A former British Secretary of Defense claims that ignorance of Ireland in Britain is "rather shocking."
Michael Portillo, who served as Defense Secretary in John Major's Conservative Government in the mid-1990s, is presenting a two-part documentary about the Irish War of Independence that tells the story of the war from the British point of view.
The first part of the documentary, named Hawks & Doves: The Crown and Ireland’s War of Independence, is set to hit Irish screens on Wednesday, June 17 on RTÉ One. The documentary explores how British politicians and the British public reacted to events in Ireland during its struggle for independence.
The documentary examines how key British political figures of the early 1900s were less interested in events taking place in Ireland than they were in furthering their own political careers.
Speaking to the Irish Times ahead of the documentary's release, Portillo said that there is a huge difference in how Irish people and British people view history, with only a small number of British people showing an interest in events in Ireland a century ago.
The majority of British people, Portillo said, are far more interested in the Second World War than they are in the Irish War of Independence.
"There is a huge difference between how the Irish regard their history and how the British are engaged by their history. The British are really engaged by only one thing - the Second World War," he told the Irish Times.
The former Defense Secretary also said that British people have always tended to view the Irish in an "ignorant, offhand way," and he said that British Government policies in Ireland were always shaped by someone with a unionist point of view.
Portillo will be pouring over documents created by the British Administration in Ireland in the documentary to try and understand the psyche behind decisions during the war.
He said that David Lloyd George, the Conservative Prime Minister during the Irish War of Independence, viewed Ireland as an "awful distraction."
He said that British reprisals that followed IRA violence, like the burning of Cork in 1920, partially influenced the outcome of the war.
He said that atrocities committed by the Black and Tans in Ireland turned public opinion in Britain and said that the Conservative Government came under mounting pressure from the Labour Party, The Church of England, and the United States.
Hawks and Doves also looks at the fatal British mistake to request that the IRA disarm before entering peace negotiations in 1920.
Archbishop Patrick Clune, a British intermediary, had put out peace feelers to the IRA in 1920 prior to the bloodiest period of the war, only for the British Government to reject any notion of negotiations until the IRA agreed to disarm. Thus followed the bloodiest six-month period of the War of Independence.
Portillo's experience of Ireland could also be summed up by hawks and doves.
He was first elected to British Parliament after his predecessor Anthony Berry was killed by an IRA bomb 1984 but later played a role in the early stages of the peace process during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The former Conservative MP supported Prime Minister John Major's efforts to open a dialogue with Sinn Féin and the IRA during the 1990s.
Portillo has previously made a documentary about the Easter Rising and said that he plans to make a third documentary about the Irish Civil War to complete the trilogy of Irish revolutionary documentaries.
You can watch "Hawks and Doves" from 9:35 p.m. BST on RTÉ One on Wednesday or on RTE Player.