There’s an amusement at the heart of every set of complaints about the damned interlopers, the colonists, the imperium. Which is that it’s only the unsuccessful attempts that leave a society to complain about it:
“I am struck by a disinclination,” he says, “in both academic and journalistic accounts to critique empire and imperialism. Openness to, and engagement in, a critique of nationalism has seemed greater. And while it has been vital to our purposes in Ireland to examine nationalism, doing the same for imperialism is equally important and has a significance far beyond British/Irish relations.”
The President of Ireland obviously doesn’t know many academics if he thinks they don’t critique empire and imperialism.
However, there’s something more important here. It is only the failure of taking over a place completely that leaves a group to complain about the attempt. This is not to say that the English treated Ireland or the Irish well. But it is to point out that the attempt didn’t in fact work.
Compare this to other parts and events in these isles. The Anglo Saxons (OK, Jutes etc as well) didn’t de- and then re-populate England. There was more than a little mixing with the Romano-Brits. And yet in England, perhaps leaving aside Cornwall, there is no current complaint about this because that imperium was entirely successful. The Celtic areas are different, largely because those are the areas where the takeover wasn’t culturally, even if it were politically, successful.
Or, think perhaps of the Irish takeover of the mainland. The Scots were indeed the Irish and they did indeed take over Scotland. There’s no Pictish reaction against this because there are no Picts – culturally at least – left to do so. The Irish empire was successful in its imperium.
The Irish complaints about what the English did can even be fair at times. And yet the underlying claim, that this was all something different and therefore uniquely evil, rather fails. Simply on the grounds that the existence of an Ireland and the Irish to be complaining shows that it was a failed imperium in the first place.
We can test this too. Let’s go ask a Pict shall we?