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Cromwell in Ireland

Having admired Robert Fisk's reporting for years, I was saddened to read his outdated comments about Cromwell's campaign in Ireland.

To liken the New Model Army to the Taliban might answer the need of the liberal English to imagine that any horrors of the present day committed by other peoples must have been equalled or exceeded by ourselves in past times; but it is hardly good history.

By the standards of his time, Cromwell exercised considerable restraint in Ireland, sparing women and children and, as Fisk concedes, sparing Kilkenny entirely. Context is everything.

In 1641, Irish Catholics had massacred Irish and English Protestants. In continental Europe, Protestants and Catholics were slaughtering each other in the appalling atrocities of the Thirty Years War.

Unlike the Taliban, Cromwell, while undoubtedly suppressing domestic opponents, also championed the right of others to speak their minds, even when those views conflicted with his own. In Sussex, the local gentry arrested and imprisoned dozens of Quakers.

It was Cromwell who ordered their release from Horsham jail. It was also Cromwell who entered into negotiations for the return of the Jews to England.

Chris Hare, Worthing, West Sussex

Belfast Telegraph


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