Some would say that the following passage of overblown , yet conceptually concise chest-beating ,is the very foundation -stone of “terrorism” in Ireland. From the early years of the 20th century ,It invokes God,subjection and blind obedience to an ethos which licenced those who believe it to solemnly pursue violence..
“BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V., humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognise its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.
And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.”
This “Ulster Covenant” evokes a time, one hundred years ago , prior to the First World War ,when such things as “empire” , “God” and “majesty” were deemed unquestionable and set in stone.It also neatly seeks permission and a blessing from that same God to pursue this course of action.Many modern people of a secular mindset, might chuckle at this blind belief in a supernatural presence, but for those who signed their name to this decaration, this “fact” was obviously a very important prerequisite.This Covenant was written against a background of sectarian violence on the streets and against the very recent unnaccountable sinking of Belfast’s protestant pride in the ship ,”the Titanic “.Their very best effort yet in the art of shipbuilding was lying at the bottom of the ocean, creased, cursed and scourged by an errant iceberg, no doubt provided by that same aforementioned “God”.
I was writing recently on our different interpretations of words.The word that came up specifically, was “terrorist”. It is one of those words which in Norneverland , Ireland can mean something completely different to what it might mean elsewhere in the world.It’s the same for the word “victim”. People search for a definitive description for that one too.
People argue here , just to whom the label “terrorist” might best apply to . It is actually a common perception that only one section of the community invariably uses the word to denote its perceived enemies; as in the “terrorist acts ” of (…whomever…fill in your own blank… )that may have been done in the past.There is a perception too that these” terrorist “acts are almost uniquely the property of only one specific grouping. Anything that emanates from their opposite number is somehow judged “counter-terrorism” or possibly “anti-terrorism”. This causes some confusion of course.The term “terrorism” is used usually to suit the State’s agenda or those who blindly support its ethos for their own political interests.
Unionist thinking people consider that republican “terrorists” are more terrorist than unionist terrorists, for example.Unionist terrorists at certain times even preferred to describe themselves as “anti-terrorists” or “counter -terrorists”. Unionists believe too that the nationalist community shows greater support for “republican terrorists” than unionists would show for “unionist terrorists”(or anti-terrorists”). The idea is that some unionists might sometimes prefer to disown their “own terrorists”, while nationalists embraced theirs (even though many did not). I should add that republicans, such as those who made up the Provisional Irish Republican Army(PIRA) never considered themselves to be” terrorists” at all.As far as they were concerned they were fighting to expel a “foreign enemy” who ,after the Civil Rights movement was compromised by unionism’s more violent fascisistic elements ,initially on their own streets and also in their homes, the States soldiers eventually also confronted them in the streets and homes of their own country. Add to that the fact that not all nationalists supported the “republican movement” until they disarmed themselves just before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.That is when their representatives’ electoral prowess took off and Sinn Fein gained electoral support at the overwhelming expense of the SDLP.
I know…it’s complicated.
To me “terrorism” and “terrorists” is, in its broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence (terror or fear) in order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim.It is something that exploits human fears to help achieve those goals.
There are differing views of this …for example :
“In November 2004, a Secretary-General of the United Nations report described terrorism as any act “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act”
That is obviously a very narrow view in that it proposes that governments never commit terrorist acts, which we know it is not strictly true of many governments. Governments across the world have committed terrorist acts for their own agendas over the decades. The British government is by no way unique in this respect.
I have to say that during my lifetime the British government and by association, its own forces and anyone who supported them ,have used those same tactics in communities here in Ireland .I’ve seen it on the streets and friends have seen the misuse of power happening on a first-hand basis. Of course , I know that non-government aligned groups have also used those kinds of tactics too, but my memory is that the government’s agents started that particular ball rolling in our era ,back in the late 1960s and everything else continued from there. People were batoned and eventually shot and killed at Civil Rights marches, in what I and many others ,saw as a form of “terrorism” by those representing an anti-rights agenda. You might say that the eventual reaction to those acts of ” state -terrorism ” were acts of “counter-terrorism”. It might really depend on your perspective .
As well as that I can recall a different kind of “terrorism” which was very popular here, especially among unionist politicians . It was based on an obsession with para-military display. That was usually the gathering of huge groups of their supporters on the streets or in stadiums and thereby whipping up fears in the collected grouping .The purpose was to whip these listeners up into such a state of excitement and fear that it proposed to set them off on their own homegrown terror campaigns. ….and then stand back ,basically .
This paramilitarism has an historical lineage. If we were to take only the 20th century, possibly the best place would be at the moment of the signing of that Ulster Covenant .There is a direct timeline from this moment to the partition of Ireland in 1921.
It’s worth while having a look at this recent documentary narrated by broadcaster, William Crawley to get some flavour of this and how it worked right down into the 1970s the 1980s and so on.
About half a million people , men and women,signed the “Ulster Covenant” , also known as “Ulster’s Solemn League and Covenant “on or about 28th September 1912. Why would some 500, 000 people have been mobilised to do such a thing? They were ostensibly signing a protest against the Third Home Rule Bill introduced by the British government.Sir Edward Carson and Lord Londonderry were two of the first people to sign this document. This was unionism’s protest against their government’s plan to establish a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin.Everyone who signed this document were unionists who had been somehow stirred -up and mobilised by other unionists.Far from maintaining the union of Ireland with the UK , this would be the first defiant move that would actually rent that same union asunder. It was the beginning of a sort of populist Brexit attended to only by unionists.It would eventually divide Ireland .It wasn’t really what unionism had in mind at that time.Their first preference would have been to maintain Ireland in its entirety under the dominion of Westminster.There were blood -and- thunder popular myths abounding that many signatures were actually penned in blood , but that’s exactly what they were mostly ….tall tales to colour and romanticise the story, as if to anoint it with gory glory. That’s not to say that some particular fanatics might not have done this .William Crawley mentions a certain Mr Fred Crawford who claims to have .
On the following year ,the newly established UVF(Ulster Volunteer Force) aimed to recruit a paramilitary militia using that same document to glean 100,000 recruits from its list of names, aged between 17 and 65. This was basically an illegal “anti-government ,treasonous , terrorist force”.These men vowed to resist any attempts by the British Government to establish Home Rule on Ulster.Under this threat , later that year, Irish nationalists also formed a rival militia called the Irish Volunteers(Who eventually became the original IRA in the newly formed Irish Republic), to hopefully safeguard Home Rule in Ireland.
By April 1914, the UVF , aided by the aforementioned vein-cutting , blood-spilling Crawford ,had smuggled 25,000 rifles into Ulster from Germany, on the steamships “S.S.Fanny” and then the “SS Clyde Valley”/”The Mountjoy”; the legal loophole in the law having been eventually plugged . This legal loophole in the law had previously allowed militias to arm in “defence of the empire”.Carson’s aim ,(being a lawyer and skilled in its workings) was to arm an entirely new private army to back up a provisional northern government by unionists, for unionists. In the end ,this was the first fully armed” terrorist” group to be established in Ireland .There is no doubt that the weaponry would eventually be used to threaten and terrorise both the British government and nationalists in order to gain political position. The various Protestant churches, obviously maintaining that god was on their side ,alone , aided and abetted this notion in Sunday sermons across the land.
World War one arrived just in time to defuse this particular situation and avoid the forced arrest of the conspirators as warrants for that purpose were already signed in Westminster . We all know the internicine , political machinations which produced this particular European slaughter of 35 million people,but at the time it seemed the “loyal” thing to do for many Irishmen to join in the conflagration. After the war ended there were attempts to revive this original UVF, but many of its members have been killed in the war and the eventual numbers appear to have been around 3000. They never officially disbanded ,so the exact figure is hard to determine.Many smaller armed unionist paramilitary groups continued , but the most noted was the “Ulster Imperial Guards”.Many of these armed unionist groups were given official status and cover inside the newly formed Special Constabulary (USC).These so-called “B-Specials” were an armed paramilitary grouping which spearheaded anti-Catholic violence and terrorism ,beginning in 1920 and were run as an adjunct to the police force.They operated to ethnically cleanse Catholics and expunge them from what they considered were “their areas”. These people could be seen as “terrorists” , terrorising under the cloak of officialdom.
It seems that all this terrorist activity was just fine, just as long as you believed that God was on your side.
I’m thinking here also of the formation of the UDA. the formation of Vanguard and the formation of Ulster Resistance. There were other groupings too but these will do for now. These were actually “terrorist” groups because their purpose was to instill fear and to “terrorise”.They were supported by many major unionist politicians and in fact both Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson both became First Ministers on the back of this kind of terrorising behaviour.Peter Robinson even managed to invade and terrorise a town in the Reublic of Ireland.Ian Paisley, of course , was a past- master at this kind of mass- stimulating behaviour, easily evoking latent fears within his own followers.
Of course , I know that many unionists can’t really conceive of themselves as “terrorists” and can’t even conceive of the the British government as acting in a “terrorist “manner, but there are too many incidents of it to actually deny it..the British have used the same “terrorist” tactics many times elsewhere in the world and unionism has operated on an agenda of “terrorism” throughout it short hundred year existence.It’s all there in the historical record. If you want to study it more ,there is even documentary film of it….so get stuck in and learn all sorts of new things .The study of terror is worthwhile.
Also refer to : http://www.judecollins.com/2016/11/psycho-killers/,