*A Treatise on Northern Ireland*, by Brendan O’Leary

This three-volume set is quite the remarkable achievement, and it would have made my best books of 2019 list (add-ons here) had I known about it earlier.  It starts with “An audit of violence after 1966,” and then goes back to the seventeenth century to begin to dig out what happened.  It has more detail than almost anyone needs to know, yet at the same time it remains unfailingly conceptual and relies on theoretical social science as well, rather than merely reciting names and dates. How about this?:

The breakdown of hegemonic control in Northern Ireland [mid- to late 1960s] exemplifies Tocqueville’s thesis that, when a bad government seeks to reform itself, it is in its greatest danger.

Here is an excerpt from volume II:

The thesis advanced here is that hegemonic control was established between 1920 and 1925 by the UUP, and, aside from a few exceptional moments, exercised successfully until 1966.  After 1925 opportunities for effective opposition, dissent, disobedience, or usurpation of power were minimal.  The major possibilities of disruption came from the outside, from independent Ireland or from Great Britain, from geopolitics, or the world economy.  Eventually, when external forces of disruption combined with major endogenous changes, hegemonic control would be contested, and would shatter.  But at no juncture did Northern nationalists or Irish Catholics in the North internalize the UUP’s rhetoric, or become significantly British by cultural designation.  When the civil-rights movement learned to exploit the claim to be British citizens entitled to British rights, the regime’s days were numbered.

I will continue to spend time with these volumes, which will not be surpassed anytime soon.  Unlike in so many history books, O’Leary is always trying to explain what happened, or what did not.  You can order them here.

As a side note, I find it shocking (and I suppose deplorable) that no American major media outlet has reviewed these books, or put them on its best of the year list, as far as I can tell.  We are failing at something, though I suppose you can debate what.  And I apologize to O’Leary for missing them the first time around.

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I fail to understand why the Irish nationalist movement deserves a hearing in the USA except as an afterthought. I mean, does anybody care that there's currently a Maoist insurrection group in the Philippines called the NPA (over ostensibly land reform, though I think the NPA is largely self-supporting through banditry)?

Bonus trivia: I saw excepts of Braveheart the other day...William Wallace methinks...was that about Scotland, right? So aside from religion, why is Scotland not up in arms over leaving the UK like the Irish were?

"I fail to understand why the Irish nationalist movement deserves a hearing in the USA."

Nothing deserves a hearing anywhere by this logic. But if I have to spell it out, nearly 33 million Americans claim Irish descent; this is the cultural case. The political case is that many of these Americans subscribe to an ill-informed sentimentalism about Irish nationalism, and have funded the nationalist organisations to the detriment of the Northern Irish situation. Finally, the peace process was arbitrated by American politicians (George Mitchell, in particular) and the Troubles provide a useful case study for other situations where there is contested sovereignty.

"why is Scotland not up in arms over leaving the UK like the Irish were?"

Scotland entered into a voluntary union with the other nations of the UK; Ireland was taken over by military conquest. Thirty second of web searching would inform you of all this.

One could add that the Scots were basically treated as equals, in comparison to Cromwell's ideas of how to deal with the Irsh (Catholic) question.

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"But if I have to spell it out, nearly 33 million Americans claim Irish descent"
So now they want their pound of flesh.

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Similar situations exist around the world. Indigenous populations are run over and marginalized by invaders. After a time the invader domination becomes the status quo, opposition is fruitless. After a few generations most of the indigenous seek to adapt and keep body and soul together in a new societal construct. Not all of them, however. Some crazy fanatics keep the fires of freedom burning, to the exasperation of their fellows. See the native Taiwanese, the Samis of northern Finland, the native Americans, the Australian aboriginals, the Syrian and Turkish Kurds, and so on.

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@Conall - Let me rephrase it, "I fail to understand why the Irish nationalist movement deserves a hearing in the USA IN THE 21st CENTURY". As for Scotland entering a voluntary union, I think you may be overstating the case (without Googling it) since a significant minority of Scots want an independent Scotland, probably remembering some imagined halcyon past as some Irish are wont to do.

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"And I apologize to O’Leary for missing them the first time around."

I suspect O'Leary will accept your apology as long as you accept Mrs. O'Leary's cow's apology for burning down Chicago.

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So which government was the incompetent one doing the reforming? The same one that has just decided that taking back control is more important than keeping control of Northern Ireland?

Though it is hard to tell what hegemonic control is meant to mean when it is the UK that was the Northern Irish hegemon, not any local parties. After all, UUP has faded into the background, yet it is still the UK deciding what happens in Northern Ireland, regardless of what local voters think.

