Just how much Ireland has changed in recent years is the theme of the autumn issue of the Irish Jesuit journal Studies, just published. A variety of articles on “Irish Identity and Irish Literature” explores this theme.
According to Fr Fergus O Donoghue SJ, editor of Studies, stress and mobility have changed Irish self-awareness and therefore our sense of identity. We can eat exotic foods, drink too much, buy illegal drugs and have messy personal lives, just like any other nation. “As we become more like anywhere else, we may need some form of neo- nationalism, a different kind of nationalism which unlike the past must develop in an atmosphere of real freedom of expression.”
Tom Garvin, professor of Politics in UCD, points to the current vacuum left by the “weakening of the Church” which makes the Irish pretty vulnerable to the point of “believing in nearly anything”. The old idea of nationalism based on ‘faith and fatherland’ is in need of a new synthesis.
Tina McVeigh, in a controversial reinterpretation of the Dublin riots on 25th February 2006 around a march organised by Northern Unionists, points to poverty not politics as the reason for the violence. She argues that inadequate family supports leads to education drop-out, which in turn excludes many young men from the labour market and its lifestyle benefits. Our sense of identity and who we are, is formed not just by our nationality but by the economic circumstances which define us.
Eamon Maher evokes a nostalgic note in mining John McGahern’s novels for a rapidly disappearing rural Ireland. This Ireland involves contact with nature, a strong community sense, and a certain peace and stability. Although McGahern does paint the negatives of this rural society, conservative, overly clerical, immersed in poverty and emigration, Maher points up McGahern’s almost mystical sense of a lost lifestyle that transcended the ordinary.
Other articles include ‘Irish Censorship in Context,’ ‘Hidden Ireland, Silent Irelands,’ ‘Chekov in Ireland’ and ‘Beckett in London.’