Ireland has yet to come to terms with its imperial past

In July 2019 Boris Johnson asked why Leo Varadkar isn’t “called Murphy like all the rest of them”. This ethnocentricity has a long history in an Ireland that for centuries was a laboratory for empire, where racist ideologies were formulated and then exported around the rest of the British empire.

As we approach Brexit, Johnson might like to remember that nation states working together in federations like the European Union – and not empires – are the mainstay of our world today. Educated at Balliol College Oxford, the intellectual epicentre of the 19th-century British Empire, on a classical curriculum, Mr Johnson continues to peddle a nostalgia for an England and an empire that no longer exists.

What does Mr Johnson’s nostalgia for empire mean for Ireland? How do we understand our own role in the development of empire?

Ireland was England’s first colony. We lived as part of the English, and then British, Empire for over 700 years. The Normans first conquered Ireland in 1169 and aside from a brief decade of independence during the 1640s Ireland formed an integral part of the English imperial system, until 1922 and the foundation of modern state. As well as being colonised the Irish operated as active colonists in the empires of Britain and other European powers.

Read the full article on the Irish Times website

Skip to content