Agnotology for Beginners, Illiterate Journalists and Political Activists

Agnotology is the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. The neologism was coined by Robert N Proctor, a Stanford University professor specializing in the history of science and technology. Its name derives from the Neoclassicalm Greek word ἄγνωσις, agnōsis, “not knowing” (cf. Attic Greek ἄγνωτος “unknown”), and -λογία, –logia More generally, the term also highlights the increasingly common condition where more knowledge of a subject leaves one more uncertain than before. The so-called BBC are a prime example in continuing to promote Celtic racism while continuing to ignore the history of the Pretani.

There are many causes of culturally induced ignorance. Paramount is the influence of the Mediacracy, either through neglect or as a result of deliberate misrepresentation and manipulation. Corporations and governmental agencies can also contribute to agnotology through secrecy and suppression of information, document destruction, and myriad forms of inherent or avoidable culturopolitical selectivity, inattention, and forgetfulness. In April I hope to give a lecture to prominent academics in France to explain the role of republican academics here in suppressing knowledge of the Pretani .

A prime example of the deliberate production of ignorance cited by Proctor is the tobacco industry’s advertising campaign to manufacture doubt about cancer and other health effects of tobacco use.. Under the banner of science, the industry produced research about everything except tobacco hazards to exploit public uncertainty.
Agnotology also focuses on how and why diverse forms of knowledge do not “come to be”, or are ignored or delayed. For example, knowledge about plate tectonics was censored and delayed for at least a decade because some evidence was classified military information related to undersea warfare.

An emerging new scientific discipline that has connections to agnotology is Cognitronics:
aims (a) at explicating the distortions in the perception of the world caused by the information society and globalization and (b) at coping with these distortions in different fields. Cognitronics is studying and looking for the ways of improving cognitive mechanisms of processing information and developing emotional sphere of the personality – the ways aiming at compensating three mentioned shifts in the systems of values and, as an indirect consequence, for the ways of developing symbolic information processing skills of the learners, linguistic mechanisms, associative and reasoning abilities, broad mental outlook being important preconditions of successful work practically in every sphere of professional activity in information society.
The field of cognitronics appears to be growing as international conferences have centred on the topic.

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Mediacracy for Beginners, Illiterate Journalists and Political Activists.

The term “Mediacracy” was first coined in 1974 by writer and political commentator Kevin Phillips, who used the term in the title of his book Mediacracy: American Parties and Politics in the Communications Age. Since then, the concept has gained popularity and is used by political scientists and researchers alike to discuss the impact of media on both voting behavior and cultural trends. Most recently, the term has seen a resurgence due to the works of economist and author Fabian Tassano. In his book Mediocracy: Inversions and Deceptions in an Egalitarian Culture Tassano argues that the dumbing down of popular media when coupled with increasing obscurity in scholarly discourse leads to a society which has the appearance of egalitarianism, but ultimately is a society ruled by elites, most prominently the Bobo of the so-called BBC and Guardian newspaper. As a reflection of this, the term mediacracy is usually accompanied by negative assumptions about the true nature of media, along with the aims and desires of mass media as a whole.

There are three main potential causes for the rise in the media’s influence on elections, being a combination of different theories on the cultural influence of mass media and recent populist democratic reforms in the American political system. Supporters of the Mediacracy theory like myself argue that when taken together, these causes greatly show that the media have a large level of influence over politics, drawing a link between media’s leverage on public opinion, and the increased power that public opinion has on who is elected to office. These potential causes include, but are not limited to Agenda setting, Priming and Populist reforms .Agenda-setting refers to the ability of the media to affect the salience of issues on the public agenda. Priming, in a political context is a theory stating that the media draws attention to some issues as opposed to others, thereby altering the standards by which we judge candidates in elections. Populist reforms have indirectly strengthened the power of media outlets that have been shown to have much influence over citizens’ evaluations of candidates, and as such the media holds much sway in the American political system, despite relatively low levels of political accountability.

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Bobo for Beginners, Illiterate Journalists and Political Activists.

