Why Ireland understands Gaza’s pain: a history of suffering
“Sympathy for Palestinians is rooted in Ireland’s history, We feel we have been victimised over the centuries. ”, said Niall Holohan, a retired Irish diplomat.
Holohan was based in Ramallah from 2002-2006 as the Irish government’s representative to the Palestinian Authority.
“It’s part of our psyche, underneath it all we side with the underdog,” he added.
Ireland’s history as Britain’s oldest colony and a model for Palestine has undoubtedly influenced how the Irish engage with postcolonial conflicts.
For many years, the Irish people, from both the North and South, have supported the Palestinians in their quest for freedom, decolonisation, and justice. This is a struggle that resonates deeply with the Irish people, given their own history.
The evident solidarity between Ireland and Palestine is not just due to their shared experiences in similar struggles, but also because of a mutual oppressor, Britain.
Moreover, the major challenges both nations face today are deeply rooted in the aftermath of partition and oppressive systems instituted by the British.
This includes the partition of Ireland and the establishment of Northern Ireland under British rule in 1921.
On the Palestinian side, it includes the British mandate of Palestine and the consequential Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the formation of the settler colonial state of Israel in 1948.
Ireland, was England’s first colony in the 12th century, enduring over 800 years of harsh English rule.
Indeed, the early 20th century was a critical juncture for both Ireland and Palestine as they stood up against British rule.
The situation was so grave that Winston Churchill, the Secretary of State and War at the time, initiated the deployment of the ‘Black and Tans’ in 1920.
This British paramilitary group was dispatched to both Ireland and Palestine with the sole mission of quelling independence movements through brutal tactics, including torture and extrajudicial killings.
The unfathomable cruelty perpetrated by the Black and Tans was soon succeeded by devastating partitions that have sparked years of violence.
Northern Ireland, a state established by Britain, was designed with the aim of suppressing Irish identity, especially the Irish language.
It was only a few weeks ago that the Irish language was finally recognised as an official language in Northern Ireland, thanks to the persistent efforts of activists over many years.
This situation draws a striking parallel with Palestine, where Israel has recently decided to further demote the official status of Arabic. This includes changing native Arabic location names to their Hebrew equivalents, albeit spelled with Arabic letters.