Anti-Irish sentiment

American political cartoon by Thomas Nast titled "The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things", depicting a drunken Irishman lighting a powder keg and swinging a bottle. Published 2 September 1871 in Harper's Weekly

Anti-Irish sentiment may refer to or include oppression, persecution, discrimination, or hatred of Irish people as an ethnic group or nation, whether directed against the island of Ireland in general or against Irish emigrants and their descendants in the Irish diaspora.

It is traditionally rooted in the Middle Ages, Early Modern Age and in the Age of Enlightenment and is also evidenced in Irish immigration to Great Britain, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Anti-Irish sentiment can include both social, racial and cultural discrimination in Ireland itself, such as sectarianism or cultural religious political conflicts in the Troubles of Northern Ireland.

Perspective

An Irishman depicted as a gorilla ("Mr. G. O'Rilla")

The first record of Anti-Irish sentiment comes from the Greek geographer, Strabo, in his work Geographica: "Besides some small islands round about Britain, there is also a large island, Ierne, which stretches parallel to Britain on the north, its breadth being greater than its length. Concerning this island I have nothing certain to tell, except that its inhabitants are more savage than the Britons, since they are man-eaters as well as heavy eaters, and since, further, they count it an honorable thing, when their fathers die, to devour them, and openly to have intercourse, not only with the other women, but also with their mothers and sisters; but I am saying this only with the understanding that I have no trustworthy witnesses for it; and yet, as for the matter of man-eating, that is said to be a custom of the Scythians also, and, in cases of necessity forced by sieges, the Celti, the Iberians, and several other peoples are said to have practiced it.''[1]

The most famous example of Anti Irish sentiment comes from 1190 with the Norman chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis, also known as Gerald of Wales. To justify the Norman invasion of Ireland, he wrote disparagingly of the Irish. "Gerald was seeking promotion by Henry II within the English church. His history was therefore written to create a certain effect—of supporting Henry II's claims to Ireland."[2]

Over the centuries, hostility increased towards the Irish, who steadfastly remained Roman Catholic in spite of coercive force by Edward VI and subsequent rulers to convert them to Protestantism.[3] The religious majority of the Irish nation was ruled by a religious minority, leading to perennial social conflict. During the Great Famine in the middle of the 19th century, some evangelical Protestants sought to convert the starving Catholics as part of their relief efforts.[4]