Irish gave more than Guinness

Alberni writer wants readers to consider the legacies of Ireland and its contribution to civilization, which wasn't just Guinness, he says.

To the editor,

As we move towards the eve of St. Patrick’s Day  it would not be amiss to consider the legacies of Ireland and its contribution to civilization.

To many in North America, the Irish are portrayed as a “fighting” race.  This perception is well short of being accurate.

For millennia the Irish have cherished freedom.  In ancient Rome Agricola, their famous general, advised his emperor to “war down and take possession of Ireland so that freedom might be put out of sight”.

Rome did not move, but almost a thousand years later the English did, and in 1147 c.e. they laid down their heavy hand, the weight of which is still felt.

Generally speaking, it is not in the Irish fibre to back away in the face of adversity, but it must also be said that Ireland, as a nation, has never, in recorded history, attacked another nation.

The Irish have held “law” in great reverence;  words like hungerstrike, lynchlaw, and boycott are in common usage throughout the world, but they do not reflect the purity of practice they once held.

Hungerstrike.  The process known as truscead  (fasting upon him) allowed a plaintiff to set his mat at the door to the house of a defendant and remain there fasting until the complaint was settled.

Boycott.  The 1800’s in Ireland spawned many movements that strove to lift the oppressive hand of British Rule.

One such movement was the Land League, which used as its modus operandi the act of boycott.   Captain Boycott was a former British Army officer who acted as Land Agent for absentee landlords.

The modern ‘travelling people’ are descendents of those dispossessed farmers.

In modern times, the acts of hungerstrike and boycott have been trifled with, and their values debased.

And so,  as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, it would be well to remember that Ireland has contributed something more than Shamrocks an Guinness.

Pat O’Connell,

Port Alberni