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What England owes the Irish Relations between the two nations were not always a nightmare

Pilgrims in Northumbria, where the holy history owes much to Irish missionaries. Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Pilgrims in Northumbria, where the holy history owes much to Irish missionaries. Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images


May 4, 2021   7 mins

Once, long before Partition, the Potato Famine, Drogheda, the Plantation of Ulster, the Statutes of Kilkenny and Henry II’s landing at Waterford, Anglo-Irish relations stood on an even and happy keel. “A people who never did anyone any harm, and were always most friendly to the English.” So wrote Bede, the greatest scholar of the Northumbrian golden age, in the early 8th century. Ireland was celebrated not just for the asceticism of its holy men and women, the formidable quality of its learning, and the indefatigability of its missionaries, but also for its hospitality. Many in Northumbria travelled there, Bede wrote, to learn from the example of its inhabitants. “The Irish welcomed them all gladly, gave them their daily food, and also provided them with books to read and with instruction, without asking for any payment.”

The readiness of the Irish to share with the English the good news of God’s purposes stood in dark contrast to the failure of the native inhabitants of Britain to do the same. Bede, writing the first ever history of his people, described how, in the aftermath of the collapse of Roman rule, the pagan ancestors of the English had arrived in the island and made their homes there. The Britons, far from welcoming them and guiding them to baptism, had instead met them with sword and fire. The consequence was that for many generations much of the island had been lost to heathendom.

“But God in His goodness did not utterly abandon the people whom he had chosen; for he remembered them.” Missionaries had come from Rome to convert the pagan English; and they had come, as well, from Ireland. Kingdom after kingdom had been brought to acknowledge Christ. The Britons, meanwhile, judged and found wanting by God, had been justly punished. Pushed westwards by the English, they had been confined to mountains and sodden valleys. The immigrants had become the rulers of the fairest portions of the island; the natives the aliens. “Wealas,” or “foreigners,” the Britons were derisively termed by their conquerors: “Welsh”.

This perspective was, of course, one distinctive to the English. The Britons naturally had their own, very different take on the matter. Their failure to evangelise Bede’s forebears was due, not to any lack of Christian zeal on their part, but rather to the savagery and barbarism of the invaders themselves. In support of this argument, they could appeal to the very people so lauded and admired by Bede: the Irish. That Ireland had been won for Christ in the first place was the doing of a Briton.

Patrick, the son of a Latin-speaking landowner in the west of Britain, had been kidnapped some time in the mid-5th-century, and sold across the Irish Sea. Whether working as a shepherd, or fleeing his master by ship, or returning to Ireland to spread the word of God, angels had spoken to him, and guided him in all he did; nor had he hesitated, when justifying his mission, to invoke the imminence of the end of the world. The force of his preaching and the power of his example had served to reap a spectacular harvest. By providing the Irish with a template of holiness, Patrick had achieved something literally miraculous: the transformation of Ireland into a mighty stronghold of the Christian faith.

So it was, at the limits of the world, where the grey and heaving ocean stretched as far as the eye could see, monks came to serve as Christ’s vanguard, and by their prayers keep sentry against the Devil and his legions. Tales were told of those who sailed beyond the horizon, and found there both mountains of eternal fire — where burning flakes of snow fell on the damned — and the fields of Paradise, rich with fruit and precious stones. True or not, it was certain that some monks, taking to the treacherous waters of the Atlantic, had made landfall on jagged spikes of rock and there fashioned cells for themselves.

Cold and hunger, which kings built great feasting-halls to keep at bay, were valued by Irish holy men as pathways to the radiant presence of God. A monk who knelt for hours in sleeting rain, or laboured on an empty stomach at tasks properly suited to a slave, did so in the hope of transcending the limitations of the fallen world. “Mortal men, so people believed, were living the lives of angels.” Nowhere else in the Christian West were saints quite as tough, quite as manifestly holy as in Ireland.

