The Irish Are Leading.

Last week, Mary Lou McDonald, the President of the Irish republican/socialist party, and leader of the opposition in the Irish Parliament, addressed a European Union conference. When asked how she would direct Irish foreign policy, her remarks were compelling and instructive. She began by noting: 'The Irish experience of colonisation, partition, and conflict...that's where we come from.' She continued, 'So Irish foreign policy has to be true to that tradition not in a passive way, in a very active way. We will be very firm on issues around self-determination, in particular on the question of Palestine. It is our firm view that we need international courage and leadership on that matter. It is clear that we have an apartheid regime. That the Israeli state actively confiscates land, actively discriminates and oppresses Palestinian citizens daily. I think Europe needs to be honest about all that and needs to exert maximum international pressure to bring that conflict to a resolution and to reach a two-state solution.'

What I've long appreciated about the Irish is their grounding in their history-and how they've learned positive lessons from it. Sinn Fein's victories in both the Republic of Ireland (where they are now one seat away from being the largest party in parliament) and in the North (where they are the largest party) are important for what they say about the past and future of Ireland. As McDonald recognised, Ireland long suffered under colonial rule, during which the British exploited Ireland's resources and treated its indigenous Catholic inhabitants with racist contempt. To facilitate their governance, Britain sent thousands of its citizens to colonise the island and established the Protestant church in a privileged position as another display of their dominance. The most notable of the many hardships endured by Irish Catholics were the infamous famines of the mid to late 19th century. During this period, over one million Irish died of starvation or disease, while more than two million were forced to flee the country. The famines were a British-imposed crime on the Irish people. Even though the island was producing food aplenty, the Irish were forbidden to eat their grains or livestock, or hunt or fish on their lands, as all was reserved for...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT