The Problem of Ulster



One time President of the Independent Order of Orange Lodges and formerly member of the National Synod of the Church of Ireland. President of the Protestant Friends of Ireland, and Editor of “The Statesman,” Toronto, Canada.

Reprinted from “The Statesman” for

The Protestant Friends of Ireland
Room 131, Bible House, Astor Place
New York City


The Irish problem is an Ulster problem. Were there no Ulster the Irish question could be solved amicably over night. To understand the Irish Problem, therefore, is to know Ulster. To paraphrase Kipling: “How can they know Ireland who only Ireland know?” It is the misfortune of English statesmen that their eyes are riveted upon the Sinn Feiners at a time when all the resources of statesmanship should be employed in unravelling the knotty problem of Carsonism.

Irish Unionist Movement.

This is not to say that there are two Irelands, for the history of Unionism in Ireland is the history of a movement which has maintained its separatist character down to the present time. The Irish Unionist Party in the House of Commons, although a wing of the British Tory Party, has maintained a separate political existence, having its own caucus and chairman and its own whips. For a century it has been a thorn in the side of the British Tory Party, retaining its independent organization the better to influence British legislation and to perpetuate its domination in Irish affairs. The history of the past century, since the Act of Union, has been a record of undoing of wrongs on the part of England as a result of Irish agitation. Step by step the alien laws and institutions imposed upon Ireland in the past have been revoked; proof, if any were needed, that the agitations that provoked these reforms were justifiable, and that the Irish agitators knew better than English statesmen what was good for their country. But the undoing of these wrongs interfered with vested interests and divided Ireland into two opposing camps.

The Rump of Protestant Ascendancy.

Carsonism is the rump of the old Protestant Ascendancy, the residuary legatee of the special privileges claimed by the Protestant settlers. It is a sorry remnant of the old vanguard that so stubbornly resisted the great reforms that marked the advent of Democracy. So long as Penal Laws and religious disabilities retained absolute political power in the hands of the Ascendancy Party England was in constant fear of their separatist tendencies. The native Irish, down to the time of the Union, had no lot or part in the government of Ireland. The fight for national independence in 1782 and again in 1798 was the work of the Protestant settlers. The history of the Irish Parliament from the earliest times following the Anglo-Norman invasion, is the history of continual conflict between the British settlers and the English Government.

Catholic Emancipation, the Reform Bill, Disestablishment, and Land Reform made serious inroads on the Protestant Ascendancy. Since the Union this Ascendancy rested on four main pillars—the State Church, with its exclusive privileges, the Land, with its evil land laws, Castle Government, with its class patronage system, and Higher Education, which for generations had been the exclusive prerogative of the Established Church, and which was only fully extended to Irish Catholics in the last decade. The fall of the Establishment and Landlordism transferred political power in the Irish Tory Party to the Presbyterian manufacturers of the North, who aped the ways of the old landed gentry, rivaled them in title-hunting, and in many cases entered into possession of their estates. The sway of the almighty dollar succeeded to an aristocracy of birth and culture and the last state of Unionist Ulster was worse than the first. An Irish wing of the British Tory Party, the Unionists of Ulster, have always led in the van against every measure designed to widen the power of the people and to improve the lot of society.

A Black Record.

The following, taken from the Parliamentary records, is a typical example of the way in which Ulster Unionist members voted in the British House:

The actual votes recorded by an Ulster Member are an illustration and a warning:—

1906—Voted against Trades Disputes Bill.
Voted against motion in favor of Local Option.
Voted against Plural Voting Bill.
Voted against Education Bill (Third Reading).

1907—Voted against resolution increasing Death Duties on large estates over £150,000.
Voted against Scottish Small Land Owners’ Bill.
Voted against Local Option Bill for Scotland.

1908—Voted for amendment to Address in favour of Protective Taxes on food.
Absent from Second and Third Reading of Old Age Pensions Bill.
Voted for Lord Robert Cecil’s amendment making the receipt of a pension dependent on “a contribution made by the pensioner.”
Voted against the Second and Third Education Bills.
Voted against Coal Mines (Eight Hours) Bill for shortening the hours of miners.
Voted against Licensing Bill in all its stages.

