Prof Liam Kennedy and how not to be a MOPE

Liam Kennedy is from Tipperary, but as an Emeritus Professor of History at Queen’s University, he’s come a long, long way from that county. This morning he’s top of the Opinion section of The Irish Times, playing a tune he’s often played before.

He’s not one bit pleased with people who talk about the “inevitability” of Irish reunification. For Prof Liam that looks like bullying, trying to drive people down the boreen to the fourth green field. “Historians, and not only historians, are likely to recoil from such a teleological view of Irish history” he explains.

If Irish reunification is to happen, it must be built on an ethical foundation. Prof Liam notes that the unionist electorate rejected those involved in loyalist violence during the Troubles. Not so the nationalist electorate: “Some of its [Sinn Féin’s] most influential members are graduates of the Maze and other prisons on this island.” In Prof Liam’s book, that puts them in a unique position to repudiate the armed struggle and to end “the celebratory commemorations of bombers, hunger strikers, political prisoners and killers.”  And if they don’t repudiate all past violence and even hunger strikes, how can a reunited Ireland have moral foundations? And “how could former Ulster unionists feel remotely secure?”

OK , let’s be patient here. Prof Liam clearly belongs to the School of Selective Memory Loss . Decades ago the IRA apologised for the killing of all “non-combatants” and offered its “sincere apologies and condolences” to the families of victims during 30 years of violence. It also acknowledged the grief and pain of the families of combatants – police, soldiers, loyalist paramilitaries – who were killed during the Troubles.

Maybe Prof Liam missed all that back then because he was busy writing his book Unhappy the Land: The Most Oppressed People Ever, the Irish?  and in running for election against Gerry Adams in 2005. Adams won with a vote of 24,348. Prof Liam got 147 votes.

Liam, Liam: an arm around your manly shoulders, a word in your shell-like ear: the reunification train is about to leave the station.

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