Your editorial

Published in Issue 6 (November/December 2014), Letters, Volume 22

Sir,—Michael Carragher’s letter (HI 22.5, Sept./Oct. 2014) puzzles this writer as much as your editorial in the previous issue puzzled him. His arguments seem to be drawn from the assertions of the popular British histories post-1918. For him, Carson’s and Redmond’s role was merely to advocate ‘enlistment to fight their country’s enemy’. This can be argued for a unionist and imperialist like Carson. For Redmond, the Irish nationalist, it might have crossed his mind that Germany was Britain’s enemy, not Ireland’s, and that it was Britain, not Germany, that was occupying Ireland, as Germany was Belgium. (Both the occupying powers had pledged to leave the countries occupied after the war.)

Actually, Carson and Redmond seem to have been concerned less with defending Ireland than in holding a Dutch auction of lives to prove to London that that metropolis could trust either of them to run Ireland in its interests more loyally than his opponent. The victor would be the one who could claim to have sent out the most young Irishmen to their deaths. In the end, each inspired more such deaths than all Irish republican leaders since 1798.

In any case, in the overall history of the causes of the First World War, Germany appears less an aggressor than an initiator of a pre-emptive strike against its encirclers. France and Russia were at least as predatory. France coveted (reasonably) Alsace-Lorraine and (less reasonably) the west bank of the Rhine. Russia sought to hegemonise the Balkans and grab north Anatolia and Constantinople. Though Britain was too busy trying to manage its own huge empire to equal such visions, it added fuel to the fire by joining the Franco-Russian Entente and rejecting a number of possibilities for better relations with Germany.

Such imperial complacency enables Mr Carragher to portray Britian as a benevolent imperial power (if such were possible). He ignores the fact that its record of atrocities was much longer. Over the previous century, this stretches from the destruction of the Indian textile industry and the Opium Wars to the Denshawai frame-ups. This spirit would revive when Britain won the First World War, not least in Ireland.—Yours etc.,

Dublin 3


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