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The last King of Ireland What does Belfast want from Westminster?

King Charles in Shankill Road (Credit: Aris Roussinos0

King Charles in Shankill Road (Credit: Aris Roussinos0


May 8, 2023   6 mins

On the eve of his coronation, King Charles peered out from behind a giant union flag at the very loyalest of his subjects gathered below. Around 200 people had gathered outside the Co-op on West Belfast’s staunchly Loyalist Shankill Road to watch the huge new mural of the king being unveiled. As a sword-bearing honour guard in scarlet uniforms stood to attention, a piper skirled a plaintive-sounding national anthem as the flag came down, revealing the new king above his coronation oath to inviolably maintain the true Protestant religion.

Hesitantly at first, then loudly, the crowd sang God Save The King, clapping and waving their own flags. “We’re part of the Loyalist Shankill Road, you’ll not get a place anywhere that’s more loyal to the crown,” Janet McGregor, a middle-aged woman wearing a slightly unsettling King Charles mask and coronation robes told me. “We had to fight hard to stay part of being Britain, so we did, whereas those over there now [in Britain], they don’t seem to care. Look at Scotland, trying to get away. Until the death, isn’t that right? You’ll have to kill us first.”

But the passionate attachment of working-class Loyalist communities to the United Kingdom and the monarchy, so exotically performative to mainland eyes, is not reciprocated by Westminster. The Conservative party relied on the support of the DUP, the province’s largest Unionist party, to push Brexit through, but Brexit has had the unintended consequence, for many Unionists who supported it, of bringing down their own devolved government and further isolating Northern Ireland. On the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, a poll revealed that 62% of Unionists oppose the return of devolved government until Johnson’s Northern Ireland Protocol is completely scrapped.

But London wants to move on, and is increasingly impatient with the DUP’s refusal to return to Stormont, warning that abstention from power sharing is “the biggest single threat to the union”. In an effort to restore the relationship between Westminster and Brussels, the Sunak government recently deployed the new king’s regal stardust to obtain the Windsor agreement, a ploy condemned by the DUP’s Nigel Dodds as politicising the monarchy, and resented by local Loyalist activists.

“The Windsor agreement is the Belfast agreement [Good Friday Agreement] renamed, it’s the same,” Julie Davidson of the ACT NGO, created to integrate former UVF paramilitaries into civilian life, told me, “and that was a blindside to put that Windsor in there. People in the community feel exactly the same as me, it’s a failed agreement. I voted for the Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago, but would I do it over again? No. Bring the whole lot down.”

If power sharing resumed in Stormont, Sinn Fein would lead Northern Ireland’s government as the country’s largest party, as King Charles himself affably noted to Sinn Fein’s Vice President and Northern Ireland leader, Michelle O’Neill. The oddly warm relationship between the King and the republican leader is remarkable, not least because his own beloved uncle was assassinated by the IRA. Yet Charles has worked hard to advance normalisation between Britain and Ireland — his 1995 visit to the Republic was the first official visit by a royal since the country’s independence, laying the groundwork for the Queen’s historic 2011 visit — and it may already be paying dividends.

“I’m very proud the way he’s met with Republicans,” Janet’s friend Jacqueline told me beneath the mural, “I’m proud that he done that. It showed them’uns [Nationalists], I’d love them’uns to take their seats in the House of Commons, if they’re genuine about trying to move on, that’s something that would have to be asked.” Yet Charles’s outreach to a Nationalist community which rejects his role has already met with new reciprocation from Sinn Fein, eager to position itself as the natural party of government for all of Northern Ireland. Michelle O’Neill’s surprise announcement that she would attend the coronation — as a mark of respect for Northern Ireland’s Unionists — was well received by some Loyalists gathered under the mural. “I feel sorry about the hunger strikers’ families to be honest with you,” says Jacqueline. “Them people died for their cause and the next minute she goes away to London and wants publicity for votes.”

Indeed, it’s perhaps O’Neill’s own Nationalist powerbase that looks most sceptically at her attendance of the coronation. On nearby Northumberland Street, the Peace Gates — the optimistically-named metal barriers built to keep the two communities apart — divide the Protestant Shankill from the Catholic Falls Road. Murals to dead UVF volunteers and the fallen of the First World War Ulster Division suddenly give way to memorials to dead republican militants and lurid expressions of support for various Third World liberation movements. At the An ChultĂșrlann centre, an Irish-language cultural hub, Gerry Carroll of the Republican socialist People Before Profit party told me that O’Neill’s attendance was a misstep. “Somebody who classes themselves as a democrat should not be endorsing and entertaining the most reactionary elements in British politics,” he told me, “so I think it’s a real shame that Michelle O’Neill and others have endorsed that rotten institution. As soon as they offered that, it wasn’t enough for the DUP, they were clamouring for Union Jacks on every public building, so Sinn Fein are conceding ground to the DUP and others’ narrative.”

On West Belfast’s Catholic Divis Street, two PSNI officers sat bored in their parked patrol car watching an anti-coronation protest stretched out along the road. PĂĄdraic MacCoitir, former Republican prisoner and organiser for the far-Left nationalist Lasair Dhearg faction, was giving a speech railing against the “imperialist rule” of a “parasite” king, but reserved his greatest ire for Sinn Fein. “Twenty-five years after the Good Friday Agreement, we find ourselves faced with the spectacle of two former Republicans standing in front of a king, acting as Viceroys of Empire,” he told the 50 or so demonstrators, waving red flags and placards saying “Not Our King” in Irish and English as beeping cars rushed past. “Their presence is an endorsement of the very forces that oppressed and terrorised our people for centuries, this is a betrayal of everything that we have fought for.” But asked whether his anger was shared in the wider community, MacCoitir was more equivocal. “Well obviously Sinn Fein, politically — you can see all the posters about — they’re very strong,” he told me. “It’s wrong what they’re doing, it’s completely and utterly wrong. But will it affect them in the forthcoming council elections? I don’t know. I really don’t care to be honest, but it could. Who knows?”

But it’s unlikely that Sinn Fein, now the largest party on both sides of the Irish border, will be electorally troubled by O’Neill’s gesture: if anything, it marks a growing confidence that history is on their side. Back on the Shankill Road, there’s a weary sense that Northern Ireland’s Nationalists are now on top, have better PR and London’s ear. The sight of Sinn Fein’s leadership seated so prominently at the ceremony highlights that the party has now become, in its own way, part of a Westminster establishment whose authority it doesn’t formally recognise. “The Republican movement seem to have better spokespeople and people [in Westminster] are more sympathetic towards them,” Matt, a drinker in the Shankill’s Rex Bar, bedecked with Union Jacks and portraits of the king, told me. “I don’t think it matters if it’s a Conservative government or a Labour government, if it suited them, they’d do away with the six counties and be happy with a united Ireland, they see it as a burden. It’s like an unrequited love, it doesn’t matter what we do, we’re taken for granted and ignored.”

This sense of disaffection will only grow as Northern Ireland braces for savage cuts in Government services to fill an £800m budget black hole. Already the poorest part of the United Kingdom, with the country’s worst transport infrastructure and longest NHS waiting lists, now the province’s Department for Infrastructure is warning it will be forced to limit road maintenance and turn off street lights to save money. The greatest perceived trump card for the Union, Northern Ireland’s superior public services to the Republic, are now threatened by the looming budget cuts, the effects of which will further entrench political divisions within Unionism over power sharing. With the DUP blocking Stormont, and the Unionist vote divided over the way forward, even on the Shankill there’s a grudging respect for Sinn Fein as efficient political operators.

“The streets here is alive with rats, them politicians knock on your door for votes and then you’ll never see them,” Steven, a young local, told me as he puffed on a cigarette outside the Shankill’s Royal Bar. “I’ve seen people in Shankhill Road going to Sinn Fein for housing problems, because at least they’re working, and they seem to resolve the problems. I’ve known many Protestant people go down to Catholic councillors to resolve their problems, it’s shameful to be doing it but it’s the only way.” Steven’s friend Nicola, an NHS worker, agreed. “There’s no government here,” she told me, “I’ve never seen Belfast so run down. Why are we paying for them to sit at home? We’re all working and they’re getting paid for nothing, and now they’re going to turn off our street lights.”

