Book review: Southern Irish Loyalism, 1912-1949

Southern Irish Loyalism, 1912-1949, edited by Brian Hughes and Conor Morrissey, published by Liverpool University Press, 2020, 345 pages, ISBN 978-1-78962-184-6 (Hardcover), available for £90.00 from Liverpool University Press, 4 Cambridge Street, Liverpool, L69 7ZU, or online from or

Part I (appeared in issue #103 of Heritage and Destiny magazine, dated July-August 2021.)

British Nationalists, and H&D readers elsewhere in the world, will doubtless be very familiar with the Ulster, Northern Irish, Loyalists who remained loyal to Britain in the face of, often murderous, Irish Republican separatism. But fewer may be aware of the substantial number of Southern Irish Loyalists who did likewise. Unlike their comrades in six of the original nine Ulster counties, their struggle ended not in, hopefully enduring, victory but in a bitter defeat and an ethnic cleansing from their homeland which was not, in this reviewer’s opinion mistakenly, reciprocated on the Irish separatist population left on the British side of the Border established in Ireland to give each perceived national identity their own part of the island.

This book, albeit a dry, academic tome, serves in some way to remind the world that there were loyal Britons left, like the Northern Irish separatists, on the wrong side of the Border, and that, for all the loud whinings of the separatists in the North, the South treated its minority far worse than the North did. Whilst the IRA sit in the Government of Ulster today, no Southern Loyalists share power in Dublin, and indeed most have been driven out of the Southern state altogether.  Even though those in the South who did not want the state in which they were left, as this book shows, accepted it peacefully, eschewing terrorism and murder, unlike their counterparts North of the Border. 

Contrary to Irish republican propaganda, most of the Southern Irish loyalists were not “English settlers”, but mainly were descendants of the native Irish people. Most of the minority who weren’t had lived in the twenty-six Counties of the present Southern Irish state longer than most of the Irish separatists settled in the six Counties of British Ulster. Most of the latter, notably in Belfast and Londonderry, were descendants of immigrants arriving from the 19th Century onward to find work in the most economically advanced part of their island. Some Southern Irish Loyalists, including many of impeccably “Gaelic” Irish ancestry, had at some point adopted the Protestant, mostly Anglican (Episcopalian to US readers), faith which for over 300 years had been the mark of loyalty to the British nation of which they were proud to be a part. 

But many, perhaps most, were Catholic Irish people, as much “True Irish Gaels” in the mythology of Irish Republicanism, as any in Ireland. To declare a personal interest in this book’s subject, half of this reviewer’s ancestors belonged to this latter category, Southern Irish Catholic Loyalists, the other half being Yorkshire farming folk. An Irish heritage, rooted in the soil of County Tipperary for generations beyond count, as good or better than any Sinn Feiner’s, of which this reviewer is as proud as he is to be British.

Indeed, most Irish people when this book starts its period of interest, in 1912, were also basically loyal to Britain. Very few Irish people then, of any denomination and in any part of the island, wanted total independence, still less a republic. What most, except in Ulster, did want was “Home Rule”, in practice devolution within the United Kingdom, such as Wales, Scotland and, ironically, Ulster now enjoy. 

The other great Irish grievance, landlordism, had by then been resolved by the British government via Wyndham’s Land Act in 1903, which, combined with the later Birrell Act in 1909, ended the scourge of absentee landlords and enabled Irish tenant farmers to buy their own land with financial support from the British Government. As a result, by 1921 over 316,000 Irish tenants had purchased their holdings amounting to 11.5 million acres (47,000 km2) out of a total of 20 million acres (81,000 km2) in the country. Indeed, Irish tenant farmers now enjoyed more rights than their English counterparts. Thus, under British rule Ireland was transformed from a land of tenant farmers, impoverished by rents to (actually mostly Irish Catholic!) landlords to a country peopled by free peasant farmers, tilling their own soil, lifting forever the threat of a future Famine.

John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, as portrayed in 1904 in the magazine Vanity Fair

The only remaining Irish issue was devolution, pursued by the dominant party throughout most of Ireland, the moderate Irish Parliamentary Party, once led by Charles Stuart Parnell but by 1912 by John Redmond. In 1912 the IPP held 71 of the 103 Irish seats in the British House of Commons. Eight more were held by its ally the “All-for-Ireland” League, and twenty by Unionists. Holding the balance of power un the UK Parliament, the IPP was able to press for Home Rule, embodied in the Third Home Rule Bill that Asquith’s Liberal Government placed before Parliament as the price of John Redmond’s support.

As this book makes clear, this Bill in no way granted Ireland independence. Nor indeed did the IPP, backed by the votes of the majority of the Irish people, want independence. They were happy with less devolved power than Scotland now enjoys within the UK. To the extent that their leader, John Redmond, is quoted in this work observing that “Home Rule will be the death knell of separatist sentiment in Ireland”, and so it would have been, this reviewer agrees, had it come about. 

It was not to be. To understand why and how, and how the Southern Irish loyalists who are this book’s subject, got into the desperate plight many of its pages describe, we need a lengthy excursus into early 20th Century Irish history. A history that is not widely known, especially evidently not amongst that section of Irish American opinion who still seem to regard John Ford’s classic movie The Quiet Man, in which alongside John Wayne this reviewer’s second cousin Maureen O’Hara co-stars, as a grittily realistic depiction of modern Ireland.