Their only duty was to God. Monasteries, like ringforts that dotted the island, were proudly independent. An iron discipline was what served to maintain them. Only a rule that was “strict, holy and constant, exalted, just and admirable,” could bring men and women to the dimension of the heavenly. Monks were expected to be as proficient in the strange and book-learned language of Latin as at felling trees; as familiar with the few, ferociously cherished classics of Christian literature that had reached Ireland as at toiling in a field. Like Patrick, they believed themselves to stand in the shadow of the end days; like Patrick, they saw exile from their families and their native land as the surest way to an utter dependence upon God.

Not all sought the gale-lashed isolation of a rock in the Atlantic. Some, heading southwards, took ship for the continent, and the lands of the Franks. Others, crossing the sea to Britain, there preached the Gospel to the kings of peoples who still set up idols, and wallowed in paganism. It was, for the future of the lands that in time would be known as England and Scotland, a momentous, an epochal development.

Most awesome of all the Irish saints who made their home in Britain was a man of royal descent who, as a slave of Christ, won for himself infinitely more renown and authority then he would ever have done as a warlord. Born in 521, he was called by his parents Crimthann, “Fox”; then, as a boy, he was renamed by the priest who baptised him Colum — “Dove”. Even by the ferociously exacting standards of Irish monastic schools, he proved himself a formidable student. So astounding was his knowledge of the psalms that other children began to hail him as Colum Cille: “Dove of the Church”. His teachers, meanwhile, addressed him by the Latin form of his name: Columba.

It did not take him long, once he had come of age, to win a reputation for himself as a figure of awesome and even terrifying holiness. Modest, humble and always gentle with the unfortunate, he could at the same time, like the Holy Spirit which had descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, blaze and scorch like fire. Rapists would drop dead when he cursed them. Princes would tremble when he foretold their doom. Even the Loch Ness Monster, confronted in its watery lair, cowered and fled when the holy man made the sign of the Cross.

Saint Columba was also known as the Apostle of Caledonia. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As in Ireland, so in Britain, Columba was at home in twin dimensions: the dimension of the miraculous, in which angels stood watch over him and fiery pillars blazed in the sky at the hour of his death, and the dimension of earthly power, in which he consistently showed himself to have preserved something, at least, of the vulpine. Why had he left his native land? “He sailed away from Ireland to Britain,” so his earliest biographer wrote, “choosing to be a pilgrim for Christ.” Perhaps, however, this was not the entire story.

It was claimed as well that Columba had taken sides in a factional battle between northern and southern branches of the UĂ­ NĂ©ill clan, and secured victory for the northerners by virtue of his prayers. Then, rather than risk becoming further embroiled in the rivalries of Irish warlords, he had sailed across the sea and founded a monastery on a lonely island off the Scottish coast. Iona, the site of this monastery, remains to this day a place renowned for its holiness, consecrated to the memory of its founder, an enduring centre of pilgrimage and prayer.

Yet the prestige that Columba enjoyed as abbot of this remote and storm-battered spot was not due solely to his sanctity. He was also the most princely Irishman in the whole of Britain, a man well qualified by birth as well as by saintliness to serve as a counsellor of great rulers. In 576, when the taoiseach, or leader, of the Gaelic-speaking peoples of western Scotland died, his cousin, Áedán mac Gabráin, came to Iona to be consecrated as king. Columba, it is said, anointed him with oil just as the kings of ancient Israel had once been anointed; but only after an angel, angry with the saint for showing reluctance, had lashed and permanently scarred him with a whip. The saint — though from that time on he served Áedán rather as Merlin served Arthur, or Gandalf Aragon — did not for that reason scorn to have dealings with the rulers of other peoples.

He eased the spiritual anguish of Rhydderch, king of the Welsh-speaking Britons whose stronghold, the mighty rock of Dumbarton, dominated the banks of the Clyde. He brought the news of Christ to the pagan king of the Picts, banishing thick mists conjured up by Pictish wizards, and performing miracles of healing. Perhaps most momentously of all, three and a half decades after his death, he appeared in a vision to the young Northumbrian prince Oswald, on the eve of a great battle fought in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall. “Be strong and act manfully,” the saint told Oswald. “Behold, I will be with thee.” And so he was.

