This week, I explored St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square. As I entered the virtual tour, I appreciated the quaint, lush quality the two spaces embodied, but did not think much else of it. I imagined myself taking a stroll through the park, appreciating the smooth pavement; perhaps the weather was perfectly cool that day. The two Dublin parks, upon first sight, are unalarming, yet peaceful and urban in their charm.
I have not been to these exact parks, but I have visited Dublin twice. My father has Irish roots, and visiting Ireland certainly sparked some type of vigor within him. Despite his enthusiasm and absorbing Dublin’s atmosphere through my own perspective, I was completely unaware of Irish nationalism’s long winded history and how it is interwoven into the city of Dublin itself.
One aspect of this week’s chapter of Dublin: A Cultural History that stood out to me in particular is the political significance of the United Irishmen. Kilfeather explains the efforts by this group, especially Dublin leader Theobald Wolfe Tone, to establish an independent Irish republic (Kilfeather 58). Perhaps even more noteworthy is the 1798 rebellion, which ended with the removal of Irish parliament under the Act of Dublin. Today, the lively spirit that permeates Dublin would not allude to such a tumultuous history: one that was marked by a vigorous fight for autonomy under British rule. Had I previously possessed a more nuanced understanding of Ireland’s revolutionary history, perhaps I would have held a greater appreciation for the city of Dublin as it stands today.
However, despite the absence of this information, I was definitely cognizant of the Irish spirit during my time there. I remember seeing many gift shops boasting solely green merchandise, and in general, the city of Dublin felt very stereotypically “Irish”. One moment in particular that stands out is when my family and I walked past a pub, when one of its employees dressed as a leprechaun approached us with a sample menu to take. Given this heavily “Irish” impression I may have incorrectly departed from the city with, I was surprised upon reading Duffy et. al’s “The Necessity for de-Anglicizing Ireland.”
In contrast to the front of Irish sentimentality that presents itself in Ireland, Duffy et. al highlight the “anomalous position” that the country currently finds itself in: despite openly despising the English, they neglect to make efforts towards establishing a true Irish nationality and instead continue to Anglicize many cultural facets of their society (i.e. transforming Gaelic names into West-Briton versions) (1). This trend would seem to stand in complete opposition to the rich literary, musical, and philological Celtic tradition that once distinguished Ireland as a nation. Experiencing contemporary Dublin in both real time and the virtual tours of Dublin parks as presented above would not overtly reveal an “un-literary” and “un-studious” conception of Ireland. Hopefully Ireland makes progress in de-Anglicisation and regains its rich Celtic tradition as it once stood before succumbing to British influences.