Unionists and nationalists united on heritage


A chara, – Angus Mitchell reminds us of Alice Stopford Green’s important role in the cultural and nationalist revival throughout Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th century (An Irishman’s Diary, December 2nd).

Although she was described by Mitchell as a moderate “Home Rule Nationalist”, she did nevertheless, through her gun-running activities, contribute to the armed conflict mentality that ultimately led to the violence which engulfed the country over the following decades.

Tragically too, Stopford Green’s friendships and influence within the wider Gaelic revival movement, which then truly united the whole of Ireland, were ruptured through the cultural split between Gaelic unionists and nationalists following the Easter rebellion.

It is particularly ironic given the current Brexit / cultural related dilemmas facing the unionist people of Northern Ireland that a century ago people like Roger Casement, Patrick Pearse, Douglas Hyde, FJ Bigger and, among others, unionist MP Ronald McNeill, ardent supporter of Edward Carson, were all united in their appreciation of their Gaelic Irish heritage.

Indeed McNeill in his memoirs later recalled that his grandfather, born 1785, spoke Gaelic like a local in the Antrim Glens. The same Glens gave rise to some of the greatest Irish cultural revivalists of the early 20th century.

Given the pressures among some current nationalists for a referendum on Irish unity, it is perhaps prudent to revisit and remember the mistakes previously made in the rush to unify the peoples on this island by diktat rather than by persuasion. Ultimately unity of hearts and shared culture should be the true objective of such persuasions. – Is mise,


Knocklyon, Dublin 16.