Digging Deeper Into Irish Nationalism

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.

Merrion Square
Image Source: http://www.360cities.net/image/merrion-square-dublin-sw-path#30.00,0.00,62.1
Saint Stephen’s Green
Image Source: http://www.360cities.net/image/saint-stephens-green-pond#1389.86,-3.74,110.0

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.


  1. Ireland certainly has a complicated political history–one that I don’t think many people learn about outside of Ireland, unless they choose to read about it on their own. It’s also very true that this conflict between cultures and peoples still exists today–and this conflict might be well exemplified by the complicated history between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (though I think you can find traces of complex Irish history anywhere). Though this class is focusing on the literary world of Dublin, I think learning about these historical and political contexts is so essential to our understanding of the complex realities that these writers lived through and wrote about.

  2. Hello Taryn!

    That is awesome you have Irish roots in your family and have already visited Dublin twice. Hopefully taking a virtual tour of these parks you have been able to appreciate the city even more and I am sure you would love to go back and visit Dublin for a third time. I have never visited Dublin and the virtual tours of the city we have taken make me more and more excited to visit some day. While the de-Anglicization of Ireland is important for reconnecting with the country’s traditional roots, I am sure that there are some who hold a milder attitude towards the English and may even embrace a blend of traditional Irish culture and English culture as the two countries have long been a part of each other’s histories.

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