“But that is no reason for taking the matter too tragically”

The Guardian never forgets, in part because it has one of the most extensive archives around [including Slugger? – Ed]. Today they delved into that archive to reproduce a report, from 12th October 1921, on a meeting that might just have played a part in the selection of 11th October as the start of the current shenanigans [perhaps – Ed]“The Anglo-Irish Conference duly met at Downing Street yesterday.”From the Guardian [archive] 12th October 1921

The Anglo-Irish Conference duly met at Downing Street yesterday. We purposely express the fact in terms of nationality, because that is the point of view from which it can most usefully and truthfully be regarded.

But when people – Mr. De Valera is, we fear, one of them – talk about Englishmen being “foreigners” and about England as a foreign nation, politeness alone prevents us from telling them that in our opinion they talk nonsense. Irishmen are not and never will be Englishmen; even the Ulster and Orange brand is at bottom much more Irish than it is English. But on the other hand a bond, even an unwilling bond, and a continuous connection and inter-mixture going right back through the centuries to a point not so very far removed from the Norman Conquest of this island (which unfortunately was never completely extended to the outlying island) does not count for nothing.

Neither does the fact that Irishmen have played a great part in English history and literature, that we find ourselves very much at home in their land, and that they have made themselves very much at home in ours. Therefore we positively decline to recognise anything essentially foreign, and not even should they insist on addressing Mr. Lloyd George in the Irish language (which to some of them may sound less familiar than to that brother Celt) and calling in the service of an interpreter will they persuade us to regard them as unqualified aliens.

They come as representatives of a nation to present a national case. No doubt during the negotiations there may be a pretty heavy tug-of-war. But that is no reason for taking the matter too tragically.

The fundamental fact is that both peoples want to be friends, and friends in the end they will be.

As Stephen Fry said recently, “History is not abstraction, it is the enemy of abstraction.”