Divisions between the Irish and the English can also be measured through the violence and abuse surrounding the years preceding the outbreak of the First World War. As well as the stereotypes of being un-skilled and ungrateful, a major typecast introduced upon the Irish was the idea that they were violent and heavily associated with crime. Again, these factors were worsened by media coverage, which often gave one side stories, and were worsened even more so by the police, a topic on which numerous historians, notably Graham Davies, agree that ‘the Irish scene was deliberately picked on to provoke scenes of disorder’. Again the Irish were seemingly being cast aside in this sense and made to look like outcasts, a literal different type of person to the average ‘non-violent’ English man.
Violence was the result of many different causes in itself, from social reasons, poverty, religion and more, but it is in itself worth considering as a point when looking at whether the Irish developed an accommodation in mainland society, as it provides evidence that the Irish ultimately, before the 20th century at least, were not properly taken seriously as equal citizens. For instance, the Murphy Riots of 1862, which had both religious and social connotations, in which ‘local protestant leaders’ who were ‘facing a 10% wage cut’, began taking up ‘anti-catholic feeling[s] and attacked the Irish’17.
Despite the Irish being in a similar position of sharing the pain of poverty, immigrant discrimination served as a barrier for these efforts to be truly worked together. As Donald MacRaild argues, ‘the violence of the Irish was at least partly the result of the treatment they themselves received’18, yet the stereotype applied only to the Irish and again, in this respect, they became socially outcast as opposed to a part of the mainland society.
These Anti-Catholics feelings were obviously a major contribution to what arguably created an outcast group of the Irish. Donald MacRaild explains that ‘Few cities in the world had a more virulently anti-Catholic flavour than Liverpool’19, and when considered that ‘the number of Irish entering the [Liverpool] port exceeded those going… anywhere else’20, it is not surprising that the Catholics were subject to much exile within Britain.
The persecution of Catholics contributed to some of the ‘most serious clashes’21 between the English and Irish according to Roger Swift, evident again from the Murphy Riots, as well as Stockport, 1852, Oldham, 1861 and London, 186222, which demonstrate much religious-based upheaval all within 20 years following the start of the mass immigration in 1845. In this respect then, there is no way that the majority Protestant based Irish population can be considered as accommodated into the mainland society.
On the other hand, some historians such as David Fitzpatrick argue that ‘it often mattered little whether an Irish immigrant was… a Protestant or a Catholic’, but even if this much is true, Fitzpatrick still argues that they ‘tended to be lumped together as ignorant, dirty and primitive’23, so the group are still undeniably being outcast from mainland society even if their religion is overlooked.
Politically, the Irish struggled to be part of mainland society and share political ideologies with the English, as often, political groups and ideologies would be based around discriminating against them. Leading politicians such as Tory leader Benjamin Disraeli would speak out, claiming the Irish to be a ‘wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race’ who ‘have no sympathy with the English character’24 which again, created stereotypes of the Irish being ungrateful and out to deprive the English of their welfare. More extreme than this, the 1870’s saw ‘popular movements such as ‘Orangeism’ playing ‘an important grass-roots role in Liverpool Toryism’25.
Orangeism provided the radical view that Roman Catholicism is a threat to the establishment and in adapting this ideology to the very prominent Tory party, many would pick up on the same beliefs and the already outstanding division between the Irish and English would cultivate. The comparison of these situations to Irish immigrants elsewhere provides a real contrast. Irish settlers in America in fact ‘enjoyed greater freedom of operation’ with regard to political affairs, and were ‘able to elicit greater sympathy for Ireland’s cause among the wider community’26.
The worrying contrast between Irish immigrants in America and in Britian not only applies to political objectors, but also the ‘Irish community in America was wealthier than its counterparts in Great Britain’ in general, and moreover, they ‘often enjoyed more rapid upward social mobility than proved feasible in Great Britain’27. Irish settlers in America were not without problems of their own by any means, but still arguably constituted more of an accommodation with mainland society than the British immigrants did in the 19th century.
Despite the political discrimination against the Irish, political principles did serve as somewhat of a way forward for the Irish in creating some form of unity and matching some of the prerequisites of being a part of the society, such as fighting for a shared political viewpoint. In the 1880’s and 1890’s, ‘Irish immigrants played a prominent role in the unionisation of unskilled workers’28, and also, the Irish played a very considerably role in the Chartist movement which pressurized the government for various points of the people’s charter and gained much from showing the government the general level of power and ambition the working classes could possess.
This form of political shared principles suggests somewhat of an accommodation in mainland society, though again, evidence from the Murphy Riots suggests that even when political ideology was shared, anger was often taken out on the Irish at times. Graham Davies claims that ‘by the end of the century [1890’s], [the Irish immigrants] were beginning to assert themselves as community leaders’29, rising through the ranks of social and political deprivation to become part of the mainland society.
Davies also argues that ‘assimilation through intermarriage with British partners was to have the effect of making the Irish in Britain at least partly British in outlook and identity’30 though whilst making the Irish more a part of British inland society, this questionably excludes those who did not get married to British partners and suggests the Irish have to relate to British rather than live in the society on their own terms. In conclusion, though the Irish situation did undoubtedly improve towards the start of the First World War in 1914, and despite the fact that Irish customs would inevitably work its way into English culture through the mediums of music, literature, sport and other means, the Irish were typically an outcast group following the mass immigration resulting from the Irish famine.
Issues such as religious persecution, through both political and physical means, the vast array of employment concerns for the average refugee, the abysmal social standards of living and in addition, the stereotypes and messages spread throughout Britain that the Irish were not worthy to be part of the society generally had the consequence of the Irish being very much outcast rather than accommodated into mainland society, and even when shared ideologies such as fighting for working class rights created a sense of unity, these reflections were shattered when the Irish began to be blamed and persecuted for these existing conditions.
Many sources depict scenes of deprivation, violence and a level of general loathsomeness that was not experienced in other immigrant dwellings such as America, in which settlers were provided with a considerable amount more empathy which enabled for more ease in settling into the society and becoming a part of it rather than being pushed away. Britain however, between 1845 and 1914, despite any of the hopeful signs, would contain the Irish to being no more than an outcast group on the whole.