Politics

Rewriting Irish History

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By Yash Sanghvi

It’s shocking how ignorant people are, especially those who don’t even have the slightest clue about another country and still believe they know everything.

Sadhbh Nic Chumasaigh, a UL student on Erasmus in France, experienced this first hand when she sat through a lecture on the Great Famine taught to French University students by a lecturer who is neither Irish nor French.

According to Sadhbh, the lecturer made the following points:

  • Britain put many efforts in to helping Ireland during the famine, but the Irish people were ‘too lazy’ to cooperate with the workhouse operations to go and earn their food.
  • Irish people ate potatoes only because they were ‘too lazy’ to eat anything else.
  • Irish people willingly sold any other grain or crop to Britain during the famine rather than eat it themselves – as they couldn’t afford it.
  • Irish people were Catholic, so even those who died of starvation thought that it was God’s will they should die and it was deserved.
  • Ireland is ‘finally’ a civilised country, but only because we have American companies based in Ireland today.
  • The Famine was an extremely traumatic period in history for Ireland and Britain, because they willingly entered the Act of Union together in 1801, so they both feel the same about it today.
  • Charles Dickens said that the Irish who emigrated to America were dirty.
  • Coffin ships were a rarity.
  • Daniel O’Connell was a violent man.

Sadhbh also wrote the following in her Facebook post:

“Side note: I’ve been in France for a month now, and have met numerous French people my own age. So far, out of 50 (ish) people I have spoken to about Ireland, 2 people in France were aware that there is a Republic of Ireland. The rest, insisted that I am part of the UK, that there is no difference.

“FYI Éire: this is how our history is being portrayed to young people here. Through the bias of someone clearly educated through a history book written wrongly. This is what European countries are being taught to think of us through a twisted education system glorifying Britain’s part in our troubled past.

“There are modules about Irish Civilization and History in the university, so there is information there for people outside Ireland who want it, but in terms of the general population there aren’t a lot of people who can distinguish Northern Ireland from the Republic, most believe it is just one.”

What is even more sad is that it isn’t only confined to the Irish Civilisation and History class – even her French Literature tutor went off topic during the tutorial and had something to say. The tutor addressed the Irish students in the class and said: “It shouldn’t really concern the Irish with what been happening in the EU because of ‘Brexit’ and everything.”

Is this how this country is perceived and is this how ignorant even the lecturers are with their supposed level of knowledge? If this is true for all lecturers in France, it is a sorry state of affairs.

There were many who questioned whether Sadhbh she was from the ‘North’ or the ‘South’ of Ireland and the same people insisted that Ireland as a whole is a part of the UK, questioning her knowledge of her own country.

“Maybe because they aren’t Irish, they don’t really care to have much knowledge on the subject and don’t really think that it is topic discussed amongst them.

“For those who do take history classes here and have interest, I think that it isn’t taught right but I only speak for what I have seen here in the university and if this is anything to go by, it’s completely bias and a twist of our history,” she said.

When things like this come up it stings to find out how Ireland is perceived in and around this particular university in France. Ignorance maybe be a bliss but commenting on something you really have no clue about makes you a clown.

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