Ireland: The Politics of Enmity, 1789-2006

Ireland: The Politics of Enmity, 1789-2006

Ireland: The Politics of Enmity, 1789-2006

Ireland: The Politics of Enmity, 1789-2006


The French revolution had an electrifying impact on Irish society. The 1970s saw the birth of modern Irish republicanism and Orangeism, whose antagonism remains a defining feature of Irish political life. The 1970s also saw the birth of a new approach to Ireland within important elements of the British political elite, men like Pitt and Castlereagh. Strongly influenced by Edmund Burke, they argued that Britain's strategic interests were best served by a policy of catholic emancipation and political integration in Ireland. Britain's failure to achieve this objective, dramatised by the horrifying tragedy of the Irish famine of 1846-50, in which a million Irish died, set the context for the emergence of a popular mass nationalism, expressed in the Fenian, Parnell, and Sinn Fein movements, which eventually expelled Britain from the greater part of the island.

This book reassesses all the key leaders of Irish nationalism - Tone, O'Connell, Butt, Parnell, Collins, and de Valera - alongside key British political leaders such as Peel and Gladstone in the nineteenth century, or Winston Churchill and Tony Blair in the twentieth century. A study of the changing ideological passions of the modern Irish question, this analysis is, however, firmly placed in the context of changing social and economic realities.

Using a vast range of original sources, Paul Bew holds together the worlds of political class in London, Dublin, and Belfast in one coherent analysis which takes the reader all the way from the society of the United Irishman to the crisis of the Good Friday Agreement.


The King shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath,
And in the cup an union shall he throw.

(Hamlet, V. II. 268–9)

It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord.

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream, V. I. 1179)

At the end of October 1904, D. P. Moran’s The Leader —strongly Catholic nationalist in tone—published a clever pastiche of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In this version, ‘The Bigots of the Wood’, which takes place near Castle Saunderson, the ‘home’ of Colonel Saunderson, the landlordist Ulster Unionist leader of the day, Puck, the Fairy, amuses himself by playing tricks on the enemies of the Irish cause:

An Orangeman drunk I diverted from home,
And now he is sunk in a bog cursing Rome.
With signs and guiles a Freemason I led
For fully six miles from his home and his bed.

Puck then encounters a ‘caste of bigots’—Bottom, Billy, Boyne, Howler, and Scorcher—all rehearsing a play, ‘The Triumph of the Saved?’ The Protestant and unionist ‘Bigots of the Wood’ roar out their lines—‘Now is the Summer of our discontent

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.