By Sarah Weinstock
The new Crown season dropped Sunday. Being a fan, I immediately bumped up to the first thing on my list of things to watch. The first episode introduced the viewer to the IRA (Irish Republican Army- an organization that was Anti-British colonial rule of Northern Ireland )and the Irish troubles between Northern Ireland and England. I studied mostly British and Irish history in my undergrad. It feels like a sense of accomplishment that I understand the historical references when I watch shows like The Crown and Derry Girls. Before studying history, I was completely oblivious to any of Ireland’s history. Like many, I thought it was just a country that prided itself on the color green, shamrocks, Catholicism, and pubs. Yes, I said country. I had no clue that Ireland was two countries; Northern Ireland, which is still a part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, i.e., Ireland. My high school world history class failed to mention that. I was completely unaware of the hardship and the suppression of the native Catholic Irish that centuries of colonialism had done to them.
There is too much history for one blog post to unpack, but condense it down to one sentence would be to say that the Irish Catholics became second class citizens in their own country, while Irish Protestants were British colonizers’ ancestors reaped the rewards of stolen land. Sound familiar? Colonizers coming and taking land that is not theirs, claiming it for their own, then making the native citizens second class and not making decisions for their country. Let’s not forget about the mass genocide killing off the native people to the point that their population is still struggling today. While the subject of this month is “whose land are you voting on.” I couldn’t help to think of the effect that colonization had on Ireland and how being a second class citizen did not grant them the right to vote on their land.
For anyone who has had the HONOR (said sarcastically) of reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest, they are aware of the character Caliban the savage servant to Prospero and Miranda. While Prospero and Miranda are on a secluded land where it is just themselves, some have connected that the “savage” Caliban is from Ireland. My favorite professor also made the connection that at this time, 1610 was only three small years after England founded Jamestown in America. The word “savage” historically has been used to dehumanize indigenous people. I’m not saying I know what Shakespeare was thinking, because I don’t think even he knew what he was thinking; he likey/probably knew little or nothing about the genocide and enslavement oversees. Still, the comparison can make a conspiracy theorist happy.
A lot of American history can be compared to Irish history, the deep-seated roots of colonization and native peoples’ suppression. Catholic Irish had an emancipation movement in the nineteenth century to obtain rights that their second-class citizenship did not award them in their country. Their leader Daniel O’Connell idolized Fredrick Douglass and vice versa. They, too, had a civil rights movement in the 1960s that mirrored ours and idolized another American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr, and his peaceful protests.
In Northern Ireland today, there is still civil unrest. The Belfast peace wall is still closed at 7 pm each night, separating protestant loyalists and Catholics from each other. The latest car bombing in Northern Ireland happened in 2019 in Londonderry or Derry, depending on what side of the conflict you are on. The blame for this bombing was placed on IRA members. There is still bad blood. My loyalist tour guide told me that Protestant children do not know Catholic children and will most likely never know them as anything other than them as enemies.
Whose land are we voting on when centuries of colonization have taken the right from its native peoples to vote. It has taken away the religion and spirituality of the native people who did not consider land something to own but something to live off of and cherish. The world that profits off of colonization do not recognize the need for forgiveness, but it should. I am a lover of studying any suffragist movement. As America comes up on its 100th anniversary of granting women the right to vote, we must remember that white women, women of color, Native Americans, and minorities were not given the same right to vote. When England granted their women the right to vote, a woman had to own land to qualify. Luckily Catholic Irish women were granted the right to vote with the British women. But how do you own land, and when for centuries Catholics have not been allowed to own land in Ireland then given only low-income jobs that don’t allow them to make enough to get out of renting land from wealthy landowners?
I must end here because I can go on and on about Irish history. I can also touch on the fact that even Irish Catholics can still profit from white privilege. However, that does not take away their hardships and history that they have gone through. Brexit continues to hurt the Northern Irish more than anyone could imagine, and it should not go unnoticed. Former MP Priti Patel once suggested shortening the food supply to Northern Ireland to a better Brexit deal. An insensitive comment like that circles back to England’s mishandling of the Potato Famine, which killed one million Irish, and nearly two million more fled Ireland.
Sarah Weinstock is a first-year woman’s history graduate student. She would like to thank one of her favorite professors Dr. Noonan who taught her all she knows about Irish and British history and is one of the reasons she is in graduate school today because of her guidance. Sarah’s favorite thing about Ireland is the fact that there are no snakes.