1909—Voted against the Budget throughout.
Voted against Irish Land Bill and supported the Lord’s amendment which deprived Ulster of the benefit of Compulsory Purchase.
Voted against London Elections Bill, thus depriving 40,000 electors of the franchise.
Voted against Mr. Asquith’s motion protesting against the rejection of the Budget by the House of Lords.

The Ulster Unionists have been well described as the “Advance Guard of Reaction.”

Crimeless Ireland.

It is a well known fact that in normal times crime in Ireland is much less than in any other part of the United Kingdom, yet the cost of police is greater than is spent on education, and much higher in proportion to population than in England or Scotland. The following official figures tell their own tale:
One of the commonest slanders against Irish Ireland is that it is “priest-ridden.” Here again the statistics show which side is priest-ridden:

Number of Clergy in Proportion to Population.
In case it may be objected that Ulster’s position is exceptional, the following are the figures for the whole of Ireland:—
Another myth is that Southern Ireland is so poor as compared with the North that the people are forced to emigrate. The figures that follow show that Ulster also suffers under British rule, and to a greater extent than any other part of Ireland:—
Still another illusion which is shattered by facts is the assertion that a homogeneous Ulster, Protestant and Unionist, is entitled to a separate life as a province of England:—
The bubble of Carsonism has long been pricked in Ireland by the Southern Unionists who, for years, were bled financially to keep the Ulster agitation alive. Today the Southern Unionist is against partition. Certain propagandists say all Ulster is behind Carson. If the figures published in the Carson organs are correct, the huge majority of the people of Ulster are opposed to Carson. This explains his stubborn opposition to a county plebiscite on the Irish issue. The figures given at the time of the signing of the Covenant, a couple of years before the war, were as follows:—
Ten persons out of every seventeen in Ulster refused to sign the Covenant. In other words, sixty per cent of the people of Ulster repudiate Carson and his policy. Only 218,000 men and boys could be persuaded to sign. Where is the army of a million Carson warriors? In 1913 the population of Ulster was divided as follows:—
In Ulster, therefore, are 158,000 Protestant men and women who could not be persuaded or coerced to sign the Covenant. These calculations are based upon the assumption that all the signatures to the Covenant were genuine. Carson does not represent even sixty per cent of the Pritestants of Ulster.

Would any other country in Christendom be martyred for such a shoddy remnant of an Old Ascendancy that belonged to the days of the Penal Code and absentee landlordism? And what has Carsonism done for the working men who man the ranks of the Covenanters? Before the war the number of cottages built under the Laborers’ Cottages Act was smaller in. Ulster than in any other part of Ireland save Connaught. The following comparative table shows how the Carsonite municipal authorities and the Carsonite landowners combined to deprive the Ulster Protestant labourers of the advantages of the Act.—
This is only a curtain-raiser on the Irish problem, but he who runs mav read.


[In our issue of November 8th our London correspondent exposed the latest Carsonite move to stir up religious rancor in the United States. He quoted from an article by Lord Beaverbrook in which the latter urges an appeal to the Methodist Churches in America. He says: “The Methodist Church, in any case regards a politico-religious crusade preached by the Irish with small favor, but it might take no practical action on the other side unless its interest was suddenly aroused. Then it would act and it would crush the American Sinn Feiners as a cartwheel crushes a toad. The Ulstermen have so far made no real effort to stir this slumbering giant, unless perhaps Sir Edward Carson’s much criticised July speech in Belfast was intended as the first move in this campaign. But if they make the appeal in loud enough accents the feelings of those Presbyterian and Methodist Churches will move to meet them. * * * Let it be agitated and fought out for a time on the other side of the Atlantic.” Lord Beaverbrook’s first contingent of Ulster Protestant pulpiteers is now on its way to the United States.]