The first major impediment was the implacable opposition to Home Rule of a million Ulster Protestants. This community was descended from a mixture of English and Scots (the latter themselves partly descended from the Irish “Scotti” who invaded Scotland in the 6th Century) “planted” in Ulster in the early 17th Century, and native Irish in Ulster who converted to Protestantism then to keep their lands. Irish Republicans now denounce the Ulster folk as “Planters” and not really Irish, which is embarrassing as many of those doing so, like Gerry Adams and the late slimmer of the year, Bobby Sands, have or had surnames indicating they themselves have “Planter” ancestry! Whilst former Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis shares with the late IRA commander Martin McGuinness descent from the old Gaelic Clan Magennis of Co. Down, and 1960s Northern Ireland Unionist Prime Minister Captain Terence O’Neill shared (actually via the maternal line, but with certainty) descent from the O’Neills of Ulster, who included Irish Republican heroes like Owen Roe and Shane O’Neill and are sprung ultimately from the 5th Century warlord Niall of the Nine Hostages. 

It was Niall who conquered Ulster from the indigenous Cruthin (whose name for themselves may have been Prydaini, “Britons” and may have spoken a language related to modern Welsh – the writings of Ulster Historian the late Dr Ian Adamson are fascinating in this regard). The Gaels were, of course, foreign conquerors of Ireland as much as the British – indeed the Ulster hero Cuchulainn, now “culturally appropriated” by Irish Republicans to adorn the Post Office in Dublin as a memorial to their 1916 rising, actually gave his life fighting for the native people of Ulster against the invading Gaels! 

The Gaels’ “Irish” language is now touted, with signal lack of success, as the patriotic alternative to English by Irish republicans, who are thus simply seeking to replace the language of the latest invader by that of the previous invader! Welsh, descended from the Old Brythonic language once spoken from Scotland to the English Channel and probably in Ireland too, and thriving under British rule whilst Gaelic dies out in the Irish Republic, is probably closer to the oldest known language spoken in Ireland than “Irish” is.  

However, the Protestants of Ulster were not “alien Planters” to modern Republicans in 1798 when they made up the bulk of the United Irishmen who, led by the Protestants Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone, rose against London rule. Ulster Protestants fought and died for an independent Ireland at Saintfield, and their leader Henry Joy McCracken’s “Planter” origins are conveniently forgotten as Republicans drunkenly sing his praises in shebeens today. Meanwhile the “true Irish Catholic Gaels” distinguished themselves in 1798 by conducting a sectarian jihad against Irish Protestants in South-Eastern Ireland, marked by savage massacres of women and children such as the 200 burned alive in a barn at Scullabogue, Co. Wexford. With them died any chance that the Protestant community in Ireland would ever again trust, let alone fight for independence alongside, Irish Catholic rebels.

It was this distrust, fueled by this bitter experience of the murderous treachery of Irish separatists, which led Ulster Protestants in 1912 to organise and arm against Home Rule, led ironically by a Southern Irish Loyalist from Dublin, Sir Edward Carson. They feared it would lead to “Rome Rule”. As without them in the twenty-six County Irish Free State by 1937 it did. The reactionary theocracy then established by terrorist, coward, and serial betrayer of his comrades “Eamonn de Valera” (not, as we shall see, his real name) confirmed the worst fears of Protestant Ulster.

But, admittedly with hindsight, that need not have happened. Irish leader John Redmond, as this book makes clear, was prepared to give Ulster pretty much any safeguard that it wanted if it accepted Home Rule. A Home Rule under which, in any case, Ireland would still have been British, as Scotland and Wales are today, and therefore the rights of the Protestant minority safeguarded by the overriding authority of the Imperial Parliament in Westminster. 

Ulster might have accepted Home Rule had it been part of the visionary scheme of Imperial Federation advocated around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries by the great Mayor of Birmingham, Liberal Unionist, and senior figure in Tory Governments from 1892 to 1906, Joseph Chamberlain.  Opposing Gladstone’s First Home Rule Bill in 1886, Chamberlain proposed “Home Rule All Round”, encompassing not just Ireland but England, Scotland, and Wales.  By 1906, Chamberlain had developed this idea to a policy of imperial federation, including Canada, Australasia, and South Africa. Each would have a local Parliament governing its internal affairs whilst sending MPs to an Imperial Parliament concerned mainly with common economic issues, foreign policy and defence but also safeguarding the rights of all citizens of the constituent starts of the Empire. 

This visionary scheme, which it was hoped, once it was seen to work, the United States might one day join (or re-join!), would have seen a hegemonic British superpower able to maintain a peaceful and prosperous 20th Century free of suicidal, fratricidal European wars. Sadly, it was not to be, frustrated by power-hungry Liberal politicians playing on the deep-seated selfish stupidity which, as we have seen again in recent days, is prevalent among certain sections of the British electorate.

Joseph Chamberlain – the greatest Prime Minister we never had – whose proposals for Imperial Federation would have solved the ‘Irish Question’ and were the best chance to save the 20th Century White world. A sign of Chamberlain’s popularity was that the well-known confectionery firm Batger & Co. produced this box of “Colonial Crackers” (above) linking their product to a political leader and his ideas in a manner that is impossible to envisage today.

Absent that, Ulster was having none of Home Rule. By 1914, as the Ulstermen had armed themselves and the British Army had made clear it would not obey orders to force them to submit to Home Rule, it was plain that the reality – then and indeed since – was that however little other Irish people liked it or not, much of the original nine counties of Ulster would not be part of any form of devolution, still less independence. Although had the rest of Ireland demonstrated over the years that Home Rule within the UK did not threaten the British identity of those living under it and could deliver peace and prosperity – none of which were demonstrated, to put it mildly, by the independent Irish entity which in the event arose – it is likely Ulster would have become reconciled to rejoining the rest of what would still have been, and remained without significant dissent,  a British Ireland. 

