants turned over td me, whom I had to take when we began."

What hope of fair-play or reconciliation could be expected from a Government whose Cabinet Ministers, with few exceptions had taken on to themselves the extra folio of Propaganda Minister : propaganda of hate, discord and religious animosity.

Civil War Repercussions The unfortunate civil war in the South diverted public attention for a time from affairs in the North. Meanwhile the problem of deposing Nationalist control in rural and county councils was exercising all the cunning of the gerrymandering genius. How it succeeded in effecting this in areas where hitherto Orange influence was at low ebb; how the new overlords carried out instructions to the exclusion of Catholics officially or administratively, is a matter too big to be fully discussed here.

In any case in this year of grace we find few and unimportant survivors of this political piracy, and these few remaining can he kept in line by the threat of a Commissioner to take over their duties.

The Nationalist bodies had pinned their faith on the findings of the Boundary Commission to be set up by the provisions of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. But the Commission's terms of reference were made purposely vague, and the interested parties had each their own interpretation. Southern Ireland believed that at worst there would be some extension of their boundary to embrace Nationalist majorities on the Northern side of the border.

In the North, South Down (including Newry), Tyrone, Fermanagh, South Armagh, and Derry City expectantly awaited their day of deliverance. The leaders of the Orange dragoons, led by the Premier, resorted to their unfailing tactics. " Not an inch" was the threatening howl, and once again they had the backing of prominent English politicians, some of whom were signatories of the Treaty. Any hope of an unbiassed finding was gravely prejudiced when the latter stated that it was not Within the province of the Commission to detach any large portions of territory from its present control. The result was never in doubt; and the position of the Catholic minority was now one of sheer hopelessness.

The Nationalist Policy

Up until this time (1925) the Nationalist policy in the Six Counties had been one of abstention from Parliamentary affairs. They were prisoners at large, subject to the Special Powers Acts which raised the police to the level of the Russian Cheka. Political hostages still languished in the prisons and the prison-galley. Boycott and unemployment was succeeding where armed terrorists had failed, Catholic families in large numbers were leaving the Six Counties for any place on earth that promised them a bare but peaceful existence.

Then came a final "deliverance to the wolves" of the Northern minority when Cosgrove, Craig and Baldwin signed an agreement in London which, amongst other things, acknowledged on the part of Cosgrave the accomplished fact of partition.

The welter of conflicting opinions regarding the future of the minority had declared against the formulation of a settled political policy other than the vague hope of ultimate reunion with the South. The few Nationalist constituencies impervious to Orange machination now returned anti-partition candidates without specific political label. Feeling began to ripen in favour of the attendance of these members at the Northern Parliament. The contention being that the future of the minority rested on their own efforts, and abstention was simply playing the Orange game. Some of the members, after the 1926 election, attended under the leadership of Mr. Devlin, who though robbed of Imperial representation held Belfast Central in the Northern House. The decision caused much dissatisfaction; but the action was purely experimental.

Hymns of Hate It is not within the scope of this article to determine the wisdom of this abandonment of the abstention policy. One advantage accruing was the opportunity given members of exposing the subtle aggression against the rights and freedom of the people. Not that this Government feared exposure; common justice compels the admission that it flagrantly disregarded public opinion on all occasions. Year after year and even month after month Cabinet Ministers and other prominent public figures made vicious speeches to the Brethren or similar gatherings which were a repeat with little variation of a hymn of hate against the unfortunate and defenceless minority.

Their autocratic position had been gained and was to be maintained not on the 'broad principles of fair-play and Christian charity but by feeding the flames of suspicion and sectarian fanaticism.

Criticism of this Government, until recently, had only local publicity. Nothing short of riot and murder with violence was of interest to the great British newspapers: the now determined policy of the Orange Lodges behind the Government to drive out the minority by the underhand methods of industrial and commercial boycott, as exposed by their leaders, was not of sufficient news interest to gain British notice.

Government's Record What is the Six-County record of Government? Deriving its entire support from the Orange Lodges it is now more than ever the tool of the Lodges. Without opposition in the House for the first six years, it developed a positive dictatorship. No progressive programme was needed except the oft-repeated boast of keeping " step-by-step with Britain "—when a particular policy suited. All pronouncements regarding the future of " Ulster and its " loyalty to the Royal House of Windsor" were made from time to time at Orange meetings. Stirrings of discontent in the ranks required only a broadcast message from the leader (Lord Craigavon) regard

ing "Ulster's" danger from " foes within and without."