Much would flow from Oswald’s victory: the coming of Irish holy men to Northumbria; the founding on the island of Lindisfarne of a monastery that in time would come to rival that of Iona for holiness and learning; the sense of a great debt owed to the Irish which Bede, who held Columba in the highest regard, gratefully and repeatedly acknowledged.

No one would cast the early medieval period in Britain or Ireland as a time of peace. Both islands were a patchwork of rival kingdoms; both islands were repeatedly ravaged by war. Nevertheless, the story of Columba, whose charismatic sanctity stands close to the fountainhead of the long and often troubled relationship between the English and the Irish, is rendered, if anything, only the more inspiring by reason of that.

Today, in the city which Nationalists call Derry and Unionists Londonderry, both the Catholic Long Tower church and the Anglican cathedral are dedicated to Colum Cille. In Britain, the memory of Columba is one to be cherished by all the various peoples of the island: by Scots, and English, and Welsh. If there is a single saint qualified to serve the Atlantic Archipelago as its patron, then that saint is surely Columba. “For it is no small favour conferred by God on the man of blessed memory, that one who dwelt in a small island on the edge of the ocean should have earned a reputation that sounds not only across his native Ireland, but across the whole of Britain as well.” History is not always a nightmare from which we are trying to awake.


Tom Holland is a writer, popular historian and cricketer. He is not an actor. His most recent book is PAX

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Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

This article reads rather like Tom Holland’s books. An avalanche of rather unstructured information/history followed by a somewhat questionable or tenuous conclusion that is supposed to explain or justify it all.

Damian Grant
Damian Grant
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

This brings back vivid memories of my A-Level Religious Education syllabus which I studied growing up in Derry City, Northern Ireland, in the difficult mid 1980’s: ‘The beginnings of the Celtic Church in Ireland and its missionary outreach in the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries’. As was the case with many of my peers, I used to wonder how what we were studying would ever prove useful in the context of our future daily lives; this article certainly goes some way to answering that very question. The history of the British Isles is truly fascinating.

Peter LR
Peter LR
3 years ago

The history of the English is fascinating really: how did a small island nation come to have a great international empire and provide the international language? I imagine it came from a combination of being a hard-to-invade island, a competent seafaring people, but also missionary zeal to spread Christianity around the world. As easy as it is to make critical judgments through 21st century moral lenses, or even indulge in Tom’s tongue-in-cheek cynicism, it has to be admired.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

The international language thing comes from the USA and Hollywood. Everyone wants to be American. Kids in the UK talk with an American accent. Certainly, EFL scholars almost all talk American. Consider the word ‘research’ which was always re-search but has now become re-search. There are many others.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Not remotely “everyone” …..
Additionally, wanting to have a standard of living as high as America is not remotely the same as “wanting to be American”

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Some Americans might think that “Everyone wants to be an American”— and, sadly, that delusion shaped a significant part of American foreign policy during the last thirty or forty years.
Tom Holland’s point about England’s debt to Ireland is reinforced by the fact that so many of the greatest writers in our language come from that nation, with an influence and richness of speech and writing entirely out of proportion to their numbers.
International language? I well remember that, in around 1985, my boss at work, who was born in Iran and educated largely in Europe and the USA, said “The triumph of English [as the modern equivalent of Latin] is certain.”
I assumed he meant because of the world-wide spread of the British Empire and now of its successor, American political, economic and cultural influence. He acknowledged that those played a part. But he said the main reason was the unique flexibility of the English language — the facts that meaning depends almost entirely on syntax; that it has abandoned the essentials of language gender and case; that grammar can be butchered and one can still make sense of it; and that the base vocabulary necessary for simplest communication required fewer words than any other major language.
All this well before the internet, and from a man fluent in five languages.

Last edited 3 years ago by Martin Adams
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

Splendid, spot on, bravo!

