Saturday, February 25, 2017
Ireland’s image as rebel nation where each Catholic suspected of treason persisted for hundreds of years
King Hanvery VIII’s determination to marry Anne Boleyn and the Pope’s refusal to endorse the divorce which would have made it possible was more the occasion than the cause of the historic schism. Photograph: iStock
According to Cardinal Reginald Pole the English Reformation was result of Henry VIII’s “fleshy will” and “carnal concupiscence”.
It is easy to understand why the most powerful man in Mary Tudor’s Catholic England chose to attribute the rejection of Rome to the basest of motives. But he knew that that his analysis was, at best, an over-simplification.
The King’s determination to marry Anne Boleyn and the Pope’s refusal to endorse the divorce which would have made it possible was more the occasion than the cause of the historic schism.
The king had come to believe that affiliation to Rome no longer represented his best interests. His nominee for pope had been rejected. South America had been divided, with pontifical approval, between Spain and Portugal.
The English Reformation was political - certainly not theological. By the end of his life Henry was having men burned to death for denying the basic truths of Catholic theology. But he had become “both pope and emperor in his own kingdom.” He was an early convert to what Bernard Shaw, in St Joan, called “the heresy of nationalism.”
The Scottish Reformation was an altogether more intellectual an event. Merchants from the Hanseatic League, who traded into the west coast ports, brought with them the polemical works of Martin Luther and the Scots joined with much of northern Europe in condemning the Catholic Church for its corruption.
The ‘kirk’ became the community - embedded in the life of the people in way with which the Church of Rome (which was still seeking indulgences, the purchase of forgiveness) could not compete.
For a few years a sentimental attachment to Mary Queen of Scots moderated the attacks on Catholics and Catholicism. But John Knox, denouncing the “whore of Rome”, was more the voice of Scotland.
If Ireland had remained a quietly subservient English colony, it might have been allowed to continue in its devout Catholicism without interruption. The English establishment only listened to Ireland when the Irish forced themselves on England’s attention.
But in 1534 , the year in which Henry confirmed England’s independence with the Acts of Supremacy and Succession, Lord Thomas, the heir to the Earl of Kildare, announced that his allegiance was to Rome, not the apostate king of England, and called on Pope Paul III and the Holy Roman Emperor to support him in his campaign to throw off the tyrant’s yoke.
The insurrection was easily put down. But Ireland had begun to establish itself in the English mind as a rebel nation in which every Catholic was suspected of treason. The reputation persisted for over four hundred years.
The Reformation could only have come to Ireland if it had been imposed by force. It was not only the size of the task which deterred England from attempting the impossible.
Henry felt no missionary zeal and Thomas Cromwell, who urged the Reformation on, was interested in cementing an alliance with the northern European Protestant states, not proselytising for a faith in which he barely believed. Attempts were made, from time to time, to reduce the risk of rebellion by settling Protestants in the most rebellious Irish counties.
But Anglo-Irish relations were more typified by the purge than the plantation. In 1641 Galway and Munster rose up ‘to shake off the tyranny of England’ and to establish the right ‘to exercise our holy religion.’ Both uprisings were suppressed with a brutality which was justified by the invention of atrocities - including ‘the boiling of little children’ - which, it was claimed, were being committed against ‘poor Protestants.’
Oliver Cromwell, who prided himself on ‘not meddling with any man’s conscience’, made an exception for Irish Catholics. “If by liberty of conscience you mean liberty to exercise the mass....let ye know that where the Parliament of England have power, that will not be allowed of.”
The parliament of England had less power in Ireland than Cromwell hoped. So attacks on Irish Catholics and Catholicism were sporadic and usually followed the revelation of a ‘papist conspiracy,’ real or imaginary.
The execution of Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh was typical. At the height of the hysteria which followed the bogus exposure of a fictitious Popish Plot to assassinate Charles II and install a Catholic monarch in his place, Plunkett prudently went into hiding. He was captured after a year and prosecuted for treason.
The indictment included the obviously absurd claim that he had levied subscriptions from the clergy in his diocese in order to finance the recruitment of 70,000 irregulars to support a French invasion of England. He was tried in Dundalk and found not guilty. So he was transported to England and tried again. It took a London jury twenty minutes to convict him of “promoting the Catholic faith.” He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
The prosecution of Saint Oliver Plunkett - acquitted in Ireland but convicted in England - illustrates the fundamental difference between the English Reformation and the Reformation as it affected Ireland.
