Welcome Friends!

A Catholic blog about faith, social issues, economics, culture, politics and poetry -- powered by Daily Mass & Rosary

If you like us, share us! Social media buttons are available at the end of each post.

Monday, February 23, 2015

British People are Like all People: We Want Peace

 (Editor's Note) My homeschooled godson Ben, age 16, is studying history, and from that experience he took a great dislike to the British as they behaved in history especially toward the Irish. Ben is mostly Irish. I answered his questions regarding the pope and who killed Jesus Christ in this blog post “Questions from a Godson: Who Crucified Jesus Anyway? Is the Pope Really as Pure as He said?” 

But I really couldn’t address the British-Irish question for him, so I called in my faithful British friend Christopher Woodford, Twitter Handle @Crimbo51, who describes himself as a “former atheist who has abandoned the arrogance of certainty.” He is so recently “former atheist” that we were just arguing about the existence of God two weeks ago! He lives in Southampton, England. Ben lives in Washington State, U.S.A. On Saturday they began their dialogue with History Recalls Its Tragedies, Our Job is to Forgive  They stalled on the Irish Question. Ben wants a whole Ireland, North and South. Chris thinks it would cause new violence to break out. Susan Fox remembers the bombings in Dublin in 1974.

British Family Man
Christopher Woodford
 with granddaughter Jess 
Thanks for your reply Ben. In considering your position on Ireland you have caused me to research and fill in some gaps. I'm 63. This hammers home to me that we only cease to learn when our last breath leaves us. Maybe you and Susan would disagree with me here and say we continue to learn after our last breath. We'll see.... or maybe not. I'm open-minded and rule nothing out.

So here goes: I quote your reply.

''I did not hear explicitly 'the British want to re-enslave the Irish', I'm basing such a suspicion on the fact they still haven't just let go of Ireland.”

British people are like American people, German people, Russian people, and any people. We want peace, we want to have homes, go to work, come home, enjoy our families. So let's put “people” aside and talk governments.

Why should the Westminster government wish to “re-enslave” Ireland (referring here to Eire,) when all it's actions over the last seven decades have been to try to ensure the transition of former colonies to independent sovereign states? Ireland was, I think, the first to achieve this status before World War II.

OK. We can be cynical about this and say the dismantling of the British Empire was necessary on the grounds of Britain running out of cash after two world wars. But surely you notice around you, both in the US and when you watch world news, the attitudes of people everywhere toward freedom. It's a small world now. I'm talking to you across 6000 miles. It would take me longer to drive to my city's airport and park my car than the flight I could get from there to Dublin would take. The desperate attempts of governments like China and North Korea to stifle the World Wide Web can never succeed. Ordinary people communicate and this reduces the chance of them being fed propaganda.

Northern Ireland: After the government of Margaret Thatcher (she was an odd one!), I'm sure that nothing would have pleased any Westminster Prime Minister more than to be able to “wash their hands” of Ireland and say, “Give the Six Counties back and that will be the end of it.”

But it wouldn't be an end of it. The population of Northern Ireland was, last census, 1.8 million. That's about 40% the size of Eire's population of 4.5 million. Of the 1.8 million, around 48% describe themselves as Protestants. The vast majority of these would be incensed for their nationality to be arbitrarily changed to Irish. I bet a few of the Catholics would like to stay British too. I believe you live in Washington State. Would you happily accept the folks in Washington, D.C., telling you that starting June 1, 2015, you, Ben, will be a citizen of Canada, like it or not?

A conversation at the Whitehouse:

”Mr. President. Many people in Washington State don't want to be Canadians.”

(The President replies) “If they don't like being part of Canada, they can and should move to Oregon.”

“But Mr. President, many of them have business interests, family commitments, or just can't afford to move!”

“Well, it's not too bad being Canadian. They'll have to get used to it.”

“This will never happen,” you'll say, but in reading up I found that Mexico has a claim on Texas!

Back to Ireland: It wouldn't be an end to it. It would be the beginning of much more trouble. I'm sure you know about the militant Irish Republican Army and the Irish National Liberation Army movements. What about the list of Loyalist Protestant paramilitaries? All these groups are made up of people every bit as dangerous as the IRA. Some of these groups have been disbanded or ended their campaigns after the recent peace agreement. This is true progress.