More daring critics demanding a definite parliamentary policy were openly snubbed,

if without political weight, or silenced by a Government reward in a job if they were likely to command support.

In the first ten years of its existence, which covered three general elections, it can be accurately stated that the only policy outlined was one designed to scare the dupes: The ogre of the South (allied with Rome) waiting to grab the " wealth" of the North; the rebels, known and un known, in their midst " battening on generous treatment while bargaining to sell them body and soul " to the terror beyond the Border. But how far it is possible to " fool some people all the time " is a matter that this Government have yet to discover.

A Catholic minority of 34 per cent. even in Germany cannot be terrorised into mute obedience of Government dictates which are opposed to their principles. The Northern Government while mouthing of loyalty and freedom deny all claims of justice and fair treatment to this minority for which it is responsible. Well named the Orange Slave State, its every action is controlled by the Grand Orange Council of the Empire.

Even the tacit acceptance of partition, by the entry to Parliament of the Nationalists, failed to promote a better atmosphere or a new understanding. This meagre opposition was faced with an insuperable barrier of primitive prejudices no earthly force could break down. The archaic " principles" that had brought the Orange party to power, now inculcated in the very young, was offsetting any possible resurrection of democratic ideas amongst the masses.

The Official attitude was that of a jeering bully safe in the knowledge that behind him was an all-powerful friend blind to all but the halo of loyalty. No fresh consideration was given the minority, instead fresh indignities were showered on them. As offices of profit held by Catholics under the Imperial regime fell vacant they were given to Government satellites; all newly created posts went as a reward for party service.

Not once in its seventeen years of jobmaking has the Six-County Government faltered in its determination to drive Catholics into exile or servitude. To this end it fashioned: the Special Powers Acts, Education Act and gerrymandering schemes; gave its official blessing and full support to the Orange Order and its offshoots; ordered police " forbearance " in handling disorderly mobs incited to blood-lust by fanatical anti-Catholic speakers; permitted the public sale of scurrilous—often libellous—anti-Catholic publications, a real danger to the minds of the ignorant and untutored masses.

Devlin's Words

On the death of Mr. Harbinson, one of the sitting members for Tyrone and Fermanagh, Mr. Devlin was elected to fill the vacancy in the Imperial House. By this time the Nationalist leader (in poor health and thoroughly disheartened by the seeming indifference of the British Government to the trend of misgovernment in the North) had made many pilgrimages to " the last refuge of democracy " to plead the cause of a forgotten people.

There is still some of the old fire and sparkle in this stout-hearted champion as he addresses Westminster during a debate on Ireland. He compares the minority positions in the North and South, as quoted by Henry Harrison : Ireland and the British Empire. 1937, Conflict or Collaboration? (Hale, 10s. 64.).

" May I tell the House that a more disgraceful betrayal of a minority has never been known than the betrayal of the minority for whom I speak in this House? . . . When the Free State Constitution was put into operation, one-half of the Senators in Southern Ireland created by the Free State Government belonged to the minority. There were nine judges of the High Court in Southern Ireland and five of them belonged to the minority class. There never was a case where a minority was so magnamiously treated as the minority was treated in Southern Ireland. " Mark you thi$, the minority in Southern Ireland constitute seven per cent. of the population. . . They have received every posSible advantage that any party could have. . . We in Northern Ireland hati,e thirty-three-and-athird per cent. of the population, but not one of our people was appointed to the Senate: and of the judges we had not one."

Churchill 1:hallenged

Mr. Devlin then ad lengingly to Mr. Win had taken part in the rested himself chalton Churchill, who debate.

" Why does the man who is respon . . . not raise his vo ins thirty-three-andthe population of N a tithe of representaltion in the Senate? After all, the respec for law and justice is determined by t e purity and freedom of the courts 4f justice, free from political partisanship. We have not a single judge. You gave proportional representation as a guarantee that the minority would have fair representation. That proportional representation was abolished. One would not mind it being abolished, but what did they proceed to du? They proceeded to gerrymander the constituencies that I am returned in the Northern Parliament with 60.000

tight lion. Gentleible for this Treaty ice in favour of giv-third per cent. of rthern Ireland even

votes and one of my nionist colleagues in an adjoining cons tuency is returned with 20,000 votes." (Hansard, November 24, 1931.)

