The views of today’s Irish people, on both sides, have been influenced by past events in Ireland’s history and the behaviour of Irish people at those times. One of these events is the Home Rule Agreement controversy between 1912 and 1914.
In 1912, after 30 long years of democratic protests Ireland was finally about to be granted home rule; after the Irish Nationalist Party had made an agreement with the British Liberal Government. This deal consisted of the Nationalist Party voting in favour of several bills and therefore keeping the British Liberal Party in office in return for their much longed for Home Rule Agreement. However this sparked controversy and a substantial minority (The Protestant Hardliners) began setting up a Private Army prepared to die in order to stop the home rule agreement; these actions resulted in the Nationalists (Hardliners) as well setting up their own private army. With the Home Rule Agreement set to become law in the autumn of 1914 and Ireland looking as though it was on the brink of civil war; the only saving grace came in the form of the outbreak of World War 1.
Moderate Nationalists see themselves as Irish believing in some form of Irish independence, like all Nationalists. Though they differ from the other nationalists as they consider moral force the best means in which to get what they want; therefore they use peaceful and democratic ways which are legal. These views are influenced by the events of 1912-1914 as the Moderate Nationalist’s of that time had succeeded, after 30 years of peaceful protests, in persuading the British Parliament to pass an act of law granting Ireland freedom so it shows to today’s Moderate Nationalists that these democratic methods can succeed.
1912 – 1914 has also opinionated the other Nationalist group are the Nationalist Hardliners whom share beliefs with Moderate Nationalist’s on the end product (freedom for Ireland) yet they see the need for physical force to be used as it “is through the use of arms” that “the freedom of their country” will come. This links back to the creation of the “Irish Volunteers” (a private army of Catholic Nationalists) who believed that their violent methods would be needed to support the home rule agreement as despite it being granted without violence it would end up being stopped by the Protestant Hardliners who were already setting up an army prepared to die. This leads today’s Nationalist Hardliners to the belief that although they are prepared to use violence this should be coupled with the use of moral force and as Danny Morrison said “to taking power with a ballot paper in one and an armalite rifle in the other!”
On the other hand, these past events in London have lead to today’s Protestant Hardliners believing that they can not trust a British Government. As Ian Paisley commented in a speech how the English “are not our friends” and therefore the Irish people should be “afraid of a dirty, underhanded deal done behind our backs.” Just as happened in 1914 when despite years of loyalty to the English, Irish Protestants suddenly found that the Liberal Government had forgot them and done a deal with the Catholic Nationalist’s Party as it helped the Liberals stay in power. But the Irish Protestants would be under Catholic rule.
Furthermore, in the wake of the home rule agreement, in 1912, the Protestant Hardliners formed a private army; the “Ulster Volunteers”. These men would “never, never, never” surrender and if needed were “prepared to lay down their lives”. So today’s Protestant Hardliners look back on these events proudly at how throughout all ages “Ulster men aren’t going to surrender” and consequently are prepared today to use violence and break the law to be united with Britain (despite not trusting a British Government to rule them) as they consider themselves British.
Another event which has influenced views in Ireland today is The Easter Rising in 1916. On Easter Monday in 1916, Britain was at war on the Western Front, but back in Ireland a Hardline Nationalist Group (The Irish Republican Brotherhood) had seized control of the centre of Dublin. They aimed to cause a revolution which they hoped would result in Ireland becoming its own republic and searing all ties with the UK. However they received little support from ordinary Irish Catholics and after just six days were forced to surrender having been heavily outnumbered by the surrounding British Army. With Britain having regained control; 15 leaders of the rebel group were executed for their part in the failed revolution but this ultimately altered the opinions of many ordinary Irish people. Those that a few days ago were villains had now become martyrs at the hands of the British Government.
Today Protestant Hardliners profoundly do not trust Nationalists as they feel they are an enemy who can not be trusted for the fact that they will take advantage of any situation in order to get what they want and consequently they have no regards for anyone else. The Protestants look back at the Easter Rising and say these events sway their beliefs. As in 1916 the British Government was weak and vulnerable due to World War 1 and the Nationalists tried to benefit from this by holding a revolution then. It also shows how selfish and self-centred the Nationalists are as everyone at that time, despite their disagreements, had united together to fight Germany but the Nationalists broke away concerned only for their own goals betraying any trust the Unionists had shown them.
Conversely today’s Nationalists hold beliefs that they need an Irish Government which sits in Ireland as Irish people understand what other Irish people want. Where as in 1916 the British Government didn’t understand the ordinary Irish people so therefore executed villains (who had no support) as they felt this would end the problem definitely. But it ultimately transformed the views of the ordinary Irish “who ten days ago had been bitterly opposed to the …rebellion” now began to see these men as martyrs and “were becoming infuriated against the British government.” As they look back at 1916 all many Nationalists see are see appalling decisions made by a bad British Government yet many are not surprised as the British are foreigners in Ireland so how can you expect a people that don’t understand you to make decisions which benefit you are truly what you want. These have strongly influenced today’s view that a British Government is bad for Ireland.