The English rejection of Rome was home grown and, by the time that it reached its height, during he programs and purges of Elizabeth 1st was generally accepted - with different degrees of genuine commitment - by the people.
When attempts were made to impose the Reformation on Ireland - albeit sporadically and haphazardly - the imposition was made by an alien nation and was, rightly, regarded as an affront to Irish nationhood as well as denial of Ireland’s faith.
Religion of Revolt
In England - initially as a result of the fear of invasion from Catholic France and Ireland, Protestantism was the religion of patriotism. In Ireland - Wolfe Tone and Charles Stewart Parnell not withstanding - Catholicism was the religion of revolt.
Protestant patriotism made England insular. At the climax of the Elizabethan Reformation, William Shakespeare was capturing the spirit of the age by writing about “a fortress built by nature.” Catholicism made the Irish look outwards.
When I was a student, opponents of the nascent common market called the idea of a European alliance ‘political Catholicism.’ At the time I denied what I thought a libel. Now, still an unreligious European, I am not so sure. Catholicism teaches that there is a world beyond the local parish. Had there been no Reformation, England would have been spared the folly of Brexit.
English Catholics will disagree, but it is possible to ague that Catholicism is not suited to the English temperament. It is a religion for the naturally religious, based on an unshakable body of belief and the absolute authority of the Church as represented by the Pope, the Bible and the teaching of the early fathers.
The Church of England’s Christianity à la carte is much more suited to English empiricism and Anglo Saxon scepticism. Those qualities made the English theologically foot-loose and despite, all the claims to independence of mind, inclined to accept whatever religious practices allowed them to get on with more important aspects of life than religion.
By the end of Elizabeth’s reign Protestantism had taken root. But until then most of the population accepted the religion of the sovereign’s choice - often not being sure what it was. There were many martyrs - Protestant when Mary was on the throne as well as Catholic during the reigns of Henry and Elizabeth. But martyrs are, by definition, not representative of the community as a whole.
Throughout the whole three reigns of the Reformation, there were plenty of attempted palace coups but only one popular uprising - the noble, but doomed, Pilgrimage of Grace.
Irish Catholics were less quiescent and, during the two hundred years that led up to the Act of Union and the voluntary dissolution of the Dublin Parliament, what should have been a self-evident truth was gradually accepted by the English establishment.
Lord Castlereagh made the point with stark simplicity. “Until Catholics are admitted into a general participation of rights...there will be no peace or safety in Ireland.” So - as with the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and the Six Counties civil rights marches fifty years later - Ireland’s capacity to cause trouble played a part in the progress of reform.
The other stimulus was the product of a different sort of Irish militancy. The war against the American colonies was going badly and the English army was in desperate need of men. The Irish Relief Act, as well as abolishing most of the historic penalties imposed on Catholics -limitations on residence and travel, restrictions on employment and extra taxation - removed the prohibition on Irishmen serving with the colours. It even gave Catholics - who processed the property qualification - the right to vote.
Twenty more years were to pass before a Relief Act reduced the penalties which were imposed on English Catholics and it was not until 1829 that the Catholic Emancipation Act conferred equal democratic rights on members of both faiths in both nations.
Progressive churchmen had long believed that ‘the faith of us English Catholics depends on that of our brethren in Ireland’ and insisted that ‘if their claims are overlooked, ours will never be thought worthy of notice.’
But, ironically, it was one of the ‘Irish brethren’ who forced the English government to choose between emancipation and a break down in parliamentary government. Daniel O’ Connell exploited an anomaly in the Irish relief Act which gave Catholics, of a suitable financial status, the right to stand in parliamentary elections but did not allow them, if elected, to take their seats in the House of Commons. He fought a by-election in Co Clare and won by a landslide.
The British government, led by the Duke of Wellington, had to choose between emancipation and the chaos that would follow a general election in which every Irish seat would be won by a candidate who could not sit in parliament. As was so often the case, the English establishment chose to bend rather than break. It was said that Wellington assembled Tory peers and told them, ‘Attention! Round about turn. Quick march!’
