To help publicise his new book, and promote the tv series, Niall Ferguson has an article in todays SBPost. In it he argues that many of the effects British rule had on Ireland were positive. I would be inclined to agree. Im sorry I missed all parts of his series since it started on Channel 4, but I will keep an eye out for it. It is something of an admission to come from a British author that
The Irish were on the receiving end of a policy of expropriation and `ethnic cleansing’ every bit as ruthless as that which would be attempted in North America.
In modern usage, ethnic cleansing is exactly what happened to the indigenous Irish people from about the 16th century on. Where I think Irish people nowadays trip up is in using the term ‘Irish’. To me its a very loose word, Ireland was invaded many times over the centuries, and was colonised by a neighbouring power.
I think many Irish people assume that it was ‘us’ against ‘them’ for the entire time since the Norman invasion. In fact, the Normans interbred with the native Celtic peoples, and Ireland became a part of the Norman world – and the same happened up until independence. Much of the history thought in Irish schools portrays Britain as the evil colonial power – Ferguson’s insight is a refreshing answer to many of these over-nationalist sentiments.