Like most children educated in Ireland I
has indoctrinated in the Nationalist version of Irish history. We were assured
that the Irish were a separate race and that Ireland
was their country. It was however unjustly occupied by an alien race, alien in
race and religion. All virtues were attributed to the Irish race and all vices
and disasters to the Anglo-Saxon race. Then the Irish warriors fought a war
against the invaders and achieved their independence. It was a long time before
I realised that there was very little truth in this version of Irish history.
Two things in particular led me to ask myself how true the national
version of Irish history was. The struggles of the ‘Land League’ against the
alleged oppressions of the landlords had been held up to us as a great model to
be imitated, and of which to be proud. Then I realised that the leaders of the
Land League were often the blood brothers of the Tammany Hall politicians in the United
throughout the world for their corruption and violence.
The other thing that happened to me was the purchase of a cheap
second-hand copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf from a stall in a London street. I
thought I might just glance through it to see what it was about, but I ended up
reading it carefully from cover to cover. You see, Hitler’s national socialist
account of German history was almost identical with the nationalist Catholic account
of Irish history. The conclusion had to be that if the one account was
pernicious nonsense then the other had also to be pernicious nonsense.
The question then posed itself, how could one write a history of Ireland
which was not pernicious nonsense.
Histories of Germany based on National Socialist ideology have long since disappeared
from Germany. In Russia and countries in Eastern Europe the equally ideological Marxist version of their history has been
equally rejected. In Ireland, many scholars today do not accept the Nationalist version of Irish
history. Alleged facts on which it was supposed to be based have been probed
and proved false or inaccurate. But as one of them remarked, it is still
regarded as almost heresy to suggest that that there was never a Celtic
invasion of Ireland (Raftery). The existence of a Celtic Race and their successful
occupation of Ireland form the very basis of Irish nationalist mythology and the
justification for murder campaigns to secure the ‘freedom of Ireland’.
is still however an enormous market, especially in Ireland
and the United States, for books based on nationalist mythology even though they are
fanciful pieces of propaganda. But every wise man knows that in real life all
the good people are not on one side and all the bad people on the other. Such
books read like novels and are in fact largely fiction. One problem in writing
a book based on ascertained fact is that it is much more difficult to read,
more difficult to get an over-all picture from it, and is more demanding on the
reader. But the price of getting the truth is worth the effort.