But they would all come out of retirement if your plan was to be implemented, and no doubt would take their violent response to, not only the mainland British who “sold them out,” but also into the streets of the now peaceful Republic of Ireland.

“Out of the frying pan, into the fire,” the saying goes.

I quote you again:

“I'm basing such a suspicion on the fact they still haven't just let go of Ireland.”

Rev. Ian Paisley
Have you ever seen the recently deceased Reverend Ian Paisley speak? I checked YouTube for videos of him. Have a look. He's the sort of person we are dealing with here.

I recommend you at least watch the one where Paisley says he was told by both the Dublin and Westminster of what was called “Plan B.” If he refused to sit down with the Irish political party Sinn Féin “Britain would pull the plug” on Northern Ireland and return it to Dublin’s rule. He would then have no chance of any compromise.

Does this sound like a government, which is determined to enslave Ireland? It sounds to me like an exasperated government trying to get the best result for the most people out of an impossible situation.

I urge you again to read up on Scotland. I repeat what I said about their 2014 independence referendum. They could have freely gone their own way last year, with all the upheaval that would have caused. They had the freedom.

A simple referendum would not work for Northern Ireland. The vast majority of citizens wish to stay in the UK. Peter Robinson, First Minister at the Stormont (Northern Ireland) government, described such a referendum as “asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.” This is fact. All would be lost in a single day. The way forward is to let time take its healing course.

I quote you again:

“they could just start by backing out.”

The peace process IS “backing out.”

Let's go back 70 years and look at what happened when Britain did to India exactly what you propose it should do with Ireland.

The partition of India in 1947 was an example of a plan cobbled together and implemented without care or consideration over a few months.
A letter to a newspaper about 20 years ago by an officer in the Punjab Railway Police:

Massacres at the partition of India
1947 Partition of British Empire in India, creating Pakistan and Bangladesh caused
the largest mass migration in human history. 17 million fled across newly
created borders. Only 14.5 million arrived. At the lowest estimate half a
million people perished and 12 million became homeless
“Sir: There have been several estimates mentioned recently of the number of deaths caused by the partition of India 50 years ago -- figures of 250,000 to half a million have been put forward.

As a former officer of the Indian Police who was in the very thick of the disturbances in Lahore and Amritsar before the partition, and as Assistant Inspector General in charge of the Indian Punjab railway police, I was interested to hear on the Channel 4 program "Stones of the Raj" the higher estimate of one million cited.

The pendulum of death and destruction swung, over a period of many months both before and after 15 August 1947, across the whole of northern India from Calcutta to Kabul, and back again. During those months death was everywhere: in the towns and cities, in the thousands of villages, on the trains, on the roads. One of my duties in the railway police was to meet refugee trains, usually at Amritsar, coming in from newly created Pakistan.

The carnage on these trains was beyond belief -- men, women and down to the smallest infants. The trains were packed with thousands upon thousands of dead bodies, and many more were strewn along the track. The same thing was happening in the opposite direction, where trains taking refugees out of India were, with the connivance of the railway staff, being deliberately derailed so that the passengers could easily be massacred. There was madness in the air that was almost tangible.
In addition, nature took a hand that dreadful summer. During the monsoon there were flash floods in some places, which swept away untold thousands of refugees along with their bullock carts and all their possessions.

An old Indian Civil Service friend (who stayed on in Pakistan) and I were recently discussing the question of the number of deaths, and he agreed with me that it must have been anything between one and two million, probably closer to two than to one.
It will be many years yet, on both sides of the border, before the bitterness of partition is forgotten.
Richmond, Surrey.”

Ireland is not India. But fast track solutions cause chaos.

I think the peace process as we have it at the moment is the best way forward, and as the older generation passes and people of your age take over with the pain of the past healed, then anything can happen.

I'm not sure how much you know about Ireland and world history by your own research and how much is hearsay.  I urge you to read and research for yourself. Form your own opinions. It's all there at the click of a mouse.

Other peoples opinions are just that.... other peoples opinions (including mine.) Form your own. They are the only ones you can trust.