Divided between those who want Stormont restored and those who want it abolished entirely, working-class Unionists in Belfast are on the back foot, and increasingly disillusioned with Northern Ireland’s dysfunctional political system. For all that the coronation provided an opportunity for the community to coalesce and demonstrate their passionate attachment to the Union and the monarchy, their fractured politics leave them voiceless in Westminster, and an irritation to a British Government whose reciprocal loyalty seems ever more uncertain. O’Neill’s presence at the crowning of the man she hopes will be Northern Ireland’s last king was also a coronation of her own, establishing Sinn Fein as the province’s next party of government, and reframing Loyalist attachment to the monarchy as a harmless cultural quirk of a people she is destined to lead rather than a meaningful political identity. In Northern Ireland, so misleadingly similar to mainland Britain and yet so utterly different, the glittering spectacle of the Coronation took place in a Westminster that looks to be moving ever further away.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

It’s odd seeing a man who has pretensions to be some sort of green progressive king of the world recoil from being actual king of part of his realm. The truth is the British establishment is not just deeply uncomfortable with being associated with Northern Ireland, it’s deeply uncomfortable with large sections of the English too. The new British elite is staunchly globalist.

At face value, Sinn Fein shouldn’t fit well into this new world order. After all, they’re Irish nationalists, right? Yet O’Neill’s republicanism is now just electoral theatre. Sinn Fein’s planned programme for government in Ireland adopts the full globalist policy set from net zero to open borders. A Sinn Fein government will follow the exact same path as the UK and wider EU. It might be a coincidence, but O’Neill repeatedly refers to our “common purpose”.

And that’s why O’Neill attended the crowning of the globalist king. They’re of a kind with a shared agenda almost completely at odds with the purpose of the institutions they lead. Welcome to our modern topsy turvy world where men are women and nationalists are globalists.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Some might contend you lack confidence NC. One can be patriotic and inter-nationalist. One can be a Man or a Woman and remain confident current student politics twaddle on gender will settle and a bedrock of common-sense with kindness win out.
As regards NI – DUP/TVA are plagued by nostalgia for a return to the one party state of Craig, Brooke and a previous O’Neill. That’s gone for ever and thank goodness too. A Coronation will trigger such melancholic pangs.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

This statement is too glib; it depends what you mean by ‘internationalist’ and whose position ultimately prevails in any conflict between national and international interests, as conflict there will inevitably be. The question never answered by pro EU people: do you ultimately want Ireland, France or whatever to be reduced to the subordinate status of Alabama? The only way the EU can become democratic is for a federal super state to be finally created. The problem is only a small minority actually recognise that as their country, so there is no polity in which democracy can meaningfully function -Germans and Poles live in very different societies with different priorities. So we have the situation where the ‘internationalists’ frequently say that the electorates views must be trumped by the interests of the EU as a whole.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Somewhat narrow view there of internationalism AF. But nonetheless just to point out their are 27 countries still in the EU. Since 2016’s Brexit vote zero have left and those applying to join have continued those applications, the latest being Ukraine as everyone aware. Your argument is reductive, whereas the converse is enhancing. And that I think is the key difference in how it’s seen.

Hibernian Caveman
Hibernian Caveman
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

In an essay entitled “French and English”, G.K.Chesterton made an important distinction.

“It is obvious that there is a great deal of difference between being international and being cosmopolitan. All good men are international. Nearly all bad men are cosmopolitan. If we are to be international we must be national. And it is largely because those who call themselves the friends of peace have not dwelt sufficiently on this distinction that they do not impress the bulk of any of the nations to which they belong. International peace means a peace between nations, not a peace after the destruction of nations, like the Buddhist peace after the destruction of personality. The golden age of the good European is like the heaven of the Christian: it is a place where people will love each other; not like the heaven of the Hindu, a place where they will be each other. And in the case of national character this can be seen in a curious way. It will generally be found, I think, that the more a man really appreciates and admires the soul of another people the less he will attempt to imitate it; he will be conscious that there is something in it too deep and too unmanageable to imitate. The Englishman who has a fancy for France will try to be French; the Englishman who admires France will remain obstinately English. This is to be particularly noticed in the case of our relations with the French, because it is one of the outstanding peculiarities of the French that their vices are all on the surface, and their extraordinary virtues concealed. One might almost say that their vices are the flower of their virtues.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Hibernian Caveman
Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago

Lovely and apt quotation.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago

Lovely and apt quotation.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Somewhat narrow view there of internationalism AF. But nonetheless just to point out their are 27 countries still in the EU. Since 2016’s Brexit vote zero have left and those applying to join have continued those applications, the latest being Ukraine as everyone aware. Your argument is reductive, whereas the converse is enhancing. And that I think is the key difference in how it’s seen.

