Sir, - The erroneous logic which underpins Tom Quinn's speculation on Irish history were Ireland to have remained within the UK begins with his false suggestion that the Civil War somehow caused Ireland's "economic ruin". It did not. Ireland's economic underdevelopment through much of the 20th century was a result of having been a British colony for several centuries, exploited, oppressed, "benignly neglected" and, finally, partitioned in the interests of British rule and the British economy.

That a Civil War followed independence is not simply the fault of the Irish themselves, nor proof that independence was a bad idea in the first place, but evidence of the massive social and political schisms which all imperialist regimes tended to foster and feed off in their subject territories - not only in Ireland but also, for example, in India, South Africa, and even the United States.

A hundred years ago, most of the world was under the colonial yoke of one or other European power. Taken to its logical conclusion, Tom Quinn's argument would suggest that the world as a whole would be a better place were the old imperial powers of Britain, France, and Spain never to have been challenged - in North and South America, in Africa, in Asia and the Pacific. But what independent nation today would renounce its independence because of tragedies which befell it subsequently, whether oppressive regimes, internal conflicts, or traumatic emigration? Would Algeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Colombia, Brazil or the US?

How many would trade in their literary and artistic cultures of post-colonial resistance for some more compliant and sanitised aesthetic? How many would surrender the democratic principles of their republican statehood, even with its many failings and sordid machinations, to return to their former imperial rulers, especially where the former imperial power remained trapped by an increasingly anachronistic monarchy with which even its own people appeared uncomfortable?

Would the world be better off today if the American and French Revolutions had not happened? How would an American or a French citizen today answer that question? Would they even ask it? And what about the Palestinians? Will they too regret independence as soon as they achieve it and long to fall back into the Israeli fold? - Yours, etc.,


Centre for American Studies,

University of Leicester,