Sugar And The Blue Eyed Slave by Documentary On One, RTÉ published on 2013/07/26 09:25:02 +0000 The story of a tiny 'afro-Irish' nation that even stamps your passport with a shamrock - the other ‘Emerald Isle’ in the Caribbean. Montserrat is a small island in the Caribbean - with a population just under 5,000 inhabitants. It is also the only 'nation' outside of Ireland where a public holiday is granted on St Patricks Day. Officially a British overseas territory, the islanders are still acutely aware of Montserrat's Irish roots – which began in the early 17th century. From its initial colonisation, Montserrat became known as a refuge for those escaping religious persecution on other islands, especially Roman Catholics. The Irish were provided with smallholdings for tobacco cultivation, however, when this industry switched to more labour intensive sugar production, slaves were found to be a necessary part of the enterprise. This was the beginning of the era of Irish slave ownership in Montserrat. The truth behind Ireland's involvement in slavery, slave ownership and the horrors of sugar plantations emerges from testimonies of islanders and from the guardians of the island's history. Irishmen facilitated the removal of identity, language and culture from the slaves transported to work on the sugar farms of Montserrat at a time when similar colonial oppression was present in their own island. It is an era that is largely absent from both Irish national history and the Irish psyche.