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British Isles 1979 - a possibly crazy idea

RI Democrat

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So I'm contemplating another "counterfactual" historical scenario and wanted to get some feedback on (a) whether people would find it interesting and (B) where I might be tripping up in terms of understanding the politics at work.

The starting premise is that the conflict over Ireland in the mid/late-1910s and early 1920s did not escalate as it did IRL, and instead a version of "Home Rule" was accepted, with Ireland still part of the UK but with considerable devolved powers on domestic issues. Part of the challenge in taking this on - but also part of where I'm perhaps most likely to screw up - is figuring out how Irish politicians would fit into the British parties, given the lack of a clear left/right division in how Irish politics ended up developing.

Here's how I'm envisioning things at the moment for a 1979 scenario:

  • Ireland has, more often than not, sent a majority of moderate, One Nation Conservatives to Westminster, with strong support for Home Rule - and some openness to possible further devolution - now characteristic of this faction of Tories on both sides of the Irish Sea. Jack Lynch, Liam Cosgrave, and most politicians in the mainstream of Fianna Fail or Fine Gael at the time would be part of this faction.
  • More right-wing Tories can be found in Ireland in one of two varieties: those favoring more of a Thatcherite approach on the economy (led by Desmond O'Malley and others who eventually formed the Progressive Democrats), and those who believe Irish devolution should either be scaled back or split so that the North and South would have separate regional parliaments (led by the RL Official Unionist Party members in the North). On the British side, Thatcher and most of her followers are of the opinion that devolution has gone as far as it should in Ireland.
  • Irish Labour, and Ulster's Social Democratic and Labour, are simply part of the Labour Party, with a little more strength in Dublin and Belfast due to having more organizational resources. Labour's mainstream favors further devolution for Ireland.
  • Garret FitzGerald would either be a Liberal or part of Labour's right wing alongside Callaghan, Healey, etc. (not sure which way to go with this - suggestions? I don't really see him as a Tory from what I've read).
  • Sinn Fein are around and viable in certain areas, but are not necessarily seen as closely tied to the IRA (who are also still around but don't have as much support), more akin to Plaid Cymru as simply a left-wing pro-independence party.
  • Fianna Fail also exists as a small pro-independence party that otherwise tends to be more conservative in policy terms, possibly with Charles Haughey as the leader.
  • Ian Paisley's DUP exists as a splinter party formed to resist further devolution and advocate for the Protestant minority and have a shot at winning a few seats in Ulster.

In terms of context, I'm thinking of having the turmoil of the late '70s taking place under a Conservative government with Edward Heath in power, resulting in a lot of noise from both Labour on the left and Thatcherite Conservatives on the right that something needs to change, and fast. While the Conservatives have a narrow Westminster majority, changes of leadership for each major party are a real possibility before the next election (with both British and Irish choices for the Conservatives, Labour, and possibly the Liberals and one or two others). Also, Scottish and Welsh nationalists see Ireland as having been given "special privileges" and are more fired up as a result, and Ireland would account for at least 60-70 additional seats in the House of Commons.

So, to those of you who know British and Irish politics, am I completely off my rocker here? Any specific changes you'd suggest or anywhere that I'm missing the boat in terms of the "fault lines" of Irish politics? (One bit of "artistic license" I would ask for is that, while I'm sure almost no politicians in the RL Republic of 1979 would have stood for a single word about being part of the UK, their attitudes might be different if it were a fait accompli after 60 years of devolved Home Rule.)

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  • 1 month later...

I encourage this. I hope you don't mind some random comments.

The Irish Party was shattered by the pro-independence force, Sinn Féin, in the 1918 general election. If that hadn't happened, the Irish Party would have won 75-80 seats, Unionists 21-25 and Labour 0-7 out of 105. This was the basic split in Irish politics before 1916, whereas the equivalent Liberal/Conservative/Labour seat split in Britain was about 165/360/75 in 1918. (http://irishpoliticalmaps.blogspot.ie/2012/05/irish-uk-general-election-1918.html)

Before the Irish Party, you had a mix of home-rule activists, Whigs, and Liberals playing the same role as the majority, anti-Conservative party, with the (Anglican) Conservatives and Unionists in the minority. (http://irishpoliticalmaps.blogspot.ie/2012/12/uk-general-election-1859-ireland.html)

Pro-Catholic, anti-Conservative factions had won the majority/Catholic vote for 80 years by the time of Irish independence, while Conservatives and Unionists won the minority/Protestant vote. This is the basic party system up to 1918; what about afterwards? I don't see much reason for change after 1918, except that Labour might grow at the expense of the other two parties, until the Great Depression, when all bets are off.

As you say, Dublin and Belfast (and Cork) might favour Labour in poor areas. They wouldn't have had much chance elsewhere, with voters under the influence of the Catholic Church, or anti-Labour farmers or professionals. The Conservatives would do well exactly where they did up to the 1970s: north-east Ireland, fighting against a Labour minority in most areas. This extends to the Protestant-majority parts of Ulster. The Conservatives were Unionists so I don't think they would have been pro-devolution in Southern Ireland at all. They represented the Protestant religious interest in Ireland. In contrast, Irish Catholics were not usually Conservative unless they had landed estates. Most of Ireland would have been agricultural, religious-minority, and peripheral, like west Wales or the Highlands, which had a strong Liberal presence up to the Second World War.

