Robert Kee: `Ireland A Television History`: Episode 1 `A Nation Once Again`

Nora Connolly 

Celtic Cross

copyright amanderson2sphotostream

And Ireland, long a province be


This song was written by Thomas Davis, one of the founders in 1842 of the nationalist periodical, `The Nation` and appeared in his paper alongside similar verse described by Robert Kee in `The Green Flag` as “trite but often of stirring quality”. In this programme he explains the song served as the unofficial national anthem of Ireland. While pointing out the melody depicts an unrealistic version of nationhood which is also inconsistent with what the nation of Ireland had been and what it became. Further, how he asks could Ireland become `A Nation Once Again`, when a significant minority oppose the very idea?

Commentators seeking to analyse Irish Nationalism dispassionately, such as Robert Kee, can find themselves subject to criticism based on the unfounded notion that they are taking sides – a problem familiar to all historians. But the issue is more potent when it concerns Irish History/Nationalism. The resurgence of interest in Robert Kee following his death has lead to a rise in viewers to his television history on Youtube. Some of the comments give a flavour of the problem, as Kee is criticised on the one hand for producing an overly sympathetic portrayal of the Irish, while on the other hand criticised for being hostile to the Irish. Both assertions are ridiculous, the programme rightly received wide-spread acclaim when broadcast.  Kee`s `The Green Flag` contains an inscription, from AG Richey,”to appreciate the history of this or any other country it is necessary to sympathise with all of the parties”. Kee`s television history achieves this but his sympathy does not inhibit him from looking at Irish nationalism with a critical analytical eye. His inquisitorial approach allows for a balanced appraisal, while outlining the adversarial history of this most distressful country and the part played by Britain.   Read more of this post


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