Sean Connolly

Irish historian; senior lecturer, University of Ulster; Professor of Irish History, QUB, 1997.

S. J. Connolly, ‘Cultural Identity and Tradition’, in Brian Graham, ed., In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography of Ireland (Routledge 1997): […] The place of Jacobitism in all of this provides a particularly vivid example of the way in which the apparent continuities of Irish political history can conceal what are in fact striking changes in content and definition. Loyalty to the exiled House of Stuart, and the repudiation it necessarily involved of the ruling Hanoverian dynasty is all too easily assimilated to the image of a long-standing tradition of Irish (and Catholic) resistance to ‘English’ rule. And indeed it may well be that Irish Jacobitism, like its Scottish counter-part, was among other things a vehicle for a strongly felt resentment at political subordination to those who were perceived as foreigners. But the fact remains that Jacobitism, concerned to set a Scottish dynasty on the united thrones of Great Britain and Ireland, was by definition a British political ideology like the earlier service of Irish Catholics in the armies of James II, it derived its whole rationale from an assumption that the three kingdoms of the British Isles would remain under one sovereign. More important still, Jacobitism was inherently conservative. Its political theory rejected Whig notions of a contract between rulers and ruled in favour of the claims of heredity and divine right; in its specifically Irish manifestation, it looked back to the aristocratic and fiercely anti-egalitarian world of the pre-plantation Gaelic past. In so far as it contributed to the sort of disaffection represented by the Defenders, this required a radical redefinition in which a dynastic and aristocratic ideology rooted in the Europe of the ancien régime was recast in terms of the egalitarian republicanism of the late eighteenth-century Atlantic revolutions. Resentment of past wrongs shifted from the overthrow of the Gaelic aristocracy to an imagined dispossession of the Irish people as a whole; deliverance came to mean, not the return of a Stuart monarchs but the establishment of an Irish republic. The reappearance of expectations of French military assistance masked the transition from the Catholic absolutism of Louis XIV and his successors to the revolutionary republic. In all these respects, the tunes being played by late eighteenth-century opponents of the established order were superficially familiar; but the words being sung to them were wholly new.’ (p.52.) [See under Library/Criticism/GrahamB1; also under Thomas Davis, Geoffrey Keating, Charles Stewart Parnell, et al.]

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