|“What’s up in Ireland?” John Tarver
1. Are you interested in your country’s history? Give reasons why you are or are not interested.
When I think of German history, I usually remember the deadly boring history lessons I have to bear at school: Dry dates and political facts, presented in endless-seeming texts, usually composed of incomprehensible technical terms.
For this reason, the idea of our country’s history often has a relatively unpleasant taste to it and – frankly speaking, I usually try to avoid to deal with this subject.
Nevertheless, I think that history can also be very interesting, too. In my opinion, especially older history and the question how people lived in the past are quiet exiting.
Besides, I think that the knowledge, especially of our own country’s history is very important because a lot of past events have a strong influence to our present life. Therefore, it is necessary to know the past in order on understand present occurrences.
2. What impact did the invasion of the Celts have on Ireland?
The arrival of the Celts from the continent, which took place in the 4th century BC, strongly influenced the Irish culture:
For a relatively long time, the development of the Celtic civilisation and culture was able to proceed on its own. Cultural goods like fine arts and music reached a very high level so that after Christianization, which was brought to Ireland by St. Patrick in 432, Ireland’s intellectual and artistic progress was superior to the development of these subjects in other countries like ,for example, in England.
Besides, the typical features of many Irish people like ,for example, the reddish hair and the greenish eyes, originate in the Celtic invaders.
3. When was England’s control over Ireland secure?
From 1168, Britain more or less started to conquer Ireland: At first, the English control, caused by English warriors, noblemen and the royal army, was secure only in small parts of Ireland, especially around Dublin.
Later, under Elizabeth Ι, the English started to send more and more Protestant settlers to Ulster – the destruction of the traditional Irish lifestyle began.
Around 1650, Oliver Cromwell drove the plantation of the isle to its highest point when he conducted a genocidal campaign against the Irish. From now on, England’s control over Ireland rose and finally, with the Union of 1801, it was completely secure.
4. What were the tree main events in Ireland in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century?
The first main event in Ireland in the 19th century was the Union of 1801: Irish Catholics hoped that it would lead to better conditions for them, like equal rights and a better integration, but instead, it was an other step to an absolute English control over Ireland. The Irish language for example was forbidden.
The next main event was the ‘Great Famine’, which caused the death of over a million Irish people. During this famine, a great mass of the Irish population emigrated to America.
A main event in the beginning of the 20th century was the Easter Uprising in Dublin, which took place over Easter 1916:
A powerful Irish movement for Home Rule protested against the unequal relations between the Protestants and the Catholics and for an independent Ireland. The British army suppressed the uprising with extreme brutality. Afterwards, the British partitioned Ireland into a mainly Catholic ‘Free State’ in the south and ‘Northern Ireland’ with its Protestant majority.
5. Explain the reasons for the emergence of terrorism in Ireland.
The main reason for the emergence of terrorism in Ireland was the strong conflict between the Protestants and the Catholics:
The Catholics, who actually were the original inhabitants of Ireland, felt oppressed by the Protestants, who had been implanted by the English. The Protestants had a lot of privileges, like for example “better jobs, better housing, better schools” (l. 58-59) and besides, the Protestants supported the partition of Ireland into a northern and a southern part. In spite of this, the Catholics wanted the total independence of whole Ireland.
During this Conflict, the Irish Republic Army – in short: The IRA – was founded by young Catholic men. They were politically linked to the party Sinn Fein and ready to use violence and bombing campaigns against England and the Protestants, in order to fight for their idea of an independent and united Ireland.
On the Protestant side, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), a tough police force in the service of the British Crown developed.
A cruel civil war started between these two sides and even later, the conflict did not lose its strength:
After the civil war, the discrimination against the Catholics went on and so the IRA split up into the IRA and Sinn Fein in order to continue their terrorism, which was answered with equal violence, caused by secret Protestant organisations.