Hibernian Caveman
Hibernian Caveman
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

In an essay entitled “French and English”, G.K.Chesterton made an important distinction.

“It is obvious that there is a great deal of difference between being international and being cosmopolitan. All good men are international. Nearly all bad men are cosmopolitan. If we are to be international we must be national. And it is largely because those who call themselves the friends of peace have not dwelt sufficiently on this distinction that they do not impress the bulk of any of the nations to which they belong. International peace means a peace between nations, not a peace after the destruction of nations, like the Buddhist peace after the destruction of personality. The golden age of the good European is like the heaven of the Christian: it is a place where people will love each other; not like the heaven of the Hindu, a place where they will be each other. And in the case of national character this can be seen in a curious way. It will generally be found, I think, that the more a man really appreciates and admires the soul of another people the less he will attempt to imitate it; he will be conscious that there is something in it too deep and too unmanageable to imitate. The Englishman who has a fancy for France will try to be French; the Englishman who admires France will remain obstinately English. This is to be particularly noticed in the case of our relations with the French, because it is one of the outstanding peculiarities of the French that their vices are all on the surface, and their extraordinary virtues concealed. One might almost say that their vices are the flower of their virtues.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Hibernian Caveman
Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Presumably you’re not a native English speaker and may not realise that internationalism isn’t the same as globalism. Internationalism literally means a practice among nations, which definitionally relies on there being nations. Whilst you can be patriotic and internationalist, you certainly cannot be patriotic and globalist.

Similarly, perhaps you’re not living in the EU, UK or USA. Twaddle on gender long ago left student politics and is now law. From prisons to schools, the state demands total conformance to quite revolutionary ideas that run counter to immutable biology.

I didn’t mention the DUP or TVA. Perhaps you are muddled and confused my comment with another.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

‘Globalism’ is now just one of those meaningless soundbites that people on this site love to trot out. What does it actually mean and who are the ‘New British Elite’?

As a country we are not remotely self sufficient, as, to be fair, few countries are. We don’t make enough of the the goods we need or produce enough of the food we want to consume so we need to get them from elsewhere. We are also not self-sufficient in energy, so we need to buy this from elsewhere as well.

To enable this a network of different trade deals were set up to make the process cheaper and more efficient. In addition, following the two cataclysmic World Wars in the 20th Century international bodies were set up, with the best of motives, by people who had experienced those wars, to try to prevent this in future.

I don’t know whether you class this as ‘internationalism’ or ‘globalism’ or you’ve got another handy soundbite but unless you have an alternative to this which is realistic, it’s where we are.

RW in mentioning the DUP/TVA was actually referring to the article you were allegedly commenting on and making the salient point that the end of the ‘Protestant State for Protestant People’, which Northern Ireland was designed to be, and was for the first 70 odd years, has left Loyalists feeling fairly lost and trying to find their place in the changed circumstances where their old enemy, Sinn Fein, is the largest party.

As English is my first language I hope it’s understandable but I can use shorter words if that helps.

John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

‘Globalism’ is now just one of those meaningless soundbites that people on this site love to trot out. What does it actually mean and who are the ‘New British Elite’?

As a country we are not remotely self sufficient, as, to be fair, few countries are. We don’t make enough of the the goods we need or produce enough of the food we want to consume so we need to get them from elsewhere. We are also not self-sufficient in energy, so we need to buy this from elsewhere as well.

To enable this a network of different trade deals were set up to make the process cheaper and more efficient. In addition, following the two cataclysmic World Wars in the 20th Century international bodies were set up, with the best of motives, by people who had experienced those wars, to try to prevent this in future.

I don’t know whether you class this as ‘internationalism’ or ‘globalism’ or you’ve got another handy soundbite but unless you have an alternative to this which is realistic, it’s where we are.

RW in mentioning the DUP/TVA was actually referring to the article you were allegedly commenting on and making the salient point that the end of the ‘Protestant State for Protestant People’, which Northern Ireland was designed to be, and was for the first 70 odd years, has left Loyalists feeling fairly lost and trying to find their place in the changed circumstances where their old enemy, Sinn Fein, is the largest party.