Those years were not to be granted Ireland. The civilization suicide of the fratricidal, wholly unnecessary, and indeed largely accidental First World War and a tiny but very efficient group of committed conspirators were to intervene to lead Ireland in a direction she had not actually wanted to go and in 1914 seemed to have almost no chance of going. 

When that War started, a majority of Irish Catholics and a minority of Irish Protestants wanted Home Rule within Britain, a majority of Protestants and a minority, in fact a significant minority, of Catholics wanted the status quo of the Union. But hardly anyone, anywhere in Ireland, including even, as we shall see, Sinn Fein, wanted an independent Irish state, still less an “Irish Republic”. But those “hardly anyone” were organised, disciplined, and committed to a clear ideological vision that they were to realise, in as much was practically possible, in the coming years. That is something from which we racial nationalists, as another tiny and politically isolated minority, can learn.

By the end of the First World War, in Ireland as W.B. Yeats put it, “all was changed, changed utterly”. But what was born was not his “terrible beauty”. It was, indeed, terrible, condemning Ireland to hideous years of insurrection, savage and bitter civil war, atrocity, and ethnic cleansing. But there was nothing beautiful about it, nor the bankrupt, impoverished theocracy it spawned.

Those responsible were a tiny secret society, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). From its foundation in 1858, the IRB had covertly approached and recruited the most able and committed from the wider Irish nationalist movement. Those who shared, or who could once recruited be ideologically educated and brought to share, the IRB’s ultimate aim of a thirty-two County Irish Republic, were admitted to the inner levels of the Brotherhood, and might at some point be co-opted on to the shadowy Council that governed it. 

The IRB had been the power behind the scenes in the 1860s Fenian terrorist movement in Britain and North America, and when that failed had insinuated itself throughout the Irish cultural and political movement. But by 1914 it had really achieved very little. There were almost no takers for its vision. The Irish Parliamentary Party, like the overwhelming majority of the Irish people who were not simply Unionists, were content with Home Rule within the UK. 

Arthur Griffith with his wife Maud (née Sheehan)

The only at all significant group taking a harder line than Redmond’s IPP was Sinn Fein, founded by one Arthur Griffith. Griffith, like many of the more outspoken “Irish Patriots” was personally a lot less Irish than many Irish Loyalists, including this reviewer’s Irish family. He was a man of Welsh and Ulster Protestant stock. 

When Griffith launched Sinn Fein in 1904 its policy was not an Irish Republic at all but an Austro-Hungarian style Anglo-Irish Dual Monarchy. Griffith was much impressed by Hungary’s role in the, in fact as events were to prove ramshackle and unstable, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and wanted not an independent Ireland but an Anglo-Irish Empire modelled on said state, under a shared Crown. Ironically the name “Sinn Fein” (literally “We Ourselves” though officially “Ourselves Alone”) was devised by the cousin of the great Unionist leader Sir Edward Carson, one Maire Butler.

          Embarrassingly for its impeccably Politically Correct and “anti-racist” incarnation today, Sinn Fein’s first known public activity was a rally to “Free Limerick from Jewish Control”. Sinn Fein supported the “Limerick Boycott” of the town’s tiny Jewish community, which culminated in what the Jews called “the Limerick Pogrom” but which actually consisted of a teenage boy throwing one stone at a rabbi, which hit him on the ankle. 

          Before founding Sinn Fein, as editor of the United Irishman, Griffith took an Anti-Dreyfusard line in the controversy about the loyalty of a Jewish army officer, Dreyfus, in France, publishing articles signed by “The Home Secretary” (Frank Hugh O’Donnell) that criticised the Jews, including one in 1899 that stated: “I have in former years often declared that the Three Evil Influences of the century were the Pirate, the Freemason, and the Jew.”

Lest some readers decide that Sinn Fein’s founder was not such a bad fellow after all, it must be said that Griffith rapidly changed his tune when other Irish separatists took issue with him on the Jewish question.   As did Standish O’Grady in his paper All Ireland Review, depicting Jews and Irish as “brothers in a common struggle”. The Land Leaguer Michael Davitt (author of The True Story of Anti-Semitic Persecutions in Russia), in the Freeman’s Journal attacked those who had participated in the riots and visited the rabbi with the bruised ankle (described as “victims of anti-Jewish rioting”) in Limerick. His friend, Cork man William O’Brien MP, leader of the United Irish League and editor of the Irish People, had a Jewish wife, Sophie Raffalovic. Indeed, of Sinn Fein’s campaign against “Jewish Control of Limerick”, Griffith himself said, “the Jew in Limerick has not been boycotted because he is a Jew, but because he is a usurer.” In fact, mostly there he was, apparently, a cobbler or a shopkeeper.

Despite the supposed ‘anti-semitism’ of some Irish nationalists, William O’Brien MP – leader of the United Irish League – married wealthy Russian Jewess Sophie Raffalovich in 1890. The above musical celebration of their wedding appears to have been published by one of the many influential Irish nationalist groups in the USA.

By 1909, Griffith was penning a sycophantic article in the Sinn Féin paper on “the Jewish contribution to European civilisation”, and in Nationality in 1915, he condemned Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party for saying that Jews should be barred from public office (which must be embarrassing for the IPP’s present day successor in Ulster, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)!).