Legal discrimination was over but private prejudice still blighted the lives of many English Catholics - especially after the Great Famine, and the mass migration which followed, brought thousands of destitute Irish families to England. Their arrival gave the Catholic Church in England a new vitality and, for the first time, a base among the urban working class.
But it also created social problems in the areas where they congregated. The letters of Irish priests, writing home from Victorian England, constantly express dismayed surprise that potential new members of their congregation no longer attend mass and that the moral conduct of single men - and some married women - falls to unacceptable levels once they have crossed the Irish Sea.
The notion that Irish Catholics drank too much and worked too little combined with the equally scurrilous nonsense they are England’s natural enemies - a calumny that was reinforced by the Easter Rising and the subsequent civil war, even though priest after priest condemned the violence.
Historically Catholicism is uneasy in England and even the most English and self-confidant of Catholics is careful not to appear too confident of Rome’s ultimate victory.
When, during the course of a seventieth birthday interview in 1993 , the late Cardinal Basil Hume mentioned the conversion of England - a blessing for which English Catholics pray each Sunday - he thought it necessary to clarify the limit of his aspiration in a public apology.
The Archbishop of Canterbury graciously accepted that no offence was intended. He could afford to be generous. He was Primate of an irrevocably Protestant nation.
By Roy Hattersley’s The Catholics: The Church and its People in Britain and Ireland from the Reformation to the Present Day, published by Chatto & Windus
A mother writes about their dog, Abbey, and her 4 year old daughters reaction to it.
Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
I hope you will play with her.. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.
Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand.. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies..' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey &Meredith and this note:
Abbey arrived safely in heaven.
Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.
Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.
Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.
I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.
By the way, I'm easy to find, I am wherever there is love.
When I began sharing my advice over social networking sites on the internet, answering real-life questions on Twitter and Facebook, I did not anticipate the response — an outpouring of emotion from countless strangers.
As a Zen monk and former professor at a small arts college in Massachusetts, U.S., I am used to being asked for advice on dealing with life’s challenges. I like to talk about the value of slowing down in our busy lives, and sometimes I write notes to myself that I then share, too.
It makes me profoundly happy that my simple messages can inspire people and help them. I still remember a young mother who had lost her husband in a car accident and who sent me a heartfelt thank-you note for saving her from committing suicide: she said she had never thought before about loving herself, because love for her always meant giving it to someone else.
And a graduate, discouraged after not finding a job, read my supportive words and gave the search another try, finally landing a job. When I read his news, I was overjoyed for two days, as if I had landed the job myself.
Above all, slow down and take the time to savour your thoughts. Remember, it isn’t the outside world that is a whirlwind; it is only your mind. The world has never complained about how busy it is…"
Above all, slow down and take the time to savour your thoughts. Remember, it isn’t the outside world that is a whirlwind; it is only your mind. The world has never complained about how busy it is...
I hope there will be something in among these sayings and reflections that will help you, too. Above all, slow down and take the time to savour your thoughts. Remember, it isn’t the outside world that is a whirlwind; it is only your mind. The world has never complained about how busy it is...
None of us can know, or want to know, every single thing that happens in the world. If we did, we would go crazy with the overload of information. The advice in this section is about slowing down and being selective, to enable your mind to cope. When you are so busy that you begin to feel overwhelmed, remember that you are not powerless: when your mind rests, the world also rests.
TEACHER WHO INSPIRED ME
By all measures, I was an average kid. I was of average height, from a middle-class family, not the brightest student nor a troublemaker. But my elementary school teacher, Mrs Lee, predicted great things about my future. I was scared of her, until I visited her house to play with her son, who was my age, and discovered she was a kind and loving person, who only appeared strict when she was in the classroom.
‘You are going to be a good student and a role model for your friends,’ she said. ‘You will become a great person who brings wisdom and happiness to a lot of people.’
My young heart was moved beyond words. From that day, I studied very hard and was determined not to disappoint Mrs Lee. I think I have become who I am today thanks to what she said that afternoon.
If you are raising a child, remember it is OK for your child to do well in one area and not so well in others.
Are you a controlling parent? Are you devoting too much attention to your child? If the answer is yes, then turn some of that attention toward your parents. If you are good to your parents, your child will learn how to treat you in the future.