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

Agree about the simplicity of the language and ease of basic communication but the internationalisation of films and music has played its part. My vet in France spoke fluent English – he explained it by his being part of the MTV generation (and I didn’t even know at the time what MTV was).

nicktoeman4
nicktoeman4
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

From Canada to New Zealand, Australia to Africa, plus India and many others besides, English became the national language or the language of commerce, law and as a common interchange (lingua franca).
The US has enhanced its position as the language of film, the internet, etc. and reinforced its use in Japan, South America, etc. US spelling and syntax is ‘different to’ the British (which was once ‘different from’ the former in many cases).

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  nicktoeman4

Much US syntax actually preserves English usage of the C18. “Meet with” as opposed to “meet”, for example. One has to be careful before condemning those doggone Americanisms.
Another factor is that the computer keyboard is designed around Western alphabets and is unsuitable for pictogram based languages. This has undoubtedly held back the spread of first Japanese and then Mandarin that might otherwise have occurred over the past 60 years.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

The international language thing comes from America and Hollywood. Everyone wants to copy the Americans. Kids in the UK today often speak with an American accent and many Chinese speak American. Consider the word ‘research’ which has always been research but is now research. There are many, many others.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

English was established as the “voice of authority” well before the birth of Hollywood and the pernicious influence it has subsequently developed.

In 1902, the British Empire encompassed a quarter of the World’s population and a quarter of its land surface area.
Maritime Law was defined in English, the 0 degree Meridian went through Greenwich, and but for 1914-18 there would have been a ‘Scramble for China’ from which ‘we’ would have emerged with the Lion’s share.

Coterminous with Hollywood was the birth of the BBC World Service, the ‘cultural jewel in the crown’ of Empire by any standards, and a massive disseminator of the English language for the benefit of all.

Thanks be to God.

Last edited 3 years ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

Yo, Dood!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago

Sadly, you are correct Sir!

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

You is right too ….

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago

I’m not sure I agree. In the days I used to travel Eastern Europe and the Middle East it was our footballers people would ask about.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago

Nevertheless, English comes from England………

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

And Germany, and Norway and France and …
It is the ultimate mongrel.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

Most people in the world don’t speak English but if they want certain careers such as finance or trade they will learn English/American, just as Scottish , Irish & Welsh who wanted to ‘get ahead’ learned it as well.This coincided with the British Empire, so from about 18th century English became a more important language than French .The Americans, though breaking away from us, still retained the language, which is why Declaration of Independence is written in English , not French ( who were their financial benefactors)

john dann
john dann
3 years ago

So God was (sorry “is”) English. Now I can make sense of your love of Boris.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  john dann

‘God’, if such a thing exists may possibly be English. ‘He/She could do far worse.

Boris on the other hand is not English.
Had he stood up for the Northern Ireland Veterans I might’ve thought differently about him but he didn’t. Thus I am not an admirer of Mr Johnson, contrary to your opinion.

john dann
john dann
3 years ago

Gods are usually made in the image and with the morality of their creators, unfortunately. At least the Ionians had a sense of ideal human beauty and awareness of the Fibonacci sequence, so their gods were beautiful, if terrible.
Boris may not be English, I know not, but but he is a perfect combination of English and American buffoonery, false bravura and arrogant self importance that seems to appeal to the decedents of British and American rednecks, where pride is valued more than knowledge; belief more than thought; arrogance more than self awareness; and image more than honesty.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  john dann

You are correct.
In fact as Tacitus* might have put it:
“Consensu omnium capax imperii nisi imperasset” = ‘Everyone agreed that he was capable of ruling until he actually got the job’.