Best wishes, Chris.

Susan Fox  visited Dublin in 1974, when Ireland was going through The Troubles.

Dear Ben, I thought his answer was interesting because he said they have come to some accommodation in Northern Ireland. The violence has stopped.  In 1974, when I was in Dublin, a girlfriend took me to a dance hall in Dublin. I was 20 years old and had no idea where we were going. But when the dance started the guy running the show announced that we were such a “brave” crowd as we were the first ones back into downtown Dublin after the bombing which killed a certain number of people. Now I was not in Northern Ireland, but somebody from Northern Ireland bombed Dublin because they were mad at the Irish. I remember not feeling brave at all, but terrified that we were in Dublin where they bombed innocent civilians! If Chris is saying that activity would start again if they disturbed the situation up there, I can see how nobody would want that.

However, I think about Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which technically freed 3 million slaves in the South without compensation to their owners. The results were bloody, the most deadly war in U.S. History. Southern resentment manifested itself against the North and the Negro population for decades afterwards. Maybe we could have ended slavery as the British did by reform of their laws, but it seems like that was the only way we were going to get rid of slavery. I pray we don’t have to go through something similar to end abortion, but it seems for right now the mainstream pro-life movement keeps chugging away with pro-life solutions (peacefully closing abortion “clinics.”)

Bones lined up in the crypt at Nyamata Genocide
Memorial in Rwanda 
But then I think about the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 where an estimated 1 million Rwandans were killed in three short months. Two tribes lived together for generations until members of the Hutu Tribe achieved a majority leadership. What  amazed me about that conflict is that members of the Hutu and Tutsi Tribes looked the same, and many of them worshiped together in the same Catholic parish before the genocide! Their distinction developed because one group farmed the land and the other herded cattle. Thank God Northern Ireland didn’t devolve into a similar genocide. 

Ben your godfather, Lawrence Fox, has a solution to the whole matter in Northern Ireland. He said the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland must faithfully practice their faith. If they do that, they can peacefully convert the Protestants. As Chris said, the Anglican Church is fading in Britain, but the Catholic Church is growing.  Ironically, this is the same solution Our Lady offered the Rwandans in 1981 when she appeared to several children in Kibeho, Rwanda, warning that a "River of Blood" would flow unless people put aside their hatred and loved one another. 


BEN: Wasn't Reverend Ian Paisley Protestant? He despised Catholicism, and called Pope John II, "the Antichrist"? Let's not forget the Protestants wouldn't be in Northern Ireland if not for King Henry VIII. So why should Protestants (like the deceased Ian Paisley) get a say in what happens in Northern Ireland? While I like your peace speech I think we're going to have to agree to disagree. It sounds like you are saying making a hasty decision and letting go could lead to disaster, giving an example of what happened to India.

Sure, the Protestant resistance groups in Northern Ireland may start up again, but there are a lot of other groups, who support a united Ireland. They outnumber the Protestants. And the Garda (national police of the Republic of Ireland) would keep the peace (or try). The Protestants are so toxic -- they shouldn't be there anyway. They are not going to get along with the rest of the Catholic population -- that much is obvious. The British should let go of Northern Ireland, uproot and move the Protestants out in the process. Maybe they don't want to move, but they should.

Your comparison of Washington becoming Canadian doesn't enthuse me. Unlike the Protestants, I didn't go somewhere I was unwelcome to be. I would definitely move if Washington became Canadian because that would just mean England is probably going for a land-grab through Canada (I do realize England doesn't own Canada anymore, but they still recognize the British Queen, no?)

Such a move – turning Washington over to Canada -- would confirm all suspicion that the U.S. government is composed of selfish dimwits.

But it would never happen because everyone in Washington would vote against it, everyone would be in an uproar, and the government would lose the revenue of an entire state.

Mexican Invasion of Texas?
Mexico is tiny, there's no way the U.S. is going to let them walk in and take Texas. The government likes to own everything. That's like saying “the Native Americans have a legitimate claim to the entire U.S., let's hand it on over.” That wouldn't happen in a million years. But I digress. It sounds like you think if everyone buries his or her head in the sand that everyone will simply forget. Ireland will be whole or people will not care any more. And the problem goes away. We're obviously both biased, and both have a different stance. I don't think everyone burying his or her head in the sand is the right thing to do. I think they should pull the plug on Northern Ireland.

