Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ireland and the slave trade

Brian Feeney:

Apologies seem to be our proconsul's latest cheapo wheeze, especially for events long ago for which he has no responsibility. Most laughable and incredible was his "apology" in the United States for Northern Ireland's involvement in the slave trade. As Newton Emerson pointed out in this paper, Norn Iron didn't exist at the time of the slave trade and, as historians hastened to protest, Belfast was always opposed to the slave trade.

As a matter of fact Ireland's involvement with the slave trade was in providing slaves. In the 1650s Cromwell sent thousands of Irish men and women to Barbados, Montserrat, St Kitts and Antigua. The minimum figure was 12,000. Others put it as high as 50,000. The Irish, not surprisingly, proved to be lousy slaves in the Tropics with an inconsiderate habit of dying quickly from malaria. The English sugar planters turned to our proconsul's friends the black slaves in the 18th century.

Any chance of our slippy, orange-tinted, opportunist apologising to the Irish for England's experiments in white slavery on one of his flying visits or perhaps when he's in Croker?

Don't hold your breath.

All the same, you might have expected someone born in Nairobi to know something about colonialism.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps not.

Still, he's not stupid. You'll notice he craftily offered his meaningless, cynical apology on behalf of Wales and Norn Iron. He knew he was skating on thin ice because black groups in Britain are trying to organise a claim for compensation from companies they believe benefited from slavery.

So he didn't apologise on behalf of the government.

New World Celts


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