It is conveniently forgotten but the Irish were colonisers too

A new book reveals our forgotten history

Listen | 19:43

In discussions around empire and colonisation, including popular movements such as Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall, Ireland likes to think itself on the “right” side of history, as colonised victims of empire.

But as Trinity College Dublin historian Prof Jane Ohlmeyer explores in her new book, Making Empire: Ireland, Imperialism, and the Early Modern World, it’s not as simple as that.

On the island of Montserrat in the West Indies, for example, St Patrick’s Day is a national holiday - the only country outside Ireland to mark the day officially. But the parades there are to celebrate an unsuccessful revolt by enslaved islanders against the European whites - mostly Irish - who colonised it in the 17th century.

There are stark examples too of the Irish in India - and other countries too - acting more like colonisers than colonised.


Irish Times reporter and historian Ronan McGreevy interviewed Ohlmeyer and talks here about a troubling aspect of Irish history. Presented by Bernice Harrison. Produced by Declan Conlon.

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison is an Irish Times journalist and cohost of In the News podcast