You don’t need to look far to find evidence of the evils of imperialism – just across the Irish sea. The Act of Union theoretically uniting Great Britain and Ireland was a sham. Had there from the start been an understanding from the British that John Bull’s other island urgently needed help things might have been different. But there wasn’t. Ireland was a resource to be exploited and the people an irritant to be brutally suppressed.
Joe Biden and before him John Kennedy are symbols of Britain’s losses in Ireland being America’s gain. The depopulation of Ireland in the nineteenth century was an inevitable consequence of Britain’s neglect. But for many leaving their homes for ever by emigrating was not possible, so they chose to try and overthrow their oppressor.
A new book about the Phoenix Park murders, “The Irish Assassins” is reviewed in The Times Today. The revelations are shocking and the story is illustrative of what repression and illiberalism can lead to. The Empire was peppered with protest and Ireland was just the closest to home example of the fact that if you suppress the human rights of a people some of them will rise up against you.
One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. The consequences of Britain’s total failure to keep the Union together are, of course, still with us. Justifying the violence of Phoenix Park leads us down some very dark byways – but understanding the reasons for it, as this new book seems to do, is another matter.
The eventual triumph of the Irish was real, but partial. The north of the island of Ireland remains a quasi-imperial possession. Whilst the south has become a successful and principled independent European state the north still lingers in sectarianism. The bitter bigotry and the provocative marches remain. The stench of imperialism lives on.