Some say they don’t really know what they are looking for in life. This might be because instead of getting in touch with how they feel, they have led their lives according to other people’s expectations. Live your life not to satisfy others, but to fulfil what your heart desires.
Establish a goal for the week. There’s a big difference between having a goal and not.
Even if you have just a modest dream, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to others about it. By the time you tell ten people, it is more likely to come true.
To get food unstuck from a frying pan, just pour water in the pan and wait. After a while the food loosens on its own. Don’t struggle to heal your wounds. Just pour time into your heart and wait. When your wounds are ready, they will heal on their own.
When trust is shattered, when a hope is dashed, when a loved one leaves you, before doing anything, pause your life and rest. If you can, surround yourself with friends and share food and drink while slowly letting out the bottled-up stories of betrayal, disappointment and hurt.
A VERY modern dilemma: There are countless television channels but nothing interesting to watch. Too many choices make people unhappy.
There is a famous Buddhist saying that everyone appears as buddhas in the eyes of the Buddha and everyone appears as pigs in the eyes of a pig. It suggests the world is experienced according to the state of one’s mind. When your mind is joyful and compassionate, the world is, too. When your mind is filled with negative thoughts, the world appears negative, too.
Things I liked when I was young but now couldn’t care less about: aeroplane journeys, all-you-can-eat buffets, horror movies, staying up all night. Things I enjoy now I am older: Mozart, brown rice, meditation, spending time alone, regular exercise. We change without realising it. We are in the midst of change now.
When you have to make an important decision, don’t lose sleep over it. Just take the special medicine called ‘time’ and wait. Your subconscious will search for the answer. Two days later, or three, the answer will dawn on you as you are waking up, taking a shower, or talking to a friend. Put faith in your subconscious mind and give yourself time.
When I first became a professor, my heart pounded at the thought of meeting my new students. I was filled with eager anticipation, like a teenager about to go on a date. I gave my students a little more homework than the other professors, as I felt the urge to teach them as much as I could.
Then I began to realise that my eagerness was creating some problems. A few appeared tired and seemed to lose interest. Students began coming to class without having done their assignments. I began to feel disappointed and hurt. When I examined the situation more clearly, I realised how unskillfully I had been conducting myself. The class was just one of four the students were taking.
Important as the subject was to me, the other courses were equally important to them.
After this realisation, I altered the class to find an appropriate balance between my passion for teaching and my students’ capacity to learn. To my amazement, the students noticed the difference almost immediately and began to respond positively.
Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim says the secret of happiness is to live life in the slow lane
Only when we know how to control our passion can we work harmoniously and effectively with others.
The most dangerous people are those who have passion but lack wisdom. If you want to predict how a politician will act after winning an election, look at how he lives currently and how he has behaved in the past. A person does not live the way he says he would. He lives the way he has been living.
Trying to convince someone to adopt our views is largely the work of our ego. Even if we turn out to be right, our ego knows no satisfaction and seeks a new argument to engage in. Being right isn’t nearly as important as being happy together.
If you shove others aside on the way to success, you will be pulled under once the tide changes.
LOVE IS THE BEST REVENGE
Even if we possess our dream house, a luxury car and a perfect body, we will be deeply unhappy if there are problems in our relationships. In my 20s, I went on a backpacking trip round Europe with a close friend from my monastery. The sights were wonderful, and we appreciated each other’s company.
But after seven days of spending every moment together, we’d run out of things to talk about and both became irritable.
So the following morning I suggested we take different routes and meet up at the hostel that night. At first, setting off alone, I felt free — but I soon missed my friend. Eating alone was a chore, and I didn’t bother to take pictures of any landmarks.
When we met again that evening, though, we had lots to talk about and were delighted to see each other. This experience taught me how easy it is to take our relationships for granted.
If you want a friend to remember your birthday, remember hers first. If you want your husband to give you a massage, give him a massage first. If you want your children to watch less TV, turn off your TV first. Don’t just wait for what you want to happen. Act first.
The flaw that you immediately notice in someone you meet is probably a flaw of yours, too. The reason that what bothers you about someone is the first thing you notice is that you share the same flaw.
Do you often feel lonely at work or in school? Perhaps your heart is closed off to those around you. ‘I don’t get her.’ ‘I’m better than her.’ ‘We’re on different wavelengths.’ If you think this way, how could you not be lonely? Open your heart and have a cup of coffee with her. You will soon see she is not that different from you.
