Ireland And The Slave Trade

Ireland and the slave trade image of a ship with enslaved people

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funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI)

In Ireland we’re more familiar with thinking of ourselves as the victims of history – which we were – than as active participants in colonialism. But it’s an uncomfortable fact that the Irish were also slave owners, slave traders, overseers and agents. We helped build the slave empire on behalf of Britain, France and other countries, and shared in the profits of this horrendous system over the course of several hundred years. 

Talking to historians, academics and writers, producer Bairbre Flood traces the history of Irish involvement in the Atlantic Slave Trade, and examines some of the research in this area.

‘Ireland & The Slave Trade’ also looks at the anti-slavery movement at the time – and especially the visit of Frederick Douglass; the myth of the ‘white Irish slaves’ still doing the rounds on social media; and the growth of racism as a way of legitimising the enslavement of millions of African men, women and children.


Orla Power, author of Irish planters, Atlantic Merchants: The Development of St. Croix, Danish West Indies, 1750-1766, and numerous academic papers and articles on this subject.

Joe O’Shea, journalist and author of Murder, Mutiny, Mayhem:The Account of The Blackest-Hearted Villains From Irish History, O’Brien Press, (2012).

Nini Rodgers, historian, retired lecturer from Queen’s University, Belfast, and author of Ireland, Slavery and Anti-Slavery: 1645-1865, Palgrave Macmillan; 2007.

Kate Hodgson, lecturer in University College Cork in the areas of Francophone postcolonial literature and culture, slavery, abolition and the law, and contemporary French politics and society. Co-editor of Slavery, Memory and Identity: National Representations and Global Legacies, London: Pickering & Chatto, (2012)

Dr Ebun Joseph, lecturer in the first Black Studies Module to be taught in Ireland at University College Dublin, social activist, and co-editor of Challenging Perceptions of Africa in Schools –  Critical Approaches to Global Justice Education, Routledge, 2020.

Lee Jenkins, head of the Dept. of English in UCC, co-editor of Atlantic Crossings in the Wake of Frederick Douglass, Brill, 2017, and author of ‘Beyond the Pale: Frederick Douglass in Cork’, in The Irish Review, 24, 1999.