(*Tacitus on Galba)

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Looks like you edited out the “offending” sentence, but left the original in tact …. so now I agree with the sentiment of the “super spreader” that Hollywood turned into … 🙂

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Kenneth Matthews
Kenneth Matthews
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

British children more often speak with faux Jamaican patois rather than American.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

“but also missionary zeal to spread Christianity around the world”

Certainly not in the beginning*, at least not with the wonderful East India Company, who specifically banned ‘God botherers’. Profit & Plunder was the driving force of Empire until at least the mid nineteenth century, when the pernicious arrival of the Oxford Movement started to change things into a Evangelical Crusade, with appalling results.
The only exception being the bunch of East Anglian Puritan nutters who established the settlements in New England in a futile attempt to establish a new Sion. In other words a land where they could practice their ‘religious freedom’ by persecuting others! (Salem etc).

(* the first decade of the 17th century ).

Last edited 3 years ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
John Coss
John Coss
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Two possibly more important factors were the establishment of the Bank of England under William III, and the agricultural and industrial revolutions of the 18th century initially in Great Britain.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  John Coss

To which one MUST add the industrial revolution, and the consequent export of technology.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

My theory is the geographical accident of being an island of a certain size, more conducive to stability and homogeneity than land borders resulting in easier development of government and prosperity.
Then, it was generally fertile (hence sheep), and with a good number of harbours encouraging fishing and trade, initially coastal, but easily extended.
Finally, it found copious coal and iron ore, to add to the tin and copper already exploited for hundreds of years.
Maybe God played a small part, too.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

One should add that communication and transport via sea was a lot faster and more economical than by land, so Britain was a well-connected country.

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
3 years ago

After Latin and Greek, Irish is one of the oldest written vernacular languages in Europe. From the 6th to the 9th century, roughly half of all literary output in western Europe was written by Irish monks, which is one reason why Ken Clarke argued they had saved western civilization. Johannes Scotus Eriugena was the only philosopher from this era to make the cut in Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.

john dann
john dann
3 years ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

One might also argue that it was the Arabs, or Islam that “saved” what we have today of ancient Greek writing and who advanced science during Europe’s long winter of war and religious myopia. The Arab part of Spain around year 1000 had seventeen universities, the rest of Europe only two, where the students probably studied little but religion. It was not until the flowering of Humanism and the rediscovery of ancient knowledge that the European mind awoke. The church fought back, of course, as Galileo knows, and we are still not free of Religion’s blinkers.
Oddly things have completely reversed. It is now the Arabs who are completely under the stifling religious yoke. It is now they who must look outside their own world, to the west, or east, to get the best enlightened education.

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
3 years ago
Reply to  john dann

Great point on the contribution of Islamic scholars to western civilization and thought, and not just in conserving classical texts. Where would we be without algebra or algorithms?

john dann
john dann
3 years ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

Yes, the decimal system 0-9 and the golden ratio, 1:1.61803 were brought to Europe by Leonardo da Pisa in early 1200s from North Africa. The so called Fibonacci sequence is the very structure of Nature, known in ancient times.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago
Reply to  john dann

What a pity it wasn’t the duodecimal system – so much more flexible.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

Science has proved the God that Failed, …as we are about to go over the cliff. Better had we been never to learn of Aristotle.

john dann
john dann
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

A. was and arrogant B word “Natural child”. Writing down his thoughts observations and ideas, as if anyone would ever be interested. May Cronus’ son Hades torment him for all eternity.
Oh ye Gods, protect us from all knowledge. Teach us to tremble again at the bolts from Zeus, from the ire of Poseidon and from the treachery of the Fates. Replace our burning desire to know and our arrogance to understand with fearful obedience to the all powerful deities.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

Are you referring to Kenneth Clark (Baron Clark, OM etc)?

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
3 years ago

Yes I am – the first part of Civilization, The Skin of our Teeth, alludes to the contribution of Irish monks to European scholarship.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

I remember it well.
Clark was one of our best, although personally I preferred the incomparable Alec Clifton-Taylor.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

If the English (British) owe a debt to Africa because of slavery, they have the same debt to Ireland now. If the problems of Arabia are wholly caused by Sykes-Picot, then Britain owes a debt to all of the lands in Arabia. We joined a stupid war with Iraq so we owe Iraq for that one. In fact, England (Britain) is probably responsible for all of the problems in the USA and Australia. The French, too, have a lot to pay for.
But wait. Our problems arose because we were one of the first to subscribe to democracy and that came from the Greeks. So, when the Greeks pay us, we will pass it on to the rest.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Can’t we just be responsible for all the troubles in the world and they can send us the bill?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

‘They’ already have!

Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago

Encouraging article. Many thanks Mr Holland. A welcome reminder of how good relations between the peoples of these great islands once were, with the hope that they will be again. It’s easier perhaps to discern what went wrong since Bede’s time. Part of the solution therefore might be to rediscover what made things so right between Irish and English in his time.

Paul Whiting
Paul Whiting
3 years ago

Holland’s Anti English bias shines through everything he writes. Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and sold into slavery there. Dublin subsequently became the largest slave market in Europe. Where is the balance? The English are always portrayed as mindless savages in need of “civilising”

Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Whiting

Eh! Unfortunately for you, there was no Dublin until about five centuries after St. Patrick … Sooo …

You’re right though, there was plenty of slavery on both sides of the Irish Sea during his time. Patrick was a slave taken by Irish traffickers, but so too his earliest surviving writing is the ‘Epistola contra Coroticum’, a letter of excommunication directed at a British warlord and slaver (Ceredig?) who was taking many, young women especially, from Ireland, including some of Patrick’s own recent converts. Hence the rage in the letter.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago

I would not say that relations between England and Ireland are a nightmare. Yes, there is a conflict between Irish Republican sentiment and United Kingdom sentiment, which sadly was not avoided by the actions of some, especially around 1914, and still persists, but my personal experience is that English and Irish get along very well.
It is also remarkable that you never mention Scotland, although there is a passing reference to the Clyde and the Picts.

Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

They no longer are ‘a nightmare’, thank God (who does exist). Relations are now very good between both countries. Relations between ‘ordinary’ Irishmen and Englishmen (‘men’ not excluding women, children, assorted others, etc.) have always been good. Relations have improved relative to the extent to which England has (almost, nearly, finally) left Ireland to her own devices. Weird, isn’t it?

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Spiro Spero

They’re taking another downturn as the Irish side with mainland European authoritarianism, once again reigniting the danger the more liberal UK faces.

Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago

Outside, there be monsters, they talk funny, want to steal our money, our women … etc. Outside be Rome, Spain, pope, antichrist, Napoleon, Brussels, Strasbourg …. Yada, yada. Ireland was forcibly cut off from contact with the rest of Europe for three centuries, isolated and forcibly impoverished, economically and culturally by our nearest neighbours. We learned our lesson. That will not be happening again, thank you.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Spiro Spero

Ok, if you feel safer under the Germans.

Neil Mcalester
Neil Mcalester
3 years ago
Reply to  Spiro Spero

So you would welcome the end of the common travel area?
I cannot think of another country in the entire world that gets the benefit at no cost that Ireland gets from the CTA.

dolanwesley
dolanwesley
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Mcalester

Speaking as an Irishman, yes I would be happy to see the Common Travel Area scrapped. It enables a brain drain of our educated citizens and it helps to keep us partly assimilated in the UK over a century after our revolution to break away from British rule. Irish individuals do benefit from it but it damages Ireland in a broader sense.

Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Mcalester

I love the way the CTA is assumed a gift bestowed on us ungrateful Paddys, by our benign overlords. When will this ignorance and faux superiority ever end, I ask? In any case, it was made obsolete by FOM under the EU. Now that Brexit has taken place, it is likely to become even less relevant. It was also arguably a brain-drain on the population of Ireland for many decades. You forget my friend that the UK, London especially, benefitted considerably in the 19th and 20th centuries from a ready supply of cheap (desperate) Irish labour. I won’t get into what the cause of the desperation was in the first place. We’re all (hopefully) trying to move on from those darker days. But lose the snooty, nobody’s buying it anymore.

Steve Hall
Steve Hall
3 years ago

How anyone who calls himself a historian can speak about Anglo-Irish relations – and even mention Patrick’s ‘kidnap’ – without mentioning the Viking settlements in Ireland and their role in the North African slave trade is a travesty.