When you are disappointed, don’t wait too long to say so. When you bottle up your feelings, the river of emotion swells, making it difficult to cross over and speak calmly.
The best way to get even with someone who has left you is to meet someone new and become happy again. Plotting for revenge and remaining jealous after many years is a formula for endless misery. The best revenge is love.
When we hate someone, we think about him a lot. Unable to let him go, we begin to act like him. Don’t let him become a long-term tenant of the heart. Evict him right away with a notice of forgiveness.
Many conflicts in our lives can be resolved if we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Try to look at things from their point of view. If you consider only your side, you are no different from a child.
There are only those who know their shortcomings and those who do not. Nobody is perfect. If someone looks perfect, that is because you don’t know the person very well.
Are you moving up? Are you doing well? Then see whether you are succeeding at the expense of others, or along with others.
It is embarrassing for a monk to talk about his first love, but she was an American missionary whom I met by chance on the streets of Seoul in South Korea, where I was born. She taught me English, and I made her mixtapes of the music we both loved.
But this love was fated to be one-sided: she was due to return to the U.S. and her boyfriend after six months, and as the hour for her to leave approached, I felt unbearable sorrow. Love was happiness and acute pain at the same time.
Five years later, I was living in America and on a road trip with a friend. We drove through her town, and I stopped in for coffee. To my delight, I met her husband: he was a kind-hearted person, like her.
Today, when I think of my first love, I no longer feel sorrow, only a deep gratitude to the universe for introducing me to such emotions, that made me feel truly alive.
To cook something delicious, you need time for the ingredients to marinate. To build a lasting relationship, you need time for trust to develop.
We can determine how close we are to someone by asking: ‘Can I act like a little kid in front of that person?’ When we love someone, we feel like a little kid in our heart.
In elementary school, I met a tall girl who made fun of me. Later I learned she was doing it to get my attention. That was my first insight into the complexities of human psychology.
A casting director auditions many actors but recognises the right one as soon as he walks in. It can be the same with a new house, a diamond ring, a future spouse. If you are hesitant, you might not have found the right one.
When I walk around New York City in my grey monastic robes, I often encounter young boys who expect me to be a Kung Fu master like Bruce Lee. The playful side of me wants to strike martial arts poses, slowly raising my arms and right leg. The more serious side reflects that these boys have a lesson for me — never to judge anybody by their appearance. By the same token, I must not allow myself to become too concerned with how I look to the world. After all, if I meet a friend for lunch, I will probably not remember what she was wearing a week later, or what her hair was like. So why would she commit trivial details about me to memory?
Life is like a slice of pizza. It looks delicious in an advertisement, but when we actually have it, it is not as good as we imagined. If you envy someone’s life, remember the pizza in the ad. It always looks better than it is.
There are many more ordinary hours in life than extraordinary ones. We wait in line at the supermarket. We spend hours commuting to work. We water our plants and feed our pets. Happiness means finding a moment of joy in those ordinary hours.
Have you ever selected a cheaper dish from a menu than the one you really wanted, only to regret your choice when it arrives? Always go with your first choice if you can afford it. It is better than a life filled with regrets.
Wherever you go, cultivate a sense of ownership. If you see litter in a church, library, or park, pick it up. As you take ownership, your life will have more purpose, and people will notice your good example.
Wear confidence. It is the height of fashion.
Not everyone has to like me. After all, I do not like everyone. Certainly for all of us, there are politicians, co-workers, clients, and family members we simply cannot stand.
So why should everyone like me? There is no need to torment yourself because someone dislikes you. Accept it as a fact of life; you cannot control how others feel about you. This is a problem only if you let it bother you.
Dream big but start small. A small adjustment can have a big effect on your life. For example, if you want to be happier, start by going to bed half an hour earlier. If you want to lose weight, drink water instead of soda. If you have an important project, then start by getting your desk organised.
Knowledge wants to talk. Wisdom wants to listen.
US civil war pension files give voice to Irish emigrant family life and may well be the greatest social treasure trove on 19th-century Irish people anywhere, including Ireland
In 1871, Irish emigrant Jane Murphy made the long trek from the open Illinois prairie into the city of Chicago. The 65-year-old woman was a physical wreck. A life of constant childbirth had left her with a prolapsed uterus, and she also had to endure a 6-inch tumour on her neck. Despite her condition, she had little choice but to make the journey.
