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Burke on Ireland’s Holy War

On the two hundredth anniversary of the death of Edmund Burke, Conor Cruise O'Brien assesses the legacy of his thinking on Ireland. Enlisted by both sides in the great Home Rule controversy, Burke would not be at all surprised by Ireland's continuing conflict

For much of the 19th century, thoughtful members of the upper and middle classes in Britain regarded the writings of Edmund Burke as a treasure-house of political wisdom. Liberals and conservatives were agreed on that, although not on where Burke’s wisdom had revealed itself. Liberals valued most his writings on America and India, with their emphasis on respect for the principle of consent of the governed; conservatives were naturally more impressed by his writings on the revolution in France. Liberals may have felt that he had gone too far in his polemic against the French revolution: conservatives had little enthusiasm,…

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