Last edited 3 years ago by Steve Hall
Alan Osband
Alan Osband
3 years ago

She wasn’t selling the Pope this time ,rather some ‘cheap’ internet course to sensitise people to the emotional anguish of the kiddywinkies.She’s possibly working for Camila Batmanghelidhj and the SNP
Actually I read something about the Iran government using twitter trolls to promote the break up of the UK and influence the election in Scotland.The timing of Odone’s lovefest for Wee Krankee can’t be a coincidence

Last edited 3 years ago by Alan Osband
Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago

The comment section on this article today sounds uncannily like the “what did the Romans ever do for us” Monty Python sketch. Lols.

Peter LR
Peter LR
3 years ago

Actually, does anyone agree with me here: I have found the English quite like the Irish, Scots and Welsh, but for some reason lots of those three nations hate the English! Or is it just the rugger?

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago

The English barely existed then in the way we understand them today. Probably more like invading Saxons or Normans or Vikings from the continent. Throw in a few pagans, Romans and Celts. This bizarre contemporising of acts and people hundreds of years ago when people thought the earth was flat, and leeches cured all, is frankly bizarre. So the answers to the OP question… What do you mean by English and Irish exactly? What relevance is it today? And what makes you think we ‘owe’ anyone anything???

Michael Upton
Michael Upton
3 years ago

During the devolution debates of the 1970s a correspondent to a newspaper – wasn’t it the Times? – proposed a new constitutional relationship for the peoples of Ireland and Britain, under a new national name: Islands of the North Atlantic, or ‘IONA’ for short. A long shot, but who shall say it couldn’t work?

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Nothing.

Sam Cel Roman
Sam Cel Roman
3 years ago

wow, didn’t realize Unherd was now teaching Catholic school part-time

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam Cel Roman

So is the Spectator. Cristina Odone turned up today.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
3 years ago

Bravo Tom.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago

Thanks to the idiotic Edict of Milan (1066AUC/313AD), the cancer of Christianity rapidly spread across the Roman Empire, even to the remote Province of Britannia.
By the process of osmosis, long before the arrival (St) Patrick, the benighted Irish were also infected, thus destroying a thousand years or more of vibrant Gaelic Culture, for the dubious benefits of a ‘Land of Saints & Scholars’.
The fact the Irish managed to reinfect our Pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors can only be regarded with deep regret.

Last edited 3 years ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

Deep regret by some, delight by others!

Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago

It wasn’t St Patrick who destroyed the ‘vibrant Gaelic Culture’.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Spiro Spero

Not singlehanded I’ll grant you.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago

Such a shame England was reinfected. The country could have still had druids, human sacrifices, and wicker men instead of those loathsome vicars, beetle drives, and church fetes.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

There was plenty of human sacrifice or whatever you want to call it under Mother Church.

Until a few years ago when you ordered a steak in the Randolph Hotel, Oxford, you were invariably asked “ how do you want it cooked Sir, Latimer, Cranmer or Ridley?

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago

You could also argue that the Romans, who gave human sacrifice as an additional reason for stamping out Druids, had a form of human sacrifice of their own, in gladitorial games and the like – and, indeed, that a form of human sacrifice existed under various forms of communism (from the USSR to Cambodia) and the Nazjs. Possibly harking back to celtic druidry, there was even a strand of blood sacrifice to Mother Ireland in some Irish republican “theology”. Killing seems endemic to human nature.
However, the teachings of Christianity are a valuable corrective to this human tendency to violence and murder, even if they are not always followed. Even with the historical abuses of Christian Churches, it does not compare in savagery with Druidism as practiced by the Celts. As Julius Caesar put it, the Druids “believe that the gods delight in the slaughter of prisoners and criminals, and when the supply of captives runs short, they sacrifice even the innocent” – Gallic Wars, Book 6, as I recall.

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
3 years ago

More nauseating hagiography from Mr Holland.