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3 Intro­ duc­ tion On 22 Oc­ to­ ber 2010, in the Long Room of Trin­ ity Col­ lege Dub­ lin, Mary­ McAleese and Ian Pais­ ley ­ launched an ex­ hi­ bi­ tion about the Irish re­ bel­ lion of 1641. On the face of it, they were an un­ likely duo. Prior to her elec­ tion as pres­ i­ dent of the Re­ pub­ lic of Ire­ land, ­ McAleese (a Bel­ fast Cath­ o­ lic whose fam­ ily home had been burnt out by loy­ al­ ists in the 1970s) was per­ ceived by some to rep­ re­ sent par­ tic­ u­ larly con­ ser­ va­ tive forms of Irish Ca­ thol­ i­ cism and na­ tion­ al­ ism—a “tri­ bal time bomb,” as one com­ men­ ta­ tor had put it.1 As for Pais­ ley, de­ spite his tran­ si­ tion to a seem­ ingly mel­ low old age, he re­ mained the epit­ ome of an un­ yield­ ing Prot­ es­ tant loy­ al­ ism, whose ca­ reer as both dem­ a­ gogue and Dem­ o­ cratic Un­ ion­ ist­ leader was syn­ on­ y­ mous with the “Trou­ bles” and had in­ deed been an in­ te­ gral part of them. Hence the ex­ is­ tence of what might be, to a cas­ ual ob­ server, an in­ con­ gru­ ous dou­ ble act: ­ between them, ­ McAleese and Pais­ ley rep­ re­ sented the op­ pos­ ing po­ lit­ i­ cal and re­ li­ gious tra­ di­ tions on the is­ land of Ire­ land, from which the prin­ ci­ pal ac­ tors in the con­ flict in North­ ern Ire­ land had ­ sprung over the pre­ vi­ ous five ­ decades. But this was the en­ tire point of their pres­ ence, and on this oc­ ca­ sion both were in a gra­ cious mood. The con­ flict that ­ erupted in North­ ern Ire­ land had been the lat­ est man­ i­ fes­ ta­ tion of an en­ dur­ ing his­ tor­ i­ cal di­ chot­ omy ­ between Cath­ o­ lic and Prot­ es­ tant on the is­ land of Ire­ land. The seem­ ingly at­ a­ vis­ tic na­ ture of this con­ flict arose in part from the fact that it had never been ad­ e­ quately re­ solved and had con­ tin­ ued to fes­ ter after being ­ largely cor­ ralled into the six­ counties of North­ ern Ire­ land fol­ low­ ing the Brit­ ish par­ ti­ tion of 1920. But the ul­ ti­ mate or­ i­ gin of such sec­ tar­ ian­ ism is to be found long be­ fore the twen­ ti­ eth cen­ tury. From the lat­ ter half of the six­ teenth cen­ tury on­ wards, Ire­ land was re­ con­ quered by En­ glish govern­ ments based in Dub­ lin. In the after­ math large ­ tracts of the coun­ try, es­ pe­ cially in the north­ ern prov­ ince of Ul­ ster, were col­ o­ nized in 4 Introduction the early ­ decades of the seven­ teenth cen­ tury by tens of thou­ sands of Brit­ ish set­ tlers, the ma­ jor­ ity of whom were Prot­ es­ tants of one kind or an­ other. The ex­ hi­ bi­ tion being ­ launched by ­ McAleese and Pais­ ley con­ cerned the sin­ gle most sig­ nif­i­ cant event of this pe­ riod: the re­ bel­ lion of 1641, in which Irish Cath­ o­ lics rose up ­ against the Brit­ ish Prot­ es­ tant col­ o­ nists who were seen to have sup­ planted them. They were as­ sumed to have done so with ap­ pall­ ing bru­ tal­ ity, and so the in­ sur­ rec­ tion of 1641 has tra­ di­ tion­ ally been ­ viewed as the first ex­ pli­ citly sec­ tar­ ian con­ flict in Irish his­ tory. It has been re­ mem­ bered as the first of many such con­ flicts, but the ­ launch of this ex­ hi­ bi­ tion in Trin­ ity was more con­ cerned with how it had been mis­ re­ mem­ bered. Ac­ cord­ ing to ­ McAleese, when it came to the­ events of 1641, “facts and truth have been cas­ u­ al­ ties along the way and the dis­ til­ la­ tion of ­ skewed per­ cep­ tions over gen­ er­ a­ tions have con­ trib­ uted to a sit­ u­ a­ tion where both sides”—Cath­ o­ lic and Prot­ es­ tant—“were con­ found­ ing mys­ ter...


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