The central contention of the book is that framing Ireland as an instance of colonial conquest allows for a clear understanding of the past, the present and the future on the island.

It is in three main parts. The first is about situating Ireland within wider processes of colonialism and imperialism. It concludes that the choice facing people in Ireland, now as in the past, is between Empire and Republic, between dependence and independence. The second section considers the two states that emerged from Partition in 1921; they were colonial constructs. As such, they remain living symbols of the ‘unfinished revolution’ of independence from Empire. The final section asks: how does Ireland progress? Central to the answer is a radical reworking of the Latin American concept of mestizaje, ‘mixedness’. There are no ‘pure’ colonisers or colonized in Ireland; we are all mestizos and mestizas. The political future is not determined by origins but ultimately by choosing between Empire and Republic.

The Union with Britain, established in 1801, is in crisis and alternatives to partition are being seriously considered for the first time in generations. The conclusion is optimistic: in the words of Pádraig Pearse, president of the Irish Republic declared in 1916, “Anois ar theacht an tSamhraidh – now the summer is coming”.

  • Ireland was colonised. Surprisingly, this is a framing which is avoided by a significant number of Irish historians.
  • The results of colonialism are significant in modern Ireland. Thus, some historians who accept that Ireland was colonised conclude that colonialism is no longer a valid frame within which to analyse the country.
  • The most obvious legacies of colonialism are the partition of the island of Ireland into two states, each of which continues in separate ways to be subservient to their colonial origins.
  • The choice facing people in contemporary Ireland is between Empire and Republic, between colonial dependence and post-colonial independence.
  • The most obvious sign of progress in this regard would be the ending of partition and the reunification of the country. This would be the first step in charting a way forward that finally breaks with colonialism and completes the as-yet unfinished revolution.
  • That point is closer now than it has been in generations as a result not only of popular debates about independence but also because of the clause in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which allows for a referendum on reunification.