It’s hard to miss them: The epitome of casual ‘geek chic’ and organised within the warranty of their Palm Pilots, they sip labour-intensive café lattes, chat on sleek cellphones and ponder the road to enlightenment. In the USA they worry about the environment as they drive their gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles to emporiums of haute design to buy a $50 titanium spatula; they think about their tech stocks as they explore speciality shops for Tibetan artefacts in Everest-worthy hiking boots. They think nothing of laying out $5 for a wheatgrass muff, much less $500 for some alternative rejuvenation at the day-spa – but don’t talk about raising their taxes.  They are ‘bourgeois bohemians’ – or ‘Bobos’ – and they’re the new ‘enlightened Liberal Leftist élite’ of the information age, their lucratively busy lives a seeming synthesis of comfort and conscience, corporate success and creative rebellion. Well-educated thirty-to-fortysomethings, they have forged a new social ethos from a logic-defying fusion of 1960s counter-culture and 1980s entrepreneurial materialism.

So proclaims David Brooks, the American journalist and self-avowed ‘Bobo’, who coined the phrase to describe the new cultural and corporate hegemony of his cosmopolitan, computer-savvy contemporaries, many of whom will no doubt recognise themselves in Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There .

‘These Bobos define our age. They are the new establishment. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we all breathe,’ Brooks declares in his ‘comic sociology’ of Bobo manners and mores. ‘Their status codes now govern social life.’ A phenomenon in step with the hard-driving digital utopianism promised by the internet and its money-spinning ‘new economy’, not to mention the ‘Third Way’ politics of Clinton , Obama and Blair, the Bobos have seized upon an ingenious way to sell without selling out – or so they tell themselves.
Combining the free-spirited, artistic rebelliousness of the bohemian beatnik or hippie with the worldly ambitions of their bourgeois corporate forefathers, the Bobo is a comfortable contortion of caring capitalism. They read the Guardian and write for the Observer. They smoke Dope and inhale Cocaine. They love abortion but hate Brexit and loathe Trump. Where do you find them? Well the so-called BBC is a hotbed of Bobos, profoundly antagonistic to Lower Class “populism”…And of all the Bobos, they are the worst of all…

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The Speeches of Dalaradia at St John’s Church, Donegore..1 : The Chairman.

The Chairman Robert Williamson’s Speech

Sir Samuel Ferguson

Thursday, 27th October 2016


Welcome Your Excellency, President Higgins, Distinguished guests, Friends.

Welcome to this beautiful old church of St John, burial place of Sir Samuel Ferguson amongst the ancient kindred of Dalaradia. We are delighted to host President Higgins in remembering one of Ulster’s great poets, scholars, authors and historians, although some may say that description might also apply to our Patron Dr Ian Adamson.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Margaret Bell, a warden of this very church who in 1998 published the history of this parish, telling of Donegore Motte, an ancient burial site of pre-Christian times where the Annals of Ulster record tales of Cu Chulainn, of the Kings of Ulaid, and the Red Branch heroes blending legend with fact as the Ulaid moved from Emain Macha to settle at the Royal residence of Rath Mor Moy Linney, barely one mile from here, beside Kilultagh, the woods of the Ulstermen , on the ancient route from Tara to Dunseverick. She tells how this was the portion of Araide, King of Ulster, listed in The Four Masters as fighting a fierce battle here in 236 AD, of how in 1004 Brian Boru “set out to Rathmore Moy Linney whence he carried away the hostages of Dalaradia”.

A church is listed here since 1306 and in 1315 Edward the Bruce “harried the choicest part of Ulster” burning down Rath Mor Moy Linney. Here in the 1980s was unearthed remains of a fortified camp from 3000 years ago, the most westerly of its kind discovered in Europe with 100,000 artefacts uncovered, Margaret describes it thus “the graceful spire of the Church of Donegore is a familiar landmark as one speeds along the motorway across the beautiful valley of the six mile water in the ancient territory of Dalaradia, truly we are in a special place.

Our own Dalaradia group evolved from the pain of our recent conflict when a peace process promised so much, but seemed to pass by, perhaps even exclude many from a working class and loyalist tradition.

Originally of an Ulster Scots interest we progressed to explore the shared history of the peoples of this island, from earliest to present times, hoping that this rich, multicultural melting pot could help us on our journey of Common Identity, which is essential if we are to express respect for the heritage and culture of all those who share this beautiful land.

With guidance from Ian Adamson and Helen Brooker of Pretani Associates our voluntary group has engaged in dialogue and debate with such diverse groups as Republican and Loyalist ex combatants, Sinn Fein, the Loyal Orders, the Parades Commission Chairman, UK Houses of Parliament outreach office, Church of England, UUP, Amnesty International, UKIP and motor racings Eddie Irvine on our St Columbanus events. Most recently we thank the Bishop of Connor for his support, Superintendent Emma Bond PSNI for her straight talking and Dr Katy Radford with David Esler for the stained glass window project which we shall preview this morning.

