Taking a snap-shot of the shared experiences between Ireland and Tibet, bearing in mind of course that no analogy is ever completely perfect, there exist however common strains, so here goes, with no apologies to academic historians.
Ireland, an independent country complete with its own language, governance, legal system, culture and history was invaded by England under the banner of the so-called Earl Strongbow and a Norman-Cambro (Welsh) force, in the 12th Century
Ireland was subject to a policy of deliberate population transfer as an act of political aggression , but more importantly in an effort to ‘Anglicise, in the sense of imposing the state religion of England)
The culture of Ireland, its language, religion, customs were targetted as unwelcome expressions of nationalism. In effect to be Irish in Ireland invited very unwelcome attention.
The natural resources of Ireland were eventually (by the 18/19th Century) to become thoroughly exploited by the occupying power (England) to the extreme economic disadvantage of the Irish themselves. A fact that realized the most harrowing trauma during the Great Famine.
Despite the occupation, tyranny and suppression Ireland and its people maintained a distinct sense of Irish identity and retained for generations the hope of a free Ireland.
During the 19/20th Century Ireland was the oppressed subject of an overwhelming military power, England at that time being a leading World nation, economically.
The late 19th and early 20th Century witnessed in Ireland, the emergence of a freedom movement that aspired for an independent nation, and engaged in a bloody-war-of resistance against the occupying English forces.
Readers may wish to contemplate, in more detail, possible similarities beween the role and influence of Michael Collins http://www.iol.ie/~obrienc/frames.htm and Tibet’s great hero Gombo Tashi Andrutsang, who lead Chushi Gangdruk http://www.chushigangdruk.org/history/history01.html with sacrifice, courage, skill and selfless determination the war of resistance against China in the 1950/60s. Suffice to say both were patriots, national heroes and brilliant guerilla strategists.
Having forced, through an armed campaign, the English Government to negotiate, the Irish found themselves being presented with an ultimatum by England, accept the division of Ireland, in which England keeps control of the majority of the North, or face annihilation through a total war. As Tibet’s Exiled Government pursues a policy of dangerous surrender and compromise, to encourage negotiations with China, maybe it should reflect upon the tragic outcome of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Irish_Treaty which split Ireland, resulted in Civil War and still casts a dark shadow over Ireland today!
Even this superficial sketch is enough to suggest interesting echoes between the experiences of Ireland and Tibet. Perhaps that explains the comments of Frank Aitken, Ireland’s UN Ambassador, during the 1959 UN General Assembly debate on Tibet.
“Looking around this assembly, … I think how many benches would be empty in this hall if it had always been agreed that when a small nation or a small people fall in the grip of a major power no one could ever raise their voice here; that once there was a subject nation, then must always remain a subject nation. Tibet has fallen into the hands of the Chinese People’s Republic for the last few years. For thousands of years, … it was as free and as fully in control of its own affairs as any nation in this Assembly, and a thousand times more free to look after its own affairs than many of the nations here.”
Clearly some deep resonance and undertanding is reflected in those words, drawn from Ireland’s own bitter history of foreign occupation.
The last word, should perhaps rest with Máire de Buitléir, a prominent Irish nationalist who suggested the name Sinn Fein, when choosing a title for the then fledgeling organisation, which in English translated roughly as ‘Ourselves Alone’. A sentiment Tibetans know all too well, in an indifferent and cynical world. Another similarity perhaps?
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