As English is my first language I hope it’s understandable but I can use shorter words if that helps.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

This statement is too glib; it depends what you mean by ‘internationalist’ and whose position ultimately prevails in any conflict between national and international interests, as conflict there will inevitably be. The question never answered by pro EU people: do you ultimately want Ireland, France or whatever to be reduced to the subordinate status of Alabama? The only way the EU can become democratic is for a federal super state to be finally created. The problem is only a small minority actually recognise that as their country, so there is no polity in which democracy can meaningfully function -Germans and Poles live in very different societies with different priorities. So we have the situation where the ‘internationalists’ frequently say that the electorates views must be trumped by the interests of the EU as a whole.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Presumably you’re not a native English speaker and may not realise that internationalism isn’t the same as globalism. Internationalism literally means a practice among nations, which definitionally relies on there being nations. Whilst you can be patriotic and internationalist, you certainly cannot be patriotic and globalist.

Similarly, perhaps you’re not living in the EU, UK or USA. Twaddle on gender long ago left student politics and is now law. From prisons to schools, the state demands total conformance to quite revolutionary ideas that run counter to immutable biology.

I didn’t mention the DUP or TVA. Perhaps you are muddled and confused my comment with another.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Micheal MacGabhann
Micheal MacGabhann
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

In plainer English, what it is you are wishing for or see as “the correct way of things”?

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Some might contend you lack confidence NC. One can be patriotic and inter-nationalist. One can be a Man or a Woman and remain confident current student politics twaddle on gender will settle and a bedrock of common-sense with kindness win out.
As regards NI – DUP/TVA are plagued by nostalgia for a return to the one party state of Craig, Brooke and a previous O’Neill. That’s gone for ever and thank goodness too. A Coronation will trigger such melancholic pangs.

Micheal MacGabhann
Micheal MacGabhann
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

In plainer English, what it is you are wishing for or see as “the correct way of things”?

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

It’s odd seeing a man who has pretensions to be some sort of green progressive king of the world recoil from being actual king of part of his realm. The truth is the British establishment is not just deeply uncomfortable with being associated with Northern Ireland, it’s deeply uncomfortable with large sections of the English too. The new British elite is staunchly globalist.

At face value, Sinn Fein shouldn’t fit well into this new world order. After all, they’re Irish nationalists, right? Yet O’Neill’s republicanism is now just electoral theatre. Sinn Fein’s planned programme for government in Ireland adopts the full globalist policy set from net zero to open borders. A Sinn Fein government will follow the exact same path as the UK and wider EU. It might be a coincidence, but O’Neill repeatedly refers to our “common purpose”.

And that’s why O’Neill attended the crowning of the globalist king. They’re of a kind with a shared agenda almost completely at odds with the purpose of the institutions they lead. Welcome to our modern topsy turvy world where men are women and nationalists are globalists.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

I’m a Nationalist from NI. Royal family generally quite liked among our community. TBH, anyone getting too agitated about a monarchy is a crank – it’s just a pretend / performative indignation, like veganism.  

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Indeed, David Starkey recently published a video where he makes the interesting claim that the UK has long been a republic with a consitutional monarch. Which does seem to be borne out by the fact that his accession had to be endorsed by Parliament.
Back to the article, a couple of points.
NI unionists may indeed be “loyal”. But loyal to what exactly ? They seem to be loyal to a time and place that is in the past and if allowed to have things entirely their own way will anchor the rest of the UK in the past when we may wish to move onwards (well, we did anyway). They seem to be pursuing a model of “rights without responsibilities” – in some ways little different from any other minority group (BLM/extreme trans rights/whatever).
On the other hand, we read this about Sinn Fein: “Somebody who classes themselves as a democrat should not be endorsing and entertaining the most reactionary elements in British politics”.
But hold on a moment. Somebody who “classes themselves as a democrat” should be attending the Westminster Parliament to represent their constituents. That is their job – to represent all their constituents, regardless of who they voted for. That’s democracy. As opposed to gesture politics.
Let’s not forget that after the 1801 Act Of Union, Ireland was properly represented at Westminster. The nationalist Irish Parliamentary Party at one point had 105 MPs. Whenever people try to justify violence in Northern Ireland, let’s just remember that there was always a democratic path open, however imperfect that may have been. Much as female emancipation was achieved without violence in some countries.