It is stated in the Press that Mr. Coote, M. P., an Ulster Carsonite, and five Protestant clergymen from Ireland, are on their way to the United States to inflame Protestant opinion against the Irish republican movement. For months past an active propaganda has been carried on on this side of the Atlantic by British agents who have overrun the United States in much the same way as the mercenary Hessian troops of George III. overran the Thirteen Colonies in an effort to stem the tide of American revolt; and as they overran Ireland, at a later date, against the Ulster Protestant republican movement of 1798. That these Ulster crusaders against Ireland are acting with the connivance, if not with the official support of the British Government, is evidenced by the fact that while no Sinn Feiner is permitted to leave Ireland by ordinary methods of travel, facilities are afforded Mr. Coote and his ministerial associates of voyaging to America by a British transatlantic liner.

Mr. Coote, M. P., is well known as one of the leading Ulster firebrands in the No Property crusades of the past twenty years. He believes that the root of the trouble in Ireland is the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, and that Ireland would be a loyal and peaceable country were every Irish Catholic, save those of Unionist proclivities, disfranchised. He is a last remnant of the Protestant Ascendancy idea that moved Cromwell to put the town of Drogheda—men, women and children—to the sword; that led to the violation, by the Williamites, of the Treaty of Limerick; that spurred England, in a later reign, to impose the Penal Code, under which no Irish Catholic was presumed to exist in the eyes of the law; that led the German husband of Queen Victoria, the Prince Consort, to suggest that the only remedy for the settlement of the Irish question was to tow Ireland out into the deep water of the Atlantic and to submerge it for twenty-four hours; that led Queen Victoria to boycott Ireland, socially, during her long reign; that led her to hesitate over the signing of the Irish Church Act that deprived the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland of one of its main pillars; that led the Ulster Unionist associates of Mr. Coote, M. P., to oppose every measure of Irish reform, including the land reforms that destroyed Landlordism, another pillar of the Protestant Ascendancy; and which brought to the aid of Carson’s German-equipped Volunteers all the No Popery elements in England and all the anti-National forces that are intriguing to erect a sovereign world-wide Imperial super-state upon the ruins of Dominion autonomy.

The special mission of Mr. Coote and his traveling delegates is to. raise the old sectarian cry, to fight over again the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, by preaching the falsehood that the trouble in Ireland arises, from the fact that the majority of the Irish people are Roman Catholics. For years Mr. Coote and his Ulster Unionist friends have been in closest alliance with English Catholics who have been among the most bitter opponents of anything even approaching Irish home rule. For years Mr. Coote and his friends sat in political councils with such prominent Catholic Unionists as the late Cardinal Vaughan and the Duke of Norfolk, and co-operated with these leading lights of the Catholic Church in appeals to the Vatican against Nationalist Ireland. And to show how little truth there is in the assertion that Ireland is “priest-ridden”, time and again the Irish Catholic people flung back in the faces of the Coote-Norfolk-Vatican crusaders against the liberties of the Irish people the Papal Rescripts that were obtained from Rome by the intrigues of the English Unionists. When it was decided to raise a testimonial to Parnell, in order to clear his Wicklow estate of the mortgage upon it, the Cootes and the Norfolks got busy at Rome and secured a Papal denunciation of the proposal which was ordered to be read in every Catholic Church in Ireland. Did Catholic Ireland submit to this English-Vatican interference in their political affairs? At monster meetings they burnt the Papal Rescript and sent back the message to both Rome and England that, like O’Connell, “the Irish Catholic takes his religion from Rome but not his politics.” And when, at a later period, the Cootes and Norfolks persuaded the Vatican to lend a hand in propping up Landlordism, by sending Monsignor Persico to Ireland and following up his visit by another Papal Rescript denouncing the Plan of Campaign as “immoral”, did the Irish Catholics submit? Opposition to this latter Rescript came not only from the laity but from the clerical ranks as well. The land war never halted and the only comment one is called upon to make at this period is that all the credit for the land reforms passed in Ireland as the result of the fidelity of the Irish Catholics to their own interests is now taken by the Cootes and other Carsonite opponents of Irish independence. Having resisted land reform for a century they now, as Unionists, have the hardihood to tell the American that land reform is one of the great blessings that have flowed from British rule!

Is the Irish Movement a Catholic Movement?

