Current Affairs History Politics

The Irish Slave Mind

Punch, typical anti-Irish image of the 1800s - English Ireland's Irish Nightmare

Given some recent conversations on ASF I thought this article might be of interest to a number of readers. It discusses the much vexed issue of the Irish “slave mentality”, the aberrant mindset found in a significant number of people on this island nation who place no value in their own linguistic, cultural or national identity but who instead wish to emulate the identity of others. In this case, and for a long time, ex-slaves aping the ways of their former masters in order to seek the prestige and acceptance once denied their ancestors. It is just one of several historic forces that have shaped – or distorted – modern Ireland, forces derived from centuries of colonial persecution and exploitation. For good and mostly ill they have made us the people we are. It is up to us to decide if that is who we wish to be or if there is another, better way. If the unfinished revolution can still be finished.

Here in 2014 is an eerily familiar view of Ireland and the Irish from 1914. How little has changed in the last one hundred years; and how frightening that is.

Sinn Féin newspaper, 12th of September 1914:

The Slave Mind

England is fighting for her life – the same England that we Irish for generations past have charged with all the crimes that one nation can charge against another. We have charged her with the destruction of our national and political institutions, we have charged her with the assassination of our people, we have charged her with the suppression of our trade and commerce, we have charged her with the wasting of our fields and the enforced ignorance that has left us to-day the most backward people in Western Europe. We have charged against her more than the Poles have charged against the Russians, more than the Hungarians fifty years ago charged against the Austrians, more than the Netherlanders, when they were under the yoke, charged against Spain. We have professed to hate her. And if the charges we made against her were true, we would be curs if we did not hate her.

Now either our charges against England are true or are false. If they are false, we are a nation of liars, and we deserve all that England has done us. If they are true, then to affect sympathy with England to-day is mean hypocrisy. Either England is our tyrant or we Irish have slandered and libelled England. Which is the truth?

There is in Ireland a breed of beings which can reconcile heaven and hell. In the days of peace they sometimes talk of war – in the days of war they babble of peace. England is the enemy with them until England gets into serious trouble, and then they find something in the character of England’s opponent to prevent them doing aught but support England. These men, when they are not mere tricksters are born slaves. They have no truth – they have no principle. No man in Ireland needs to be told who they are. Their work, not their personality, concerns us. They it is – more than the rigour and oppressions of England – that have forced upon so many of our people the slave-mind.

John Redmond, MP, has been one of the more outspoken advocates of Irishmen travelling to fight for the British forces during the current conflict.

The charges the Irish have made against the English we hold to be true. It is true that England has destroyed our national and political institutions, it is true she has suppressed our trade and commerce, it is true she has assassinated our people, it is true she has consistently plundered and oppressed them, it is true she has wasted their fields and wasted their minds. It is true that in the history of modern Europe there is no parallel to the treatment of Ireland by England. Because of this we regard no enemy of England as an enemy or ours. If a robber has overcome us – if we lie bleeding and bound at his feet, and he be in his turn attacked, we do not inquire into the character or motive of the attacker before we decide where our sympathy lies. We follow our instinct and our common-sense.

If the Germans, instead of being a free and civilised people, who have led the world in science, art, literature, and government for the past fifty years, were all the English paint them to be, the fact would not alter our position a hair’s breadth. We are Irishmen – our duty to our country demands us to regain Ireland’s national and political liberties, and until England has restored them, England remains Ireland’s enemy.

Native African workers in the Belgian Congo, men, women and children with their hands cut off by their European masters
Native African workers in the Belgian Congo, men, women and children with their hands cut off by their European masters. During WWI tens of thousands of Irishmen served in the British Forces in defence of this

The slave-mind is manifested to-day in the Irish people who babble about ‘Belgian neutrality’, ‘our ancient friendship for France’, and the ‘German atrocities’. We are not Belgians, and what has happened, is happening or may happen to Belgium is not our prime concern – our prime concern is what the Belgian prime concern is – our own country. Our ancient friendship for France grew out of a common hostility to England. When France sided with England, she did not think of Ireland or care about Ireland – she thought only of herself. We, too, must think only of ourselves. ‘German atrocities’ – if they really had happened – could have no effect upon Ireland’s attitude. We are suffering under English atrocities for centuries and it is none of our business to deal with any other kind of atrocity at present. These plain truths are too much for the slave-mind. It blinks and shrinks from them. In a word, it fears to have a country in an hour like this – fears to look the Truth in the face and dodges itself into a kind of comfort and holy philanthropic security by setting up inconsequential arguments, or what it would fain us think arguments.

This slave-mind has been the bane of Ireland, for it is the very root of the lack of self-reliance which has reduced the stateliest race in Europe – the Gaels – to what they are to-day. It has destroyed our moral courage and made us shifty, mean, evasive in speech and argument where the free man of any nation is straight and direct. It has impelled us to mumble ‘Yes’ when in our hearts we say ‘No’, and we have got to get rid of it before we become again a nation of men. It is this mind that to-day voices itself in the cant, ‘It is better to be under the devil we know that the devil we don’t know’. The plain idea that Ireland should be under no foreign devil of any kind is too big for it to entertain. The thought that Ireland should be again as she was in the days of our Gaelic ancestors, and as she was for a brief period in the days of Henry Grattan – a free and independent nation – the slave-mind cannot grasp. Like the emasculated Britons who begged their Roman tyrants not to set them free, it can no longer conceive Ireland as anything but a cripple or a beggar – a dependent of some strong power. If England does not tyrannise over Ireland why then Germany will – therefore we must help the English tyrant – is its base and banal argument. That Ireland if she had the strength to strike, should strike for herself – that Ireland if she had not the strength to strike for herself should have the wisdom and self-respect not to strike for her old enemy, this slave-mind cannot conceive. Like the old man who had lain in the dungeon of an English King until he had forgotten the light of heaven, it starts back in terror when its prison is broken down and the common light of day streams in.

The slave-mind is everywhere in Ireland. On our platforms, in our Press, often even in our pulpits. It is a tacit denial that the Irish are the peers of other white men – a tacit admission that England is right in her treatment of us. We Irish have exactly the same title as the French, the English or the Germans to govern our country and shape our own policy. When we look out on the world from a lower standpoint we are slave-minded. It was Grattan, the greatest of our constitutional leaders, who declared that if the interest of the Empire clashed with the liberties of Ireland then he and every Irishman would cry – ‘Live Ireland; perish the Empire’. It was O’Connell, his successor, who gave us the watchword ‘Ireland for the Irish or the world in a blaze’. To-day the world is in a blaze, and our slave-mind is fixed where it ever is – over the sea, instead of at home. The supposed wrongs of Belgium moves it to maundering – the real wrongs of Ireland it shrinks from contemplating, for indeed it is some kind of treason to British Law to suggest Ireland has any wrongs at all. Our slave-minded are not crying ‘Love Ireland’, or ‘Ireland for the Irish’ – they are whimpering about ‘the Empire’ and the fine free institutions of that Empire which has made Ireland what it is to-day – half a poorhouse and half a cattle-ranch.

What though all Europe, all Asia, all America, all Africa rang with the clang of arms and drank in blood, should Ireland dream of – think of – work for? Her own freedom – her own restoration to the sovereign nationhood the arms of the Volunteers won for her in 1782, and the treachery of envious England struck down when Ireland laid down her arms. Since that time England’s most effective garrison in Ireland has not been her soldiery. It has been mainly the writers of our Press and the orators of our platforms, whose prudence is cowardice, whose statesmanship is evasion, compromise and surrender, and who, slaves themselves to the menace of English authority or the inducements of English wealth have bred and fostered that slave-mind – which has today unfortunate Irishmen dying on foreign battlefields to uphold the power of their country’s tyrants and which has other Irishmen ignorantly prating of Germany as a despotism, while the dried blood of the unarmed men, women, and children shot down in the streets of Dublin by England’s soldiers is still darkly visible on the door-posts of Bachelor’s Walk.”


19 comments on “The Irish Slave Mind

  1. Wow, so true, excellent article.


  2. Stephen Griffin

    Have you seen the ‘Ireland inspires 2016’ video released last night? If so what did you think?


  3. Excellent piece. Unfortunately nothing will change as our future generations are never given the opportunity to peruse articles like this in our schools. They will be continually fed a diet of Shakespeare,Bono,geldof,Heaney and whatever else the ‘murder machine’ can use to tame and pacify the irish concerning England.
    Pearse had more to him than just being a 1916 rising leader but that truth won’t be told by the slaves running this island.


    • From a comment on the Irish Times website. Which Was pretty funny.
      I believe the plan on the day is for John Bruton to stand out front of the GPO and deliver a speech on how we should have settled for home rule, then, as I understand it, he will proceed to, under guard, relieve himself onto a facsimile of the 1916 proclamation while holding up a treasured polaroid of queen victoria and singing the Rick Astley number “never gonna give you up.” .”


