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April 11, 2016

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I don't know much about Irish history but there is a parallel to the Irish situation playing out in Scotland at the moment.


Scottish Home Rule was set up in 1999. Since then the Scottish National Party - in favour of Scottish Independence - has won two out of the four elections to the devolved Scottish Parliament and looks set to win a third election with increased support in three weeks time. They hold 56 of 59 Scottish seats in the UK Parliament. However, the British government and the Unionist parties won the September 2014 referendum on Scottish independence by a margin of 55%-45%.

But the question of Scottish indepedence doesn't appear to be settled one way or the other

I'm not sure if a currently ambigious position for Scotland in the UK says much about the Irish situation 100 years ago. It seems possible that the Scottish nationalist drive will evaporate over the next ten years. It also seems possible that the couple of hundred thousand voters who need to change their mind about Scottish indepedence do so.

That's a good point. In some ways, the current Scottish set-up closely resembles the final Home Rule bill for Ireland:

http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/aab/2014/10/devo-max-10-circa-1914.html

The biggest difference is that Scotland's current block grant is proportional to U.K. spending, whereas Ireland's would have been fixed. It's a good deal for Scotland, certainly better than independence.

I can understand why some Irish might have preferred independence to home rule, even at some cost: they had a living memory of being dispossessed, oppressed and starved and they currently faced social discrimination.

Of course, that simply means that I am baffled as to the roots of Scottish independence. From the outside, it seems more akin to the mumbling that occasionally emanates from Texas. "I want certain policies, so do my neighbors, what's wrong with the rest of you?" Only in Scotland it's not mumbling!

I admit to finding the whole thing befuddling.

But it does imply that if "home rule" hasn't defused Scottish nationalism, it would not have defused Irish nationalism. Still, there are cases where autonomy has (it seems) indefinitely bought off nationalism: Puerto Rico comes to mind, as does Quebec in a different context.

I'm not an expert in Irish history, but my thoughts on the matter are that:

- Irish independence prior to 1922 was probably not inevitable. If the British had done as you theorized and handled the aftermath of the 1916 Rising better and avoided the 1918 Conscription Crisis, then quite possibly they could have implemented the Government of Ireland Act 1914 (as it was more properly known) by 1918-1919. Ulter would likely have been excluded (either the six counties or all 9 counties) temporarily for six years. Possibly they would have included a provision for Ulster to vote on whether to continue this exclusion after 6 years (possibly temporarily again for a further 6 years) or to come under the remit of the Irish parliament. In the meantime the Irish parliament would probably be given an advisory capacity in Westminster/Whitehall's administration over northern Ireland insofar as the British would probably be keen on ensuring that common services and standards and laws across the island were maintained (this would likely be seen as insufficient by the Irish Home Rule advocates and nationalists and as too much interference by the Ulster unionists - which means it was probably the most likely solution - the British compromise solution that nobody liked).

- the temporary exclusion of Ulster, plus the effects of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 would probably inflame southern Irish passions for more than just Home Rule and instead get independence or at least Dominion status. I would imagine that the exclusion of Ulster around 1918-1920 would leave bitter feelings and then the Balfour Declaration of 1926 would leave the (southern) Irish feeling even more short-changed.

- By the time of the 1930 Imperial Conference when the framework of the Statute of Westminster had been drawn up, the Irish parliament would probably be campaigning vociferously for Ireland to become a Dominion either de jure (being legally separated as a Dominion of Ireland) or de facto (with Home Rule amended such that there would be little distinction between the Home Ruled Ireland and the Dominion of Canada, even if Home Ruled Ireland was still legally part of the UK for some purposes).

- The Dominion movement would probably garner enough support for the British to pass another Government of Ireland Act 1931 alongside the Statute of Westminster 1931 which would either make Ireland a Dominion (and meaning the Statute would apply to it) or give Ireland enough Home Rule that it would be a de facto Dominion. I think the former is more likely where Ireland is just made into a Dominion at that point.

- This increased separation would likely make the Ulster unionists even more opposed to coming under the jurisdiction of Dublin (assuming they hadn't already come under Dublin's rule by 1924-1925 or 1930-1931).


So, Irish independence could probably have been avoided up to 1931. After that I don't think they could have really avoided it.

Ireland's exit from the Commonwealth however could probably have been avoided with this assuming the post 1931 period doesn't see the really bad blood between the British and Irish. Ireland's dominionhood would probably eventually lead to some Irish government removing all the symbolism and trappings of monarchy without declaring an overt republic (probably some time between 1936 and 1948) and with India becoming a Republic in 1950 (assuming no other changes there due to the Irish changes) then around 1948-1950 the OTL changes which allowed republics to remain in the Commonwealth would probably have been carried out with the retention of Ireland and India in mind.

Additionally, if the botched aftermath to the Rising and the Conscription Crisis had been avoided and we got a Home Rule Ireland from 1919 to 1931 followed by a Dominion of Ireland thereafter then Ireland in World War II will likely follow a different path. No 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty means that the British probably still have a more extensive military presence in Ireland than just the treaty ports and less bad blood by 1931 might mean that by 1939 the Dominion of Ireland *may* declare war on Germany like the other Dominions. Or it may not, but the Germans may bomb British positions in Ireland and thus trigger Irish entry on the Allied side. That likely won't change much when it comes to the course of the war other than making some logistical considerations easier for the British and providing them with some more troops to deploy.

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