Irish identity change (1)

Well QEII leaves today. You wouldn’t have known she was here except from the TV and bumping into clusters of Guards at every street corner, so removed was she from public view behind a ring of steel. A small minority opposed her visit, some warmly welcomed it and most weren’t too bothered either way.

There was much talk of ‘Irish self-confidence’ in finally inviting the British head of state over the Irish sea, but ironically that confidence didn’t seem to extend to trusting the Irish people actually to get within half a mile of the Queen.

But anyway … it was ‘historic’ in being the first visit by a British monarch to Ireland as an independent nation-state.

The Queen’s visit prompted me to muse a bit on the changing face of contemporary Irish identity, so here goes.

And what follows is, as ever, up for debate and discussion if you’d like to join in …!

The threefold structure of ‘Classic Irish Nationalism’

What I call Classic Irish nationalism provided the cohesive power to sustain an improbable, and ultimately successful, mission to build a new nation, against all the odds, with its own unique identity, different to Britain.

A national myth is vital to create and sustain a strong national identity. An effective myth will tell of the unfolding story of the nation in compelling and necessarily simple terms,

there must be no loose ends, no doubts or conflicting versions, which can blur and erode … Divergent readings of ‘history’ can only weaken and stifle a sense of identity which external events have succeeded in ‘awakening’; a unified history and a single account can ‘make sense’ of and ‘direct’ that aroused consciousness. (A. D. Smith)

I’d like to propose that the ‘simple’ mythical story of an ‘awakened’ Irish national consciousness had three main strands:

          It sacralised its cause through a mutually beneficial alliance with God

          The boundaries of its rightful homeland were asserted by the construction of a myth of territorial completeness

          and its sense of destiny was created and sustained through a creative historical narrative

In further posts I’ll unpick these strands and then discuss their contemporary relevance and significance. I’ll argue that each strand has been so profoundly weakened that little now holds ‘Classic Irish Nationalism’ together.

And along the way, it will be interesting to discuss what implications such changes have for followers of Jesus in contemporary Ireland …

Comments, as ever, welcome.                                    

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