It’s pointless to let Northern Ireland vote to leave because that’s where the Protestants are, so they’d be voting for themselves. The whole of Ireland should get a vote on the matter. If the whole of Ireland voted on whether Northern Ireland should stay apart or not, Northern Ireland would be voted to merge back. Sure, it might make a select few mad but that's not their problem. Stay or go.

Chris Woodford’s Final Thoughts

Hello again Ben

All of history is full of “ifs.”  If Henry VIII hadn’t wanted a divorce... If Hitler had declared war on Japan and not the United States after Pearl Harbor...

It’s endless.

But we are the ones left to deal with the fallout of these “ifs” long after the perpetrators of them are in their graves.  We are in the holes they made and we either stay in them or get out of them as best we can.

The European Union will swallow Ireland (Eire already happily immersed) and it will swallow Britain too in the end.  I bet in 50 years even Russia will be in the Super State of Europe.

Indian Rulers North and South America?
Native Americans DO have the right to be returned to full control of the whole of the continents of both North and South America. I’m using your standard here.  They have as many “ifs” as anyone else.

As a Postscript: I misunderstood Ben's suggestion about a referendum.  Yes, a “whole Ireland” referendum would be a good idea.  A “whole British Isles” referendum would, I feel, return Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland as most English, Scots and Welsh are tired of the trouble caused over the years.

But let's not forget the people of Northern Ireland, who were not simply “put there by Henry VIII,” but have been born to families who have lived there, in some cases, longer than Ben's family have lived in he USA.

Henry VIII was 500 years ago. That's twice the age of the USA.


Susan Fox: Unbelievable. We have reached almost an agreement – a whole Ireland referendum. Now we simply must tell Westminster. 


  1. I have to say as a resident of Northern Ireland, I'm in total agreement with Chris, "The way forward is to let time take its healing course." In due course the Island of Ireland will be unified, the people will make this choice, not the politicians nor Westminster. The Irish conflict contrary to popular belief isn't about religion, was never about religion, and is more to do with political and national identity.

    Sectarianism was stirred-up by sinister politicians both here in Northern Ireland and also at Westminster, but I can assure you that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland played no part and only wanted to get on with their lives and still strive to do so today.

    The Irish Church has much work still to do in areas of ecumenism and to rebuild its credibility following the abuse revelations that stunned the whole Island of Ireland and the world.

    The Church needs to heal herself first, and then administer this healing balm to those who did suffer and to those whose faith has been shattered and left in ruins.

    Thus, I am a great believer that with patience, understanding, reconciliation and humility, time will bear the fruits of an all inclusive society, a healed society and a renewed Christian spirituality without its past faults.

  2. The British non-indigenous Protestants in North Ireland hate, and I do mean HATE the Irish Catholics who belong there. I'm with Ben. On this occasion of Lent, I shall allow the haters to be my hairshirt and pray for forgiveness for them and pray for God's Mercy on their souls.

  3. Thank you so much for commenting Joseph and Sheila. I find it interesting that it's the American Irish who feel this hurt still, while the Northern Irishman agrees with "The Brit." God bless you both. Susan Fox

  4. The problem with Abrahamic religion is that it keeps focusing your mind back to the past instead of into the present. Only by a positive experience in the present can one create a positive future and happy memories. That seems obvious to me. 'Hairshirt' mentality is self inflicted delusion and helps no one.

    1. I disagree. Only a devout Catholic can pray for their enemy and their enemy's conversion, or at least get the heck out of our country and stop beating me and my relatives up! Not 2nd gen here, born there in County Cork. Parents left with all of us and though my father could not get a job in this wonderful America, we at least had enough money to buy a 100 acre dairy farm, and made enough from that to purchase a 900 acre ranch. So, unlike the illegal immigrants of today who get everything for nothing, we worked hard, yes, even the childlren, to better ourselves financially, since Spiritually we were stable and without revenge, although righteous indignitation towards those who hate me for who and what I am, and praying for their salvation IS MY HAIRSHIRT.