To offend the Welsh, the Scots and Ulster Protestants and to mangle the history of Ulster and to do it all in a single article is a remarkable achievement, but the veteran journalist and historian Sir Max Hastings has managed to do all that and more.
Now, Max Hastings is the product of a privileged background and a public school education, who lives today in the comfort of a rambling country house in rural England, but as a former newspaper editor who had previously reported on Northern Ireland for the BBC, you would expect him to have a good knowledge of Ulster history.
Yet, in a piece for Bloomberg, he wrote of “a million Protestants, most of whose forebears were ‘planted’ in Ulster by Oliver Cromwell’s followers in the 17th century”.
Does he not know about the 17th-century settlement of Lowland Scots in east Ulster in the years before the Plantation, something which happened when Oliver Cromwell was just five-years-old?
Is he unaware that this settlement was a prelude to the official Plantation of Ulster, at which time Cromwell was still a small boy?
But, then, why not have a good rant and bring in Cromwell?
Hastings offends the Scots and the Welsh, mocking the Welsh language for its “tortured spellings”, but his greatest disdain is reserved for Protestants in Ulster and there is a reference to “several hundred thousand embittered” people he calls “Proddies”.
His choice of the word “Proddie” is striking.
It’s a word that is sometimes heard in colloquial speech, but its use in a formal article is derogatory and contemptuous.
What would be the reaction if a journalist wrote an article and referred to Irish nationalists as “Papes”, or “Taigs”? The answer is that there would be an outcry and, in truth, no newspaper today would publish it.
But when it comes to Ulster Protestants, they’re fair game.
His history is confused, his language and tone are derogatory, but how does he fare as a prophet?
A few weeks ago, it was George Osborne, the former Conservative chancellor turned newspaper editor and now investment banker, who was predicting a united Ireland in a matter of years.
Now, Max Hastings, another of the English elite, has appeared to tell us that “within a generation” Northern Ireland will have been merged into an Irish Republic.
Interestingly, both men have a connection with the Republic. Osborne’s father has an Irish baronetcy linked to Co Waterford and Hastings lived in Kilkenny when he was reporting on Northern Ireland.
If the prophetic part of his article is as flawed as the historical part, we haven’t too much to worry about, but what has been notable has been the reaction of Irish nationalists.
Immediately it appeared, some Irish nationalist newspapers descended into a state of delirium, devoting pages of print to it and extolling Hastings as a “distinguished historian”, the sort of person to be taken seriously.
Now, Irish nationalists might well have turned on Max Hastings for his ridiculing of the Welsh language and the offence this has undoubtedly caused to their Welsh nationalist friends, but no. That was simply set aside.
Such delight was not restricted to nationalist newspapers and the chief executive of the pan-nationalist pressure group Ireland’s Future said that it was evidence of a growing recognition of the “tremendous opportunities a new Ireland will present”.
In truth, such articles play into the Irish nationalist tactic of demoralising unionists with the constant repetition of the “inevitability” of a united Ireland.
It’s an old tactic in psychological warfare, designed to sap the morale of the enemy.
At the same time, it helps to bolster the morale of pan-nationalism.
But it is a deeply unpleasant way to treat your unionist neighbours and exposes any talk of a “shared island” as a sham, more sham than shared, and unionists can see that.
As regards Hastings, the historian Dr Aaron Edwards, who has written extensively and intelligently on Northern Ireland, was particularly dismissive and tweeted: “He’s at it again. Max Hastings has surpassed himself in his deployment of stereotypes in this piece.”