So I think the Irish Party would either act independently, or as the Irish wing of the Liberals. This could give UKGBI a lasting three-party system: Labour; Conservative and Unionist; Liberal and Home Rule. As for history, Labour would have needed Irish MPs to support their minority governments in 1923 and 1929. Interwar politics would have been Conservatives versus everyone else. (If the Liberals and Irish merged, they could have won 10 Downing Street at the 1923 general election. Think about that...)

I would put almost all the significant figures from Ireland, 1979 in the Irish Party/Liberals in this alternate history. In summary: Northern Ireland, Conservative v Labour; Southern Irish cities, Irish v Labour; Southern Irish rural areas, Irish v other Irish (maybe pro-independence?).

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Here's my thinking:
(1) Irish politics would end up with three main cleavages:
-Economic issues (pretty standard)
-Social issues (also standard)
-Devolution/independence (likely seeking some sort of change that would prevent the UK Parliament from being able to reverse devolution by act). Here, there's a continuum from pro-present situation (Unionists/UUP) to permanent devolutionist (Irish Party) to still agitating for independence (Sinn Fein).

(2) In this vein, here are the parties I see:
-Unionist/Conservative: Pro-present situation, socially conservative, economically moderate to conservative
-Labour: Uncertain on devolution, socially mixed, fiscally liberal
-Liberal: Pro-permanent devolution, socially liberal, fiscally liberal (but to the right of Labour)
-Sinn Fein: Pro-independence, fiscally liberal-ish, socially liberal-ish
-Irish Party: Pro-permanent devolution, socially conservative, fiscally mixed.

-Possible would be a version of the SNP.

It does seem possible that you'd get a more hard right party thrown in the mix; the main issue is that I get a feeling that there would be a bit more of a "big tent" effort in several of the parties. You'd basically have 3-4 separate instances of a two-and-a-half party system: One in England and Wales, a version in Scotland, another one in Northern Ireland and Dublin, and a fourth in rural Ireland.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Sinn Fein all occupy similar roles in this scenario - left-of-center parties advocating for their home regions to be independent from the UK.

I get the point about the Conservatives' historic Unionism, but given Ireland's social conservatism, I had a hard time imagining a scenario in which a party similar to, or affiliated with, the Liberals would dominate Ireland's political scene (the 1967 Abortion Act was David Steel's bill, for example). My thinking was that the more pragmatic Conservatives would have. at some point, pushed through acceptance of devolution in Ireland as a way to expand their appeal beyond the Protestant north, with the Irish Party having fractured and dissolved after Home Rule was passed.

Here's how things are structured w/r/t Irish politics as the scenario currently stands:

Labour - Pro-devolution but not pro-independence, with Garret FitzGerald and Frank Cluskey as the Irish alternatives to Callaghan and Foot. Dublin is the main stronghold, but they are competitive in several areas of Munster.

Conservative - Variable based on leader. Edward Heath and Jack Lynch are the main moderates, with Lynch prepared to push for further devolution and Heath a little more cautious. Thatcher opposes further devolution, while Desmond O'Malley supports Thatcherite economic policies but is more moderate on social issues and devolution. James Molyneaux leans to the right and wants a separate devolved parliament for Ulster.

Liberal - Only competitive in a few areas. Gemma Hussey, a feminist and a member Fine Gael's liberal wing, is the alternative leader.

Sinn Fein - Economically left-wing, socially moderate, pro-independence. There are a few constituencies south of Ulster where Labour are weak and Sinn Fein are the main left-of-centre alternative, but their strongholds are the Catholic/nationalist areas of Ulster.

Fianna Fail - Economically moderate, socially conservative, pro-independence. As with Sinn Fein and Labour, they have been able to displace the Conservatives as the main right-of-centre party in a few constituencies.

Democratic Unionist - Economically moderate, socially conservative, anti-devolution. They basically just run candidates in Ulster and are gaining strength in some of the Protestant/Unionist areas.

Anyway, please keep the feedback coming. A beta version should be ready soon.

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  • 1 year later...

Beta version available here if anyone's interested. This is for the pre-"Infinity" engines - I expect it would work for either PM4E2008 for Canada or PM4E2010 for the UK.


The folder includes a word file called "Background Information" that explains how all this developed following the successful implementation of Home Rule. Feedback very welcome!

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Will give this a try, definitely.

Say, RI Democrat, since you still have the old version of PM4E, have you downloaded and tried my Canada 1957 scenario yet, now that it's been fixed?

Downloaded but not played. I'll post some feedback in your thread when I get to it, probably over the weekend. I assume playing as Diefenbaker and trying to replicate his RL victory is the more interesting route to take?

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