Past and present

Published in Editorial, Issue 1 (January/February 2023), Volume 31


There are certain resonances between past and present in the current issue (30 years on from our first, in spring 1993, incidentally). Thomas P. Power’s article on the Pastorini prophecy (pp 26–9), which predicted the destruction of Protestantism in 1825, reminds us that irrational conspiracy theories—whether it be Pastorini, the Protocols of Zion or, in our own day, QAnon—have long been factors in history, as have their modes of dissemination; Power explains how mass-produced broadsheets were the ‘social media’ of their day. There has always been a context, however—in this case reaction against a self-proclaimed ‘Protestant Ascendancy’ that was prepared to defend itself not only with the penal laws (not finally abolished until 1829) but also with a reign of terror in suppressing the United Irishmen, a secular movement founded by Presbyterians, in the late 1790s. The extent to which the Pastorini prophecy was responsible for the subsequent thread of anti-Protestant sectarianism in Irish nationalism is a matter for debate but there’s no doubting its presence, however muted and held in check by the secular nature of Irish republicanism.

To what extent was anti-Protestant sectarianism a factor in the revolutionary period? In his article on loyalists in Irish Free State border counties (pp 38–40) Jack Hepworth refers to the ‘sectarian opportunism’ of anti-Treaty IRA attacks on loyalist property before and during the Civil War. But to what extent did such incidents characterise the Irish revolution? That was a question considered at length in TG4’s Marú in Iarthar Chorcaí (Murder in West Cork), reviewed here (pp 52–3) by Sylvie Kleinman. If you missed it, you can check it out, along with a History Ireland Hedge School, at and judge for yourself.

Finally, Michael Loughman, in his article on the early career of Oliver J. Flanagan (pp 46–9), reminds us that far-right populism, also fuelled by irrational conspiracy theories and manifested in recent anti-immigrant protests in Dublin’s East Wall and Fermoy, is nothing new.

6 Palmerston Place, Dublin 7


Copyright © 2024 History Publications Ltd, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland | Tel. +353-1-293 3568