Friday, 18 December 2015

Spiked, December 18, 2015

The secret to Star Wars's success? Its unoriginality
Great ideas are often pillaged from somewhere else.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Catholic Herald, December 11, 2015

Spiked, December 11, 2015

The vote is wasted on the young
We should raise the voting age to 25, not lower it to 16.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Spiked, December 4, 2015

The folly of sticking to your principles
Jeremy Corbyn’s downfall is that he’s incapable of changing his mind.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Spiked, November 27, 2015

Cultural appropriation will eat itself
That yoga ban showed just how ludicrous it is to ghettoise culture.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Spiked November 20, 2015

'I stand with Paris, but...'
We must engage with the real motivation behind the Paris attacks.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Spiked, November 13, 2015

Blind altruists shall not inherit the earth
Teaching children to be discriminating is an important life lesson.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Spiked, November 6, 2015

The rise of the new reactionaries
A new generation of French intellectuals is speaking to the man on the Metro.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Spiked, October 30, 2015

Cheese is as addictive as crack? Give me a break
These gastronomic jihadists will stop at nothing.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Spiked, October 23, 2015

Nietzsche takes on Twitter
The great philosopher would be aghast at the culture of social media.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Friday, 9 October 2015

in Spiked, October 9, 2015

The slave trade was not my fault
We can’t apologise for crimes we didn’t commit – or celebrate victories we didn't achieve.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

in Spiked, October 1, 2015

Generation Z has arrived
The day of whinging millennials has come and gone.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

in Spiked, September 25, 2015

Freedom for Catalonia: a greedy game
Catalan independence is about self-interest, not liberation.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Sunday, 13 September 2015

in Spiked, September 11, 2015

Refugee crisis: Germany’s Band Aid?
By embracing migrants, Germany is getting over its war guilt.

in Spiked, August 21, 2015

Mindfulness: lobotomisation by proxy
This latest therapeutic fad encourages us to retreat from life.

Friday, 14 August 2015

in Spiked, August 14, 2015

When Corbynites attack
Like the cybernats, Jeremy Corbyn’s fans can’t stomach dissent.

in Spiked, August 7, 2015

L’Étranger: absurdist, not racist
It’s folly to view Camus' great novel through the lens of post-colonial theory.

in Spiked, July 17, 2015

Why British humour is lost in translation
We have our messy language to thank for our puntastic wit.

in Spiked, July 10, 2015

Defending Greece or just demonising Germany?
The Greek crisis has made it open season for Germany haters.

Friday, 3 July 2015

in Spiked, July 3, 2015

Foucault: from libertine to neoliberal
Was the French philosopher really a Reaganite in poststructural clothing?

Friday, 26 June 2015

in The Spectator, June 27, 2015

in Spiked, June 26, 2015

Should the confederate flag come with a trigger warning?
Destroying symbols won't change the past

in Spiked, June 22, 2015

Ten reasons we should be supporting exploring space
Why space missions are worth the money and the risk
By Elisabetta Intini

Thursday, 5 February 2015

in The Catholic Herald, January 30, 2015

Does Ireland owe Oliver Cromwell an apology?
Cromwell was Framed: Ireland 1649
By Tom Reilly, Chronos, £14.99

Of Oliver Cromwell, Ireland’s pre-eminent historian Roy Foster once wrote: “Few men’s footprints have been so deeply imprinted upon Irish history and historiography.” It could be added, too, that no historical character has come to personify more English misrule and callousness in Ireland, not least within the nationalist narrative.

So it would take a brave soul to take to task the perception that Cromwell was villainy personified. It would be even braver for an Irishman to do so, let alone a native of Drogheda. But this has been the ambition of amateur historian Tom Reilly, who hails from the town that lives on in infamy, in which 3,000 men, women and children were butchered in 1649 at the behest of the future Lord Protector.

The fable of Drogheda, Reilly maintains, was created by Cromwell’s enemy propagandists seeking to “bind the various confederate/royalist factions together” and has been regurgitated over the centuries by Irish nationalists and republicans, and by the Church, each for their own means. Reilly dismisses the “non-primary, post-Restoration” sources of Church historians, with their “disreputable” motives and “baseless allegations”.

“To me, Cromwell was framed and I believe that this book proves it,” the author declares. “Therefore, I have a moral obligation, indeed I am duty-bound by history, to play my part in an attempt to overturn one of the greatest historical miscarriages of justice ever.” 

Although the author concedes it likely that parliamentary forces would have, and probably did, kill armed civilians, “no primary document whatsoever exists that provides details of the deaths of persons not at arms”. As a consequence, “we, the Irish nation, owe Cromwell an apology for destroying his reputation over the last 365 years”.

Reilly finds no recorded incident of strife between the military and civilian occupants of Drogheda in the two years preceding the 1649 slaughter. Rather, the New Model Army enjoyed “cordial relations with the civilian population of Drogheda”. 

He also notes that, while in 1641 there were 3,000 people living in the town, in 1659 that number had risen to 3,500. “If the civilian inhabitants had been practically wiped out, it is very unlikely that within a 10 year period the town’s population would have replenished itself.”

When Cromwell arrived in Ringsend, Co Dublin, on July 15 1649, he was “warmly welcomed by both the civilian and military populations of Dublin”. Cromwell was a fair fellow who had nothing against the Irish as a nation. 

On the contrary, on the march to Drogheda, when he discovered two of his men had stolen hens from an old woman, he had them hanged. “As for the people,” Cromwell once wrote, “what thoughts they have in matters of religion in their own breasts I cannot reach; but think it my duty, if they walk honestly and peaceably, not to cause them in the least to suffer for the same.”

Nonetheless, Cromwell was a foe of the Catholic clergy, whom he blamed for stirring the impressionable natives into insurgency in 1641. It was the Catholic Church that was to blame for the “horrid massacres”, as Cromwell put it, of that year.
The author has certainly received much attention from compatriots over the years for his attempts to rehabilitate Cromwell. Yet his revisionism would have been even more contentious, say, 50 years ago, when the nationalist narrative and the Church were mostly immune to criticism. Indeed, his invective against the Catholic Church is far from daring. It’s quite in keeping with the anti-clerical mood that has become voguish in the past 20 years in Ireland.

It’s true that history is always moulded and distorted for contemporary purposes, not least in Ireland. And it’s always valuable – imperative, even – to question orthodoxies, as Reilly has sought to do. Yet his demographic study of Drogheda is dubious. In 1641, as he himself admits, Catholics outnumbered Protestants by five to one. In 1659, the undiminished population of the town was mostly Protestant. One can only assume that some ethnic cleansing and re-settlement occurred.

Cromwell was Framed can at times be tedious, pedantic and self-regarding, with much of it written in the first person. Reilly is also over-indulgent on his subject who, he concludes, “was tender towards children ... a family man who had a high moral threshold ... acutely aware of the folly that such action would be dastardly deeds that he clearly abhorred”.

Such an obsequious assessment of a man who “only” hated Catholics and killed armed civilians sails close to the kind of   “he loved his mum” hagiography beloved of people who write about East End gangsters. Cromwell might not have been the butcher and bogeyman of legend, but he was an anti-Catholic religious fundamentalist, nonetheless. Still, for those interested in the subject, and what really happened in 1649, Cromwell was Framed is worth a peek.

Patrick West

in spiked, January 16, 2015

Night at the Museum’s nod to Philip K Dick