Literary projects include publishing members experiences of the troubles, remembering James Orr, weaver poet, a feature article requesting the name of our new super-council to be Dalaradai was published by the Belfast Telegraph, presenting copies of the Bible translated into plain Scots to St Mungos Museum, Glasgow. To mark the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz when TRH Duke and Duchess of Gloucester visited Belfast we printed a commemorative book which we presented to the current Duke of Gloucester, with a copy also presented to the Linenhall Library, Belfast.

Our Somme Remembrances began at 7.30am July 1st by placing a wreath on the grave of `Ulster Scot, Private Paul Pollock, RIR, whose name and story of being killed at the Somme at 7.30am a century ago was not recorded until 2013. Although not members of the Masonic Orders we facilitated the inaugural event at Whiteabbey Masonic Centre to remember their fallen of two world wars, earning grateful thanks from Provincial Grand Lodge, Antrim.

Representatives of our group travelled South to engage with other traditions, attending the unveiling of the Cross of Sacrifice, Glasnevin Cemetery. The Irish National Day of Commemoration and even the commemoration of O’Donnovan Rossa, respecting the heritage and culture of others so that we may receive the same.

During these events we came into contact with President Michael D Higgins, his hospitality, generosity of spirit and love of music, poetry and language inspired us to invite him to visit Dalaradia and the final resting place of Sir Samuel Ferguson, described by historian F J Bigger as “a tender hearted Antrim man, Ulsterman, Irishman”

We have achieved these things without resources. All we have is our good name and reputation. All we will ever need is our good name and reputation.

Thank you.


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The Speeches of Dalaradia at St John’s Church, Donegore..2 : The President.

Speech by President Michael D. Higgins 

Sir Samuel Ferguson 

Thursday, 27th October, 2016 


A Chairde, Freens, Dear Friends.

Firstly, let me thank you all for joining me here today, and for the kind invitation from Reverend Andrew Kerr, and The Dalaradia Historical Group to visit this beautiful church and the resting place of Sir Samuel Ferguson.  I am so grateful to Dr. Ian Adamson and Robert Williamson for arranging this visit, of which we have spoken for many years. I would also like to thank the Right Reverend Alan Abernethy, Bishop of Connor, for his presence here today and the welcome he has extended to me and to those travelling with me.

It is 130 years since the remains of Sir Samuel Ferguson were interred here in St John’s Cemetery, but his legacy remains for those interested in Irish politics a profound and inspiring one. He has left an indelible imprint on Ireland’s literary, social and political heritage.

Samuel Ferguson was a man of quite extraordinary talent and many accomplishments, whose cultural and political sympathy continue to defy any simple categorisation. Throughout his prolific careers, of which he had many, a common thread running through was his commitment to engendering a sense of civic assurance and pride in Ireland’s image of itself during the mid-nineteenth century.

Ferguson was part of a progressive, culturally aware, middle class cadré of the Ireland of its day. This was based largely in the professions. Its members were active through bodies such as the Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College, political groupings and periodical publications dealing with politics, novel ideas and literature. These were all spheres with which Ferguson would regularly intersect.

His careers were as diverse as they were significant.  He was a barrister, a poet, an antiquarian and a public servant; a writer whose work straddled several genres; an expert on subjects ranging from architecture to music to the Irish language; His book “Ogham inscriptions in Ireland, Wales and Scotland”, was seminal in recording the earliest writings in Irish and Pictish in these islands.

Ferguson was also a political activist. Ulster unionist by background but close at times to the Young Ireland movement and a founder, with Isaac Butt, of the Protestant Repeal Association, seeking the re-establishment of an Irish Parliament.  This chapter of his life would seem to have been largely a reaction to the death of Thomas Davis in 1845 and the calamitous handling of the Famine by the British Authorities.

The complexity of his own political leanings are given expression in  poems as distinct as ‘Lament for Thomas Davis’,  where he contemplates the loss of the Young Ireland leader and its implications for Ireland,  and ‘At the Polo-Ground’ a contemplative, satirical poem written in recoil at the murders in the Phoenix Park of Lord Frederick Cavendish, the Chief Secretary for Ireland and Thomas Henry Burke, the Permanent Under Secretary.

His recovery, translation and promotion of our ancient Irish literature made him an important precursor to the Irish literary revival; that great renaissance which  shaped a distinctive Irish literary culture, celebrating the distinctiveness of  Irish writing in the English language.

Professor Brendan Kennelly, in his essay “Irish Poetry to Yeats” wrote:

“If the eighteenth century was dominated by Merriman, O’Rahilly and Eileen O’Leary, the two leading poets of the nineteenth century are James Clarence Mangan and Sir Samuel Ferguson.  Mangan is the better poet – more inspired,             more passionate – But the importance of Ferguson’s contribution to Irish poetry cannot be over-emphasised. It was Ferguson, more than any other single poet,    who proved that the old mythology was  an almost infinite source of inspiration.        In 1834, when Ferguson was twenty-four, nineteen of his translations from the Irish were published in the Dublin University Magazine”[1]

W.B. Yeats, commenting on the poetry of Samuel Ferguson in the Dublin University Review stated that:‘the author of these poems is the greatest poet Ireland has produced, because the most central and most Celtic’.

Poets Aubrey de Vere and John Todhunter followed Ferguson’s suggestion of Irish Mythology as a source, but as previously suggested, not only Yeats but James Stephens,  George Russell (AE) and Austin Clarke are all indebted to Ferguson’s work.

Yeats went on to lament that this national author was “unjustly neglected by his fellow countrymen”, and perhaps this remains the case today.

Sir Samuel Ferguson has been spoken of as a campaigner ‘for the esteem of Irish culture’. There can be no doubt that his gaze looked to an Ireland of rich Celtic myth and legend. His was not, however, simply a backward gaze, but an all encompassing one which allowed Ireland’s distinct heritage to reclaim a prominent role in the cultural and political identity of this nation, becoming re-imagined in new literary works and cultural expression.

In the century previous to Ferguson, the writing of which he was well aware the origins of the major myths of Ireland had been made a subject of contestation.  Representative of a view that the Irish mind could not be the source was David Hume, who in History of Great Britain (1767) wrote:            “The Irish from the beginning of time had been buried in the most profound   barbarism and ignorance, and as they were never conquered or invaded by the Romans, from whom all the western world derives its civility, they continued still in the most rude state of society and were distinguished only by their vices, to which human nature, not trained by education, nor restrained by laws is forever subject.”

Thus it was suggested that the Irish were stealing the Ossianic sagas.

Ferguson’s work, a century later, would make a further powerful rebuttal to such nonsense, to which the founding of the Royal Irish Academy was part of an early response.

In his Magnum Opus ‘Congal’,  Ferguson retells in verse the story of the deposed pagan under-King Congal and his rebellion against the Christian King Domnall,

“Burst, blackening cloud that hangs aloof o’er perjured Domnal’s halls!

Dash down, with all your flaming bolts, the fraud-cemented walls,

till through your thunder-rieven palls heaven’s light anew be pour’d

In law and Justice, Wealth and Song, on Congal’s throne restored!”

This powerful work entwines the Greek Homeric tradition and the rich Celtic myth to create an epic journey into our shared past. Its purpose, perhaps, indicating the intention of forging a contemporary self-confidence and distinct self-image among his fellow Irish men and women.

Ferguson has been described as a man both before and after his time but he was, indeed, a man who had much to say about the time in which he lived. The Irish settings and subjects that occupied his writings and his thoughts might perhaps have claimed, a generation before, the support of a cultured and enlightened ascendency class; and a generation later the approbation of those determined to harness Ireland’s rich cultural past to pursue the creation of new and exciting social and political dispensation.

As a bridge between those two periods, Samuel Ferguson was, as scholar and public intellectual, an Irishman whose cultural legacy was destined to be a greatly significant one. It can be suggested that it was upon such foundations as he with others laid that the literary revival was built, a revival that would have such social, cultural and political consequences.

Is mór an phribhléid dom and deis seo a thapa inniu chun omós a thabhairt do laoch na filíochata, na scríobhnóireachta agus na séirbhíse poiblí ón 9ú hAois déag. Níl aon amhras ach gur ghlac Sir Samuel Ferguson páirt rí-thábhachtach i saol na náisiún seo tríd ionspráid a thabhairt don ghlúin cruthaitheach a lean é; Glún a raibh misneach agus féin-mhuinín acu Éire nua, difriúil a shamhlú agus a lorg.

[It has been an honour to have this opportunity to pay tribute to one of 19th century Ireland’s greatest writers, poets and public servants,  who played his own unique and  important role in inspiring a new generation of creativity to imagine and speak of a confident and renewed Ireland.]

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

Thank you all and Fare Ye Weel.

[1] Kennelly, Brendan. Journey into Joy 1994 BloodAxePress, Ed. Äke Perrson

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The Speeches of Dalaradia at St John’s Church, Donegore..3 : The Patron.

The Rev Andrew Kerr, Mr Robert Williamson, President Michael D Higgins, Bishop Alan Abernethy and Dr Ian Adamson OBE at the grave of Sir Samuel Ferguson.

The Patron Ian Adamson’s Speech

Sir Samuel Ferguson

Thursday, 27th October 2016


On August 7th, shortly before his death, Samuel Ferguson dictated these words to Bishop Reeves as follows;

“ I feel I approach the time when I must exchange my quarters here for the permanent repose of Donegore -, it would be a comfort if you sometimes cast an eye on the last resting place of one of the old Dalaradia stock”

Today we of the old Dalaradia stock cast an eye on his final resting place.

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Irish President visits Donegore, Diocese of Connor article

Thursday October 27th 2016

Irish President Michael D Higgins in St John's Parish Church, Donegore, on October 27.

Irish President Michael D Higgins in St John’s Parish Church, Donegore, on October 27.

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, visited St John’s Parish Church, Donegore, on Thursday October 27 to see the grave of Irish poet Sir Samuel Ferguson. (See Photo Gallery below)

He then travelled a short distance up Donegore Hill to the studio of stained glass artist David Esler where he was shown a window crafted by members of the Dalaradia Group, a community organisation of men who wish to make a positive and peaceful commitment to conflict transformation.

The same group had voluntarily given their time to tidy up the St John’s graveyard, including Sir Samuel Ferguson’s grave, and to clean all the windows in the church, which is almost 200-years-old but is on the site of an Anglican church dating to the 14th century.

The Irish President was met at the gates of St John’s by the curate, the Rev Andrew Ker, Mr Robert Williamson, chairman of Dalaradia, and Dr Ian Adamson OBE, a former Lord Mayor of Belfast and the city’s first Honorary Historian.

The Rev Andrew Kerr, Mr Robert Williamson, President Michael D Higgins, Bishop Alan Abernethy and Dr Ian Adamson OBE at the grave of Sir Samuel Ferguson.

The Rev Andrew Ker, Mr Robert Williamson, President Michael D Higgins, Bishop Alan Abernethy and Dr Ian Adamson OBE at the grave of Sir Samuel Ferguson.

Among the guests was the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy; Connor Diocesan Development Officer Trevor Douglas, and members of the Dalaradia Group.

They were welcomed by the Rev Ker, and there were speeches by Mr Williamson, and by President Higgins who spoke of the ‘profound and inspiring legacy’ of Sir Samuel Ferguson.

“I am delighted and honoured to visit such a beautiful church,” the President said. “I remember studying Sir Samuel Ferguson and his work, and have been talking for years about wanting to visit his resting place.”

Guests were entertained with music played on the Mountain Dulcimer by Paul Atcheson-Blair from the Dalaradia Group.  This instrument is unique to the Appalachian Mountains in America where many Scots Irish made their homes.

The Rev Ker gave the President a short tour of St John’s, showing him the beautiful war memorial crafted from ceramic poppies used in the Tower of London WW1 centenary display, and the unusual Donegore Parish Roll of Honour, written in 1916, half way through the war!

President Michael D Higgins admires the Dalaradia Window.

President Michael D Higgins admires the Dalaradia Window.

At the graveside, Dr Adamson said a few words, reflecting on Sir Samuel’s express desire to be laid to rest in Donegore, and the Bishop of Connor said a prayer of thanksgiving for literature, culture and for writers.

Everyone then moved to the David Esler Leadlines studio where the Dalaradia Group gave a preview of a stained glass window project produced by the group under guidance from the Institute of Conflict Research

The group is made up of men from Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Larne and Antrim who, in seeking conflict transformation, explore aspects of their historical and contemporary identities on the islands of Ireland and Britain.

Working with the Institute for Conflict Research on a programme ‘Back to the Future,’ the group created the window under the tutelage of master glass maker David Esler. It depicts images of Ulster’s rich heritage and culture, in the shape of a cross mounted in a portable stand.

Sir Samuel Ferguson was born in Belfast in 1810 and studied law at Trinity College, Dublin, supporting himself along the way by writing. He practiced law as well contributing articles on topics of Irish interest to antiquarian journals.

