Posts Tagged ‘Irish history’

Where did it all go wrong? History’s battle for souls

12 September 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Since this is, after all, a history blog, we should probably start with the evidence. There is enough casual interest in our subject in Ireland to sustain a healthy publishing industry (peruse the catalogues of Irish Academic Press, Four Courts Press, UCD Press, UCC Press, Mercier, Gill and Macmillan et al for evidence), a dedicated monthly magazine (History Ireland), two national radio programmes (Newstalk’s Talking History and RTÉ’s The History Show), and a growing online community of bloggers and history writers. The genealogy industry continues to blossom, drawing in tourists from across the world in search of their Irish roots. Millions of others flock to Newgrange, Trinity College, Dublin Castle and a whole host of historical sites across the country. You can banquet, medieval style, at Bunratty. You can watch re-enacted cavalry training or musket fire at the Battle of the Boyne site near Drogheda. Or, if you’re not the going-out type, you can turn on the television any night of the week and watch a high-quality documentary on some period of Ireland’s recent – and not-so-recent – past (take a bow, TG4).

But still you get the feeling that something’s missing.


‘Applause please’: Innovations in Irish electioneering

23 February 2011

Contributed by Ciara Meehan

Polling day is now almost upon us.  By this stage the leaflets of various parties will have come through our letter boxes, while the lucky (?) few will have been canvassed directly by the candidates themselves.  The usual gimmickry is evident: the election has produced a proliferation of campaign songs; Maman Poulet has collected some of them on her blog.  And although this has not been an internet election, twitter, Facebook and other on-line media have had a noticeable presence.  Ireland, it would seem, is embracing the post-modern or digital age of campaigning.  But the combination of traditional gimmicks with new techniques and technologies to reach a wider audience is nothing new.

In the late 1920s and early thirties, Cumann na nGaedheal took an innovative approach to electioneering.  The Dublin North by-election of March 1929 was an arid political battle that attracted little attention; the parties simply went through the motions.  One event, however, that did inject some life into the campaign occurred on polling day.  A private aeroplane flown by Colonel Fitzmaurice – one of the three-man crew that piloted the first flight from Europe to North American on board the Bremen aeroplane the previous year – flew over the constituency, dropping the leaflets of the Cumann na nGaedheal candidate, Dr Thomas O’Higgins.  Read More

At What Price Independence?

4 July 2010

By Christina Morin

I’ve been trawling the net recently in the hopes of finding a local, Belfast supplier of authentic graham crackers so that I can celebrate the 4th with that quintessential Independence Day dessert – s’mores (pictured left). I haven’t had much luck, but I have turned up some interesting tidbits, including the fact that July plays host to a bevy of independence days. Canada Day, for instance, is on the 1st of July. Argentina celebrates the anniversary of its Declaration of Independence on 9 July, and, famously, France marks the fall of the Bastille on the 14th. Bahamians commemorate the anniversary of full self-rule on 10  July, and Liberia remembers the day on which freed American slaves declared the country’s independence in 1847 on 26 July. The list goes on and on. As I discovered all this, it struck me that other ex-pats from all over the world could be searching for imported delicacies to celebrate their respective independence days in the appropriate gastronomic fashion – what a unifying thought! A host of different nationalities brought together by the internet, the fact that our national independence days share the same month, and our determination to have a little bit of home abroad on such an important occasion no matter what the price. Read more

Fine Gael: a family at peace?

17 February 2010

Contributed by Ciara Meehan

Last week was a bad week for Irish politics.  George Lee – the man who was supposed to change politics – announced that he was quitting after only nine months, while days later Green Party Senator Deirdre de Búrca accused her party of losing its way in government and resigned in protest.  The former was easily the more sensational of the declarations.  Lee’s departure brought to the fore questions about Enda Kenny’s leadership.  However, when the frontbench met Kenny’s position was never seriously in question, as his deputies united in their anger with Lee.  The parliamentary party subsequently gave their endorsement the following day.  And so it would seem that, for the time being at least, Fine Gael is a family at peace.  But, members do not need a long memory to recall the devastating affect that in-fighting and leadership heaves can have on a party.

The state of Fine Gael in the 1990s was colourfully captured by Olivia O’Leary: ‘it is a real sign of a party in freefall when it becomes a serial leader killer’.  But the tendency to blame the leadership meant that many of the fundamental, self-searching questions were never asked.

Garret FitzGerald had energised the party, but on his retirement it was suffering from an identity crisis and had ten seats less than when he took over.  His successor, Alan Dukes, was considered by many members to be aloof and his Tallaght strategy – the offer of support to the Fianna Fáil minority government for responsible economic policies – was questioned by some. Read More

Review: Saving the Future

11 February 2010

Contributed by Kevin Hora

A rising tide of unemployment, unions and employers at loggerheads, and a government on the brink of bankruptcy: for Celtic tiger cubs, coming to terms with the end of the only economic model they have known, it may be scarcely conceivable that the current economic crisis has an earlier, more scarring antecedent. The Irish economy of the 1980s was typified by high taxes, industrial unrest and a lack of belief, even privately among themselves, that politicians could find solutions to transform the economy.

Saving the Future draws on interviews with over 40 prominent political, business, and union leaders who, over two decades, helped shape public policy through wage agreements and broader social commitments.  The authors, respected industrial relations correspondents, bring a strong editorial sense of how to distil this combined wisdom into a deceptively light, but effective narrative.  Eschewing a preponderance of economic and statistical data, they allow the interviewees to progress the story of partnership in a more fluid, balanced fashion.  The path from job losses to full employment, and the development of an economy that was the envy of other EU states, is well charted and is a salutary reminder of how far Ireland travelled in the last two decades. Read More

Review: Conor Kostick – Revolution in Ireland: popular militancy, 1917-1923

11 December 2009

Contributed by Justin Dolan Stover

Conor Kostick, Revolution in Ireland:  popular militancy, 1917-1923 (2nd edition, Cork: Cork University Press, 2009)

Conor Kostick’s revised second edition is a timely release.  The author is up front about his sympathy and identification with the working-class movement in Ireland, and the current adversity that they face.  In his own words, additional research for the book was undertaken ‘with the intensity of enthusiasm that an active socialist brings to a subject of this nature.’

The book confronts traditional historical narratives that the IRA and Dáil Éireann alone forced the British administration toward compromise.  Instead, Kostick elevates the efforts of the Irish working class and its organisers.  For instance, he presents the Belfast general strike of 1919 as a defining moment of the Irish revolution – one which redefined conceptions of nationality and identity, and would contribute to the partition of Ireland.  Kostick explains how strikes of the revolutionary period, not only in Belfast, produced social upheaval and were of much greater concern to the British cabinet than the assembly of Dáil Éireann, or the murder of a few policemen.

Other episodes expose what many would come to label products of the conservative revolution. Read More