A history of British colonialism and neo-colonialism in Ireland, 1789-2006


This is a music video of the The Wolfe Tones from Ireland, with the song Come Out Ye Black And Tans.

From British daily The Morning Star:

Fighting for unity

(Sunday 07 October 2007)

Ireland: The Politics of Enmity 1789-2006 by Paul Bew
(Oxford University Press, £35)

JEAN TURNER is absorbed by an elegant look at Irish-British history that puts the current quest for peace into perspective.

THE history of the Irish struggle against English rule spans more than 800 years. To quote TA Jackson in his book Ireland Her Own, “Reducing Ireland to the status of a fief of the King of England proved a tedious and interminable business. It was ‘always a doing yet never done.’ Centuries passed, the Middle Ages ended, but the struggle to conquer the still unsubdued Irish went on and on.”

Professor Paul Bew starts his book at the time of the French revolution, which, together with the US war of independence and the publishing of Thomas Paine‘s The Rights of Man, was the catalyst for a serious attempt by both Irish and English political leaders to solve the matter on their own terms.

He describes the brilliant Irish leaders, inspired by the French revolution, whose aim was to unite Irish people of all persuasions to rise up against the English puppet parliament in Dublin and form a democratic Irish government, with demands that preceded the Chartists by 50 years.

Despite successful uprisings in different parts of the country, the aim failed.

The English monarchy and Parliament, fearing a French invasion while having to fight a disenfranchised and dissident Irish population at the same time, endeavoured to mollify the Irish with promised reforms.

Bew deals at length with the development of Edmund Burke‘s ideas for a union between England and Ireland to give constitutional rights to the Irish, including the disenfranchised Catholic population. Daniel O’Connell, an influential figure on both sides, played a major role in bringing this about.

Although the Union took place in 1801, Catholic emancipation had to wait until 1829, the result of several parliamentary defeats and opposition from the Orangemen.

The great starvation of 1846-1850, known in Britain as the “Irish famine,” was the result of the failure of the staple potato crop, the continued export of food to England, the cynical political manipulation of the situation and the Gradgrind attitude of the Westminster and Dublin parliaments, which forced starving men to labour on roads to buy high-priced food rather than provide free food directly to the people. This is explained in all its contradictions by the author.

The result was a population drop of two million in five years and the emigration of millions of Irish people to Britain and the US.

This tragedy set the context for the emergence of a popular mass nationalism for the repeal of the Union and for Irish independence, expressed in the Fenian, Parnell and Sinn Fein movements, which eventually expelled Britain from most of Ireland.

The struggle for the end of partition continues to this day.

Bew draws on a vast range of original sources, presented in elegant and readable style.

He leans to neither the nationalist nor unionist side but seeks to show how bigotry and mistrust have bedevilled many attempts for a peaceful solution to Irish independence.

He analyses the class divisions in Irish society that led to resistance to improving the conditions of the landless peasants and small tenant farmers by both Catholic and Protestant landowners.

He omits to link the militancy of the Irish peasants and workers with the struggles of the British working class that, throughout the period that he covers, were together fighting the same class enemy.

Nevertheless, this book is absorbing reading for all who are interested in Irish-British history.

According to Wikipedia, Professor Bew is associated with the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society. If that is true, then this association with a society named after one of the most warmongering and corrupt senators in US history (Henry Jackson was mostly refered to as ‘the senator from [military airplane corporation] Boeing‘) is a blot on Mr Bew’s record.

2 thoughts on “A history of British colonialism and neo-colonialism in Ireland, 1789-2006

  1. Pingback: Bring Tony Blair to justice | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Irish COVID-19 solidarity with Navajo nation, USA | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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