Black Lives Matter and the 'Irish slave' myth
Are memes calling the Irish "the first slaves" an attempt to derail conversations about slavery and modern-day racism?

Irish historian Liam Hogan is at the forefront of efforts to debunk the “Irish slave” myth. He says the position of the unfree Irish in the New World was one of “indentured servitude” and describes articles like that on Irish Central as “ahistorical”.

More needs to be done to stop the spread of this inaccurate mythology, Hogan suggests.

“These articles have created an Irish slave trade timeline, ostensibly a fantasy, which runs from 1612 to 1839,” he explained. “This is to make it appear that there was a concurrent transatlantic slave trade of Irish slaves that historians have covered up because of liberal bias.

"Historically, the majority of Irish prisoners of war, vagrants and other victims of kidnapping and deception - thought to have numbered around 10,000 people - were forcibly sent to the West Indies in the 1650s. Those that survived were pardoned by Charles II in 1660.

"In contrast, the transatlantic slave trade lasted for four centuries, was the largest forced migration in world history, involving tens of millions of Africans who were completely dehumanised, and its poisonous legacy remains in the form of anti-black racism. So this neo-Nazi propaganda is false equivalency on an outrageous scale,” he said.

In fact, it is well documented that there were Irish involved in the slave trade and that some were even slave owners - not only in Irish-dominated Montserrat but also in all the slaveholding states in the US, Jamaica, Barbados, British Guiana, Haiti, Trinidad, Antigua, Haiti, Martinique, the Danish West Indies and Cuba.

The plight of the indentured Irish, however painful, was not racialised and their status was sometimes voluntary, with a migrant working for free for a period of time to pay off the cost of their trip across the Atlantic.

Indentured servitude was a widespread practice at the time, so it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of Irish affected by it. But in his book, The Irish Diaspora, Andy Bielenberg estimates that between 1630 and 1775, 165,000 Irish migrated from Ireland to the British colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean. Of course, not all of these would have been indentured.

Matthew Reilly is an archaeologist at Brown University who has researched slavery in Barbados. He says the idea of Irish slaves has no historical foundation.

“The Irish slave myth is not supported by the historical evidence. Thousands of Irish were sent to colonies like Barbados against their will, never to return.

"Upon their arrival, however, they were socially and legally distinct from the enslaved Africans with whom they often laboured.

"While not denying the vast hardships endured by indentured servants, it is necessary to recognise the differences between forms of labour in order to understand the depths of the inhumane system of chattel slavery that endured in the region for several centuries, as well as the legacies of race-based slavery in our own times,” Reilly said.

Today’s WARRIOR WOMEN WEDNESDAY drawing is Grainne O’Malley!

We call her a gazillion different things, popularly “Grace O’Malley,” but I think her Irish first name better suits her while the Anglicized last name helps for clarity in knowing who I’m talking about and finding more about her.

Not too many of these subjects have long lives with happy endings, but O’Malley oversaw her lands and seas as rich as a troll and died of old age, her kid having been ennobled and her fleet as active as ever.


January 30th 1972: Bloody Sunday

On this day in 1972, British troops fired on Irish protestors in an event which has become known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. The day began as a protest march in Londonderry, attended by around 10,000 people calling for Irish civil rights. The protestors, members of Derry’s predominantly Catholic nationalist community, rejected the rule of the mostly Protestant unionist Northern Irish assembly. The protestors were particularly incensed by the assembly’s policies of interning nationalist terrorist suspects without trial and alleged electoral fraud, which discriminated against those who sought Irish independence from Britain. On January 30th 1972, the British Army set up a barricade to block the protest route, but some protestors refused to change course, and hurled rocks at the soldiers. The soldiers responded with water cannons and rubber bullets, and were eventually ordered to arrest the rioters. The situation turned violent when some of the British paratroopers opened fire on the crowd, killing 13 people and wounding several more, one of whom later died from his injuries. The event enflamed tensions between Britain and Northern Ireland, also attracting the ire of independent Ireland, as protestors in Dublin torched the British Embassy. The army insisted they responded to fire from protestors, while locals saw the shootings as deliberate murder. A governmental inquiry sided with the army, causing outrage and demands for a new tribunal, which finally reported in 2010 that blame for the events of Bloody Sunday lay solely with the British army. Bloody Sunday was a pivotal moment in ‘The Troubles’, as opposition to British rule and support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) mounted in Northern Ireland, while Britain increased its military presence in the country.

Gráinne Ní Mháille (c.1530 - c.1603), commonly known as Grace O'Malley, was a legendary Irish pirate and Chieftan of the Ó Mháille clan during the 16th century.

Born around 1530, Ní Mháille was the child of a wealthy sea trader who she accompanied on his voyages from a young age. As a teenager she was married to Donal Ó Flaithbheartaigh, heir to a powerful clan, as a political move. The marriage lasted for 19 years, during which they had three children and Ní Mháille gained considerable experience commanding ships in her husband’s fleet.

Following the death of her husband and her father, Ní Mháille inherited a considerable amount of money and took over her father’s fleet of 20 ships and hundreds of sailors. She built on her father’s success to become one the dominant forces on the Irish west coast, launching raids on rival clans, forcing merchant ships to pay for safe passage, and imposing taxes on fishermen as far away as England. She also transported Gallowglass mercenaries between Scotland and Ireland, often raiding Scottish islands at the same time.  Her position was strengthened by the control of several coastal castles, most prominent of which was Rockfleet Castle, which she gained through her second marriage to Risdeárd Bourke. After a year of marriage she is said to have taken control of the castle, barring Bourke from entering and yelling from a window, “I dismiss you!”.

Ní Mháille had a tumultuous relationship with the English. From the early 1560’s onward she was accused of piracy multiple times, but she won some favour with the English by assisting in coastal attacks on southern Ireland and won the respect of Sir Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy of Ireland. However n 1579 she was besieged in her castle by English forces, who she defeated by pouring hot oil on the attackers and according to some accounts by making homemade bullets from melted down armour.

Ní Mháille made a lasting enemy in the form of Richard Bingham, the English ruler of Connacht, after she fought alongside the Bourkes in open rebellion against him from 1585 to 1589. Bingham sought revenge for the rebellion by targeting Ní Mháille, destroying her lands and property. Bingham killed Ní Mháille’s eldest son, Eoghan, and captured his castle, while making a deal with one of her other sons, Murchadh, to switch sides. Ní Mháille swore never to speak to Murchadh again after his betrayal and burned his lands.

Financially ruined, the final blow to Ní Mháille came in 1593 when Bingham captured her other son, Tiobóid, as well as her brother and threatened them with charges of treason. Ní Mháille petitioned Queen Elizabeth of England directly to ask for their release. Elizabeth sent Ní Mháille a list of questions which she answered, and later that year the two women met at Greenwich Palace near London. Despite Ní Mháille’s rough manners and refusal to bow, the two women, both in their sixties, seemed to develop a healthy respect for each other. As neither spoke the other’s language they conversed in Latin, striking an agreement that Ní Mháille’s family would be released, reparations would be made for her stolen property, and that Bingham would be removed from power.

The agreement did not last. Reparations were not fully made, and while initially stripped of his position, Bingham was eventually allowed to return to power in Ireland. Angered, Ní Mháille returned to helping Irish rebels during the Nine Years’ War. She died of old age in Rockfleet Castle at the end of the war in 1603. After her death Ní Mháille’s fighting prowess led to many Irish folk tales being told about her and she is still remembered as a legendary pirate.


G O D S . A N D . G O D D E S S E S
celtic pantheon; mórrígan the goddess of war

“She appears as a singular being and the Triple Goddess - maiden, mother and crone. Her role was to not only be a symbol of imminent death, but to also influence the outcome of war. Most often she did this by appearing as a crow flying overhead and would either inspire fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors.”

m o r e . a e s t h e t i c s


April 24th 1916: Easter Rising begins

On this day in 1916, the Easter Rising rebellion against British rule in Ireland began. In 1800, Ireland lost its parliament and came to be directly governed from Westminster in England. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Irish people began calling for Home Rule, which would have allowed it a greater say in its national affairs. Sharp divisions in Ireland emerged between unionists and those calling for total independence from Britain; the two sides formally established paramilitary forces in the early 1910s. The onset of the First World War distracted Britain’s attention from the Home Rule issue. Frustrated by the Home Rule debate - which they believed was not enough - revolutionary nationalists began planning an uprising. The rebellion involved a variety of militant groups, including the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish Volunteers, the socialist Irish Citizen Army, and the all-female Cumann na mBan. On April 24th, Easter Monday, the organisers issued a proclamation declaring the establishment of an Irish republic. The document was read to the public in Dublin by the president of this provisional republic, Pádraig Pearse. The declaration alarmed the British, who initially had only 400 troops in the area to the revolutionaries’ 1,600. However, the British sent thousands of troops to Dublin - the epicentre of the uprising - leading to prolonged fighting. On April 29th, outnumbered by the British, Pearse surrendered and the uprising was over. 450 people (mostly civilians) died during the rebellion, and thousands more injured, causing many Irish people to resent the destruction wrought by the rebels. However, after the leaders of the rising were executed, and thousands more imprisoned without trial, Irish resentment against Britain grew. While the uprising did not succeed, it achieved what its organisers intended - Home Rule was derailed, and the Irish public saw the oppressiveness of British rule, which bolstered the independence movement. In 1919, Irish republicans, by then with mass support, launched a guerilla war against the British, which resulted in the establishment of the independent Irish Free State in 1921.

