If you’re a small country with a big neighbour, then you know all about them and they don’t necessarily know anything much about you. This reflection was prompted by an article on “Blair’s babes” in last Sunday’s Observer.
The English paper had a little background on women in Parliament in Britain. This is what it said about Constance Markiewicz:
“Women were first allowed to be candidates in 1918. The only one elected, Countess Constance Markievicz, was unable to take her seat because she was in prison suspected of conspiring with Germany during the First World War.”
It is true that Countess Markievicz spent a lot of her time in and out of prison. She belonged to an Anglo-Irish aristocratic family and was, famously, a very active supporter of Irish independence. She was elected as a Sinn Fein candidate in the 1918 general election and like all the other Sinn Fein candidates elected she didn’t take her seat in Westminister (it is important that this Sinn Fein party not be confused with the Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland today, I can’t face going into the detail but it just is). According to Wikipedia she joined her colleagues assembled in Dublin as the first incarnation of Dáil Éireann, so I’m guessing she wasn’t in jail as our correspondent from the Observer says. Though I am also indebted to Wikipedia for the information that she spent some time in jail in 1918 for “anti-conscription activities”; is this the same as conspiring with Germany? Well, what with the “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity” mantra, I suppose that there was some possibility for confusion among the ranks of English journalists, even today. But is this annoying? Oh yes, it is.
I imagine all those Canadians with maple leaves sewn on to their back packs have the same problem. And, of course, the Belgians with the French. I was out with some Belgian friends the other day and they said that a survey has shown that most Belgians could name three candidates for the forthcoming French presidential elections but none for the Belgian elections this June.
On the plus side, it is fun to see all the very nice middle class English people we know here squirm with post-colonial guilt when we refer to the crimes of their ancestors. I don’t know what the Canadians and Belgians have by way of compensation; public health care and chocolate respectively?
In other news, the computer has been broken for a couple of days and the Princess had her birthday party today. I was bereft and am flattened. Details to follow. Hold your breath.