Fintan O’Toole and nationalism


Sir, – As one of the many thousands of Irish nationalists who voted for the Belfast Agreement in 1998, I didn’t realise that I was voting for an end to what Fintan O’Toole describes as “19th-century Irish nationalism”.

This is what he claims in his recent article “The long 19th century is over” (Opinion & Analysis, June 30th 2018). In his usual sweeping style, he says that this old nationalism “died formally and legally in 1998, when Irish people voted overwhelmingly to change articles two and three of the Constitution”.

While it is true that articles two and three were changed, the traditional nationalist objective (of the 19th century or other) for an independent united Ireland was not. The Belfast Agreement simply changed the manner in which this objective could be achieved – by seeking majority consent for it in the six counties.

He also characterises Irish nationalism as a largely abstract ideology, divorced from the historical circumstances which gave rise to it, with his most egregious claim being that its main ideological force was “Anglophobia”.

This ignores the concrete conditions of Irish life, which for centuries was under the political and economic strangle-hold of successive British administrations.

It was the struggle against British rule and for national freedom which gave rise to the national movement and its ideology. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole, it seems, has only to look into his own heart to know what Ireland was, is and will be. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.