Let's not blame the English for 800 years of oppression

I AM delighted to see the recent success of the Wolfe Tones' version of Thomas Davis's 'A Nation Once Again' as a candidate in the BBC's No1 song of all time.

But, as an Englishman I understand also the difficulty that your correspondent Stuart Edison ('Damnation once again for the Wolfe Tones', Irish Examiner, Dec 14) has with continued references to "800 years of oppression."

If the starting point for this oppression is the arrival on these shores of Strongbow in 1169, then I would say that this oppression, strictly speaking, cannot be said to be an English oppression.

In 1169 the English were in no position to oppress anyone since they themselves had for over a century been oppressed by Normans, conquerors at Hastings in 1066.

Indeed, after the Battle of Hastings the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy was systematically and ruthlessly eliminated and replaced by a Norman ruling class.

Strongbow's followers in 1169 were a mixture of Normans, Flemings (allies of the Normans and Bretons at Hastings) and Welsh (Strongbow himself, after all, was Earl of Pembroke) and their descendants have ironically come to be known as the Old English.

Henry VIII, that is, Henry Tudur/Tudor, who first pronounced himself King of Ireland in 1541, was Welsh and the Tudors were a Welsh dynasty.

The plantation of Ulster in 1607 was a Scottish plantation, and the victory at the Boyne in 1690 the victory of a Dutch monarch.

After the death of Queen Anne in 1714 we had a German monarchy, and after the Act of Union in 1707 a British rather than an English oppression of the native Irish.

In 1910, the English that is, the plain people of England such as the inhabitants of the Forest of Dean voted for Home Rule, but their democratically expressed wishes were ignored by Scottish grandees in the Tory party. At the present time the British establishment at Westminster is dominated by Scots, and the English (with a touching faith in democracy) are campaigning somewhat forlornly and ineffectively for their own parliament at Westminster in the face of creeping regionalisation and Europeanisation (England as such no longer appearing on many maps).

In the light of all these facts one is bound to ask who are the oppressed, and who is the oppressor?

I have long been of the opinion that Ireland will not be free until, and unless, England also is free.

Gerald Morgan,

Arts Building,

Trinity College,

Dublin 2.

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