Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Susan McKay - 'John Bull raped Mother Ireland'

Susan MacKay - journalist, author and commentator
Recently Sinn Fein TD John Brady claimed that England had 'raped and pillaged ' Ireland.

It's not the sort of terminology we hear so much of these days but John Brady has certainly brought it under the spotlight.

I have already posted about his tweet but some readers may not be aware of the history of such language because he is certainly not the first person to use it..  

The first time I came across it was back in 1984, which is more than thirty years ago, and it was in the pages of the Sinn Fein newspaper Republican News, but the person who used it was not a member of Sinn Fein.

That person was Susan McKay, who was born in Londonderry in 1957 and came 'from a Protestant background'.  

Susan MacKay was one of the founders of the Belfast Rape Crisis Collective and as a member of the BRCC she wrote an article on Rape - A Women's Issue? which was published in the Sinn Fein newspaper Republican News on 11 October 1984.  In the final paragraph she wrote: 
'The rape of Mother Ireland by John Bull provides a powerful metaphor for the national struggle.'
It was a metaphor which must have struck a chord with republicans in that it portrays the United Kingdom as a vile male rapist and Ireland as his innocent female victim.

However the same issue of Republican News reported the brutal murder of a former UDR soldier by the Provisional IRA in Cookstown.

Susan moved on to become a community worker in Sligo and Fermanagh and then turned to journalism.  In 2000 she wrote a book Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People, which she described as 'a study of the people I uneasily call my own.'

When we remember that she used the 'metaphor' of rape we can understand why she uses the word 'uneasily' in relation to 'northern Protestants'.


  1. You should read her book and perhaps learn to interpret metaphors less literally.

  2. I have read her book and many of her articles and I do understand what a metaphor is.

  3. When McKay uses the metaphor of the "rape" of Ireland, she does so in the vein of the word rapine(from which the word rape derives), and the negative connotations that it denotes; she does not use it to invoke some lurid sexual scenario.

  4. Actually no, she was a member of the Belfast Rape Crisis Collective and if you read the whole article in Republican News it is very clear what she meant.


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