March 13, 2016

Ireland - Most Oppressed People Ever?

By Andre Carrilho

Professor Bew said that those who see the role of Britain in the history of the world as singularly negative represent an "infantilised version of the past". Fintan O'Toole wrote in ‘After the Ball’ (2003) that Ireland’s history is not at all unique:
"Irish people like to see ireland as an exceptional place. Our suffering throughout history is unparalleled… Our struggle for freedom inspired the people of the world… The complexity of our dilemmas is unsurpassed… And because Ireland occupies a place in the world grossly disproportionate to its population, this sense of our uniqueness is often reflected back on us from the outside. 
All of this is, of course, an illusion. Many countries, even in Europe, have similar experiences of struggling to secure their independence against larger neighbours in the 20th century. Many cultures have been shaped by the same broadly nationalist cultural revivals of the 19th century."

He continued:
"Irish experiences of the struggle for independence, of ethnic and religious division, of social injustice and of the race to break the cycle of economic underdevelopment are not at all unique."
He also said:
"The illusion of being exceptional is common enough and am most small societies share it."
George Bernard Shaw suggested in 1886 that Ireland has borne no more than her share of the growing pains of human society. He wrote in a review of J.A. Partridge’s ‘The Making of the Irish Nation’, September 18 1886 and noted that “the mass of the English people are not only guiltless of her wrongs, but have themselves borne a heavier yoke.” Here’s the best of the review:
"The unpolicied reviewer, writing without editorial responsibility, may perhaps be permitted to opine that neither history from the Nationalist nor sociology from the Imperialist point of view will assuage Ireland longing for separation. History so written is a sensational tale of an atrocious wrong done by England: sociology so considered is a plea for leaving matters as they are until the Imperial project is ripe for execution. The one makes the Irishman grind his teeth and hide a pike under his straw mattress; the other tempts Englishmen to postpone a question that will not wait. Why does not some Democratic Internationalist declare the fact, unseen by the indignant Nationalist and over-looked by the future-dreaming Imperialist, that the people of England have done the people of Ireland no wrong whatever? What voice in the councils of the younger Pitt has the English yoke-fellows of the '98 rebels? What were the sufferings against which the Irish then rose compared with those which led to the first abortive Factory Act of 1802? Surely the English people, in factory, mine, an sweater’s workshop, had reason to envy the Irish peasant, who at the worst starved on the open hillside instead of rotting in a fetid tenement rookery. Irish landlords may have shewn themselves "vultures with bowels of iron”; but are they not extant in factory inspectors’ reports, Royal Commissioners’ reports, philanthropic protests, “Butter Cries,” and utterances of our Shaftsburys and Oastlers (not to mention Mrs Reaney), records of rapacious and cruel English capitalists while little fingers were thicker than the loins of the real masters of Ireland? Allusions to these matters are suppressed in polite society, and they are consequently seldom made except by the orators of the street corner; but when book after book from the press, and speech after speech from the platform, lay upon all England the odium of misdeeds that no Irishman can contemplate without intense bitterness - that too many cannot think if without bloodthirsty rage - it is surely expedient to point out that most distressful country that she has borne no more than her share of the growing pains of human society, and that the mass of the English people are not only guiltless of her wrongs, but have themselves borne a heavier yoke."
Terry Wogan said in his 2007 interview with the Irish Times:
"Rugby at Croke Park, that to me is the end of it, we mustn’t keep thinking we’re the only people with history, the only people oppressed."
Oppression in Irish history was as much the consequence of capitalistic class interests as of British malignancy, as Dean Godson wrote:
"One of the key themes of Paul Bew’s academic work — as expressed in Land and the National Question in Ireland (1978) — is that oppression in Irish history was as much the consequence of capitalistic class interests as of British malignancy. Thus, the Famine would have taken place even if Ireland had been independent. Yes, there were victims — but the context of that ‘victimhood’ had to be properly understood if it was not to be employed to justify brutal sectarian retribution."
Kevin Myers wrote in the Sunday Times:
"In Irish history, John Bull trampled across the syllabus like a horde of Visigoths, Tartars and Huns. Not merely did many people internalise the perceptions of their country’s many wrongs, they did much the same in reverse. When I arrived in University College Dublin, I found myself variously held responsible for the Black and Tans, the Famine, and the Boundary Commission, plus the partitions of India and Palestine. Having Irish parents and Irish-born siblings conferred absolutely no mitigation for my many antenatal delinquencies... 
What really brought the two islands so tragically together was Norman rule. In Ireland this was relatively light, but in England it was perfectly savage: a proto-apartheid state in which the native population was effectively excluded from land ownership for 300 years and all professions, not just in the royal court, but also in the law, the church and even trade. Thus all those French job-words in English such as grocer, butcher, mason and plumber. The Irish penal laws, much cherished in the annals of Irish victimhood, didn’t last a century. The English out-suffering the Irish — now there’s a thought."
John McCallister made an interesting observation during his speech to the Collins 22 Society, observing that at around the same time as the partition of Ireland the Far Right and the Far Left established dictatorships across Europe.

Christopher Hitchens wrote in Slate Magazine:
"Until the middle of the 1970s, these countries had been ruled by backward-looking dictatorships, generally religious and military in character and dependent on military aid from the more conservative circles in the United States. Because the European community allowed only parliamentary democracies to join, the exclusion from the continent’s heartland gave a huge incentive to the middle class in these countries to support the overthrow of despotism."

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