Though ironically due to that hegemonic history, essentially all citizens of Northern Ireland can also remain EU citizens, as the Republic of Ireland will provide a passport to anyone born on the island of Ireland, since the Irish Republic has never considered Ireland - nor anyone born on the island - part of Britain.

As outlined at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_of_Northern_Ireland, between 1921-1972 Northern Ireland had essentially local self-government (that government often being referred to as Stormont), so the discrimination of that period falls on that government, with the UK government at most standing idly by. One memorable index of the degree of Protestant ascendancy at that time is that the only Catholic/Nationalist initiated act of legislation passed during that entire period was the 1931 Wild Birds Protection Act.

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Northern Ireland is split almost evenly between Roman Catholics and non-Roman Catholics (the latter Protestants, mostly Presbyterian, and no religious identification). By contrast, almost 80% of the Republic of Ireland identify as Roman Catholic. The complaint of the Catholics in Northern Ireland is their discrimination by the non-Catholics in both Northern Ireland and the British (the poor in Northern Ireland are predominantly Catholic); the fear of the non-Catholics in Northern Ireland is unification with the Catholic-dominant Republic of Ireland and their discrimination by the Catholics. Though the conflict is a religious conflict, it's also a class conflict.

This may seem strange to Americans, but is it? In America we are experiencing a growing divergence in religious practices and politics between evangelical Protestants and non-evangelical Protestants. Just this past week, evangelical Protestants in Virginia, led by Jerry Falwell Jr., started a movement for the separation of the western region of Virginian from the State of Virginia and the joinder of the region with the State of West Virginia. O'Leary's books may have important lessons beyond Ireland.

An aside, my nephew, a Presbyterian minister, spent years living in the Republic of Ireland (Dublin) ministering to both Protestants and, more importantly, young fallen Catholics. Needless to say, we were relieved when he came home.

Some related content on American religions that I did not know until this morning, here.

Angels and demons, man.

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For an entertaining version of Irish history read "Trinity" by Leon Uris.

You are clueless but I don't have the patience to do all the necessary typing on my phone to educate you.

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"Just this past week, evangelical Protestants in Virginia, led by Jerry Falwell Jr., started a movement for the separation of the western region of Virginian from the State of Virginia and the joinder of the region with the State of West Virginia. "

In fairness, this is based on Virginia's latest Governor and Statehouse working to implement Jim Crow era policies again. VA is seeing a revival of Jim Crow politics and a distinct move backwards, politically and socially.

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"Though the conflict is a religious conflict, it's also a class conflict."

Anyone who has spent any time on the island of Ireland in the past decade knows that at this point, it is neither. The lines of conflict have been blown away by the course of history. The Republic of Ireland is not particularly Catholic or poor today, Northern Ireland is probably poorer and not very religious either.

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Rayward makes the usual mistake of seeing the conflict in NI & earlier in Ireland in sectarian terms and assumes insight on the basis of a relation having visited. This is pitiful stuff. The conflict in Ireland has always been about sovereignty and the right of the Irish to run their own affairs free of foreign domination. As for 80% of the population of the Republic being Catholic, that's simply hopelessly outdated.

According to Wikipedia, which cites the 2016 census, the percentage of self-identified Catholics is 78.8%. That's basically 80%.

In some places (former Yugoslavia is another example) being Catholic is an identitarian rather than a purely religious matter, in the same way that you can be a secular Jewish atheist in the United States.

The Irish independence movement had some Protestants and added orange to the Irish flag to represent them, in the hope of transcending religious differences and emphasizing a regional-based nationalism. But that was a vain hope. The fault lines that split off Northern Ireland, and then split it internally, were identitarian with religious labels.

Maybe that situation will evolve in the future, but analyzing the past in any other terms is just wishful revisionism.

As a former longtime resident of NI w/broadly catholic sympathies, I think this point isn’t nuanced enough.
The color of the Irish flag is actually hotly debated. The GreenWhiteOrange is favored by peacenik types but the nationalists have flags that are greenwhitegold and do not recognize the greenwhiteorange (after all, that’s green for Irish, Orange for Unionists and White to represent the peace between them.)
In NI many Irish flags are a different color than they are south of the border

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As a side note, I find it shocking (and I suppose deplorable) that no American major media outlet has reviewed these books, or put them on its best of the year list, as far as I can tell. We are failing at something, though I suppose you can debate what. And I apologize to O’Leary for missing them the first time around.

As a side note to a side note, I find it odd that an influential economist is oblivious to prices, markets, and incentives (e.g. for the publishers that send him free advanced copies, or third-party payers for academic references). The major media outlets review books for their readership. These volumes are priced for the reference shelves of academia. It is unlikely they will even make it to the reference shelves of a large public library.

