Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland: Academic's tweeted poem a reminder of the problems facing those who crave a shared future

Dr Jennifer Cassidy's poem seems to view Irish history as a series of crimes committed by the British
Dr Jennifer Cassidy's poem seems to view Irish history as a series of crimes committed by the British
Nelson McCausland

By Nelson McCausland

Dr Jennifer Cassidy is a lecturer in politics and international relations at St Peter’s College, Oxford, and contributes to public debate through Twitter, as well as in print and on the television.

The 30-year-old university lecturer is also passionately Irish and, in an article in the Irish Times, wrote: “I was born in Ireland, raised in Ireland and educated there for 18 years. I intend to return and build my future on Irish soil.”

She has travelled widely and, after graduating from Trinity College Dublin in 2010, went on to work as a political attache to Ireland’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

She has also been an attache with the European Union’s External Action Service — the EU diplomatic service.

After that, she worked at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs when Ireland held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Dr Cassidy is, therefore, a strong supporter of the European Union and a passionate opponent of Brexit.

It was in that context that the Irish-born lecturer tweeted the following poem on the day after the recent vote at Westminster.

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You invaded us.
You conquered us.
You divided us.

You robbed us
of our language,
our heritage, our land.

You starved us.
You starved us.
You starved us.

You shot us.
You imprisoned us.
You killed us.

We made peace.
We trusted you.
We trusted you.

Dr Liam Kennedy coined the acronym MOPE (most oppressed people ever), and there is a strain of Irish nationalism which has ‘MOPERY’ coursing through every vein.

It is based on the version, or perversion, of history which says, ‘Blame the Brits for everything’, a version of history which has often featured in Irish nationalist propaganda, and the version of history used by Irish republicans to justify IRA terrorism.

It is a version of history which has been used to radicalise generations of Irish nationalists.

However, it also a version of history which poisons relationships, especially here in Northern Ireland.

I can recall a report of the unveiling of a republican mural in west Belfast where the speaker wanted to justify the “republican struggle” and talked about 50 years of “unionist misrule”, but 50 was clearly not enough, so she moved on to 400 years since the Plantation.

After that, she went back 1,100 years to the arrival of the Anglo-Normans.

As the number of years increased, so did the sense of outrage.

Finally, as if 1,100 years was not enough, she went back another thousand years and denounced “the persecution of the Celts”.

That sort of nonsense may be the staple diet of Irish republicanism, but it is not restricted to the heartlands of Sinn Fein.

In her poem, Dr Cassidy views every event in Irish history as something that Britain did to the Irish: “You invaded us. You conquered us. You robbed us. You starved us. You shot us.”

History is mined in order to create a calendar of grievances, and every hurt, real or imagined, is carefully treasured, so that it can be passed on to another generation.

Jennifer Cassidy studied for her initial degree at Trinity College, where she took a “life-changing political science course” with “truly life-changing professors”, then took her doctorate at Oxford.

With the benefit of such an education, we might expect her to have a more nuanced understanding of history. Unfortunately, that is not reflected in her poem.

Her version of history is ‘you and us’ and what ‘you have done to us over thousands of years’. It is distorted and dangerous and has fuelled division in Ireland for far too long.

When I read it in the words of a university lecturer, charged with the education of young students, it is thoroughly disheartening.

It is even more disappointing when you consider that she has worked as an attache for the Irish government and the European Union.

On the other hand, her tweet may be a timely reminder of a deeply damaging and divisive mindset and of the challenges facing all those who want to build a shared and better future here in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph


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