Griffith was a close friend of Jewish solicitor Michael Noyk. Noyk defended many IRA members arraigned before courts martial during their 1919-22 terrorist campaign.  Griffiths’ other Jewish cronies included Dr Edward Lipman, Jacob Elyan and Dr Bethel Solomons. Griffith was well rewarded for abandoning his criticism of that community – when he married Noyk and Solomons bought him a house.

In fact, Sinn Fein adopted the distinctly “civic nationalist” attitude to who it considered Irish expressed in a poem it quoted approvingly by Thomas Davis of the 1840s’ Young Ireland movement: 

Yet start not, Irish-born man
If you’re to Ireland true,
We heed not race, nor creed, nor clan, 
We’ve hearts and hands for you

Griffith himself said “a man, whatever his creed, is our brother and the Gael of a hundred generations who accepts the Empire is our enemy, did he belong to our creed a thousand times”. This was the only position he could take, given that events were to show that many of the most fanatical Irish separatists were even less ethnically Irish than he was, and certainly less so than this reviewer’s Loyalist family in Co. Tipperary, who unlike the Gael invaders probably were living there a hundred generations ago. In recent times the party he founded has widened the definition of “Irish” to include the Somali and Nigerian immigrants it has welcomed to an island increasingly Forty Shades of Brown rather than Green. 

But at the start of the First World War Sinn Fein was not only not an Irish Republican party but was an insignificant groupuscule generally regarded as a bunch of cranks. By the end of the War, it had been hijacked by the IRB and was to win most of the Irish seats in the 1918 British General Election, albeit on a platform which blurred its position on exactly how independent an Irish state it wanted and in a climate of widespread intimidation. We shall cover this miraculous transformation in the second part of this review. 

Jewish solicitor Michael Noyk (1884-1966) was one of Sinn Fein’s most important operatives and defended many IRA members. He was given a full ‘military’ funeral by the IRA’s Dublin Brigade after his death. Noyk is seen (above centre) at a celebration of his life held at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, together with the notorious torturer and terrorist Joseph McGrath (above left), long-time commander of the IRA’s intelligence service, and Mgr Padraig de Brun, prominent IRA priest and Chairman of the Arts Council of Ireland.

Part II (appeared in issue #104 of Heritage and Destiny magazine (dated September – October 2021).

The remarkable transformation in Sinn Fein’s fortunes, from irrelevant fringe sect to the main party in Ireland, was wrought by the Irish Republican Brotherhood engineering a militarily absurd and suicidal rising in Dublin at Easter 1916, led by key IRB figures emerging blinking into the daylight at last. This feat was brought about with the aid – more promised than real – of the Kaiser’s Germany and brought to fruition by covertly taking over the paramilitary Irish Volunteers, whose leader Eoin O’Neill the IRB kidnapped, so his secretly IRB second-in-command could issue forged orders in his name.

The independence proclamation grandiosely unveiled thereat reveals the issue with any sort of ethnically based Irish separatism. Of the seven signatories, three had English surnames, albeit two of those, “Pearas Beaslai”, real name Percy Frederick Beasley from Liverpool, and “Eamonn Ceannt”, real name Edward Thomas Kent, tried to hide the fact by adopting ludicrous dog-Gaelicised versions of their real names. The father of another, Patrick/”Padraig” Pearse was from Birmingham and his surname, derived from ap Rhys, betrayed his Welsh roots. Two were immigrants to Ireland, and therefore according to the civic nationalist idea that your nationality is determined by your place of birth not Irish at all.  Thomas J. Clarke, son of a British Army Sergeant was from Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, and James Connolly, who spoke with a broad Scots accent, was from Edinburgh. All, however, were indubitably ethnically British!

The 1916 Rising also saw the appearance on the scene of in this reviewer’s opinion perhaps the most personally repulsive figure to besmirch the history of Ireland, the man calling himself “Eamonn de Valera”. 

De Valera in custody after the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. As a native New Yorker – and with the British Government desperate not to offend their potential US allies at this crucial stage of the war – he was protected from the court-martial and execution facing his comrades.

“De Valera’s” real name was probably George Coll. He was born in 1882 at the Nursery and Child’s Hospital, Lexington Avenue, New York, a home for destitute orphans and abandoned children. His mother was an Irishwoman of questionable reputation called Catherine Coll. On his birth certificate, he appears as “George de Valero”, and the father’s name is given as “Vivion de Valero”, described as “an artist” from the Basque region of Spain. However, no-one has ever located any marriage certificate for “de Valera’s” parents, nor any birth, baptismal, or death certificate information for anyone called Juan Vivion de Valera (nor for “de Valero”, an alternative spelling of his name), who therefore may not even have existed. It is possible, in the circumstances, that his mother did not even know who “Dev’s” father was, but he is unlikely to have been Irish.

His mother abandoned him at the age of two and he was taken to Ireland by his mother’s brother Ned, who raised him. Although listed as George on his birth certificate, he was known as a child as Edward or Eddy. In 1910, at the age of 28, he had a new birth certificate registered giving his name as “Edward de Valera”. “Eamonn” was a later affectation after he discovered Irish Republicanism. Born in New York and (probably) half-Spanish this character was not Irish by either civic or racial nationalist standards, which did not stop him leaving a trail of betrayal and murder across the country.

