IT IS ironical that those with jobs were the ones ordered by the Unionist Establishment in Northern Ireland to stage a "general strike" this week. Those who have found it hardest over the years to get good Jobs or, indeed, any jobs — for so many years were, in general, the Catholics.
This seems to reinforce the suspicion long held by dispassionate observers of the scene in the Six Counties as to what is really meant by the term "Loyalist". The Loyalists, 70 years ago, were the first people in Ireland to show disloyalty to the Crown when they swore to defy the will of both Houses of Parliament and to fight home rule even to the extent of taking up arms in their cause.
This week's strike in the north of Ireland thus reminds those with a sense of history of the true cause of almost all the ills that have beset that unhappy province of the United Kingdom for over half a century.
Home rule for Ireland was sought by Gladstone and Parnell and most right thinking people. When it finally passed both Houses of Parliament the first World War was upon us. The putting into effect of home rule was suspended until the war was over.
It was at this point, however, that the "Loyalists" decided to arm themselves and declare that rather than submit to home rule, "Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right."
The first act of disloyalty to the Crown was thus carried out by the Loyalists. To counteract the gunrunning into the North some misguided but all too passionate Nationalists in the "south" of Ireland decided to try and force recognition of an independent Ireland. They were, unfortunately, extremists, but the Easter Week Rising of 1916 was made inevitable by the (literally) treasonable activities of such men as Sir Edward Carson with the tacit backing of even such distinguished Englishmen as Lord Birkenhead.
When the time came to discuss terms for a settlement, many Irish nationalists had been executed and an undeclared Anglo-Irish war ensued. And yet people in Britain today look blank when anyone mentions what so many Irishmen remember as the "Black and Tan" war. Ireland was terrorised by those so-called "auxiliary" police who were sent over in the aftermath of World War one to force a settlement of a longstanding problem.
History repeats itself, for now the "Loyalists" are defying the British Government's efforts, through the Anglo-Irish accord to make a breakthrough in the tragic troubles of present-day Northern Ireland.
Again ironically, it is exactly a hundred years ago this year that Gladstone was defeated in trying to bring in his Irish home rule bill. He was defeated by his own Liberal Party which split on the issue with the consequent formation of the Unionist Party. Finally, the Lords threw out his second home rule bill during his last government, and in 1894 he resigned.
Let us now hope that wiser counsels will prevail. For saving human life is at stake and even in the worst days of old there were not constant murders and acts of indiscriminate revenge. We have grown almost blasé through repetition of renewed outrages in Ulster.
If the "Loyalists" were truly loyal, there could be an end to the cycle of meaningless violence.
May God grant a speedy reprieve for the beleaguered people of that province who feel, many of them, that some of their "leaders" are more loyal to the lure of money and notoriety than to the cause of lasting justice and peace.