NI history thread

Started by seafoid, December 30, 2023, 12:30:36 PM

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unilateral British withdrawl from Northern Ireland

Secret government documents from 1975 considered what might happen in the event of a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland.

The cabinet ordered civil servants to draw up a series of discussion papers looking at possible scenarios in July 1974, shortly after the collapse of the Sunningdale power-sharing agreement, at a time when paramilitary violence was intensifying and when there were serious doubts about the British government's commitment to stay in the North.

One option studied was possible military intervention to prevent the emergence of an independent Northern Ireland. This would involve an attempt "to subdue loyalist resistance and to dominate the entire Protestant population of Northern Ireland". The group concluded that "this is beyond our military and administrative capabilities".

Another scenario discussed was redrawing the border, with up to two-thirds of Northern Ireland and almost half a million people being transferred to the Republic.

The report, "Negotiated Repartition of Northern Ireland", found that this could cost up to £873m, the equivalent of around €8.5bn today, with no guarantee that Britain would bear any of that cost.

A British soldier with a boy in the New Lodge area of Belfast

Officials thought it unlikely that if the border were redrawn the British government would keep the remaining part of Northern Ireland within the UK, because such an area, which would include Belfast, would contain "the seeds of further violence unless there was a very large population movement which would be unlikely to take place voluntarily if the area were to remain under Westminster jurisdiction".

With military action ruled out, the only possible solution, the group felt, would be to agree a redrawing of the border, to transfer majority nationalist areas to the Republic.

Officials looked at a range of options for the transfer of territory. Under their minimum scenario, Fermanagh, parts of Tyrone, Derry City, Newry, and other parts of south Armagh and south Down would transfer to the Republic, or around 40% of the land area of Northern Ireland, with a population of 323,000 (205,000 Catholics and 118,000 non-Catholics).

The maximum area for transfer would include other parts of Derry, Tryone and Armagh. The entire area would be around two-thirds of Northern Ireland, with a total of 486,000 people (285,000 Catholics and 201,000 non-Catholics).

The cost, including repairing the damage caused in previous violence, and the provision of housing for people who left the remaining area of Northern Ireland, could range from £353m to £873m, though there was a possibility Britain might help pay for it.

Most of the areas transferred would be poorer than the remaining portion of Northern Ireland, which would therefore be more economically viable than an independent state containing the entire six-county area.

Officials were unable to say what the integration of the transferred areas would mean for the Republic's economy, but noted that if repartition was agreed by all sides, without any prior escalation of violence, it would benefit the entire island because it should see the end of existing tensions.

However, if the border had to be redrawn following serious violence and involved substantial population movement, "it could impose a tremendous economic burden".

By David McCullagh

"f**k it, just score"- Donaghy


This was entirely speculation by the Irish government, there was never any thought by the British government of a unilateral withdrawal.


Born in Mountcharles in County Donegal, Ireland he became a journalist working on various local papers. He joined Sinn Féin on its foundation in 1905.

Opposition to partition
Healy later became a Anti Partitionist and campaigned against the inclusion of County Fermanagh and County Tyrone into Northern Ireland, arguing that they had Irish nationalist majorities (see Partition of Ireland). With the pending partition of Ireland Healy worked with the cabinet of the southern Irish parliament (Second Dáil) and in 1922 was a member of Michael Collin's special Advisory Committee on the North-East.[2] In August 1921 Healy was part of a Fermanagh nationalist delegation that met with President Éamon de Valera where they made clear their feelings on a Northern Irish Parliament: "Fermanagh by a large majority...resolved that it would not submit to the partition parliament in Ulster."[3] In a letter from Lloyd George to de Valera (dated 7 September 1921) regarding the inclusion of Tyrone and Fermanagh into a new northern state, the British Prime Minister stated that his government had a very weak case on the issue of "forcing these two counties against their will" into Northern Ireland.[4]