In the Rising, he was given a key post of command at Boland’s Mill. His broad yellow streak promptly manifested itself – he lost his nerve, had a nervous breakdown, and had to be relieved of command. He was never again to go anywhere near the sound of gunfire, hiding in America “fund raising” whilst his comrades fought British, including Irish loyalist, forces between 1919 and 1921.

The Rising failed miserably as everyone, including the IRB who organised it, knew it would. It ended in ignominious surrender, with those involved then pelted with offal in the streets as they ran the gauntlet of the people of Dublin, furious that they had stabbed the country in the back when Irish sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers were fighting and dying in the Flanders trenches against the rebels’ “gallant allies in Europe”. 

But the IRB had set a trap into which the British authorities, utterly disastrously, fell. Instead of locking up the perpetrators to be dealt with by the Home Rule authorities after the War so they would rot in obscurity, a cunning move urged by those who knew Ireland and its history, the rebel leaders were justifiably, but stupidly, court-martialled and shot for treason and murder. Except “de Valera”, who knew all along his claim to US citizenship as a native New Yorker whilst Britain was desperate not to put the US off joining the War as an ally would keep him safe.  

The result, as Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond had warned the British Government, was to turn the “Men of Easter Week” from backstabbing German lackeys and traitors into noble Irish martyrs and heroes in the minds of many in Ireland.  The problem was that very few in Ireland knew who had organised the rising. The Irish public, and the British Press, lit on Sinn Fein, as the only group known to be more extreme Irish nationalists than Redmond’s IPP.  

In fact, Sinn Fein had nothing to do with the Easter Rising. Its leader Arthur Griffith, despite not actually believing in an Irish Republic, had been admitted to the lowest rung of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, more in hope than expectation on the part of the Brotherhood given that at least he wanted more than Home Rule before the war. But he was certainly not involved in, or informed of, the Rising beforehand, and when it broke out reacted to the sound of gunfire by peddling away in the opposite direction on his pushbike as fast as he could, before denouncing it as futile. Sinn Fein did not, indeed, even believe in an Irish republic such as was proclaimed in 1916, wanting an Anglo-Irish Dual Monarchy. 

Nonetheless, as one of the IRB leaders put it in the wake of the Easter Rising “the Irish people are demanding Sinn Fein. We must give them Sinn Fein”. Griffith was made an offer he could not refuse and surrendered control of his sect to the IRB. They replaced him as leader with the egregious de Valera and IRB cadres were instructed to join and take over SF root and branch. Meanwhile the IRB began to create a serious paramilitary wing. The “Irish Republic”, proclaimed in 1916 by its Brotherhood, now needed an “Army”. The IRA began to be born.

Meanwhile the Government in London blundered further into the Irish bog by trying to impose conscription on Ireland in the dying days of the First World War. There was no shortage of Irish Catholic volunteers, including this reviewer’s grandfather, who was wounded in France serving in the ranks of the Irish Guards, and so no need for a measure which needlessly angered ordinary Irish people.

When the war ended and a British General Election was called in autumn 1918, the IRB glove-puppet Sinn Fein exploited intimidation and the first-past-the post electoral system to trounce its moderate IPP rival. Sinn Fein had done a deal with the Irish Labour Party, which therefore did not stand against it. In 25 Irish seats, no-one dared stand against them, and the Sinn Fein candidate was returned unopposed. In other seats the only choice facing pro-Home Rule voters was between Sinn Fein and a Unionist.

Sinn Fein campaigned on a deliberately vague platform, not demanding a republic or complete independence, merely something more than the Home Rule on offer. Meanwhile abusing the IPP for agreeing to exclude six Ulster counties from a Home Rule they did not want and which it was impossible, as Sinn Fein and the IRB itself were subsequently to find, to impose on them against their will. SF also made no mention of the fact that its IRB masters intended to launch a massive terrorist campaign soon after polls closed.  

John Dillon, Irish Parliamentary Party leader defeated by Sinn Fein

The Irish Parliamentary Party suffered because its long standing and widely respected leader, John Redmond, had died in March 1918 and his successor John Dillon had yet to bed himself in. Furthermore, many IPP activists were away on military service, which did not much affect SF, whose activists seldom volunteered to fight for the Crown.  In a saga which will be familiar to US readers today, there was also skullduggery around postal votes. In this case, a substantial number of Irish voters had to vote by post because they had yet to be demobilised from the British armed forces and were out of the country. Their postal votes, few likely to be cast for Sinn Fein, were then mysteriously “lost” and so not counted. 

The Unionists south of the border were split over the issue of accepting that only some of Ireland might stay fully British. Even they had been infiltrated by the IRB – this book reveals for example that David Boyd, a Presbyterian from Belfast working as a senior reporter on the Unionist Waterford Standard, was a secret IRB member. In 1920 he insinuated himself as the paper’s editor when the previous one retired, and then, doubtless funded by the IRB, bought the paper. The IRB used their secret control of the local unionist newspaper to undermine, demoralise and in some cases betray to terrorists Unionists in Co. Waterford.

Of the votes cast that were actually counted, the IPP won 220,837 votes (21.7%) but under the grossly unfair first-past the post system got only six seats of 105. Their leader Dillon lost his seat and the IPP was “persuaded” to dissolve itself in what became the Irish Free State (it carried on as the Nationalist Party in the six Ulster counties outside SF/IRA grasp). Sinn Féin got 476,087 votes (46.9%) getting eight times as many seats, 48, for a little over twice the IPP vote. They also got, without voters having a say in the matter, the 25 seats in which they had intimidated anyone else out of standing against them, totalling 73 seats. The Unionist vote increased to 305,206 (30.2%) and their representation rose from 20 to 26 seats.

