An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

14 January 1999 Edition

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New in print

A new focus on the past

New Perspectives on Ireland: Colonialism & Identity
Edited by Daltun O Ceallaigh
Published by Léirmheas,
PO Box 3278, Dublin 6
Price £7

In the second volume of selected papers from the annual Desmond Greaves Summer School, Daltún O Ceallaigh as editor continues the task set out in the first volume of what is titled the Reconsideration Series - to tackle the destructive revisionism.

In his short but concise introduction Daltún explains clearly the differences between destructive and constructive revisionsim.

``Destructive revisionism ranges from the communal self-deprecation (as distinct from self-critique) of certain insecure cosmopolitans in academe to that sad coterie of embittered anti-nationalists who go to make up the Sunday Independent school of Irish history and politics, with its admixture of emeritus, extramural and amateur...

``Constructive revisionism, or reconsiderationism (rather than mere anti-revisionism), does not call for any sweeping under the carpet of important information or a sensible reading of it...[and]...should be ultimately to improve and enhance rather than discredit and depress''.

F. O'Brien's essay ``Ireland - conquest, settlement and colonisation'' exposes the racism that was developed to justify England's expansionism in Ireland, from the native Irish being portrayed as `` the perfect Barbarian exhibiting all the characterisitcs of his savagery - poverty, sloth, incontinence, treachery, brutality, and cruelty'' to the 16th Century opinion that the policy of plantation was concerned primarily with the ``advancement of true religion among a heathen or heathenish people'', ``the substitution of civil standards for barbarous customs'' and with ``the cultivation of crops or the exploitation of resources that were not available at home''.

Tribute is paid in another article to that radical economist Raymond Crotty, while Jack Bennett tackles the imagined identities of ``Protestants in Ulster''. If republicans today were to be armed with the facts in both these essays they would well-equipped to ridicule much of what passes as intellectually-informed debate in political circles.

In a well-written article Jack proves that despite all the recent efforts to fit them out with one, they (Ulster Protestants) have no social identity apart from that they share with other people around them - that is their Catholic neighbours . The anti-Irishness of some in the Protestant community is a recent phenonemum. On the question of two cultures he quotes Dr Anthony Buckley of the Ulster Folk Museum: ``the distinctivness of Protestant and Catholic cultural forms is often quite minimal. There has long been in the expression of political and religious differences a great deal of borrowing, to the extent that any attempt to project present-day symbolism into the past and call them distintive traditions is almost impossible''.

Breandán O Buachalla, The Gaelic response to conquest despite being a demolition of Michelle O Riordan's book The Gaelic Mind and the collapse of the Gaelic world, it could also be said to be a synopsis of his ground-breaking book Aisling Ghéar which used to its fullest extent the Irish literature of the period, 1500-1700. He rubbishes alot of what was written by historians regarding the Irish intelligentsia and the interpetations they made of the period's Irish literature.

Brendan Bradshaw's ``Ulster Rising of 1641'' again is a review, this time of Ulster 1641-Aspects of the Rising edited by Brian MacCuarta. Bradshaw highlights the superiority of `revisionist historians' with Roy Foster attributing the Irish public's failure to ``turn the corner'' as being the reason for a credibility gap between him and his ilk and that same public. While praising the editor Bradshaw takes issue with many of the contributors for failing to rise above the revisionist agenda and for failing to grasp the major lessons of the period and the centrality of this event to both Ireland's and Enland's history. The linked grievances of land and religion, subsumed under the political one relating to the treatment of Ireland as a colony, hold the key to the Ulster Rising of 1641. And it is because of this treatment that Ireland emerged as the destabilising element within the British conglomerate.''

The neglected subject of ending the imperials objectives of the scientific community in Irleand is discussed by Roy Johnston in ``Science, technology and nationality ``. In what I found to be a difficult essay to get to grips with Johnston calls for scientists to be involved in the nation-building process and for unity among them as a national scientific community which could lobby government and resut in proper policy formulation.

Added to the first volume in the reconsiderations series, this volume can be an invaluable tool in tackling the lies of the `revisionist' school of historians. Daltún O Ceallaigh and those asscociated with the Desmond Greaves Summer School are to be praised for their contribution to Ireland's war against the imperialist mindset.

By Aengus O Snodaigh

Torrents of thoughts

Home Rule as Rome Rule
By Derry Kelleher.
Published by Justice Books.
Price £3.

1798 - Myth and Truth
By Derry Kelleher.
Published by Kestrel Books.
Price £4.

I first came across the writings of Derry Kelleher in the UCD Library in 1982. His interesting and often quirky insights into republican history and contemporary politics were published in several books and pamphlets.

Derry has for long been an independent voice always on the lookout for historical fallacies and political blunders and never afraid to point them out. His torrents of thoughts more often than not flow off the backs of his listeners and readers like the proverbial duck's back. But often too his stream of ideas has been an important little tributary flowing into the river of Irish political thought.

Derry's chief targets in both of these pamphlets - and in many previous - are the twin Irish evils of Conservative Catholicism and Orangeism. Again and again he reminds us of the role of the British government in fostering both, beginning in 1795 when the British set up Maynooth College as the power centre of the Irish Catholic Hierarchy and at the same time encouraged the rise of the Orange Order.

The second of these pamphlets consists of a reprint of a 1938 publication honouring the United Irishmen. It highlights in particular the vicious opposition to democracy by the Catholic Hierarchy. Take Archbishop Troy's condemnation of the United Irish:

``Let no-one deceive you by wretched impracticable speculations on the rights of man or the majesty of the people...''

In both pamphlets Derry revisits his analysis of the Battle of the Boyne, somehow seeing the later republicansim of some of the Presbyterian descendants of those who fought in King Billy's army as being presaged by the Dutch Republic which he regards as being one of the victors of the Boyne. But the Dutch Republic was largely irrelevant in the Irish context. Derry's main target would seem to be those who regard the `other side' in that battle as `our side' - including Patrick Sarsfield. But again, it is hard to see the relevance as Sarsfield has long ceased to be the nationalist icon he once was. The issues in the Williamite wars was best summed up, not by any historian, but by a ballad-maker:

Two foreign old monarchs in battle did join
Each wanted his head on the back of a coin...

The latter of the two pamphlets is the the most useful although both are thought-provoking. It is a pity that more political activists do not take up the pamphleteer's pen as Derry continues to do, though now almost in his 80th year. Go maire sé an chéad.

By Mícheál MacDonncha


The review of `Ireland and Scandanavia in the Early Viking Age' (published by Four Courts Press) in last week's paper was written by Cathal O Murchú.

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