Back in her decrepit shanty she had left a dying husband and invalid son, and all were in need of financial support. She hoped to obtain that support through the military service of her son Michael, who had died eight years previously during the Civil War. Sitting down in her solicitor’s office, she burst into tears as she recounted her life story, from the day in Monaghan town in 1830 when she had wed, through to her present predicament. In her own words she told of the fate of all 13 of her children– those who had emigrated never to be seen again, those that had died as children in Ireland, those that now had families of their own in America. Jane described how she and her husband supported themselves by keeping a cow and raising a few vegetables, and by cutting and hauling prairie grass to the Chicago hay market.
Donegal woman Eunice Coyle’s son Hugh died in the US civil war. Her pension claim was backed up by this eviction notice from the Earl of Leitrim
Jane’s exceptional account of her emigrant experience is preserved today in Washington DC’s National Archives, where it sits with the approximiately 1.28 million similar files that form the “Widows and Other Dependents” pension collection. They largely concern applications by those who had lost family members during the American Civil War, and were seeking financial assistance as a result.
These pension files provide insights into everything from family emigration, chain migration and the maintenance of trans-Atlantic connections, to indigence, alcoholism, domestic violence and bigamy. Most importantly, they allow us to hear the voices of thousands of Irish emigrants for the first time
The information contained within these files is almost certainly the greatest source of social information on individual Irish emigrant families in existence, and may well be the greatest social treasure trove on 19th century Irish people to be found anywhere, including Ireland.
Another story to be found in the archive stacks is that of Eunice Coyle, who in the 19th century was eking out a living with her husband on a small patch of land in Donegal’s Fanad Peninsula. In 1869 their notorious landlord, the third Earl of Leitrim, issued the elderly couple with a notice to quit. Concerned about their future, Eunice had a letter composed to the American Pension Bureau, explaining that “the landlord will eject us out of the bit of land that we held under him for he wants it with others to put black cattle to graze on it”. Eunice was entitled to a pension as her son, Hugh, who had been captured after Gettysburg, had died in a Confederate prison. In order to reinforce the seriousness of her situation, Eunice included the original eviction notice with her letter, sending both across the Atlantic where they still survive today.
The experiences of Jane Murphy and Eunice Coyle are just two of the countless stories associated with 19th-century Irish emigration. They demonstrate how emigration impacted not only those who had left Ireland’s shores, but also those who remained behind. Both these women were illiterate, like so many of Ireland’s 19th-century poor. Ordinarily it would be extremely difficult for us to uncover more than the most basic details regarding their lives and experiences. The only reason we can hear their voices across more than 150 years is solely due to the deaths of their sons in the American Civil War.
Daniel O’Connell admonishes Irish emigrants in the US. An Irishman replies on the other side that he is satisfied with America. Photograph: Corbis via Getty Images
Somewhere in the region of 180,000 Irish-born men served Northern arms between the years 1861-65. There were tens of thousands more in Union blue who were the children of Irish emigrants, many born in England, Canada or America itself. Although it is not widely appreciated, for those Irish counties most impacted by emigration in the middle 19th century, the American Civil War represents the largest conflict in history in terms of the numbers who served. Inevitably tens of thousands of Irish died. For the families of those on the winning side, the loss of a loved one brought with it the consolation of eligibility for a federal pension. So many ex-servicemen, widows and dependents became entitled to pensions that by 1893 some 40 per cent of the entire federal budget was being spent on them.
Governments are rarely keen to dispense benefits without proof of entitlement, and therein lies the historical wealth to be found among the thousands of Irish files. Affidavits were not only provided by claimants such as Jane Murphy and Eunice Coyle, but often also by family members, friends, acquaintances, employers, landlords, shopkeepers, physicians or servicemen.
Files can contain myriad other documents such as marriage certificates, baptismal records, employment details and service records. Invariably they offer an opportunity to chart an emigrant family’s life across multiple decades, for the duration of their pension claim. By far the most poignant documents to be found come in the form of original correspondence. Thousands of letters written by Irish emigrant soldiers and sailors were submitted by applicants to prove their relationship; the vast majority have never been transcribed or published before.