The SF landslide was based on intimidation, an unfair electoral system and, most of all, lies. The Irish people had carefully not been told what they were really voting for.  As IRB bigwig and Sinn Fein Vice-President Michael O’Flanagan said when the results came in: “the people have voted for us. We must now explain what Sinn Fein is”.

They proceeded to demonstrate what Sinn Fein now really was. The SF MP’s refused to take their seats in Westminster and formed themselves into a “Dail Eireann”, purporting to be the government of the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916. That Republic’s “army”, the IRA, then launched a rampage of murder and terrorism, many of whose victims were fellow Irishmen. Indeed, it was kicked off by the murder of two Irish policemen. 

Many Southern Irish Loyalists fought back. My grandfather, despite his war wounds, served then as a (usually unarmed) Constable in the Royal Irish Constabulary. He was badly wounded again, singlehandedly beating off an IRA ambush in which his Sergeant, the only officer with a gun, albeit a revolver when the IRA had Thomson sub-machine guns, was murdered (my grandfather, despite having been riddled with bullets and having an eye shot out, recovered the gun and used it, effectively), for which he was decorated and promoted to Sergeant (and immediately retired on full Sergeant’s pension, given he was decidedly unfit for duty, although he later more or less recovered). Many other Irishmen and women fought as bravely for what they saw as their Crown and their Country. 

Their reward was to be betrayed by their own Government, who, after the usual British Government blether about “not negotiating with terrorists” as was to be the usual practice in the decades to come, then agreed a ceasefire with them and did exactly that. Even though the IRA leader, Michael Collins, confessed during the talks that “you had us beat” and that if the authorities had stood firm a few weeks longer the IRA would have collapsed. Even before the talks with the IRA began, the Government of Ireland Bill introduced before parliament in 1920 revealed that 26 Irish Counties were to be abandoned to the IRA. Only six Counties of Ulster were saved, because the Loyalists there were even better armed than the IRA and so the British Government was even more afraid of fighting them! 

This book quotes the Irish Unionist leader Lord Farnham addressing the House of Lords during the debate on this surrender bill, speaking of his fellow Southern Loyalists “it is now proposed to hand over these loyal people to the allies of the great enemy against whom their sons and brothers fought and died. I cannot believe that either the Government or the British people can realise the enormity or baseness of this great betrayal or can fully realise the conditions under which the loyalists would be forced to live”. Or, as events were to prove as the British withdrew and Ireland spiralled into chaos, civil war, ethnic cleansing, and massacre, in many cases not allowed to live.

As this betrayal became apparent, speaking at a Twelfth of July Assembly in Clones, Co. Monaghan, in 1920, the Rev. Robert Burns, rector of Drum, is quoted in this book protesting: ”in this country it does not pay to be loyal…one would almost think that we would get more consideration from the British Government if we plotted against the King and murdered His Majesty’s forces from behind stone walls and hedges”. As successive British Governments similarly ran away from terrorists around the world in the succeeding decades, his sentiments would be widely shared. As well as shown to be amply justified.

In fact, the only significant terrorist group to which a British Government ever stood up and did not in the end surrender was the only one where it did not thereby betray local Loyalists and whose demands were in this reviewer’s view wholly right and proper – EOKA in Cyprus. They rightfully sought reunion with their fellow Greeks on the mainland, which Greeks had naively thought Britain would grant its wartime ally rather than pandering to neutral Turkey. Instead, sticking to the policy of betraying Europe by propping up its ancient Asiatic barbarian foe the Turk which has consistently been followed by successive British governments for almost two centuries, Britain backed the Turkish colonists on Cyprus. Unlike the Greeks, these Turks were later to achieve unity with their motherland, on land from which the native Cypriots had been purged.

Comrades in struggle, but soon to become bitter enemies: (above left to right) Harry Boland, former President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, shot and fatally wounded in 1922 by soldiers of the Free State Army commanded by Michael Collins (above centre). Three weeks later Collins himself was shot dead in an ambush by anti-Treaty IRA ‘Irregulars’ loyal to Eamonn de Valera (above right).

De Valera, now back from safety in America to take over the republican regime in Dublin in time for the cease-fire, had sent the IRA commander Michael Collins to London to negotiate with the British authorities. Mick Collins, for all his – in fairness on its own terms brilliantly conducted – IRA terrorist campaign, was widely respected, including in Unionist circles, as personally a decent and honourable man. He was also a hard-headed realist who understood the realities of Ireland’s position. He knew the IRA could not win an all-out war with Britain, and also understood that there were, and are, practical limits on just how independent any British state could permit any Irish state actually to be. No British state could permit Ireland, on its western flank, to be used as a hostile base against it. For this reason, still valid, the nominally independent Irish state that emerged could not, had it wished, have joined the Axis, or the Warsaw Pact. Nor could the British state of 1921 have compelled Ulster to accept rule by a Sinn Fein regime in Dublin even had it agreed to do so. 

Collins therefore got the best deal possible for his side in the circumstances. The Anglo-Irish Treaty he agreed gave 26 Counties in Ireland effectively complete self-determination, nominally within the British Empire. The Royal Navy was allowed to keep a few bases on the coast of the new Irish state, bases strategically important to British defence. Six of the old nine counties of Ulster, inevitably, were excluded and stayed British, ironically with a Home Rule parliament in Belfast rather stronger than the one Unionists had not wanted in Dublin. 