Following the 22 May 1922 assassination of William J. Twaddell (a Unionist Member of Parliament in Belfast) Healy was interned for eighteen months along with 300 others under brutal conditions on the prison ship HMS Argenta.[5] Healy is quoted on the reasons for his arrest and internment: "All my life, I have been a man of peace. It is not, therefore, because they feared that I would disturb the peace of Northern Ireland that they dragged me away from my wife and family, but for political reasons. I have been engaged in preparing the case for the inclusion of these areas (Fermanagh and Tyrone) in the Free State. To get me out of the way, local politicians urged my arrest."[6]

Parliamentary representative

Healy was elected in the 1922 UK general election to represent Fermanagh and Tyrone as a Nationalist Party MP, with the support of Sinn Féin. Healy was re-elected in 1923, but remained in custody until February 1924 and was prohibited from entering the western part of County Fermanagh (he did not defend his seat).[7] In June 1924 Healy pressed the government to compensate the thousands of Northern Ireland citizens that were forced to flee Belfast during serious sectarian rioting/violence (see The Troubles in Northern Ireland (1920–1922)).[8]

Healy was also elected to the Northern Ireland House of Commons in the 1925 Northern Ireland general election, but did not take his seat until 1927 due to the Nationalist abstentionist policy. In his fight against partition, Healy did not support the use of physical force or abstentionism: "...physical force only consolidates Unionist opinion against us, and result in injury to Catholics as a whole...if abstention is to become a should be abstention from public well as refusal to pay rates and taxes. If this policy of civil disobedience is not feasible (and I admit it is not), then abstention from Stormont is just an insincere gesture."[9] In 1928 Healy and the influential nationalist politician Joe Devlin became founder members of the National League of the North which was committed to bringing about Irish reunification through consent and parliamentary means.[10] Whenever Healy or Devlin raised issues relating to Northern Ireland (in both the British and Northern Ireland Parliaments), they were routinely ruled out of order.[11] In 1929, with the break-up of the large Fermanagh and Tyrone constituency, he switched to sit for the new seat of South Fermanagh. In a 1931 by-election he was again elected for Fermanagh and Tyrone to the British Parliament but stood down again in 1935. In a 24 April 1934 speech on the floor of the Northern Ireland Parliament Healy made clear his feelings on the ruling Unionist government and its treatment of Catholics:

"We know there is today no place for a Catholic in any public office. They are banned more effectively by the bigotry, secret and open, of the Northern Ministers, than they were in the days before the passing of the Catholic Emancipation. But for all that, we are not despairing...What Cromwell attempted in vain you will also attempt in vain. God and right are with us and will prevail over all your machinations. This is not the last generation. Neither will your threats cause us to change our ideals, of a united and free Ireland".[12]

World War II and beyond

Healy was interned again by the United Kingdom government for a year during the Second World War, under Defence Regulation 18B and held in Brixton Prison until December 1942.[13] After the war Healy helped launch the broad based Irish Anti-Partition League which worked to foster public and political opinion, in Britain and the United States, against partition .[14] Healy also worked with the Labour Party in Britain and helped establish the parliamentary pressure group Friends of Ireland (UK).

In 1945 Healy wrote the widely read anti partition pamphlet The Mutilation of a Nation which sold over 10.000 copies.[15] In 1950 he was elected to the British House of Commons for a third time, on this occasion representing Fermanagh and South Tyrone. He finally sat in the British Parliament in 1952 and held the seat until he stood down in 1955. He left the Northern Ireland House of Commons in 1965, by which point he was the Father of the House.
"f**k it, just score"- Donaghy


There was an analysis of John Bruton's political philosophy over the weekend. He identified as a constitutional nationalist in the vein of Redmond. Right wingers follow rules and for right wingers in 1921 the rule was the Treaty because it was internationally recognised. The Civil war was fought over this. The left wanted to put the Treaty to a popular vote. The right said there was no need because the Treaty was the rules.
The Brits took the piss on the Border Commission and Cumann na nGael accepted it.

The Treaty was copperfastened with the 1937 Constitution with Articles 2 and 3 and the question of the north was left to a later generation to fix.

Maybe that is our generation.
"f**k it, just score"- Donaghy