Likely, it has been decades since Tyler has cared about the price of a book. Whether free review copies or books being bought using a department's/center's budget, or simply the fact that Tyler is well paid at this stage in his career, price is not something that he cares about.

The fact that it is a three volume set is just icing on the cake - how many people buy sets of books concerning geopolitical history?

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/12/how_to_read_fas.html explains. Hat tip to Tyler.

That link is a decade and a half old.

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We Americans like to believe that being multi-religious and multi-cultural makes America a stronger nation. Do Americans believe that today? Have Americans become less tolerant of differences? Indeed, has the world become less tolerant of differences? Syria is a Sunni Muslim majority country (roughly 70% of the population is (or was before the civil war) Sunni Muslim) but with a Shia (Alawi) Muslim dictator. The civil war in Syria has been as much about economics (the relative poverty of the Sunni and relative affluence of the Shia) as it has been about the sectarianism: Sunnis believe the Shia government imposes economic barriers to the Sunni and confers economic favors to the Shia. It's about status.

The divide between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is about status. And get this: Brexit may well sever the relationship between Northern Ireland and Britain, as Northern Ireland is likely to suffer as a result. By comparison, the Republic of Ireland is unlikely to be affected, as it will continue as a member of the EU. Wouldn't it be ironic if Brexit led to the unification of Ireland. Or, God forbid, what if it led to a restart of the Troubles, as Protestants in Northern Ireland contemplate life in a unified and Catholic-dominant nation.

We Americans like to believe that being multi-religious and multi-cultural makes America a stronger nation. Do Americans believe that today?

Multiculturalism has shifted in America. There is a natural experiment occurring where multiculturalism is still entrenched in English Canada and unpopular in French Canada as Eric Kaufmann, author of the book Whiteshift, addresses in this interview on YouTube at the 11m30s mark.

RAD,

I think the latter is what has Tyler worried. It is personal for him, Cowen being an Irish name, and he has long studied Northern Ireland and its problems quite seriously.

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" I find it shocking (and I suppose deplorable) that no American major media outlet has reviewed these books, "

... it's more shocking that you've not noticed the political/cultural-correctness that dominates American media.

American media are not interested in White European Christians or their history or recent struggles.

That left-wing corporate media is only interested in minority ethnic/religious/racial groups.

White European Christians are the world's villains today and historically... if you follow mainstream American media.

"White European Christians are the world's villains today and historically... if you follow mainstream American media."

You mean the White European Christians oppressing (or rebelling against) White European Christians in Ireland.

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Oddly, anyone looking at the U.S. from the outside thinks this must be a joke - American media are not interested in White European Christians or their history or recent struggles.

Even funnier, considering the ongoing demonization of Muslims/Middle Easterners, is anyone who sincerely writes "White European Christians are the world's villains today and historically."

This is so absurd that one suspects Poe is involved.

So absurd that the most establishment of U.S. media institutions, the New York Times, has devoted itself to creating just such a narrative with The 1619 Project.

Isn't slavery seen as unChristian, even by the Times? And isn't it a common modern day American trope to point to Islam as a religion that endorsed slavery?

The whole point of the NYT's 1619 Project is to claim that American Christians were slavers who revolted from Great Britain in order to entrench slavery, which turns white Christians into villains whose "original sin" can never be overcome.

Weren't the British White Christians? Oh, now I got it. The Confederate statues were to overcome original sin.

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"So absurd that the most establishment of U.S. media institutions, the New York Times, has devoted itself to creating just such a narrative with The 1619 Project."

Whatever some of the problems with the contributions to the 1619 project may be, this is a rather limited perspective. One only need look at bleeding Kansas, controversy and sometimes violence over the Fugitive Slave Act, and, of course, the death toll from the Civil War to see that slavery was also something white Americans did to each other.

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@Nevermore:

you are missing the explicit focus here on the American mainstream media and their overwhelming political correctness.

sure, there's plenty of 'ongoing demonization of Muslims/Middle Easterners', but that comes mostly from the government.

Have you been watching Hollywood action movies over the last couple of decades? How many White European Christian do you see blowing up innocent people, thus requiring the White European Christian hero/s to slaughter those who have earned rightful retribution for their foul deeds?

The American cinema industry is trying to sell movie tickets to teen-age boys. The plots require locations and characters. There isn't much excitement in the daily tribulations of drag queens and Somali immigrants.

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Fairly often back in the good old days. There were definitely some flicks about the IRA.

Yes, the IRA and sexual identity issues were both the focus of a great movie, "The Crying Game".

Of course, it wasn't an American movie.

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I think the two reasons for disinterest are (1) that Catholic/Protestant conflicts seem safely on the mend, and (2) that people don't generally feel that Catholic/Protestant models apply to modern Christian/Muslim or Sunni/Shiite struggles.

I mean sure, really long term there might be similar paths to peace, but it doesn't seem applicable in my lifetime.

Actually the strategies that made Catholic/Protestant conflict seem a bit ridiculous apply to the other religious conflicts. The key to resolving these was to move it out of the religious realm into the political and nationalistic realm, where it is possible to lose. I watched the left when it had some sense do it in Quebec, dismantling an impregnable structure by routing around it by changing the subject.

Going after Islam, or the Church or other religious symbols only hardens the conflict. The key is changing the subject.

By the way, the leaders of Islam didn't miss what happened to Christendom, and have been quite vigorous in preventing it happening to them. They have successfully made any discussion of Islam fatal.

What happened to Christendom was a massive increase in well being and living standards, and a complete end to deadly religious conflict. Islam has been quite vigorous in evading modernity and maintaining bloody inter-religious strife. Nice job, Islam.

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Would Tyler or anyone else be able to suggest a similar work for Scotland? Interested in further exploring the history of these pieces of the UK.

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I believe that the Northern Ireland troubles should be of interest to western democracies outside Northern Ireland as an example of how a region that ticked many of the boxes for enlightened democracy (western traditions, literate population deeply interested in politics, strong social bonds provided by religion, British common law system...) behaved in ways that other states that tick these boxes believe can never happen to them.

My personal opinion is that the rise of the troubles (yet again) after 1960 may have been connected with the growth in the resources available for distribution from the state by politicians - some of this money not even generated in N.Ireland but provided from the mainland UK, and so not put at risk by disorder. If so, this suggests that there may be a conflict between the triple of population diversity, stability, and the provision of welfare by the state.

It was basically religion. Irish rebels tried to impose popery on their Protestant neighbors.

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In another framework, much of the dynamic of Northern Ireland in 1960 could be described as apartheid or segregation.

There is even a wiki article about it - here is the part concerning employment - Historically, employment in the Northern Irish economy was highly segregated in favour of Protestants, particularly at senior levels of the public sector, in certain then important sectors of the economy, such as shipbuilding and heavy engineering, and strategically important areas such as the police.[9] Emigration to seek employment was therefore significantly more prevalent among the Catholic population. As a result, Northern Ireland's demography shifted further in favour of Protestants leaving their ascendancy seemingly impregnable by the late 1950s.

Generally, few western democracies have ever had such extreme divisions, though as the dissolution of Yugoslavia demonstrated, there are other place with such extremes.

But the demographic trend now is an increasing catholic fraction, likely to be a majority in the next few years. This dooms the loyalist project in the long run.

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This sins of the Protestant ascendancy are consensus history, but they do not provide an explanation as to why the troubles were triggered around 1960, when the history of the ascendancy includes dates such as 1690.

One possibility is that universal education made the Nationalist/Catholic population better equipped to state its case and organize. Another suggested trigger is that the attempt to duplicate the US Civil Rights movement had unintended consequences. I note that one of the early grievances was not discrimination in employment (which I agree was present) but discrimination in the provision of public housing.

I also note that the ability of the state to attempt to address discrimination in employment is itself a state resource. Earlier administrations could (and did) provide discrimination in a small number of occupations by prohibiting them to Catholics, but it is not obvious that a reformed state would have had the ability to enforce fair employment laws in a poor rural economy,

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This is a bit too tendentious - Housing, which was indeed a locus of conflict, had been a local matter since 1919. Instead, look to: the fiftieth anniversary of the separation movement in 1966; the US civil rights movement in the 1960s; the subsequent re-awakening of Irish nationalist and republican sentiment, as they saw how to succeed against the hegemony; the reaction of the hegemony through failure to reform.

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"I find it shocking (and I suppose deplorable) that no American major media outlet has reviewed these books"

You ignore incentives. These are long, academic books. Reading and reviewing them would involve a very significant investment of time for the reviewer and the compensation would likely be less than $500. The books are also expensive, well above what the typical reader of a major media outlet will spend on a book on what (to Americans) a fairly obscure topic.

There are perhaps two magazines, the NYRB and Foreign Affairs, that would have the resources and interest to review them. That they didn't likely suggests oversight or lack of space.

Yeah, 300+ just to read them all on a kindle is a bit prohibitive....

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Thank you for the heads up, just ordered them.

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