An Irishman’s Apology (for Our Part In The International Slave Trade)

The slave ship HMS Glendower brought human cargo to South American and the Indies.

Sorry – one little word, not enough or near it
For our part in a history we know little of from school
And are taught less, we think it was just the British – and it was
But we too were up to our necks in it under British rule

Some say Gaelic clans allied with England are not Irish anymore
So our nation is absolved somehow from blame
But all Irish are Irish, nationalist or unionist:
So I say no… we too bear our share of the shame.

Yes, I know the Mali emperor sold slaves first to the Portuguese
The fact he was African too and Islamic does not lesson the deed
We who were enslaved by the English before we became dealers ourselves
Greater is our crime, be it from necessity or greed.

Yes, we know Irish were indentured laborers too
But most were prisoners for political reasons and more
They were slaves in chains sent to work for no pay and could be sold
Unlike the indentured who followed the others before.

Yes, I know there were black slave owners too
Their shame is their own for which to apologize
Its not my business to tell them what how or when to do
I must for my own when the extent I realize.

So, mere words as an Irishman is all I can say
For a history hidden, a little known shame
All the worse, for we once were what we reduced other men to
When we first to those shores as slaves we too came.


It is contested today were the Irish indentured labourers or slaves, and little known is our part in the slave trade. Some of the McCarthy Reagh who sided with Cromwell though Catholic in their long running dispute with O’Neill, on the Restoration fled the country and settled in Maryland where they were involved. The Irish families such as the Riordans of Nantes in France were notorius for a clause after the French Revolution which stated though all men were free slavery was permitted. And of late, I have found a Longford involvement in St. Croix of which even I was not aware, and am currently researching, which inspired the verse Bitter Sugar. It would be good for a national apology, even though it was only a section of society involved, for our nations part in the international slave trade.


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