Collins had not come back with the 32-County Irish Republic. De Valera had sent him knowing he would not and could not. On those terms, de Valera had set Collins up to fail. It was and is widely thought in Ireland he had deliberately done this since de Valera secretly resented Collins as a widely popular figure who was a threat to his power in Republican circles. De Valera was then able cynically to denounce Collins as a traitor for doing what de Valera himself had asked him to do: get the best deal he could from London. 

The original Dail Eireann, made up of Sinn Fein MP’s elected or returned “unopposed”, in 1918 had been replaced by a Second Dail. This body owed its existence to the elections held in 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act to the two Home Rule Parliaments in Belfast and Dublin. The IRA/Sinn Fein announced that the latter election would be accepted as elections to a Second Dail. However, demonstrating their deep commitment to democracy, they ordered that these elections were to be uncontested, on pain of death, so 124 SF representatives were duly “returned unopposed” to the Southern Parliament, joined by one Shinner who had had to submit himself to the indignity of a vote to win a seat in the Northern Parliament, which he refused to recognise. The 125 Shinners set themselves up as the “Second Dail”.

The 26 Counties went to the polls again in June 1922 to let the Irish people, for whom the Treaty went far beyond what they had originally wanted in terms of independence, give their verdict on all this. Sinn Fein split into pro- and anti-Treaty factions; the latter led by de Valera. The decision of the Irish people when their votes were counted was plain. Of the 128 members elected to the “Third Dail”, 92 were in favour of the Treaty.

Civil war erupts in Dublin

But de Valera and the anti-Treatyites refused to accept this vote. De Valera and the anti-Treaty members of the Second Dail refused to hand over their authority to the newly elected Third Dail, as technically required by their rules, proclaimed the freely elected Third Dail illegitimate and de Valera put himself at the head of the unelected rump Second Dail as “President of the Irish Republic”.

As such he led the anti-Treaty IRA into a vicious Civil War. This IRA faction also implemented a policy of massacre and ethnic cleansing directed at Irish Loyalists, as we shall see in a moment. The Civil War was marked by savagery and atrocities perpetrated by Irishmen on one another generally admitted, even in Ireland, to have been far worse than anything the British, even the much-bemoaned “Black-and-Tans”, ever did.

Britain helped arm the pro-Treaty wing of the IRA, commanded by Collins, which became the National Army of the new “Irish Free State”. The anti-Treaty IRA were driven back, south, and west toward ultimate defeat. In August 1922, when it was clear he was going to lose the civil war he had started, de Valera invited Collins to meet him under flag of truce to discuss a possible ceasefire. Collins, sickened by this fratricidal and futile savagery, agreed. At Béal na mBláth, the Mouth of Flowers, a remote crossroads in Co Cork, the anti-Treaty IRA instead treacherously ambushed and murdered Collins. The widespread belief in Ireland to this day is that de Valera had lured his old comrade to his death to eliminate a rival for future power. Mick Collins was respected even by Unionists, and got on well personally with his Unionist counterpart, Sir James Craig. Had he lived, he might have brought about a rapprochement, who knows? After that the anti-Treaty IRA laid down its weapons and the Civil War ended.

A Civil War scene in Cork

It left a split in Ireland that lasted for the rest of the century. The Irish state ended up with two conservative parties – Fine Gael, sprung from the pro-Treaty IRA, and Fianna Fail, formed when de Valera betrayed his republican comrades and decided to accept the Free State and stand for election to its Dail (the one he had dismissed as an illegitimate assembly set up by traitors). Once in power de Valera acted ruthlessly to crush his former anti-Treaty IRA comrades, achieving the not inconsiderable feat of being loathed as a murderer and a traitor by every shade of Irish opinion, Unionist, Nationalist and Republican, except his own Fianna Fail faction.

The Civil War mirror effect even gave Ireland two racial nationalist movements – the pro-Treaty/Free State Blueshirts of General Eoin O’Duffy and the anti-Treaty republican Ailtirí na hAiséirghe led by Gerald Cunningham (sorry Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin!), whilst the hard core of the IRA and its remnant faction of Sinn Fein spent decades refusing to accept any authority in Ireland, north or south, other than the anti-Treaty rump of the Second Dail. This Republican hard-core split and most of it metamorphosed into the Provisional IRA, being surrendered to as terrorists always are by the British Government and then, bizarrely, ended up not only following de Valera in recognising and standing for elections to the Irish Dail but going far beyond, with IRA/Sinn Fein leaders ending up as salaried Ministers of the Crown in the government of British Ulster in Belfast. The IRB faded back into the shadows when the Irish Civil War began. It is widely said to have disbanded then. But who knows?

Southern Irish Loyalism is not a good source for this sorry saga: it concerns itself almost exclusively with one group, the Protestant Southern Loyalists, who were probably themselves a minority of the pro-British community in Southern Ireland between 1912 and 1949. The best book covering the wider subject, and brilliantly explaining how the IRB duped, bullied, and conned the Irish people into a Republic they never really wanted, is Redmondite Irish nationalist Robert Kee’s classic Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, originally published in 1972 as a trilogy but now republished as a single volume. 

Leaving Ireland aside for a moment, Nationalists worldwide could well learn from, and where relevant emulate, the success of the IRB in exerting a degree of power over the destiny of their people far exceeding the level of support their ideas ever enjoyed amongst them. 

Southern Irish Loyalists itself is a collection of academic papers dealing with its eponymous subjects, which I fear would have made little sense without a briefing on its wider historical context. Hence the lengthy disquisition here on Irish history before dealing, fairly briefly, with the book itself.  

