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Research Article

How the British have misunderstood Ireland and Northern Ireland

Paul Bew*email-imagePaul Bew*

Paul Bew is Emeritus Professor of politics at Queen’s University Belfast and a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords. He is a member of Committee A—Sovereign Matters of the British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly, was Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life from 2012 to 2017, and formerly chaired the House of Lords Appointments Commission. He was chair of the Northern Ireland Centenary Historical Advisory Panel. His publications include Churchill and Ireland (2016, OUP) and Ancestral Voices in Irish Politics (2023, OUP).

email-image bewp@parliament.uk

Abstract

This article probes the mainstream UK structure of feeling—to use the classic term invented by Raymond Williams—on the Irish question. It argues that there was, and is a historic inability in a largely peaceful stable society to face up to the life and death issues, more recently those connected with political violence, posed by Ireland. The material covered ranges from the Irish famine of 1846 to 1850, to the war of independence 1919 to 1921 and the modern Ulster Troubles. It notices how often the need to preserve a comfortable often, but not always, liberal self-image involves a significant neglect of Irish realities. The article arises from a British Academy Lecture delivered on 31 May 2023.

Keywords

Irish famineIrish questionIrish war of independenceliberal self-imagepolitical violenceUlster Troubles
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Published on: 22 May 2024
Volume: 12
Issue: Issue 1 & 2
Article ID: a04
Copyright statement
© The author(s) 2024.
Cite this article
Bew (2024), ' How the British have misunderstood Ireland and Northern Ireland ', Journal of the British Academy, 12(Issue 1 & 2): a04 https://doi.org/10.5871/jba/012.a04

Research article

Normal View Dyslexic View

How the British have misunderstood Ireland and Northern Ireland

Paul Bew*email-imagePaul Bew*

Paul Bew is Emeritus Professor of politics at Queen’s University Belfast and a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords. He is a member of Committee A—Sovereign Matters of the British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly, was Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life from 2012 to 2017, and formerly chaired the House of Lords Appointments Commission. He was chair of the Northern Ireland Centenary Historical Advisory Panel. His publications include Churchill and Ireland (2016, OUP) and Ancestral Voices in Irish Politics (2023, OUP).

email-image bewp@parliament.uk