Sir Samuel Ferguson.

Sir Samuel Ferguson.

His collected poems, Lays of the Western Gael was published in 1865, resulting in and honorary degree from Trinity. In 1867, he retired from the bar to take up the newly created post of Deputy Keeper of the Public Records in Ireland. As reward for his services, he received a knighthood in 1878.

Sir Samuel’s major work, the long poem Congal was published in 1872 and a third volume, Poems in 1880. In 1882, he was elected President of the Royal Irish Academy, an organisation dedicated to the advancement of science, literature and antiquarian studies.

He died in August 1886. (Information on Sir Samuel Ferguson from Wikipedia)

 “On the 12th of August the funeral procession – one of the most numerously attended ever seen in Dublin – left 20 North Great Street for St Patrick’s Cathedral. The coffin, covered with laurel and floral wreaths, was received at the entrance by the Dean and officiating clergy, including the Archbishop of Dublin.

“At the conclusion … all that was mortal of Sir Samuel Ferguson was conveyed to the family burying-ground in the county of Antrim. The procession to Donegore was accompanied by the Bishop of the diocese and many other mourners. Here, at the grave, the service was completed by the Bishop, his old and faithful friend William Reeves, in “hope of the resurrection to eternal life,” and the spot is marked by a simple tablet.”

Extract from ‘Sir Samuel Ferguson in the Ireland of his day’ by Lady Ferguson published in 1896.

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The Ulster People:49 – The Troubles and Common Identity

Yet whatever specific grievances, real or perceived, Northern Ireland Roman Catholics held towards the Stormont administration, such grievances still served to hide the underlying reality of the problem — that the narrow gap between the Roman Catholic and Protestant working classes in Northern Ireland was much less significant than the gap between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, where on many indicators — such as housing conditions and unemployment — the citizens of Northern Ireland were much worse off.

Worries of Protestant working-class discontent also featured in ‘Big House’ Unionist thinking, so that, as part of a political strategy, Roman Catholics in general were portrayed as a continuing threat to the Union which only Protestant unity could fend off. For, as Richard Rose has observed, there had always been, because of their greater numbers, “more poor Protestants than poor Catholics” in Northern Ireland.  At the same time those who claimed to represent the socialist vanguard and the academic elite in Britain and Ireland remained trapped in nationalist ideologies, with the result that the British and Irish media, and through them the World media, were generally unsympathetic to the Unionist position.

The growing advantages of the British Welfare State and an improvement in the job mobility of the increasing Roman Catholic population within Northern Ireland led to an ambivalent atitude towards the IRA. Indeed, the IRA leadership openly acknowledged the lack of popular support for the border campaign of 1956-62 in their cease-fire statement: “Foremost among the factors motivating this course of action has been the attitude of the general public whose minds have been deliberately distracted from the supreme issue facing the Irish people — the unity and freedom of Ireland.”

But paradoxically the improved social and political climate in the early Sixties encouraged middle-class Roman Catholics to press for a more dominant role within their society, and this seemed to be supported by the Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O’Neill, from a Unionist landed family of ancient Ulster lineage, who was considered to be more pragmatic than his predecessors, and sought to build bridges with the Roman Catholic section of the community.

However, O’Neill’s approaches to the minority, tentative and poorly formulated as they were, alarmed a significant section of the Unionist community, while the newly-emergent Roman Catholic leadership, impatient with Unionist hesitation, took their grievances on to the streets through the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement, skilfully manipulated by the Republican movement. Unless Irish history was about to break with the patterns of the past, confrontation was now inevitable. Disturbances at a banned Civil Rights march through Londonderry on 5 October 1968 initiated the latest, and most tragic, period of the ‘Troubles’.

When the militant student leader Bernadette Devlin was caught up in the confrontation during that 5 October march, her description of the violence, while graphic in its detail, is more revealing through her assessment of its significance, and as such highlights the deep sense of minority estrangement which had been festering below the surface: “Arms and legs were flying everywhere, but what horrified me was the evil delight the police were showing as they beat people down, then beat them again to prevent them from getting up, then trailed them up and threw them on for somebody else to give them a thrashing. It was as though they had been waiting to do it for fifty years.”

With the beginning of this new phase of conflict in Northern Ireland many deep-seated fears were re-awakened within the community. Each section of the community’s stereotyped image of the other now assumed reality proportions, and previously-held suspicions and doubts received apparent confirmation. The catalogue of death and destruction which beset Northern Ireland over the next two decades has been extensively analysed by the world media and professional historians alike. During this time the security services made mistakes, some of them serious. But overall they behaved with a restraint unknown outside the United Kingdom. 302 police men and women were murdered: the RUC killed 52 persons (20 of whom were acknowledged combatants). The British Army (including the reserves) lost 709: they killed 315 persons (131 of whom were acknowledged combatants).

As the community plunged into a nightmare of murder, revenge murder and relentless destruction, with ethnic cleansing of Protestants from the Border areas, similar to that which had happened in the Republic, it seemed impossible that bridges could have been built. Yet among ordinary people, and through a variety of community groups, inter-community contacts were maintained in the face of all the violence, some of these attempts at community understanding containing more dialogue in one day’s effort than had been undertaken by the various political parties over several months.

Yet even to those who strove to build something positive within the mayhem, the violence at times was of such an intensity that it repeatedly threatened to destroy any realistic hopes for dialogue and compromise. The violence perpetrated by all sides to the conflict bewildered the ordinary citizen, not just because of its unremitting nature, but because of the deep hatreds displayed by the combatants. After two elderly Protestants were gunned down by the IRA in 1988 for engaging in repair work to a police station, a local newspaper columnist wrote: “Someone said that Irish nationalism consists not of love of one’s country but of hatred of someone else’s. ‘Their moving spirit,’ he said, ‘is not love of Ireland, but hatred of Britain.’

If this is so, it may go some way towards explaining the frightfulness of the IRA onslaught on the citizens of this part of the island. The depth of the hatred they feel must be so intense as to suppress the normal instinct of revulsion which would restrain other people, however motivated, from firing 150 automatic bullets into two blameless and defenceless men as they made their way home after a hard day’s work in County Fermanagh.”

If, indeed, it was the opposing interpretations of Irish history which lay behind the violence, or at least offered one of its main justifications, then much of the blame for preceding events must be laid squarely at the door of those who had used history for their own narrow ends, or those who had been strangely reticent in correcting the gross misinterpretations which had become so deeply entrenched in the popular imagination they seemed impossible to dislodge.

In the Republic, right from the foundation of the State, a Gaelic Nationalist myth was purveyed which sought to establish a solid pedigree for a Roman Catholic/Celtic/Irish identity. Other contributions to this island’s heritage were downgraded, if not completely ignored. Although it was obviously realised from the outset that such a self-image was fundamentally flawed, it seemed better to maintain silence rather than risk upsetting this newly-found identity. How else could one account for the fact that for 80 years after the foundation of the Gaelic League there did not exist a complete textbook of early Irish history and academics, so-called “serious scholars”, continued to promote the completely fabricated dynasty of the “Northern Ui Neill” and to downgrade the history of the Cruthin, the native British Pretani? In the South the time had come, as Bob Quinn suggested, when the Irish people “must develop the confidence to dismantle the unitary myth that has served its honourable purpose and replace it with the diverse richness that lies within.”

In Northern Ireland, a dislike of anything ‘Irish’, and a subservience to ‘English’ history within the schools, had left the Protestant community there not only unaware of most aspects of Irish history, but, more significantly, without any real understanding of the history of their own country. Yet Ulster’s historical and cultural heritage was not only extremely rich and varied, but contained within it the proof of the common identity of the Northerners, indeed of all the people of the British Isles, the Isles of the Pretani. Slowly, as  contemporary flawed history was called into question and a new awareness emerged to challenge the Academic Suppression, the facts of their history, for once, rather than dividing them, offered the hope of uniting the Ulster People at last.


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The Ulster People:48 – The Belfast Blitz

During the Second World War, though their country was neutral, more than 80,000 Southern Irishmen fought with great valour under the British flag. There were also 38,000 volunteers from Northern Ireland and some 4,500 were killed. Ireland also produced some of the finest military captains of the War, most of them from Ulster. During 1940, when the United Kingdom stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill committed the leadership of the British Army to the great Ulster generals Sir John Dill, Alan Brooke, Claude Auchinleck, Bernard Montgomery and Harold Alexander, who proved to be among the best soldiers of all time.

In April and May, 1941, as the price of its loyalty to the Allied cause, Belfast suffered four air raids by German bombers. There was a heavy loss of life — almost 1,000 people perished — and 2,500 were injured, many of them seriously. In one particular raid no other city in the United Kingdom, save London, suffered such a high death toll. The success of this mission, from the German point of view, was due to the exemplary preparatory methods of the German military intelligence service, the Abwehr, as well as excellent aerial reconnaissance. Their special agent, working through Queen’s University, Belfast, was Jopp Hoven of the German Academic Exchange, later designated as a member of the Bataillon Brandenburg (Brandenburg Battalion), roughly equivalent to the British SAS . He was controlled by the Dublin-based Nazi Spy-master and propagandist, a professional archaeologist and “serious scholar”, Adolph Mahr, Director of the National Museum of Ireland, who was actually planning a Nazi invasion of Ireland. The lack of preparations by the mediocre Unionist administration was also a significant factor.

In his victory broadcast of 13 May, 1945, Churchill affirmed that “if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland we should have been forced to come to close quarters or perish for ever from the earth.” And while he deprecated the actions of the Dublin government in denying the Allies Irish ports and airfields, he was full of praise for the “temper and instinct of thousands of Southern Irishmen who hastened to the battle-front to prove their ancient valour.” He could “only pray that the shame will be forgotten and the glories will endure, and that the peoples of the British Isles, as of the Commonwealth of Nations, will walk together in mutual comprehension and forgiveness.”

Following the war, Southern Ireland left the British Commonwealth and a ‘Republic of Ireland’ was formally constituted on Easter Monday 1949. However, emigration to England continued on a large scale, so that a sizeable proportion of its inhabitants are today of Irish descent, maintaining a bias against the existence of Northern Ireland, especially among those who claimed to represent the socialist vanguard. Thus the reluctance of the “British” Labour Party to establish itself in Northern Ireland, while later allying itself with the Irish nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party.

The Republic of Ireland became known by the Gaelic name of ‘Eire’ (from the Old Gaelic ‘Eriu’). Northern Ireland continued to be colloquially called ‘Ulster’, though Irish nationalists disapproved of the six counties contained within the State being so labelled. Ironically, the Nationalists’ nine-county ‘Historic Ulster’, was in reality an Elizabethan invention, and didn’t correspond with the area traditionally accredited to Ulster in the ancient sagas, or the old tribal federation of Ulaidh (Ulidia) which consisted mainly of Antrim and Down, or even with the Gaelic Kingdom of the 14th to 16th centuries. Nevertheless this was the “Ulster” of the 36th (Ulster) Division.

On both sides of the ‘border’ narrow political outlooks and uncompromising attitudes predominated, and inevitably intruded into the sphere of religion. The Protestants who remained in Eire after 1920 were soon to see a great reduction in their numbers. No one could be employed in any Civil Service unless she or he could speak Gaelic. Eire Governmental discriminatory measures included opposition to birth control and divorce and the banning of ‘anti-Catholic’ literature. ‘Mixed-marriages’ regulations which bordered on overt racialism were enforced by the Irish Roman Catholic Church. Dr Noël Browne’s ‘Mother and Child’ scheme of 1951, proposing an element of State subsidisation of health care for pregnant mothers and their children, was opposed by the Irish Roman Catholic hierarchy. Browne was a member of the radical republican party Clann na Poblachta (Republican Family) whose leader, the ex-chief of staff of the IRA, Sean MacBride, called on him to resign.

In the Parliamentary debate following Brown’s resignation MacBride spoke for most in the Dáil when he said: “Those of us in the House, who are Catholics are, as such, bound to give obedience to the rulings of our church and our hierarchy.” Such sentiments, allied with other forms of cultural and religious domination, were an important contributory factor in reducing the substantial Protestant population in the Republic of Ireland by at least one half. Indeed, on another defeat in the Eire Parliament, this time on his divorce bill, Noël Browne professed that he “would like to introduce a second motion, that the name of the State be changed to the Irish Holy Roman and Apostolic Republic.”

In Northern Ireland a similarily inward-looking and culturally defensive process had been well entrenched. From Northern Ireland’s founding in 1921 a great sense of insecurity had enveloped the Unionist community, an insecurity highlighted by fears that a Boundary Commission would whittle away parts of the new state, and by the ‘non-recognition’ policies of Roman Catholic political and civic leaders. These policies included a boycott of the new parliament at Stormont, and other practices such as Roman Catholic teachers refusing their salaries from the Northern Ireland government and being paid direct from Dublin for almost a year. Even worse, an IRA campaign launched within the six counties heightened communal tensions and there was an outbreak of vicious sectarian violence in 1921 and 1922.

To be continued

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The Ulster People:47- The Spanish Revolution

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