The Volunteer leader whose name has been invoked in support of other’s prejudices

JUST over 99 years ago, on September 4, 1907, John Redmond declared in a speech at the Mansion House in Dublin:

“Resistance to the Act of Union will always remain for us... a sacred duty. And the methods of resistance will remain for us merely a question of expediency. There are men today, perfectly honourable and honest men, for whose convictions I have the utmost respect, who think that the method we ought to adopt is force of arms. Such resistance ... would be perfectly justifiable if it were possible”.

Those who conjure up Redmond often do so in a simplistic and unhistorical fashion, disregarding what he actually said and did and imposing their own political prejudices on the real man.

Redmond placed himself at the head of an army of National Volunteers whose primary purpose was to make war on the Ulster Volunteers. The National Volunteers were used subsequently to make war on Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Turks and others with whom Ireland was not even in dispute.

Which hardly makes him a paragon of non-violence.

It is unhistorical to pin the Northern troubles on republicanism in order to pay homage to Redmond. Realistically, partition became a fact in the armed revolt of Ulster unionism against the British parliament in 1912. This was on Redmond’s watch and before modern republicanism even existed.

The republican movement to which most people subsequently changed their allegiance took considerable pains to avoid military confrontation with the Ulster unionists and managed to avert a major conflagration there. Partition was not the primary issue in the War of Independence or in the Civil War. The Catholic rebellion of 1969-’94 was caused not by republican discontent over partition, but by the character of the regime established in the North by Britain and operated recklessly by the Ulster unionists. It was republican initiatives that brought that war to an end.

Pat Muldowney

2 Belmont Crescent

Derry

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