In a strange twist of fate, the opening salvos of the guns of August 1914 in France came just in time to prevent bloodshed between Irish Nationalists, who wanted to separate from Britain, and Irish Unionists, who did not. The last self-governing Irish Parliament in Dublin had voted itself out of existence and into union with Britain in 1801. Supporters of some form of renewed Irish self-rule campaigned from early in the nineteenth century to reverse the process; some by political means, some by violent actions. Neither approach had had much success.
Just a few hundred yards from the Pantheon in Paris, tourists who wander slightly astray will happen upon a narrow street where the Irish flag flies. This is the rue des Irlandais and the building over which the green, white and orange tricolour flies is the Centre Culturel Irlandais – the Irish Cultural Centre in the heart of the French capital’s Left Bank. The Irish presence in the area goes back well over three centuries.