steve george
steve george
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

But there wasn’t. Look at Scotland. Overwhelmingly elects MPs in favour of (a referendum on) independence but is denied that because it is outnumbered in Westminster. The Irish faced the same reality a 100 years or so ago.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  steve george

Simply not true. The Irish Nationalists frequently held the balance of power in the House of Commons in the late 1800s. You might recall that the Home Rule Bill actually passed in the House of Commons in 1914.
And Scotland is not “denied a referendum on independence”. Both Alec Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon voluntarily accepted a “once in a generation” (that’s at least 25 years) referendum on independence. They got exactly what they asked for. They lost. They’ve now demonstrated their utter incompetence (and quite possibly inability to legally manage finances) beyond any possible doubt. So it really is game over for a generation.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

On your first para PB, you’ll be aware the Bill was suspended by the threat of violent insurrection by Carson and his Loyalist paramilitaries backed by the Curragh Mutiny. Representation and democratic decision at Westminster appeared then to make no difference.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

On your first para PB, you’ll be aware the Bill was suspended by the threat of violent insurrection by Carson and his Loyalist paramilitaries backed by the Curragh Mutiny. Representation and democratic decision at Westminster appeared then to make no difference.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  steve george

Simply not true. The Irish Nationalists frequently held the balance of power in the House of Commons in the late 1800s. You might recall that the Home Rule Bill actually passed in the House of Commons in 1914.
And Scotland is not “denied a referendum on independence”. Both Alec Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon voluntarily accepted a “once in a generation” (that’s at least 25 years) referendum on independence. They got exactly what they asked for. They lost. They’ve now demonstrated their utter incompetence (and quite possibly inability to legally manage finances) beyond any possible doubt. So it really is game over for a generation.

Alan Hynes
Alan Hynes
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Properly represented in 1801? Catholics (i.e. the vast majority of the population) didn’t have a vote, were legally disbarred from being elected to parliament, and still endured several other legal impediments. This was addressed with Catholic emancipation in 1829 but was a rather severe and significant issue post-1801.
It is difficult to believe that the Westminster parliament would have permitted to stand idly by as they did in the 1840s, if the tragedy of the Great Hunger visited on Ireland had instead fallen on England.
Further, despite the vast majority of the public in the island of Ireland, and the majority of her elected representatives, supporting Home Rule in the latter half of the 1800s, the Westminster Parliament stubbornly refused to grant it, and only did so in 1914, before suspending that decision.
Think how the history of these islands might have played out if the rest of the UK had treated Ireland in justice.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Hynes

A very partial view of history.
No part of the UK was “properly represented” by modern one-person one-vote standards in 1801.My point is that there was effective representation and Irish interests were considered alongside others. 105 Irish Nationalist MPs in a total of 600 isn’t representation ?
If Ireland was not represented, how did we ever get to the point where Home Rule bills were widely supported in the House of Commons and repeatedly passed.
Nor does this explain things that the UK parliament actually did to relieve the Irish famine. Amongst those the 1846 Repeal of the Corn Laws by a Conservative government which almost destroyed that party, yet to the benefit of the country – and Ireland – as a whole.
Yes, Home Rule was arguably a missed opportunity. But likely still a step on the road to full Irish independence.

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The Tories generally seemed to understand the magnitude of the Great Famine. Disraeli essentially predicted disaster in 1844, a year before it began, when he defined the Irish Question: “That dense population in extreme distress inhabited an island where there was an established church which was not their church; and a territorial aristocracy, the richest of whom lived in distant capitals. Thus they had a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, and, in addition, the weakest executive in the world. That was the Irish question.”
“Orange” Peel doesn’t get enough credit for the steps he took in the early stages of the famine. It is ironic that they were undone by the woke progressives of the day under the Liberal Lord John Russell (grandfather of Bertrand), citing Divine Providence and laissez faire economics. Nearly three times as much was spent compensating slaveholders in the 1830s than would ultimately be spent by HMG on famine relief in the 1840s. The Irish population is not expected to fully recover until the 2050s.
There was certainly a powerful Irish nationalist movement from the 1870s onwards, but all attempts at peaceful democratic progress were thwarted by the unelected House of Lords, which vetoed three attempts to pass Home Rule legislation over many decades, until their power was finally broken by Asquith after the People’s Budget of 1909. A missed opportunity indeed.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

After a nervous start, Churchill was all for shelling the Shankill in July 1914.
In retrospect It would have saved a lot of trouble.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago

‘Shelling the Shankill in July 1914…would have saved a lot of trouble’.
What, killing your own cannon fodder for the Somme?
Not declaring war on Germany in August 1914 would have saved a lot more trouble. It would also have saved European Civilisation.
I really think, Charles, you should stick to fattening the Empress of Blandings (if your nurse allows you out).

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago

‘Shelling the Shankill in July 1914…would have saved a lot of trouble’.
What, killing your own cannon fodder for the Somme?
Not declaring war on Germany in August 1914 would have saved a lot more trouble. It would also have saved European Civilisation.
I really think, Charles, you should stick to fattening the Empress of Blandings (if your nurse allows you out).

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

After a nervous start, Churchill was all for shelling the Shankill in July 1914.
In retrospect It would have saved a lot of trouble.

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The Tories generally seemed to understand the magnitude of the Great Famine. Disraeli essentially predicted disaster in 1844, a year before it began, when he defined the Irish Question: “That dense population in extreme distress inhabited an island where there was an established church which was not their church; and a territorial aristocracy, the richest of whom lived in distant capitals. Thus they had a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, and, in addition, the weakest executive in the world. That was the Irish question.”
“Orange” Peel doesn’t get enough credit for the steps he took in the early stages of the famine. It is ironic that they were undone by the woke progressives of the day under the Liberal Lord John Russell (grandfather of Bertrand), citing Divine Providence and laissez faire economics. Nearly three times as much was spent compensating slaveholders in the 1830s than would ultimately be spent by HMG on famine relief in the 1840s. The Irish population is not expected to fully recover until the 2050s.
There was certainly a powerful Irish nationalist movement from the 1870s onwards, but all attempts at peaceful democratic progress were thwarted by the unelected House of Lords, which vetoed three attempts to pass Home Rule legislation over many decades, until their power was finally broken by Asquith after the People’s Budget of 1909. A missed opportunity indeed.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Hynes

A very partial view of history.
No part of the UK was “properly represented” by modern one-person one-vote standards in 1801.My point is that there was effective representation and Irish interests were considered alongside others. 105 Irish Nationalist MPs in a total of 600 isn’t representation ?
If Ireland was not represented, how did we ever get to the point where Home Rule bills were widely supported in the House of Commons and repeatedly passed.
Nor does this explain things that the UK parliament actually did to relieve the Irish famine. Amongst those the 1846 Repeal of the Corn Laws by a Conservative government which almost destroyed that party, yet to the benefit of the country – and Ireland – as a whole.
Yes, Home Rule was arguably a missed opportunity. But likely still a step on the road to full Irish independence.

steve george
steve george
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

But there wasn’t. Look at Scotland. Overwhelmingly elects MPs in favour of (a referendum on) independence but is denied that because it is outnumbered in Westminster. The Irish faced the same reality a 100 years or so ago.

Alan Hynes
Alan Hynes
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Properly represented in 1801? Catholics (i.e. the vast majority of the population) didn’t have a vote, were legally disbarred from being elected to parliament, and still endured several other legal impediments. This was addressed with Catholic emancipation in 1829 but was a rather severe and significant issue post-1801.
It is difficult to believe that the Westminster parliament would have permitted to stand idly by as they did in the 1840s, if the tragedy of the Great Hunger visited on Ireland had instead fallen on England.
Further, despite the vast majority of the public in the island of Ireland, and the majority of her elected representatives, supporting Home Rule in the latter half of the 1800s, the Westminster Parliament stubbornly refused to grant it, and only did so in 1914, before suspending that decision.
Think how the history of these islands might have played out if the rest of the UK had treated Ireland in justice.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Indeed, David Starkey recently published a video where he makes the interesting claim that the UK has long been a republic with a consitutional monarch. Which does seem to be borne out by the fact that his accession had to be endorsed by Parliament.
Back to the article, a couple of points.
NI unionists may indeed be “loyal”. But loyal to what exactly ? They seem to be loyal to a time and place that is in the past and if allowed to have things entirely their own way will anchor the rest of the UK in the past when we may wish to move onwards (well, we did anyway). They seem to be pursuing a model of “rights without responsibilities” – in some ways little different from any other minority group (BLM/extreme trans rights/whatever).
On the other hand, we read this about Sinn Fein: “Somebody who classes themselves as a democrat should not be endorsing and entertaining the most reactionary elements in British politics”.
But hold on a moment. Somebody who “classes themselves as a democrat” should be attending the Westminster Parliament to represent their constituents. That is their job – to represent all their constituents, regardless of who they voted for. That’s democracy. As opposed to gesture politics.
Let’s not forget that after the 1801 Act Of Union, Ireland was properly represented at Westminster. The nationalist Irish Parliamentary Party at one point had 105 MPs. Whenever people try to justify violence in Northern Ireland, let’s just remember that there was always a democratic path open, however imperfect that may have been. Much as female emancipation was achieved without violence in some countries.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

