THE ROMANCE OF IRISH HISTORY
By sir Roger Casement, C.M.G.
The history of Ireland remains to be written, for the purpose of Irishmen remains yet to be achieved.
The struggle for national realization, begun so many centuries ago, is not ended; and if the long story offers a so frequent record of failure, it offers a continuous appeal to the highest motives and a constant exhibition of a most pathetic patriotism linked with the sternest courage.
Irish wars, throughout all time, have been only against one enemy, the invader, and, ending so often in material disaster, they have conferred always a moral gain. Their memory uplifts the Irish heart; for no nation, no people, can reproach Ireland with having wronged them.
When, at the dawn of the Christian era, we first hear of Ireland from external sources, we learn of it as an island harboring free men, whose indomitable love of freedom was hateful to the spirit of imperial exploitation.
Agricola’s advice to the empire-builders of his day was that Rome should “war down and take possession of Ireland, so that freedom might be put out of sight.”
It was to meet this challenge of despotism that the Scotic clans of Alba turned to their motherland for help, and the sea was “white with the hurrying oars” of the men of Erin speeding to the call of their Highland kinsmen, threatened with imperial servitude.
The first external record we possess thus makes it clear that when the early Irish went forth to carry war abroad, it was not to impose their yoke on other peoples, or to found an empire, but to battle against the Empire of the World in the threatened cause they held so dear at home.
In this early Roman reference to Ireland we get the keynote to all later Irish history—a warring down on the one hand, so that freedom might be put out of sight; an eternal resistance, on the other, so that it might be upheld.
It was this struggle that Ireland sought to maintain against every form of attack, down through Danish, Norman, Tudor, Stuart, and Cromwellian assault, to the larger imperialism of the nineteenth century, when, as Thierry, the historian of the Norman Conquest, tells us, it still remained the one “lost cause” of history that refused to admit defeat. “This indomitable persistency, this faculty of preserving through centuries of misery the remembrance of lost liberty and of never despairing of a cause always defeated, always fatal to those who dared to defend it, is perhaps the strangest and noblest example ever given by any nation.”