The decade followin the pogrom, ending in 1922, found Belf st experiencing an

uneasy peace. There re no serious outbreaks of sustained rioting, but in the mixed district around thr docks there were occasional acts of terrorism. These attacks could be charged to a branch of Orangeism, glorying in the name of the " Ulster" Protestant League, who openly called for an intensified campaign of boycott against Catholics. It would deny them even wood hewing and water car tying, and in this working-class district i is object was to drive out humble Cath lic families from the dock-side where t eir breadwinners found employment. Bu tried for generalions in the bitterest fi es of persecution, these sterling people eld their ground against all assaults and for a time little inroad was made.

Counteracting a Congress The Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin during June, 1932, saw The fresh development of this campaign of hate against everything Catholic. Ozonised mobs attacked trains, 'buses and private cars bearing Northern pilgrims tb the Irish capital for the closing Sunday.

Many of these, including women and young children, were injured. Hundreds of others intimidated were forced to return home.

That the attacks were widespread, the pilgrims quietly inoffensive, and the leaders of the attacking parties in many cases welldressed individuals, demonstrates the "Christian " atmosphere in which the minority are condemned to live. There is no record of Government concern over this outrage.

The mob long familiarised with official condemnation of the Minority and now goaded by Protestant Leaguers were merely applying the Orange dictum of Civil and Religious Liberty!

i In 1934 the continued activities of these loyalty promoters threat ned more serious trouble in the city when it became known

that the Catholic Truth Conference and the Eucharistic Congress Committee had taken the Ulster Hall, Belfast, for the purpose of holding a missionary exhibition week. In the interests of peace the committee waived their right to the hall.

How could Catholics expect just treatment from a Government who had risen to power on inflammatory speechmaking and the spread of sectarianism, and who today allow this form of propaganda to be issued freely from official and semi-official sources? To give a sample of the more recent references to the minority made by such leaders might not be out of place here.

On July 12, 1932, at an Orange demonstration in Poyntzpass, the Prime Minister (Lord Craigavon) made the following typical declaration : " Ours is a Protestant Government, and I am an Orangeman."

Disputing certain stories current in Orange circles, Mr. J. M. Andrews (now Minister of Finance and acting Prime Minister), when Minister of Labour, at Finnebrogue, on July 12, 1933, boasted:

" Another allegation against the Government which was untrue, was that, of 31 porters at Stormont, 28 were Roman Catholics. I have investigated the matter, and I have found that there are 30 Pro testants and only one Roman Catholic, there only temporarily." On the same day at Newtownbutler, Sir Basil Brooke (now Minister of Agriculture) advised his hearers: " Many in the audience employ Catholics, but I have not one about my place.

Catholics are out to destroy Ulster with all their might and power. They want to nullify the Protestant vote and take all they can out of Ulster, and then see it go to hell."

A month later this same Christian gentleman made a further call to boycott, at an Orange meeting in Enniskillen :

" In Northern Ireland the Roman Catholic population is increasing to a great extent . . . 97 per cent. of the Roman Catholics in Ireland are disloyal and disruptive ... If they in Ulster allow Roman Catholics from across the Border to work in their farms, they are traitors to Ulster."

In answer to Nationalist criticism of this able lieutenant, the Prime Minister, on April 24. 1934, speaking in Stormont, de dared himself in agreement with the opinions of Sir Basil Brooke, adding: " All I boast of is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State."

Labour's Part

It is worth while noting that in the preceding decade Labour had been making considerable progress in uniting the people. In spite of the tremendous value attached to Orange patronage as a job-provider the average decent Protestant working man recognised the need of a common front with his Catholic neighbour to better his standard of living.

The world trade slump of 1929-1933 found Belfast more interested in the breadand-butter issue than in the political redherring of sectarianism. Serious out-door relief disturbances in the latter year (organised, vide the Orange press, by Communist agitators) seriously threatened the power of the Government, who were held responsible for the state of unemployment in the city. Intensified political propaganda followed: the menace of a united workers' front must be defeated at all costs. As in Germany to-day, the discovery was made of a Communist and Rebel (Catholic) fusion to de feat the forces of loyally. The various Orange and Protestant societies created a new ramp on this line.

Trouble in the Docks

Towards the end of 1934 and afterwards there was continued aggressiveness directed against the Catholics in the docks area (York Street)

The struggle for an existence was deadly enough without adding the spectre of imminent physical danger to their drab lot. Countless incidents could be recorded : bombs thrown into Catholic homes, shots fired at groups in the streets and individuals assaulted. A Catholic girl was shot and wounded when on her way to Mass: the miscreant, a murderer at heart, was later tried and sentenced to three months imprisonnzera.

The Jubilee of the late King George V (the peace-loving Monarch who in 1921, when inaugurating the Six-County Portia

merit, made a solemn appeal for justice and freedom to all sections of the population) was now hailed as an occasion for more oppressive coercion of the minority.

A highly respected Catholic merchant was shot at and severely wounded by a lurking party of gunmen in York Street immediately he had closed his shop for the night. Catholic workers were being intimidated in mills and factories.

The rule of the mob was extending to other parts of the city when the Minister of Home Affairs (Sir Dawson Bates) decided to impose curfew on the York Street

district. Shortly afterwards an incident occurred the outcome of which had a had psychological effect on the police and illustrates the Government attitude to loyalist mobs. In Parliament Mr. William Grant, a prominent Orange member, demanded an inquiry into the complaint that the police had acted drastically in restraining a riotous outburst of loyalty during curfew hours in the storm centre. The Minister of Home Affairs promised disciplinary action against any member of the Constabulary exceeding

his duty. Hereafter the police were in structed to practice " forbearance." The tragic occurrences which followed might have been spared the city and the minority had the police been allowed a free hand in dealing with the murderous ruffians who now played outrageously on this strange discrimination in their favour.

The Protestant Leaguers

The most active agents in promoting disorder at this stage were the Protestant Leaguers.

Their meetings were publicly advertised and were nightly tirades against Pope and Popery. Disorderly parades followed such gatherings; the route chosen inevitably lcd through mixed districts when Catholic shops were singled out for the mob's attention, looting, shooting and smashing, they wended their way loyally regardless of the police. Driven to action by the volume of protests from peaceful citizens of all denominations, the Minister of Home Affairs made an order "forbidding all processions, other than funerals, and the assembly of any groups or bodies of persons in any public place within the City of Belfast." It now looked as if the Government had at last decided to take seriously its responsibilities to quell the growing spirit of anarchy.

Less than a week later the Orange Grand Master, Sir Joseph Davison, another apostle of anti-Catholic boycott, declared that in spite of any Government order, Northern or Imperial, the Orange body would parade as usual and he would lead them.

The inevitability of a condition of affairs resembling the earlier pogrom of the twenties was patent to all. The Catholic Bishop and priests and responsible laymen counselled patience and restraint to their people. Therein lay the Catholic strength: the people responded. Some days before the July anniversary parade—the powder barrel of party passions—the Protestant Bishop, Right Rev. Dr. MacNeice, made a powerful appeal for peace, in the course of a sermon in Belfast.

" We are here," said his Lordship, " in the providence of God, Protestants and Roman Catholics, side by side in a small country. It must be that we are here not to destroy one another, but, while we have the opportunity, to help one another and to remember always that to all who bear Christ's name there has been committed a ministry of reconciliation.

" In a really civilised community no law-abiding man would worry about selfdefence, nor would he be afraid of molestation because of his political or religious opinions. But whether a man belongs to a majority or a minority, society must protect itself against him if it proves himself lawless. It is, however, the function of the State to see to that."

Quickly Swatted

Catholics welcomed the distinguished churchman's pronouncement as the expression of their own feelings and that of all fair-minded citizens. But this appeal for toleration was greeted with a storm of disapproval from the Orange bosses. Mr. E. S. Murphy, K.C., M.P., voiced this opinion : " It seems to me that he (Dr. MacNeice) really wants us Orangemen to give up our Orange services and processions' at this time of the year, because by so doing, according to the Bishop, we would promote peace.

" Every true Orangeman is devoted to peace at home and abroad, but 1 think you will agree with me that we can't secure peace at home by abandoning any of our principles or promote or increase the goodwill of those who differ from us.

Sir Joseph Davison, replying to his Lordship's suggestion that they should forget the happenings of the past, said : " Emphatically and respectfully we say no!" Lesser luminaries of loyalty also censured the Bishop's " interference."

In the face of such hostility to the Christian urge for peace it was clearly evident to unbiassed minds that the worst was yet to come. The Twelfth Celebration of 1935 provided the occasion for such another Orange frolic. • Government apologists have stated that : " The rioting began as a procession of Orangemen was . . . wending its way peacefully along the route prescribed by the City Commissioner of Police. It was attacked by Sinn Fein gunmen...." Just another edition of the old, old story of revel aggression, used repeatedly in the last five centuries when a fresh drive against the native Irish was contemplated. The British Press got this story and not the real one of Government incompetence in face of Orange threats and its connivance with what followed when the ban on processions was withdrawn.

(To be continued next week.)




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