Brian J. Graham, ed., In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography of Ireland (London: Routledge 1997)

CONTENTS: Preface; Pt. I, A Multifaceted Ireland’: Graham, ‘Ireland and Irishness: Place, culture and identity’; William J. Smyth, ‘A Plurality of Ireland: Regions, Secieties and Mentalities’, 19-42; S. J. Connolly, ‘Culture, Identity and Tradition: Changing Definitions of Irishness’; Patrick J. Duffy, ‘Writing Ireland: ‘Literature and art in the representation of Irsh place’, pp.64-81. Pt. II: Peter Shirlow, ‘Class Materialism, and the Fracturing of Traditional Alignments’, pp.87-107; Catherine Nash, ‘Embodied Irishness: Gender, Sexuality and Irish Identities’, 108-27; Michael A. Poole, In Search of ethnicity in Ireland’, 128-147. Pt. III, Territory, Nationalism and the Contestation of Identity: Neville Douglas, ‘Political Structures, Social Interaction and Identity Change in Northern Ireland’, 151-73; Nuala C. Johnson, ‘Making Space: Gaeltacht Policy and the Politics of Identity’, 174-91; Brian Graham, ‘The Imagining of Place: Representation and Identity in Contemporary Ireland’, 192-212. Opt. IV, Place, Identity and Politics: James Anderson, Territorial Sovereignty and Political Identity: National Problems, Transnational Solutions?’, 215-36. Index. [Introductions to each section.]

Introduction
[…] Contemporary interpretations of Ireland - recognising the sterility of sectarian iconography - are far more likely to be inclusive and open-ended, stressing the diversity of Irish place and society and the fluidity of Irish identity. This book explores such variety, seeking to establish representations of place which embrace the hybrid nature of Irishness and pointing to communalities of identity which might admit to pluralistic readings of Irish society. However, it is recognised that no matter how dramatically representations of culture and place are being renegotiated, some social groups, in the short term at least, are likely to continue in their refusal to accept any intimations of Irish identity, albeit without any clear understanding of the shifting ground of their claimed British identity. The book argues that any resolution to violence depends ultimately upon a cultural and political reinvention of Ireland that can include Ulster unionists who can no longer define themselves in simple sectarian terms, largely through antipathetic representations of a nationalist republicanism that is increasingly no more than an historical stereotype. Equally, the renegotiation of identity in Ireland has immense implications for many northern nationalists, themselves largely self-defined by traditional representations of Irishness. (xii)

Brian Graham, ‘Ireland and Irishness: Place, culture and identity.’
Nationality does not fix class; class does not define gender; gender does not assign ethnicity. Furthermore, the complexity of the social location occupied by a single individual will change through time and vary from circumstance to circumstance. Thus an individual may at one moment be identified as being a Catholic, at another as a woman, elsewhere as middle class, sometimes as Irish on occasion British and perhaps even European. (2)

negotiated representations of culture have been at the centre of successive waves of social change in Ireland, not simply reflecting but actively helping to create and transform social experience. (2)

Finally, symbolic geographies are also defined by other dimensions of personal and group identity, reflecting the contestation of societies along axes that include class, gender and ethnicity. (3).

The creation of the symbolic universe of traditional Irish-Ireland, and its ultimate transformation into a construction of Irishness that was defined by Gaelicism and Catholicism, was a “supreme imaginative achievement” that began to dissolve only in the 1960s (Lee, 1989, p.653). By the, it bore no more than a “tenuous relation to reality” in the South, while it had never accommodated the Protestant, industrialised [7] North. (6-7)

Ireland became divided less by the acutal border than by the juxtaposition of an increadingly confident Irish identity and a confused and heavily qualified sense of britishness. It was the former tha claimed the moral high ground of legitimacy. (8)

Graham quotes Luke Gibbons: ‘there is no possibility of restoring a pristine, pre-colonial identity: the lack of historical closure [enduring partition] …. is bound up with a similar incompleteness in the culture itself, so that instead of being based on narrow ideals of racial purity and exclusivism, [Irish] identity is open-ended and heterogeneous. But the important point in all of this is that the retention of the residues of conquest does not necessarily mean subscribing to the values which originally governed them. (Gibbons 1996: 179). Graham comments, ‘While the colonial model is an obvious and superficially attractive one, it too offers an unduly stereotypical rendition of the complex negotiations of identity and social interactions that characterise Ireland’s past (see, for example, Connolly 1992).

Conflict in Ireland often seems so deeply entrenched as to be beyond solution. In part, this reflects the immensely powerful trope of nationalist Catholic identity which gave unionists nowhere to go. In turn, they have responded only witha conditional ambiguous and ill-justified notion of Britishness which can never accommodate the nationalist population of Ulster. The deconstructions of the monolithic representations of nationalist Irishness and unionist Britishness presented in this book bpoint to the renegotiation of Ireland that is a necessary precursor of political change. (13).

William J. Smyth, A Plurality of Irelands
No other European country has such a fragmented peripheal arrangement of mountain land all along its borders. This has enriched Ierland with a diversified scenic heritage, but the complicated distribution of massifs presented severe difficulties to would-be [20] conquerors. Likewise, richer lowland regions are scatttered and fragmented all oevr the island, faciliating the evolution of strong regional subcultures. In turn the hills and boglands came to serve as territorial bases for local lordships and, with later phases of conquest and colonisation, often became regions of retreat and refuge. The ensuing regional dialectic between peoples of the plains and those of the hills or bogs is a recurring island-wide feature of Irish society, revealing intricate and often faulted cultural strata, as complex as the geological base itself. … overlapping layers of people and places through complicated interactions of the forces of continuity, assimilation and change. (21).

… we need to recognise that the application of the ethnic term “Anglo-Norman” to all subsequent developments in medievial Ireland obscures as much as it illuminates. Misleadingly, it implies the overwhelming importance of the spread of innovative settlers, instead of recognising the deep interaction between broader, more diverse, currents of European life and the equally varied habitats and societies within Ireland. (26)

For the Anglo-Normans, Ireland’s complicated distribution of mountains, hills and boglands brought many enduring difficulties. the complicated border zone of interlaced woods, bogs and lakes that comprised the extensive drumlin and wet clay lands, running across the north midlands and south Ulster, formed one powerful barrier. The great midland bogs and woods also acted as refuges for a resilient Gaelic Irish culture. For the Anglo-Normans did not like wetlands, nor did their horses. … The rich, all-purpose grassland soils were characteristically fragmented and located in different parts of the lowlands, accentuating the importance of these various nuclear zones for regional subcultures. Consequently, one does not fully understand the Norman acheivement in Ireland without recognising how regionalised and fragmented its subcultures were. (26)

social ambiguity of late medieval Ireland … extensive hybrid cultural zones, largely comprised of the pastoral lands … (28)

This hybrid character was most in evidence in the non-material areas of culture - language, dress, literature and sport. Each province, each county, each diocese and even each parish had its own lines of conflict, accommodation and assimilation between the Gaelic Irish and the Old English. Narrower ethnic and political identity came sharply into play when questions of property, legal status, privilege in church and government positions arose. The issue of ‘ethnic identity’ had more to do, perhaps, with the behaviour and attitudes of the élites than with those of the population generally. The great source of ambivalence among the Old English landowners lay in their feudal and political relationships with the English Crown, upon which their legal titles to land and other privileges were ultimately dependent. Eventually and fatally comprosied by this allegiance, the Old English remained impaled on the cross of a fragmented identity until their material world was shattered, and the basis for their separate identity appropriated, by what T. W. Moody has described as “the most catastrophic and far-reaching changes that took place anywhere in seventeenth-century Europe” - the Cromwellian conquest and settlement. (31)

Lists changes in landowing statistics from 1600 (80% Cath.) to 1703 (14% Cath.) No other European country witnessed such upheavals in the composition of its landowning élites. (32)

‘gentry dislocation’ (33)

Whelan (1990) has documented the existence of a core area of the reconstructed Catholic church in the east and south-east, which powered the establishment of Catholiciism as a central force in Irish life. … expanding its cultural space between, on the one hand, the retreating and introverted Gaelic order and, on the other, an unsympathertic and weakening colonial world.’ (37).

The “big chapel” was therefore an instrument both of decolonisation and of recolonisation. (38)

The fusion of wider political, agrarian and Catholic agendas culminated in the final major agrarian-political assault on landlordism. In the so-called Land War of the late 1870s and early 1880s, the western counties - here tofore more silent, more remote, more passive - adopted a key leadership role. Crucial to this regional shift in mobilisation and politicisation was the great watershed of the Famine. Every aspect of modern Irish life would have been different if that enormous and deeply traumatic transformation in population numbers, social structures, marriage patterns, beliefs, attitudes and languages spoken had not happened. What the Famine meant for the western counties was that the bitter memories of the horrors of those years would not be repeated in the recessionary and difficult years of 1877-79, when the potato crop was again threatened. Equally relevant, the west had been literally opened up to development in the immediate post-Famine decades through the relatively rapid spread of English speech and literacy, and the increased role of towns as centres of their hinterland communities. Thus it was that the small, struggling cattle-farmers, their kin-connected townspeople and some of the returned emigrants of the west, joined forces with Charles Stewart Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party finally to defeat landlordism in Ireland. Rather like the experiences of the Old English in the mid-seventeenth century, the material basis of the Anglo-Irish was stripped away, their culture being marginalised in the making of the new Ireland. To paraphrase Standish O’Grady, Protestant Anglo-Ireland, which had once owned Ireland from the centre to the sea, ended up on the edges, stranded between two cultures (Lyons 1979: 180). However, in its going, it was to help light the ambiguous flame of an artistic and linguistic renaissance which, in turn, was to underpin the revolutionary movement for political independence from c. 1900 to c. 1920.

S. J. Connolly, ‘Culture, Identity and Tradition: Changing Definitions of Irishness’
‘The late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries saw the development of a new sense of Irish Catholic identity … strongly influenced by the militant spirit of the Counter-Reformation, this sought to divert attention from the ethnic and cultural barriers that had for centuries divided the Gaelic Irish and the English of Ireland, emphasising instead the new bond of a shared religious allegiance. The redesignation of pre-Reformation settlers as Old English, an established part of Irish society, helped to smooth over centuries of warfare and mutual hostility. The invention about this time of the pseudo-medieval formula, “more Irish than the Irish themselves”, was part of the same process. So too was the production of what was to become one of the founding texts of Irish historical writing, Geoffrey Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Eireann [sic]. Written in Irish by a priest of Old English descent, this created an elaborate composite of existing origin-legends in order to present the English invasion of the twelfth-century as only the latest in a series of episodes of conquest, settlement, and cultural assimilation.. (p.46.)

The late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries saw the development of a new sense of Irish Catholic identity … strongly influenced by the militant spirit of the Counter-Reformation, this sought to divert attention from the ethnic and cultural barriers that had for centuries divided the Gaelic Irish and the English of Ireland, emphasising instead the new bond of a shared religious allegiance. The redesignation of pre-Reformation settlers as Old English, an established part of Irish society, helped to smooth over centuries of warfare and mutual hostility. The invention about this time of the pseudo-medieval formula, “more Irish than the Irish themselves”, was part of the same process. So too was the production of what was to become one of the founding texts of Irish historical writing, Geoffrey Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Eireann [sic]. Written in Irish by a priest of Old English descent, this created an elaborate composite of existing origin-legends in order to present the English invasion of the twelfth-century as only the latest in a series of episodes of conquest, settlement, and cultural assimilation.. (p.46.)

Bibl., cites B. Cunningham, ‘Seventeenth-century interpretations of the past: the case of Geoffrey Keating’, in Irish Historical Studies 25 (1986), pp.116-28.

Post-Boyne: ‘Old English and Gaelic Irish were now united in irreversible defeat, with none of the apparent possibilities for differential treatment that had lain behind earlier conflicts of interest.’ (48).

The patriotism of the eighteenth-century Irish Protestants was to be outrageously romanticised by later generations. It provided a precedent for nationalist claims, while to summon up the memory of Swift and Grattan was also an invaluable means of undercutting contempoary Protestant unionism. … Irish Protestants, it has been argued, did not embrace Irishness; it was forced on them by a hostile or indifferent British government. Their patriotism was pragmatic and episodic. They made no pretence of defending the right of a nation … their commitment was to a particular community, the Protestant propertied classes, and its distinctive institutions. Despite all of this, it remains the case that it was almost exclusively fro the Protestant middle and upper classes of the eighteenth century that a claim to Irish political autonomy was first systematically articulated. (49)

The rejecton of Jacobitism by the Catholic propertied classes of the mid-eighteenth cnetury was not necessarily matched lower down the social scale. Among the common people notions of subjection to a usurping and oppressive regime, along with hopes of deliverance through the restoration of the rightful dynasty, were perpetuated in poems and ballads. (51).

… it may well be that Irish Jacobitism, like its Scottish counterpart, was among tother things a cehicle for astrongly 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 \irelnad, was by definition a British political ideology. … deriv[ing] its whole rationale from an assumption that the three kingdoms fo the British Isles would remain under one sovereign. … Jacobitism was inherently conservative. (52)

1798 … was subsequently to be assimilated into nationalist political memory as one of a series of revolts against “English rule”. In fact it was above all an Irish civil war. Its aim was the overthrow, not just of the anglo-Irish connection, but of the Protestant governing class whose power was channelled through the very same “independent Irish parliament” that was to be the model for subsequent nationalism movements from O’Connell to Redmond. The insurgent forces included both Catholics and Protestatns, the latter mainly - but by no means exclusively - drawn fromm the Presbyterians of thenorth-east. The army which defeated them consisted of English regular soldiers and a much larger body of locally raised forces, including the predominantly Catholic militia. (53).

Any realistic analysis of nineteenth-century Irish political alife must also take account of the extent to which this was dominated by a system of allegiance and identification derived from the British politics of the day. (56).

The eventual Williamite victory … confirmed the irrlevance of earlier ethnic divisions [within Irish Catholicism]. Old English and Gaelic Irish were now united in irreversible defeat, with none of the apparent possibilities for differential treatment that had lain behind earlier conflicts of interest. (48)

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 0 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.

‘[…] Thomas Davis’s attempt to rekindle in his co-religionists an interest in Gaelic culture and an enthusiasm for national rights can be read as an appeal to the Protestant propertied classes to resume the political leadership of a patriotic public opinion that they had allowed to slip by default into the hands of the Catholic middle classes and the Catholic clergy. With Ferguson and O’Grady, the message is stated more openly: the Gaelic Ireland of their imagination, a stable, hierarchical society in which lord and peasant were bound together by shared cultural values and ties of mutual respect, was an ideal to be set against the contemporary reality of an unruly democratic politics and an upstart Catholic bourgeoisie. This appropriation of the Gaelic past as an image of elite hegemony, still evident in the political poetry of W. B. Yeats, is a further illustration of the way in which “tradition” was repeatedly reshaped in the service of current political needs.’ (p.56.)

‘Before this development [the Gaelic League] cultural revivalism had relied for much of its support on two specific groups. One, continuing a tradition going back to Ferguson and the Young Irelanders, consisted of middle- and upper-class Protestants anxious to reaffirm their place in Irish society at a time when they had been politically marginalised, and when an increasingly strident political rhetoric identified Irishness exclusively with Catholicism. The other comprised urban, white-colour workers, often themselves risen from traditional rural backgrounds through the newly developed system of mass education and public examinations these had been the main beneficiaries of the rapid growth in preceding decades of Anglicised and commercialised Ireland, but they also comprised the group most affected by the accompanying sense of alienation and loss of cultural roots.’ (p.59).

CONCLUSION: A survey of political identifications and allegiances across the centuries before partition offers little support for the notion of two coherent historical and cultural traditions locked in long-standing conflict. [U]nionists, uncertainly balanced between self-assertion and dependence on Britain and seeking to defend their right to self-determination against the opponents who had appropriated the vocabulary of national to themselves, have failed to march the coherent fusion of real [60] and imagined elements from cultural and political history achieved by late nineteenth-century Irish nationalism. Instead they remain condemned to be clear on what they oppose, far less so on what they stand for. Yet the nationalist ‘tradition’ too remains, for all its superior coherence, the outcome of a specific process of invention and reinterpretation. In the space of a few decades, historical memory was reshaped to obscure older allegiances and identifications, redefine sectional grievances as national wrongs, and recast complex past conflicts in the mould of the present. New definitions were created of what constituted Irishness, and imaginative links were established with a sanitised and idealised version of a way of life whose disappearance had been part of the very process of modernisation that had made nationalism itself possible.

To say this is not to suggest that the ‘two traditions’ model of the problems of contemporary Northern Ireland lacks value. That a tradition is wholly or in part invented does not preclude it from becoming a force in its own right. Indeed, it could be argued that such invention is an essential part of the creation of any workable political community. Yet neither should we accept without question the permanent validity and exclusive claims of definitions of identity laid down in specific circumstances in the late nineteenth century. Nor should we surrender to the facile cliché that the modern Irish are prisoners of an inflexible past. What is demonstrated by the kaleidoscope of identities and allegiances examined here is rather the flexibility of tradition, and the ability of successive generations to reshape the past so as to serve the needs of the present. (61).

the spectacular success of nationalism in supplanting other alignments, across little more than a decade, owed much to Parnell’s political skills. (q.p.)

Patrick J. Duffy, ‘Writing Ireland: ‘Literature and art in the representation of Irsh place’, pp.64-81
An account of the situation of the writer’s in regard to the divisions in Irish geo-political and sectarian consciousness.

Catherine Nash, ‘Embodied Irishness: Gender, Sexuality and Irish Identities’, 108-27
The cult of the Virgin Mary, which flourished from the late nineteenth century - asserted in part in opposition to the Protestantism of the colonial rulers - strengthened the construction of asexual, maternal and domestic feminitiy upon which the pyermasculinity and socio-economic and sexual regulation depended. (115).

Michael A. Poole, In Search of ethnicity in Ireland’, 128-147
‘When we speak of an ethnic group, we mean a socialy distinct community of people who share a common history and culture and often language and religion as well.’ (134)

Neville Douglas, ‘Political Structures, Social Interaction and Identity Change in Northern Ireland’, 151-73
If all the cleavages occur along the same lines, if the same people hold the same positions in one dispute after another, then the severity of conflicts is likely to increase. The [person] on the other side is not just an opponent; [he or she] soon becomes an enemy. (Dahl, Pluralist Democracy in the United States, 1976, p.313; here 155.)

See also Brian Graham, ‘The Past in the Present: The Shaping of Identity in Loyalist Ulster’, in Terrorism and Political Violence, 16, 3 (Autumn 2004) pp.483 - 500.

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