Ethnic cleansing

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2012), Letters, Volume 20

Sir,—John A. Murphy’s remarks on Tomás Ruadh Ó Suilleabháin are, to put it politely, rather remote from truth. Nowhere in Ó Suilleabháin’s 1828 poem does he express the wish that Protestants be subject to ‘ethnic cleansing’. The poet, after alluding to Wolfe Tone’s failed 1796 Bantry Bay expedition, expresses the desire that the peasantry be freed from unjust rents and a sectarian-based tithe system. He hopes that in future the people will be decently clothed and fed. He longs to see the engorged bigot George IV dethroned. The poem further celebrates the fact that once Emancipation is granted Catholics will, at last, be given near-complete civil rights. The people that Ó Suilleabháin wishes destruction upon are those ministers of the Church of Ireland who violently insist on extracting tithes from people not adhering to the established state religion (i.e. Catholics and Dissenters) and who double as ultra-reactionary magistrates. This is but another expression of a colonised author opposing an undemocratic and alien state (and its agents) and is typical of the popular verse that invariably emanates from subject populations. A cursory glance at the nineteenth-century literature of India, South Africa, Algeria or Catalonia demonstrates similar verse. Professor Murphy ought to know that the writing of history is never served when primary material is treated with careless contempt.—Yours etc.,
NIALL GILLESPIE
Dublin 8
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