100 years ago today


4,000 Houses for 4,000 Followers: No. 74:

Florence Court, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. 

It’s building spans the 18th century, with 3 major periods of construction.

It is now run by the National Trust. 

A memorial is being built to honor the Choctaw Indians, who sent aid to Ireland during The Famine. 

“A sculpture of nine eagle feathers will be installed in Bailic Park, in Midleton, Co Cork to thank the Choctaw Indians for their kindness and support during the Great Irish Famine.

"Despite the oppression faced by the Choctaws in the years preceding the famine, on hearing of the plight and hunger of the Irish people in 1847, they raised $170 to send to the Irish people and ease their suffering. This figure is equivalent to tens of thousands of dollars in today’s currency.”


April 20th 1912: Bram Stoker dies

On this day in 1912, the Irish author Bram Stoker died in London aged 64. Stoker, born as Abraham Stoker in Dublin in 1847, studied mathematics at the University of Dublin and went on to become a civil servant. However, he long displayed a talent for writing, and ended up in a management position at London’s illustrious Lyceum Theatre. His first forays into fiction writing were modest successes, but were overshadowed by his 1897 masterpiece Dracula. Originally titled The Undead, the horror story told of the struggle between the vampire Count Dracula and vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. It has traditionally been claimed that the titular character was inspired by fifteenth-century Transylvanian despot Vlad the Impaler, but this has recently been called into question, and Stoker himself said the character came to him in a nightmare after eating too much dressed crab. Dracula, while not inventing the concept of a vampire (which was a trope already seen in earlier work like the 1871 Carmilla), defined modern perceptions of the supernatural beings. Stoker continued writing until his death, though none of his novels have reached the same fame as Dracula. The Irish author was well travelled, and counted among his acquaintances U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and authors Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Bram Stoker died in 1912, leaving a legacy of great literary achievement; Dracula remains one of the most famous fictional characters in history, with more than one thousand novels and two hundred films featuring the iconic vampire.

In the act of weeping, and in attitudes towards it, identities and solidarities are formed. Dry-eyed Brits liked to compare themselves to the stereotypically lachrymose Irish, conveniently overlooking the fact that for several centuries the Irish arguably had significantly more to be upset about.

May 5th 1981: Bobby Sands dies

On this day in 1981, the Irish republican activist Bobby Sands died in a Northern Ireland jail after a hunger strike. Sands, born in Belfast in 1954, joined the Republican Movement aged eighteen, and faced intimidation from loyalists in his community. He was a militant member of the movement during the Irish Troubles, and spent three years in prison for possessing firearms. In 1976, Sands was again arrested in connection to the bombing of a furniture company, and whilst the charges were flimsy and the evidence slim, Sands was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. It was while he was in prison that Sands became a famous figure in Ireland and in Britain, for his defiance of the prison system and confrontation of authorities. On March 1st 1981, Sands led nine other Provisional IRA prisoners - who considered themselves prisoners of war - on a hunger strike, demanding prison reforms like the right to wear their own clothes, and right to refuse prison work. Sands refused to end his strike until they gave into his requests, and during the first seventeen days of the strike lost sixteen pounds. His actions made him a nationalist hero and, while he was still on hunger strike, Sands was elected as a Sinn Fein Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Sands’s health rapidly deteriorated, and just a few days after slipping into a coma, he died on May 5th 1981 aged twenty-seven; Bobby Sands had refused to eat for sixty-six days. He was not the last to die from hunger strike, and several other nationalists also died in similar conditions. His death prompted widespread rioting and over 100,000 people attended his funeral. While a controversial figure, Sands remains a hero to many Irish republicans, and his stoic determination has inspired countless political dissidents around the world.

“They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken“