When a cousin of mine was engaged to be married in the 1970s, she went to County Cavan – a Border county within the Irish Republic, but part of the old province of Ulster – to impart the good news to her uncle and aunt, who farmed there. Her aunt enquired of the fiancé: ‘Is he a Protestant?’ The affianced, being an Englishman, would have thought of himself in some mild and vague manner as ‘C of E’; and my cousin answered, truthfully, ‘Well, I suppose, yes.’ The aunt’s face hardened. ‘The Protestants got the best land,’ was her only further comment. Cavan land was notoriously poor.
For those befuddled by the endless intricacies of the Irish Troubles, this sums up, it seems to me, the essence of the native Irish grievance. The Protestants got the best land. And so they did, after the Elizabethan division of Irish land into plantations. A coda might be added, admitting