It's been claimed the English never remember while the Irish never forget. However, as Finlan O'Toole points out in his foreword Irish documents are often riven with uncertainty. 'They are full of strategies and manoeuvres, of bluster and wishful thinking, of thwarted expectations and tragic delusions'. During the Irish civil war the Public Records Office in Dublin was blown up destroying centuries of records which would 'have provided a keystone to the understanding Ireland's past'. The IRA didn't care because, believing they held the key to the future, they failed to understand it lay in the past. The Irish patron saint, Patrick, was an Englishman transported to Ireland by Irish slavers whose memory is sustained by the fact that he wrote of his experiences in two documents (both written in Latin). His role in Irish nationalist mythology is a false one.
Prior to the Norman Conquest of Britain Ireland consisted of between 100 and 120 kingdoms of various sizes at the apex of which was the high kingship. Between 1156 and 1166 there was war between two rivals for the position. Internal fighting forced Dermot MacMurrough, king of Leinster, to flee Ireland. MacMurrough sought help from Henry 11 who backed him in return for fealty. When MacMurrough died the kingdom passed to Richard Fitzgibbon, known as Strongbow causing Henry to invade Ireland, carrying with him the Bull Laudabiliter giving him the authority to reform the Irish church. Irish historians have sought to dismiss the Bull as a forgery but modern opinion suggests Adrian did write the document but not necessarily in the form in which Henry presented it. The document was a political one suiting the Pope, king and the English Church but did nothing for the Irish church itself.
Edward 111 tried to assert English control over Ireland but the Anglo-Irish lords ignored him. The Black Death made them vulnerable to Gaelic encroachments. The Statute of Kilkenny codified English law in Ireland while condemning any move towards Gaelicisation which threatened to undermine the Norman control of Irish institutions. English lordship was confined to the Pale, a heavily fortified strip running between Dublin and Drogheda. Henry V111 avoided military conflict in Ireland and declared himself King of Ireland which was accepted by the Irish Parliament in 1541. Seven years earlier he declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of Ireland transforming church and state into Protestants while the majority of the Gaelic and Norman population remained Catholic. The Papacy supported O'Neill's rebellion which John Mitchel claimed was an attempt to create an Irish nation. It was not and the Ulster chieftains fled to Europe leaving Ulster to be filled by immigrant planters, changing the character of Ulster and producing divisions which still exist today.
Claims of Cromwellian savagery still forms part of Irish mythology. The Irish supported Charles1 against parliament and in 1641 launched an attack on planters of whom 4000 were killed. The insurgency spread to the south and by 1649 Ireland was viewed as an aggressive enemy. Cromwell led the New Model Army into Ireland and ordered governors of various towns to surrender. When they refused he ordered that no quarter be given. Irish historians claim no-one was spared but Cromwell told parliament, 'I forbade them to spare any that were in arms' which suggests otherwise. Many were shipped to Barbados suggesting propaganda was substituted for history, just as Protestant observers in 1641 overplayed Catholic violence. The Irish also supported the deposed King James 11 against the English Parliament.
The satirist Jonathan Swift questioned the right of the English parliament to govern Ireland which led to the cancelling of Wood's Halfpence and while reforms were pushed through by Henry Gratten the activities of the United Irishmen, who were motivated by the American and French revolutions, led to rebellion in 1798 and the Act of Union two years later which abolished the Irish parliament. The myth of British genocide created by the Irish Famine are countered by a letter from N M Cummins, an absentee landlord in Cork, who visited his property and reported to the Duke of Wellington the 'frightful spectre' of the starving people he found and pleaded for relief. The Famine occurred, the government's response was inadequate - but the hypocrisy of Tony Blair in apologising that 'those who governed England at the time failed their people...' less than a decade before he failed the British people by conducting an illegal war shows that the government of the time was no different than any government which preceded or followed it.
The No Rent Manifesto of 1881 showed the racist instincts of Irish politicians who called on the country to 'stand together in face of the brutal cowardly enemies of your race'. They issued a nationalist manifesto instead of following a constitutional path for Home Rule for which there was plenty of support in England. The Ulster Solemn League and Covenant of 1912 demonstrated that the violent tendencies of Irish nationalists created a situation in which compromise proved impossible and would lead to a century of senseless killing in the name of Ireland. It's ironic that the Easter Uprising of 1916 evoked the name of God and claimed 'the allegience of every Irishman and Irishwoman' while cheerfully killing each other during the subsequent civil war, after de Valera had absented himself from negotiations with the British. He repeated his anti-democratic stance by declaring neutrality in the fight against totalitarianism.
The left-wing Irish have a habit of blaming others for their own problems, especially in regards to women's rights and economic inefficiency. The nationalist policy of violence and negotiation showed political inadequacy and the Good Friday Agreement saw them outflanked by Paisley. Irish politicians on both sides of the border have repeatedly let their people down and many Irish historians have manufactured history to deny it. This book, while sympathetic to the Irish cause, helps set the record straight. Five stars for any genuine truth seeker but not political hacks.