Irish Revolutionary Bernadette Devlin McAliskey on Irish Settlers

Some food for thought on this St. Patrick’s Day from Irish revolutionary Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. I post this because quite often people like me hear from Irish-North American folks that they know so much about national oppression because they Irish. However, the point is missed that while Irish people in Ireland are indeed nationally oppressed by the British, Irish folks over on this side of the Atlantic, when faced with discrimination from British settlers, were more than happy to shed their status as members of the colonized and adamantly join the settler-colonial game. However, comrade McAliskey, and other revolutionary internationalists from Ireland, have always understood this relationship and have known who their real comrades on this continent are.

I was not very long there until, like water, I found my own level. ‘My people’—the people who knew about oppression, discrimination, prejudice, poverty and the frustration and despair that they produce– were not Irish Americans. They were black, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos. And those who were supposed to be ‘my people’, the Irish Americans who knew about English misrule and the Famine and supported the civil rights movement at home, and knew that Partition and England were the cause of the problem, looked and sounded to me like Orangemen. They said exactly the same things about blacks that the loyalists said about us at home. In New York I was given the key to the city by the mayor, an honor not to be sneezed at. I gave it to the Black Panthers.”

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Posted on March 17, 2012, in Imperialism & Colonialism, Internationalism & Solidarity, National Liberation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. A connected historical anecdote, and perhaps also useful for St. Patricks Day, is the tale of the St. Patricks Batallion: a group of poor Irish immigrants who, upon arrival in colonial America, were drafted into the USA imperialist war against Mexico. Unlike other european immigrants, including many Irish, this group realized that their interests were similar to the Mexicans, switched sides, and died fighting against the USA. Not too many instances of this, obviously, because of how settlerism functions, but when they do happen they are useful to recall. And probably better to reflect on, on St. Patrick’s Day, than a pint of green beer.

  2. Did the St Patrick’s Battalion join the Mexican army out of solidarity or because they were Catholic?

  3. The way I understood it was out of solidarity; this is the way radical historians have interpreted it, and it is important to note that other Irish Catholics rejected this sort of solidarity at that moment. But you could be right: sometimes the actual motivations of people are cleaned up by history and a need to look for internationalist precedents where, sometimes, they might not exist.

  1. Pingback: Comment trouver les ‘siens’ : ethnos ou demos? | Liberation Irlande

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