Somewhat surprisingly, this unparalleled historical resource has never been examined in detail from an Irish perspective, and its potential to add significantly to our knowledge of 19th-century Irish life has gone unrecognised. This is largely due to a failure in Ireland to appreciate the scale of Irish involvement in the American Civil War, as well as a historical focus which has, in the words of noted diaspora historian Prof Enda Delaney, seen our interest in the story of Irish people invariably end “with the tearful farewells at Irish ports”.
US president all but vanishes from state TV news as hopes of detente begin to fade
Russians glued to their television screens over the past week or so have become increasingly aware that Donald Trump is no longer the golden boy that pro-Kremlin media once made him out to be.
It’s not that state TV, the main source of news for most of the population here, has begun bashing the new US president – at least not yet.
But while Trump received even more coverage than Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin in January, he has now all but vanished from Russian TV news reports.
To an outsider it might seem odd that Russian media would blank out Trump at a time when the future of his plans to mend ties between Washington and Moscow are hanging in the balance.
But for Russians who just one month ago were rejoicing with state media over the inauguration of a pro-Kremlin US president, Trump’s unaccounted-for disappearance from their TV screens explains itself.
Trump’s political “honeymoon” in Russia is over, Mikhail Rostovsky, a political commentator at the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, said this week.
“There’s a growing awareness in Russian society that relations with Trump’s America will be no less difficult than with Obama’s America or Clinton’s America.”
Putin, who has said little about Trump in public, probably always had doubts about the new Washington administration’s ability to push through with plans suggested during the election campaign – the easing of US sanctions, a block on Nato enlargement and recognition of Russia’s right to Ukraine’s Crimea.
But many traditionally conservative Russians, encouraged by state media to see the US as the source of most of their country’s problems, viewed the prospects of a Trump presidency as a boon.
Doomed love affair
Trump was liked in Russia for championing traditional values and questioning the values of western liberal democracy widely rejected here, according to sociologists at the Levada Centre, an independent pollster in Moscow.
Russia’s love affair with Trump ignored the reality of entrenched anti-Russian attitudes in the US Congress and was doomed from the start, Mikhail Taratuta, a Russian journalist specialising in US affairs, wrote this week.
“Why did everyone forget that Trump is not Putin, [that] he does not have such authority or power?”
Some Russian commentators suspect that state television has been ordered to cut back coverage of Trump and manage public expectations about the shrinking prospects of a political thaw. The Kremlin, however, says it does not interfere with media policy.
A turning point came in mid-February after Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, was forced to resign over his contacts with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington – an event that made headlines around the world but was barely mentioned on Russian TV.
In the days since then, as members of the new US administration issue increasingly negative signals on Russia policy, pro-Kremlin media has largely ignored Trump or has begun giving airtime to sceptical officials.
One US political news story that received wide Russian coverage this week was the result of a survey indicating that fewer people in the United States see Putin as a bogeyman than before.
The Gallup poll found that 22 per cent of the American public now viewed of Putin favourably – up from 13 per cent in 2015 and the highest rating the Russian president received since 2003.
Of course there are still plenty of Putin-haters in the US, but rather than greeting the poll’s findings, Russian state media stuck the knife in American propagandists for encouraging Russophobia.
“In recent years the Obama administration and its affiliated media regularly launched a steady stream of smear campaigns against Russia,” wrote the Tass news agency.
“The new Trump administration has expressed willingness to get along with Russia, but Congress and the US media still continue to whip up anti-Russian rhetoric.”
Some Russians hope that a face-to-face meeting between Putin and Trump could yet bring about the much-awaited detente.
However, when the Kremlin confirmed this week that Putin would attend the G20 summit in Hamburg in July, it made no mention of a possible Trump tete-a-tete.
“Russia has become a sort of banana skin for Trump,” Andre Fedorov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, told the US NBC television network this week. “Trump cannot come to a meeting with Putin as a loser. He must sort out his domestic problems first.”
In an unusual move, Fedorov revealed that the Kremlin was preparing a detailed psychological dossier on Trump to help Putin prepare for talks with the US leader.
Trump “doesn’t fully understand who is Mr Putin – he is a tough guy,” the Russian diplomat said.