Time for Ireland to re-embrace Wellington as a great Irishman?

There’s still a few Summer Schools to go before the political season returns in the south (traditionally after the National Ploughing Championships, but there are few performance like this one from Eoghan Harris in Kilkenny at the weekend

Eoghan Harris: Full Kilkenny Festival Talk from Eoghan Harris on Vimeo.

He looks at Wellington and Daniel O’Connell and their very different roles in the passage of the Catholic Relief Act 1829) and makes the case that Wellington should take his place alongside Hugh O’Neill and O’Connell as as a great Irishman.

He points out that Wellington had argued in favour of Catholic Emancipation as early as 1807 and that as PM he played a key role in persuading the Cabinst, then the Tory parliamentary party and finally the King that the case was unanswerable.

His unifying theme is that though their politics were very different both O’Connell and Wellington were Aristotelian empiricists whose idea of Irishness was that it was enough to simply be born on the island (the famous horse and stable remark was O’Connell’s reference to Wellington, not the Duke’s own words).

Turns out it’s an important distinction, with contemporary resonances far beyond the strictly antiquarian in an increasingly remote period of history. According to Harris’s Aristotlisn v Platonist lights, there is no requirement for anyone to prove their Irishness to the satisfaction of others, rather it’s a birthright that cannot be impaired or removed by the “perfectible” standards of self appointed others.

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Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty