Tuesday, October 13, 2009

West Cork revisited 3: calculating the numbers of the pogrom?
Here Malcolm continues to assemble evidence. Anyone is, of course, entitled to leap to conclusions without consideration of the previous and the following posts.
We now need to consider the departure of a large number of protestant families after the 1921 settlement. It was the minor theme of RTÉ's CSÍ: Cork's Bloody Secret.

Professor John A. Murphy, in a letter to the Irish Times, challenged Eoghan Harris's claim:
Senator Eoghan Harris claimed that at least 60,000 Protestants were “driven out” of the new State in those years and that was a “conservative estimate”.

He stressed that the figure represented ordinary Protestants, “small farmers, small shopkeepers”, and did not include former servants of the ousted British regime such as disbanded policemen and demobbed soldiers. Neither did it include, presumably, those who left because they felt unable to accept the ideology and culture of the new dispensation.

Outside of these categories then, according to Senator Harris, at least 60,000 southern Protestants were subjected to an “enforced exodus” on a massive scale, to ethnic cleansing, in fact. He has made these unsubstantial allegations repeatedly (for example in the Sunday Independent , May 24th, 2009).
Harris responded, first in the Irish Times:
The Censuses from 1911 to 1926 show that a third of Irish Protestants left the State in that period. In the brief slots provided by the CSÍ programme I used the phrase “driven out ” to cover any categories of compulsion (from physical intimidation to cultural pressures such as compulsory Irish for State jobs) which caused what I called the “enforced exodus” of the 1921-22 period.

As nobody can say for sure what this enforced exodus entailed, I based my estimate of 60,000 on two figures. First, I rejected as ridiculously high a possible top figure of 146,000. On the other hand I thought the bottom figure of 39,000 a bit too low.

The latter figure comes from Dr Andy Bielenberg’s paper to the 2008 Cork conference, Understanding Our History . Excluding certain categories (RIC, first World War casualties, etc), Dr Bielenberg came up with a figure of 39,000 “involuntary emigrants”. This carefully chosen phrase is still close to my notion of an “enforced exodus”. As a professional historian, Dr Bielenberg is properly conservative in his calculations. However, if you add in the decline of Dublin working-class Protestants, those who made no claims, and those who hung on for a few years, I believe the true figure of the “enforced exodus” is far closer to 60,000. But if Prof Murphy insists that only professional historians can do the tots I will settle for Prof Bielenberg’s figure of 39,000.
Then, more generally, in his own column in the Sunday Independent:
My phone rings non-stop after CSÍ : Cork's Bloody Secret. Most of the callers are Roman Catholics and republicans from west Cork. They are thrilled to see the end of the last taboo -- telling the truth about what happened to hundreds of ordinary Irish Protestants after the Treaty.

Why did it take so long to speak out? At first fear seems to have been a real factor in isolated rural areas. Later came a decent desire not to disturb the status quo. In recent years an empty ecumenism persuaded Protestants to postpone giving witness.

Comfortable city Protestants conspired to prolong that silence. Some simply hadn't a clue about the sufferings of their country cousins. But some were silent because they had settled for the cushy role of Protestant republican.

I believe the major force in persuading Protestants to speak to CSÍ was Bishop Paul Colton's 2008 conference entitled Protestants, the War of Independence and the Civil War in County Cork. Some 150 Cork Protestants shared tragic family memories. After that the walls of silence could not stand long.

Expect some bitter old tribal nationalists to emerge to nit-pick. But most Irish people seemed relieved that those who suffered have finally found their voice. Certainly the majority community showed solidarity by tuning into CSI in large numbers.

Cork's Bloody Secret had 276,000 viewers and secured 21.8 per cent of audience share. This is a phenomenal audience for an Irish-language programme. Attention on that scale is a form of atonement.
Today there is some support for Harris, from Robin Bury, in a further letter to the Irish Times, today:
Senator Eoghan Harris (October 10th) is right to indicate that precise figures are difficult, if not impossible, to find for the number of Protestant “involuntary emigrants” between the inter-censal periods of 1911 and 1926. I have researched this subject in some detail over many months with the help of Prof David Fitzpatrick of University College, Dublin. He pointed out to me that “These speculations show, above all, how treacherous and insufficient are the available figures”. I agree, having looked at all the available sources I can lay my hands on.

At the end of this research, the best estimate I can come up with is about 45,000 Protestants were “involuntary emigrants” between 1911 and 1926, a figure somewhat higher than that of Dr Andy Bielenberg. A comprehensive breakdown of this figure will, I hope, become available when the book I am writing on Protestants in this State since 1920 is published.

Mr Harris is right to say there was a major exodus of Protestants during this period who were intimidated, or made to feel unwanted, and my book covers many such examples, details of which can be found in the Irish Grants Committee archives at the National Archives, Kew, London and in periodicals of that time like the Church of Ireland Gazette and the Presbyterian Witness.
Harris has been this way before. Last December he wrote about a conference in Cork:
a gathering of Cork Protestants at a successful seminar called 'Understanding Our History -- Protestants, the War of Independence and the Civil War in County Cork'.

The seminar, which had a full house, was the brainchild of the popular Paul Colton, Church of Ireland Bishop of the United Dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross -- easily the best, as well as the best-titled, job in Ireland.
He referred then to Bielenberg's work:
drily titled Protestant emigration from the south of Ireland 1911-1926, some statistical evidence. But there was nothing dry about his final figure. Excluding extraneous factors (such as connections with the British forces, civil service, World War One casualties etc) Dr Bielenberg concluded that 39,000 southern Protestants became "involuntary migrants" in that period.

"Involuntary migrants," is another name for victims of intimidation.

As Bielenberg showed, many of them were not farmers, but small-town traders and artisans.

Behind the figures we glimpsed a grim picture -- decent Irish families caught in a conflict over which they had no control, and forced to flee from the land of their birth.

To this day, Dublin Protestants have little sense of the suffering of their country cousins. But in rural Ireland, the enforced exodus of almost 40,000 Protestants left scars on the soul as well as on the landscape. It was good to hear that some who fled came back to their farms -- proof that expelled southern Protestants were patriots who loved their country with the same passion their descendants show today.

Kevin Myers, writing in the Irish Times, was the first to break the silence about the sufferings of southern Protestants in that period. Academic study only began with the publication of Peter Hart's book, The IRA and its Enemies.
Before he moves on, Malcolm has to notice names from his past: he went to school with one Bielenberg, and was at TCD with the odd Bury. Doubtless these are the next generation. Small place, Ireland.

Let's draw a couple of conclusions here, which ought to be common ground:
  • Bielenberg's count, which all seem to accept as a base-line figure, excludes the British forces, civil service, World War One casualties etc.
  • It also excludes later "forced assimilation", the consequence of the Catholic Church's insistence on the children of mixed-marriages being brought up as Catholics, which continued the process until the last decade of the twentieth century.
Malcolm would go further.
  • There was ingrained and institutional prejudice against protestants, which persisted from earlier and lasted far longer than the scope of what Harris or Bielenberg or Peter Hart are considering.
At which point, we need to go further back. So ...

[To be continued] Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Dewi Harries said...

Great stuff Malcolm - keep it up - not a history many are aware of. (You have one reader at least)

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