I’m a Nationalist from NI. Royal family generally quite liked among our community. TBH, anyone getting too agitated about a monarchy is a crank – it’s just a pretend / performative indignation, like veganism.  

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago

Kudos to Aris Roussinos for an excellent, very perceptive article!
In particular, his transcription of Belfast speech is EXTREMELY accurate, and a joy to read!
How ironic that UnHerd had to send its Foreign Affairs Editor over here to report on what is actually happening. Aris seems to have kept his eyes and ears open and reported accordingly. That’s called good journalism.
By contrast, UnHerd’s Political Editor has consistently displayed an almost infantile inability to grasp the basic facts of political life in Northern Ireland.
Perhaps Aris’ experience as a former War Correspondent might have something to do with his realistic reportage?

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
1 year ago

Kudos to Aris Roussinos for an excellent, very perceptive article!
In particular, his transcription of Belfast speech is EXTREMELY accurate, and a joy to read!
How ironic that UnHerd had to send its Foreign Affairs Editor over here to report on what is actually happening. Aris seems to have kept his eyes and ears open and reported accordingly. That’s called good journalism.
By contrast, UnHerd’s Political Editor has consistently displayed an almost infantile inability to grasp the basic facts of political life in Northern Ireland.
Perhaps Aris’ experience as a former War Correspondent might have something to do with his realistic reportage?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

What a frighteningly insular, archaic, childish, obsessive, and stone age community?

The obvious question is, given that Catholic and Protestant live side by side in every other part of the British isles, including Ireland, why cant the Orange Presbyterians in Ulster?

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

It usually needs two sides for a fight, so I doubt it’s 100% their fault – perhaps more like 80-20. But it’s an excellent question that needs asking. It might also be interesting to check if the most loyal NI unionists are happy living in Catholic countries like Spain or Italy. There’s almost certainly an element of tribalism in this that we don’t really understand in England any more.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

.. but alive and well in parts of Scotland, whose people colonised Ireland, of course!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

.. but alive and well in parts of Scotland, whose people colonised Ireland, of course!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

The 17th century Plantation policy.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Yes, and the man in the ÂŁ3 Dunn and co bowler and terylene suit seems not to have ( excuse the deliberate pun) ” cottoned” that it is neither the 17th Century nor the 1950s. As I have said before, the RUC and UDR attitude in the 1970s and 1980s to Catholic Officers , notably Household Division, was eyewateringly ignorant and bigoted.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Yes, and the man in the ÂŁ3 Dunn and co bowler and terylene suit seems not to have ( excuse the deliberate pun) ” cottoned” that it is neither the 17th Century nor the 1950s. As I have said before, the RUC and UDR attitude in the 1970s and 1980s to Catholic Officers , notably Household Division, was eyewateringly ignorant and bigoted.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

It usually needs two sides for a fight, so I doubt it’s 100% their fault – perhaps more like 80-20. But it’s an excellent question that needs asking. It might also be interesting to check if the most loyal NI unionists are happy living in Catholic countries like Spain or Italy. There’s almost certainly an element of tribalism in this that we don’t really understand in England any more.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

The 17th century Plantation policy.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

What a frighteningly insular, archaic, childish, obsessive, and stone age community?

The obvious question is, given that Catholic and Protestant live side by side in every other part of the British isles, including Ireland, why cant the Orange Presbyterians in Ulster?