Later, when up to 20000 British soldiers, who were stationed in Northern Ireland, confronted the IRA with brutal force, the situation escalated so that a ‘Direct Rule’ from Westminster was introduced in Northern Ireland.
Not until 1994, did the two communities begin to search for peace. Until this year, almost 3000 people had to die because of the terrorist activities, caused by the conflict between Catholics and Protestants.
6. & 7. Analyse the authors language and the way he structures the text. On the basis of your analysis, decide whether the author presents an objective description of Irish history. Give reasons for your answer.
The author structures the text in a chronological order: After giving a short introduction, in which he leads the reader to the subject of the article, he continues with a passage about the Celts and the impact they had on Ireland. Afterwards, he goes on with a passage about the British and their rising control over Ireland and finally gives a last passage about the 20th century and the terrorism in Ireland.
This chronological order used in order to show the Irish history in a clear and comprehensible way by underlining the historical and cultural development.
The language the author uses has often a relatively judging character:
Ireland is described in a very positive way, like for example as “the jewel of Europe” (l. 5), which reached “a golden age in the forefront of intellectual and artistic progress” (l. 22).
Besides, it is presented as a kind of victim, like for example as “the country with the most complicated problems enduring over the past thousand years” (l. 4).
In contrast to this, England is shown as “the cause of the bother” (l. 5) and with “”brutal political power imposed on Ireland” (l. 39). This is a clear assignment of guilt, which is continued in “the worst atrocity of all” (l. 53): During the ‘Great Famine’, “over a million Irish people died – although crops were still being exported to England.” (l. 53-54).
This image of the good Irish and the bad English gets strengthened by sarcastic terms like for example “17 MPs from Northern Ireland, the rump still belonging to the U.K.” (l. 8-9) or “The mass exodus to the New World Began. London looked on.” (l. 54-55) and besides, by the allusion “Britain was seized by the Anglo-Saxons, Ireland again remained immune” (l. 23), which presents the Anglo-Saxons as a kind of sickness infecting Britain.
In addition to this, the privileges of the Protestants, which were implanted by the English, is underlined by the repetition of the word “better” in “better jobs, better housing, better schools” (l. 58-59).
The activities of the Catholics are presented in a positive way, like for example in “the legendary Easter Uprising” (l. 64) or in “ the IRA, a compact force of dedicated Catholic men” (l. 75).
Because of the before mentioned judging character of the text, which presents the Irish Catholics as the good and the Protestant English as the bad, it is clear that the author does not present an objective description of Irish history: The presentation of the historical development is mixed with the author’s personal judging opinion, supporting the Irish Catholics.
In addition to this, it is interesting to see that the author gives explanations to the Gaelic Language, like for example for St. Patrick “or Padraig” (l. 17) or for Sinn Fein: “Its Gaelic name means ‘We Ourselves’” (l. 77).
8. Do you fell pride, shame or indifference about being born into a certain nation? Do you personally feel responsible for what your country did or is doing to other nations?
It would be wrong to say that I feel absolutely indifference about being born in a certain nation, because being born in a relatively rich country like Germany simultaneously means having many more possibilities and less problems then someone, who has been born into a pour country, like for example in the Third World. Therefore, I have to mention that I am more or less thankful for being born in a richer country.
On the other hand, I really do not feel pride or shame about being born into a certain nation:
In my opinion, feelings like pride or shame should be caused by own experiences and performances, but not by things which are happened without one’s own assistance. In fact, nobody asked me if I wanted to be born into a country like Germany.
For more or less the same reasons, I, seen as a single person without any representative function, do not feel responsible for what my country did to other nations in the past. Neither was I able to influence my grandparents when they voted for Hitler, nor am I responsible for Hitler attacking France or killing Jews.
In contrast to this, every single person, including me, should know the country’s history, because a nation as a whole should feel responsible for its history, in order to prevent the repetition of past mistakes.
Besides, every single person should feel responsible for what his or her country is actually doing, because everybody is able to influence what is happening in different ways.