THE DAMNABLE QUESTION: A Study in Anglo-lrish Relations by George Dangerfield

THE DAMNABLE QUESTION: A Study in Anglo-lrish Relations

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Having last looked at the implacable, apparently insoluble Irish question some 40 years ago in his jaunty but dead serious The Strange Death of Liberal England (1935), Dangerfield picks up the web of delusions which comprised England's imperial policies toward Ireland in the years between the Famine and the 1922 Treaty. Dangerfield obviously likes the feisty Irish better than their English overlords; he focuses on the Easter Rebellion which he sees as ""a bitter, exact and decisive gloss"" on England's most disastrous colonial experiment. Here he parts company with recent revisionists who have tried--in the interests of stanching the current bloodletting in Ulster--to downplay the legacy of that strange, myth-propelled revolution of 1916, a revolution in which the shades of Marx and Cuchulain marched alongside Connolly and Pearse into the Post Office. After Easter Week, the English infallibly did the wrong thing--first introducing Conscription, then as popular resistance mounted, ""coercion."" For three years Lloyd George juggled the Nationalists in the south and the Ulster Unionists in ""the Micawber-like hope that something would turn up."" Unlike Conor Cruise O'Brien who accepts the de facto existence of two states of Ireland, Dangerfield suspects that the Treaty--a ""success"" in English imperial terms--is doomed to failure. It did not assuage ""that existential side of Irish history which is governed by the unappeasable past."" Though this will be considered by some to be a rather old-fashioned reading of the Irish imbroglio, Dangerfield has lost none of his cheeky elegance and his ability to take the measure of a man or a policy.

Pub Date: July 26th, 1976
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown