4

FROM ENGLISH COLONY TO IRISH NATION: THE PROTESTANT EXPERIENCE

The spectacle of the New English interest assuming the mantle of the Irish nation is one more liable to excite contempt than admiration. Even P. S. O’Hegarty, who strongly disapproved of the use of the term ‘Anglo-Irish’ to single out the protestant Anglican inhabitants of his country, 1 and who conceded that the eighteenth century Irish Parliament, whatever its faults, provided ‘the nucleus of a National Parliament’, condemned the Protestant ‘garrison’ who had usurped ‘the name of the People of Ireland’. 2 The way in which the Protestant ascendancy rose to power was hardly likely to receive approbation from Irish Roman Catholics, or, for that matter, Irish Protestant Dissenters. The shrill appeals of the New English for government help to buttress their political ambitions in the early seventeenth century; their opportunism and their undignified scramble for land; their hatred of the Catholic religion; their flight from Ireland in king James’s reign followed by their triumphant return in the pockets of king William’s army; their enactment of the penal laws against Catholic and Dissenter: all these betokened a band of mercenary adventurers, ‘cheese eating bodachs’, 3 out for what they could get, rather than a people who cared for the country they had settled in and won. When to this catalogue of human failings is added the contemporary sneer that attaches to the epithet ‘colonial’, 4 it is understandable that critics have seized on the term colonial rather than the term national to describe the eighteenth century ascendancy.

Hostility to the Protestant ascendancy is based on a number of counts, ranging from their absenteeism to their xenophobia; but perhaps two grievances have been especially emphasized: the penal laws, and the corrupt and unrepresentative nature of the eighteenth century Irish Parliament. The former have been denounced by generations of Irishmen and, it must be noted, not only by Irish Roman Catholics and nationalists, as amounting to a system akin to South African apartheid; 5 the latter has been described as a venal and oppressive institution representing only the interests of a selfish caste. 6 But, whatever the justification for these strictures, one thing is clear: it was upon the penal laws, that comprehensive system of legal discrimination, and the Irish parliament, that the ascendancy’s power rested. It is time

-94-

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Nationalism in Ireland
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Contents 5
  • Preface to the Third Edition 6
  • Preface to the Second Edition 8
  • Preface 9
  • Introduction: Nationalism and Ireland 15
  • 1 - Colony and Nation 25
  • 2 - Intimations of Nationalism in Tudor Ireland 46
  • 3 - For God, King and Country 68
  • Notes 91
  • 4 - From English Colony to Irish Nation: the Protestant Experience 94
  • 5 - The Irish, Properly So Called 123
  • 6 - Patterns of Nationalism, 1842-1870 154
  • Notes 187
  • 7 - The Making of Parnellism and Its Undoing 192
  • 8 - The Battle of Three Civilizations 228
  • 9 - What Home Rule Stood For, 1891-1918 259
  • 10 - Nationalism, Socialism and the Irish Revolution 295
  • 11 - State and Nation in Modern Ireland 339
  • Notes 370
  • Conclusion: Ireland and Nationalism 375
  • Epilogue: History, Politics and Nationalism 391
  • Appendix: the Downing Street Declaration , 15 December 1993 433
  • Maps 438
  • Bibliography 443
  • Supplementary Bibliography 477
  • Index 488
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