Said book reveals the brutality with which a newly independent Ireland rid itself of any effective dissident minority. The anti-Treaty IRA were particularly active during the 1922-23 Civil War in murdering, burning out and generally ethnically cleansing Unionists from the areas they controlled. 

Very Rev. John Finlay, retired Dean of Leighlin, butchered by the IRA

This book reminds Ireland of atrocities its current regime would rather forget, such as the Bandon Valley Massacre of 13 innocent civilians in west Cork in April 1922. Or the gang rape of Mrs Eileen Biggs in front of her family in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary on 16th June 1922 by a squad of IRA men, who first got drunk on alcohol looted from the Biggs home. Mrs Biggs was not expected to survive her ordeal but recovered, physically at least, and escaped to Dublin. When Free State forces restored order, two of her assailants were identified and she was ready to testify against them. However, the Free State authorities quietly let the IRA rapists go without charge or consequence. An obviously harmless elderly retired clergyman, the Very Rev. John Finlay, former Dean of Leighlin in Co. Cavan, had to watch his home burned to the ground by the IRA before being brutally murdered and having his body dumped contemptuously in the ashes. 

The litany of atrocity recounted in the pages of this book, horrors perpetrated on a defenceless minority whose only crime was loyalty to the country of which they and their ancestors had been citizens for centuries, goes on and on, the fires of burned-out homes glowing, and the blood of murdered innocents seeping, through the dryness of the pages of its academic papers.

The ethnic cleansing reached such a point that West Cork IRA leader and Republican hero Tom Barry complained, in his 1955 memoirs, Guerrilla Days in Ireland, that “our only fear was that, as time went on, there would be no more loyalist homes to destroy”.  Tens of thousands of Loyalist refugees fled to England and over the border to Ulster. 

Such was the scale of the ethnic cleansing of Southern Protestants (most of whom were pro-British, as were many Irish Catholics like my family who were less easy to count) that between the last census when Ireland was part of Britain, in 1911, and the first in the new Free State in 1926, in the 26 Counties of the Free State the Protestant population fell from 327,179 to 220,723. The author of the relevant paper in this book clearly shows that the principal cause of this was enforced emigration. Ethnic cleansing. 

It is impossible to quantify the corresponding impact on Southern Catholic Loyalists because nobody was counting them. But from personal family testimony I can say that the children of known Catholic Loyalists were being systematically denied jobs locally in Co. Tipperary at least into the late 1930s. The ancestor of mine who suffered this was so incensed at the role of the local Catholic clergy in inciting this that they left the Church, moved to England, married an English Protestant in a Protestant Church, and raised the children, including this reviewer, as Protestants. 

What is galling is that there was no coherent organised resistance. The Loyalists were scattered, unarmed, and disorganised. They were thus picked off one by one, house by house, family by family. There were occasional acts of mass defiance, such as the 70,000 Loyalists, most of whom probably the otherwise invisible Catholic ones, who turned out at College Green in Dublin in November 1924 under the Union Flag, singing the British National Anthem to honour Ireland’s war dead. But essentially the Southern Irish Loyalists fled rather than fighting, or just died without defending themselves. The Afrikaaners in South Africa seem to have done likewise since 1994.

Nothing similar happened to the Irish separatist, mostly Catholic, minority in Ulster. Indeed, their numbers increased after 1922, partly because Ulster prospered relative to the South, which sank into decades of impoverished theocracy, its principal export its own young people looking for work, even though for example until 1979 the currency of the “independent Irish state” was sterling, supported free of charge by the Bank of England. 

Lavish EU money, for many years funded by the British taxpayer, and selling the country to multinational corporations through cut-rate corporation tax, has since revived the Irish economy and attracted hordes of Third World immigrants. The Catholic peasant republic that the IRB envisaged is now a multiracial cesspit of degeneracy and Political Correctness in thrall to global corporations and Brussels bureaucrats. The comely Irish maidens de Valera once rhapsodised about dancing at the crossroads are now more likely to be seen selling their bodies on the Dublin streets for drugs or giving themselves to grinning African “New Irishmen”. One wonders what the Men of 1916 and their IRB associates would think of the Ireland they foisted on its people today?

Perhaps Ulster should have treated its national minority as the South did. An exchange of minorities between the two parts of Ireland in the 1920’s, as happened elsewhere in Europe after the First World War, would have prevented the thirty years of murder and terrorism known as The Troubles in Ulster after 1968.  

This book sheds interesting light on an aspect of its past the modern Irish republic would rather cover up. However, it is a dry academic tome, really mostly of detailed interest to historians or those, like this reviewer, whose family lived through its subject matter. It admits its own worst omission – the Catholic Loyalist community. To read more about them, this reviewer recommends The Cross of St. Patrick: The Catholic Unionist Tradition in Ireland, by John Biggs-Davison (1984, now sadly out of print)   

In conclusion there are two lessons from this sorry tale. One is how a disciplined, coherent, committed and ideologically focused group of activists, working patiently decade after decade, can achieve an aim that seemed impossible and most of the time had little popular support – an independent republic covering at least most of Ireland in their case. Why not a White homeland for us? The second is that those who will not fight to keep their land, as the Southern Irish Loyalists mostly did not, are doomed to lose it.   

Reviewed by Ian Freeman, Northwich, Cheshire

  • Find By Category

  • Latest News

  • Follow us on Twitter

  • Follow us on Instagram

  • Exactitude – free our history from debate deniers