Slugger O’Toole picked up an interesting letter from the Irish News last week, about the Nineteenth Century Irish patriot Thomas Davis.
Davis – the descendant of a Cromwellian soldier – knew what he was talking about when he told his Catholic fellow countrymen that “if you would liberate Ireland and keep it free, you must have Protestant help – if you would win the Protestants you must address their reason, their hopes and their pride”. (Irish News, via Slugger)
I”d be interested to learn more about Davis’ ancestry if anyone knows anything. In the meantime, the Slugger post is perhaps worth reading in conjunction with this article from the Irish Democrat.
Davis’s comment is particularly relevant in the wake of the recent controversies about remarks by Dr Alec Reid and disparaging commentary on the Northern Ireland football team.
Perhaps with the IRA out of the way, there’s an opportunity for republicanism and nationalism to engage more seriously with the northern Protestant/unionist community.
I was struck by this thought on Saturday, when I attended the Palestine Solidarity Campaign conference in London. Among the speakers was a South African Government Minister, Ronnie Kasrils, who stressed how important winning white South African support had been in breaking down the Apartheid ideology.
Kasrils, who is himself both white and Jewish, suggested the Palestinians needed to maximise Jewish support in the same way.
I don’t want to overstress the parallels between South Africa, Palestine and Ireland, partly because the Catholic/Protestant cleavage isn’t necessarily a straightforward native/settler divide, and partly because of the significance of the Protestant contribution to Irish nationalism.
Nevertheless, Kasrils’ remarks may be relevant to Ireland.