English and Irish Understandings of History (Plunkett, 1904)

1.649. Sir Horace Plunkett, Ireland in the New Century, (London: John Murray, 1904), p.16, BL 8146.cc.11

A passage from Sir Horace Plunkett, Ireland in the New Century (1904).

Having discussed the reasons why the Irish national sentiment is political and anti-English, Plunkett moves on to the reasons why this sentiment persists in this form, pointing to a gap between the English and Irish understandings of the nature of history:

There is one reason why this sentiment is not allowed to die which should always be remembered by those who wish to grasp the inner workings of the Irish mind. Briefly stated, the view prevails in Ireland that in dealing with questions affecting our material well-being, the government of our country by the English was, in the past, characterised by an unenlightened self-interest. Thoughtful Englishmen admit this charge, but they say that the past referred to is beyond living memory and should now be buried. The Irish mind replies that the life of a nation is not to be measured by the life of individuals, and that a wrong inflicted by a Government upon a community entitles those who inherit the consequences of the injury to claim reparation at the hands of those who inherit the government. With this attitude on the part of the Irish mind I am not only most heartily in sympathy, but I find every Englishman who understands the situation equally so. In the later portions of this book it will be shown that practical recognition, in no small measure, has been given by England to the righteousness of this part of the Irish case, and that if the effect thus produced has not found as full an outward expression as might have been expected, the Irish people have at any rate responded to the new treatment in a manner which must, in no distant future, bring about a better understanding.