    • Very true, Wolfe Tone.


  4. IIRC the Belgian Congo wasn’t a normal colony but pretty much a private venture by the ruling prince.


  5. a significant number of people on this island nation who place no value in their own linguistic, cultural or national identity but who instead wish to emulate the identity of others.
    The Anglophone Irish are not aping or emulating anything.
    English is part of their identity – it’s their first and native language.
    They use it to communicate and express themselves – and it works perfectly for them.
    Why should they switch to a language that’s foreign to them and must be learned as such?
    Just because their long-dead ancestors might have spoken it?

    Sure if someone is interested in studying obscure languages – he’s free to do so – but those who chose not to aren’t lesser people because of that and there’s nothing wrong with them.


    • Why don’t you bugger off to Latvia with your ‘Croppies Lie Down’ rhetoric two faced piece of excrement………….


      • By your logic most Irish people are, as you say, pieces of excrement.
        One of my colleagues told me that Irish is useless and dead language that bored him to tears at school (and that he can’t speak it at all after 12 years of learning it) and that he thinks that the Irish are better off with using English.
        And that government should stop supporting the language because it’s a waste of money.

        That conversation yet again convinced me that John Cronin’s analogy (Irish in Dublin is the same as Welsh in Essex) is a valid one.


        • Amy Rose Murphy

          Janis ,,,Irish is not a dead language in my corner of Ireland we learned it at home


          • I’ve never said that it’s dead (It can’t be dead if native speakers are still around). I just quoted one Irishman who was born in Dublin.


    • Jānis, you do realise that some of those points are exactly the same arguments that ethnic Russians are making in Latvia and why they are demanding that the Russian language be given equal status with Latvian. For them Latvian is a foreign language that they do not wish to learn. They wish to live as Russian-speakers in Latvia as many have done for decades.


      • Most of those Russians are fairly recent immigrants who immigrated no earlier than 70s or 80s.

        Most of the Anglophone Irish did not immigrate from anywhere – they are descendants of people who switched their language many years ago.


      • “They wish to live as Russian-speakers in Latvia as many have done for decades.”
        Like the pieds noirs in Algeria.
        In fact, Russian-speakers in the Baltic states can live as Russian-speakers; they just can’t live as citizens of those states unless they learn the native language. The problem in Ireland is that the native language is numerically too small to reach a pre-eminent position except as a united act of will. Quite a few of the early twentieth century nationalists- Pearse and Daniel Corkery are obvious examples- thought that that could be done, as it was done in Finland or Israel- or the Baltic states, for that matter. They were mistaken.


        • In the Baltics the only people who have problems with local languages are migrants from the USSR.
          All the Latvians (except maybe some weirdos) teach Latvian to their kids and speak it themselves – they don’t have to be convinced to learn it.
          Our task in Latvia is a lot easier – we don’t have to revive anything – we just need to teach Russians to behave like immigrants not colonial masters (and as I said – it’s working well – most of them speak Latvian fluently).
          And we don’t try to assimilate them – an ability to speak Latvian is enough – we don’t care what other languages they use when they’re not talking to Latvians.

          People who don’t teach their native language to their kids are freaking weirdos – I don’t expect that from the Russians.

          It’s different in Ireland. Most of the locals speak English natively. They already have a common language that also happens to be the World’s lingua franca. (Russian by comparison is just a large regional language and you can live comfortably without speaking it – my brothers, for example, do not speak it at all).
          Your task in Ireland is way way harder. Ireland is in kinda unique position. You somehow need to convince millions of people to learn a foreign language and use it to communicate instead of the language they’re using now (Unlike with Russian, not learning English also is absolutely not an option – that makes the task even harder).

          I can’t think of any examples where something like that has been accomplished successfully.

          The Jews had a different problem – they immigrated to Israel from all over the world and needed a common language – the Irish already has it and it’s English.


        • Jimmie, that the language revivalists were mistaken is arguable. It could have been done. The circumstances favoured it (in terms of technology, communications, travel, etc.). The political ideology of the post-civil war elites, both new and old, however weighed against anything concrete being done. The counter-revolution broke the back of language revival and equal rights for those who already spoke Irish.

          Arguably it is now too late. The moment may have passed. I’ll certainly concede that.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: