IRISH NATIONALISM: A History of Its Roots and Ideology by Sean Cronin

IRISH NATIONALISM: A History of Its Roots and Ideology

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A scholarly, readable study of Irish nationalism from the late 18th century to the present, by the Washington correspondent of the Irish Times. Cronin identifies and traces the interweaving of five main threads in the various nationalist movements of the past two centuries: traditionalism, constitutional nationalism, physical-force republicanism, radical republicanism, and cultural nationalism. The ""nationalism"" of Wolfe Tone's United Irishmen in the 1790s was rationalist, the product of the Enlightenment and the creation of (largely Protestant) business and professional men ""who equated economic self-interest with the national interest."" They were anti-clerical in a way no successor republican organization could afford to be. ""Irish nationalism created a mass movement before it developed an ideology,"" Cronin notes (one of many perceptive throw-away comments), and the Young Ireland movement of the 1840s provided the ideology: a union of romantic cultural nationalism and secular-state politics. Cronin's discussion of Thomas Davis' significance in the Young Ireland movement and the contrasting physical-force nationalism of John Mitchel (the ""simple creed of hatred"") is especially good. Though the 1848 rebellion was a near fiasco, the physicalforce tradition lived on in the Fenian movement, which ""rais[ed] the national consciousness of the peasantry"" and shifted the nationalists' focus of foreign support from France to America. Cronin sees the Easter Rising as an event created by ideology; he focuses principally on Pearse's achievement in creating a synthesis of revolution and Catholicism, and Connolly's decisive influence on modern Irish radical nationalist ideology. The 1922-1968 period gets shorter shrift from Cronin, but he provides a clear analysis of the complex nationalist movements in the North in the past decade. For Cronin, the ""logical solution"" to the Irish problem is a secular republic (back to Wolfe Tone again), but he is sharp enough to concede that ""no economic interest now sees a united independent Ireland as relevant to its own prosperity."" Not an introductory survey by any means; but, for anyone with a background in Irish history, a solid, useful work.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Continuum