Was the War of Independence necessary?

Published in Issue 6 (November/December 2019), Letters, Volume 27

Sir,—In a previous letter (HI 27.3, May/June 2019), Padraig Yeates seemed to assert that the Irish bore chief responsibility for the 1919–21 war with Britain. Now (HI 27.5, Sept./Oct. 2019) he states merely that the said war was the main cause of partition. This is an improvement; it is still mistaken.

The war was simply a single, though catastrophic, link in a chain of events stretching back perhaps to the Ulster plantations, and certainly to the defeat of the national and social struggles after ’98. The Orange leaders were pledged to oppose in arms even the provincial parliament called ‘Home Rule’. On the other hand, the Anglo-Irish struggle had lasted eighteen months before the Orange pogroms sealed the border. Indeed, James Craig believed that the 32-county Civil War ensured the division.

What did ensure it was not armed struggle but the fact that Irish bourgeois nationalism, constitutional or otherwise, offered the crucially important northern Protestant workers only the prospect of working for Catholic rather than Protestant bosses. Whether a struggle for a workers’ republic led by socialists would have done better will never be known. At least something more would have been on offer.

As to the Soviet Union, I agree with Yeates’s description of its degeneration. I don’t agree with his suggestion that it was inevitable. However, that requires another letter and perhaps another journal.—Yours etc.,

D.R. O’CONNOR LYSAGHT

This thread of correspondence is now closed—Ed.

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