Cartoon uproar tells a story
The uproar about the anti-Muslim cartoons is interesting. More interesting still is the reaction of some politicians and other publicists. When did a British prime minister show any regret at the vast number of anti-Irish cartoons published in British newspapers?
When did any prime minister over there show any desire to apologise or even show regret for the appalling abuse of the late Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich? When did anyone in Britain suggest that the abuse of Archbishop Makarios during the Cyprus affair was cruel and wrong? When did they apologise for their propaganda abuse of the Kenyan people?
The answer is, of course, never.
Why? Why did British publicists create and continue a vast anti-Irish campaign without a word of regret while now in face of Muslim protests they are showing something akin to regret?
The answer is, of course, fear.
Many people in what is called the western world are afraid of what may happen if or when anger erupts after centuries of such abuse. Whereas they were not afraid of the anger of Irish people. British rulers were afraid of the Irish when they were being attacked in their own country. But times have changed and for them the anger from Irish people is over. So the stream of anti-Irish abuse will remain without apology and without redress.
How vile was it? Well, you can look at the record of abuse described by Liz Curtis to find out, and examine the English newspapers during the armed conflict against British army and government. Such anti-Irish abuse should be studied as an example of what the British press did both in peace and in war, the same British press which now is either attacking Muslims or expressing regret that others do it. For them racial abuse is a normal instrument of policy, not an occasional outburst of unreason.
Anti-Irish propaganda did not result from the armed conflict between republicans and the British establishment, it existed long before that and it still exists.
One of the waves of anti-Irish hatred was created after World War Two. During that war tens of thousands of Irish people joined British forces and thus helped Britain to come out on the winning side.
What thanks did they get? Winston Churchill spewed venom on the Irish and there followed a wave of anti-Irish racism. British comedians knew that in that climate any anti-Irish joke would go down well with their audiences. Those who remember the 1960s in Britain remember the notices saying that Irish people need not apply for either jobs or accommodation.
But those who want us to glory in the tens of thousands of Irish people who helped London to succeed in that war are unwilling to remember the stream of anti-Irish racism with which Irish war volunteers were rewarded.
Does anyone remember now the Paisleyite abuse of the past fifty years, the mockery of Catholic worship, the condemnation of people because they were either Catholic or Irish or both? Does anyone demand the removal of the notices which still exist on Belfast streets 'Irish go home' and is any politician thinking of removing them? Or is any Free Speecher defending them? Or does anyone ask why there is so much fuss over British soldiers beating Iraqi civilians when beating civilians was part and parcel of what British troops did in Ireland not only during thirty years conflict but long before that? All conveniently forgotten and not a word of apology from any British source whatever.
Because, you see, the Irish do no matter. The Muslim world could erupt, you see, the oil could be in danger, you see. But the Irish don't matter. For much of this the Irish are to blame. Their leaders so often allowed the Paisleyites to say and do what they pleased. The government in the rest of Ireland believed that their limited economy was more important than the lives, safety and dignity of their citizens whom they had long ago abandoned but still claimed to control. There must be few people on earth who claimed so much control over their fellow citizens and did so little to help them.
So everybody is supposed to forget – and certainly not ask apologies for – the soldiers walking up and down streets shouting 'Fenian whores' at the women and abusing the children. Forget the racism, forget the abuse in the streets, in the prisons. Touch the forelock and pass on.
No oil, you see. The quickest way to human rights is not appeals to governmental decency but rather finding an oil well in your backyard.
You could be amused, of course. Listening to publicists talking about the right to freedom of speech, these are the same people who forbade free speech to their fellow citizens because London governments seduced and threatened them into it; who imposed the most powerful censorship in Europe on their fellow citizens. All for political gain. And now they are preaching about the democratic right to free speech! People who created the most potent of all the demoralising forces weighing in on us, anti-Irish racism by the Irish themselves.
One other thing to remember. During the recent thirty-years war some of us wrote to every Catholic member of the British House of Commons, the British House of Lords, the British Privy (secret) Council to ask them to intervene to help fellow Catholics in Ireland who were suffering military abuse. Apart from one powerless lord and a couple of powerless MPs none showed the slightest interest.
So we quietly forgot all that stuff we learned at school about the Body of Christ, when one is hurt all are hurt. They didn't seem to believe it, so we stopped asking them.
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