No American Protestant, who knows the history of his country, and of its fight for freedom, can be led astray by the sectarian crusaders who are coming to his country, under the leadership of Mr. Coote, M. P., to raise the fiery cross of religious dissension. The suggestion might lead some astray who do not think very deeply on such matters, that Ireland is anti-English simply because Ireland is a Catholic and England a Protestant country. But the War of American Independence was not a Catholic rising. The revolt of Grattan’s Parliament, at a time when England was hampered by war, was not a Catholic rising. There was no Catholic at the bottom of the Boer War in South Africa; no Catholic inspires the Egyptians, the Indians and the Persians to arraign England to-day because of her tyranny and arbitrary power in depriving these peoples of their rights and liberties! Why must it be assumed that Ireland’s fight for independence today, when Catholics are in political power through the franchise, differs from the fight of the Irish Protestants in 1782, or of the Boers, and other nations not professing the Catholic faith, who find in English rule the antithesis of national freedom? The truth is that Protestant England as stubbornly resisted all tendencies towards Irish independence in days when the Protestant Ascendancy party alone had political power in Ireland, as she does to-day when a widened franchise confers political power upon a Catholic majority. And all down through the wars against Irish freedom England, at most critical periods, has been in closest alliance with Rome. It was so in the days of William III. That Protestant sovereign and the Pope were allies against Louis of France, and Papal funds helped to furnish the arms that enabled William to cross the Boyne and to drive James from the Throne. These things are not recorded in the Orange lodges of Ulster, nor will they be so much as hinted at by Mr. Coote and his Ulster clerical associates who are seeking to stir up religious strife in the United States. During the past forty years, during which Irish Unionists distributed millions of pamphlets and leaflets in England with the object of defeating home rule, the place of honor, in this Unionist propagandist literature, was given to the Vatican and other Catholic declarations against the political and social tendencies of the Irish people. Two notable examples of the dishonesty of the Unionist “Rome Rule” cry are to be found in the circulation, by these Irish Unionists, of Pope Leo’s denunciation of the Plan of Campaign and of Cardinal Cullen’s famous denunciation of the home rule movement as anti-Catholic in its tendencies. Mr. Coote and his friends straddle both sides of the fence when it suits their purpose. To the Catholic electors of England they pointed to the Pope’s Rescript on the Plan of Campaign and to Cardinal Cullen’s expressed fears that the Catholic Church in Ireland would be the first to suffer from the inroads of the idea of nationality and all it implied. And if this failed they could call, as a witness, the Duke of Norfolk, one of the leaders of Unionism and a loyal son of the Catholic Church, who, in a memorable speech on Irish home rule, uttered these warning words to the English Catholic electors:—

“We believe that under these circumstances a section of the Irish people would be brought into conflict with the Church, and we cannot look forward to such a struggle without the gravest apprehension; and for this, among other reasons, we, as British Catholics, are opposed to the policy of Home Rule.”

But in Ireland, or among the stalwart Protestants of Liverpool, out of earshot of English Catholics, Mr. Coote and his clerical assistants were free to ring the changes on “Rome Rule.” Could there be a more striking example of rampant clericalism than the spectacle presented by Mr. Coote’s troupe of clerical nomads in their visit to the United States, as the apostles of sectarian hate and bigotry? To English Catholics these Ulster Protestant pulpit politicians present the Rescripts of the Vatican and the warnings of Cardinal Cullen and the Duke of Norfolk, to show the dangers to the Catholic Church of the struggle for Irish national freedom. In the United States they will present the other side of the shield—they will try to convince American Protestants who are unacquainted with the facts that the Irish national movement is another Popish plot for the extirpation of Protestantism, and they will knowingly lie in the face of Irish history and of all the facts when they raise the cry of “Rome Rule.”

Lindsay Crawford.

The New York World, November 30, under London date line, prints the following:

Lord Beaverbrook, who runs the Daily Express, also is understood to be responsible for sending the deputation of Ulster Presbyterian pastors which is now en route to America to stir up the anti-Catholic feeling, which on his recent return from New York he proclaimed in the columns of his paper as the surest way of turning American sympathy with Ireland into antagonism.

Source: Villanova University

Dantonien Journal