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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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Long term consequences
- Dr. Raymond Gillespie

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It would be wrong to try and remove from any understanding of the Plantation, the colonial element: I mean there was expropriation, there were people from another country came and settled, people were moved off land, and land was confiscated - I mean those are all realities. I think, on the other hand, we need to balance that by the fact that across Europe (and in north America of course) there are schemes not dissimilar to this, and in Bohemia, for example, you are getting very similar types of movements. Again in Scotland, James VI is considering the Plantation of Lewis, Plantations of the Highlands - I mean this is not something specifically directed against the Irish: this is part of a much wider European phenomenon. So we have to see it in its contemporary context to begin with.

Now inevitably it does leave a residue of hatred: there are accommodations clEarly made between the two groups; there are also people who do not like the situation; but I think in some ways it’s what happens after the Plantation which is much more important for the enduring legacy. It’s the fears of the Irish which are created in 1641, the fear of massacre, the fear of attack, that somehow or other accommodations which had been made before were no longer possible after that because the Irish were quite simply, as John Temple put it in his history of the rebellion ‘untrustworthy’. And that book was repeatedly reprinted - I think the last time it was reprinted was 1912, so that this message (the message not of the Plantation but the message of the rebellion) is the one that persists and the one which is used continuously right through the 19th century - that the Catholics are untrustworthy; that we can’t do business with them; we shouldn’t be involved with them; they are part of a large conspiracy to do us down.

That having been said, of course, in the 19th century, with their ideas of social Darwinism, the changes which took place in Ulster in the 17th century - the shift, for example, from a rather old-fashioned lordship style of society to a much more modern style of economy and estate, this was seen by many of the Presbyterians as the origins of the industrialisation of north-east Ireland; and it was the Scots, the thrifty Scots who came in, who improved Ulster, who made Ulster a wonderful place. And many of those in the 19th century, looking back you know, saw this as their lineage and they wrote their history accordingly; and this was particularly true of the Presbyterians in the 19th century who wrote of the prosperity of Ulster in comparison to Ireland, and explained that using the Plantation.

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