Among these little islands to the north-west of the European mainland, the sea has always claimed a large slice of national mythologies. For hundreds of years England has brandished its thalassic geography as a treatise of power: the scepter’d isle that never never shall be enslaved.
- ORDER NOW: Peter Gabriel is on the cover of the latest issue of Uncut
But as England now cheerfully hoists itself by its own petard, disrespecting its own maritime coastline by defiling it with its own internal bowel movements, the sea arguably looms even larger in Ireland’s national story. From the arrival of St Patrick over the waves to Cromwell’s invasion across the waters; the waves of 19th-century emigration; arguably the nation’s greatest literary creation named for Ulysses, that seafaring hero; and now the contested ‘border down the Irish Sea’ of the botched Brexit deal.
Thankfully that patch of brine is unlikely to turn out quite as apocalyptically corpse-filled as Gustav Doré’s 19th-century engraving of Dante ferried across the deadly River Styx. The water could be the gateway to a new and better life, especially for their Irish ancestors or for the current generation of desperate asylum seekers, but it can also…