-butnow-dead culture. Both had different views on the merits and costs of
such a project, with Binchy siding with O’Faoláin.
A modern Irishculture, Tierney argued, could be built on the old
Gaelic culture but a viable political system could not. The nationstate, he explained, was a nineteenth-century invention that ‘coincided with the decay and gradual disappearance of the native ways
of thought, life, and expression’. Tierney drew a parallel between the
then-disjuncture between Irishculture and politics and what occurred
when the Normans became Gaelicised, when cultural
The return of the repressed in Roddy Doyle’s Paula Spencer
Jennifer M. Jeffers
of her own culpability: ‘He hit me, he hit his children, he hit other
people, he killed a woman – I kept blaming myself. For provoking him’
(p. 170). One aspect that is certain, Charlo’s behaviour is sanctioned
by the authorities and by Irishculture. When visiting a doctor about
her injuries, Paula is asked if she had been drinking: ‘Have you had a
drink Mrs Spencer?’ And friends and family members ask her what she
said to him to provoke him: ‘Did you say something to him Paula?’
and ultimately: ‘Why did you marry him then, Paula?’ (p. 171). Judged
picture, as a social scientist might try to do, or to
deliberately construct a particular image, as a journalist or commentator
may do. Rather, he saw himself as an artist who painted with words and,
as he said, his fingerprints are all over his work.1 All the pictures he paints
of Irishculture and society are personal but, at the same time, he insisted
that there was a gap between his own personal life experiences and the
characters and events that he described. While his own life experiences
were a source for much of his writing, McGahern made a strong distinction
literary figures in as high regard as Ireland does.
In the wake of independence, however, the Republic of Ireland rejected the
notion of multiple Irelands and focused on a Gaelic Catholic monolith as the
epicentre of Irishculture. In response, a wave of Irish writers left in protest
of State censorship and oppression. Today, the distinctions between the State
and the artist are not so dichotomised: while the Irish State still rigidly defines
The new Irish multicultural fiction
Irishness, artists often unwittingly reinforce the message of Ireland’s resistance
The poetry of Sinéad Morrissey, Leontia Flynn, Mary O’Malley, and Michael Hayes
‘There are many cultural guardians who see the mixing of the global with the
local as a form of foreign contamination that will eventually destroy traditional
Irishculture’ (Inglis, 2008: 63). In the end, Morrissey’s speaker succeeds in subverting the aforementioned views, by mocking and challenging them with her
own ‘foreignising’, world-traveller’s attitude.5
As in Morrissey’s ‘Tourism’, the female voice in Mary O’Malley’s poem
‘Dublinia’ belongs to a worldly-wise migrant ‘whose capitals were Lisbon and
New York’ (O’Malley, 2006: 67). This poem similarly
established argument that ‘women only exist as a function of
their maternity in the dominant ideology of Southern Ireland’, with the mother
positioned in Irishculture as ‘an all-powerful, dehumanized figure’ (Meaney,
1994: 230–1). Siobhan Kilfeather, in ‘Irish Feminism’, traces the modern history
of the valorisation of motherhood above all other possible roles for women back
Maureen T. Reddy
to the early twentieth century, when ‘leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland
repeatedly entwined discourses of racial purity, national pride and patriarchal
students who were moderate to heavy
drinkers, Sinéad Ní Chaoláin found a consistent theme of feeling the need to drink
in order to perform socially, epitomised in the following: ‘I felt . . . I couldn’t go out
if I wasn’t tanked up, like we were supposed to have the craic’. Phrases linking
Irishness to drink recurred – ‘we’re Irish, we drink’. Open-ended responses in a
survey of 312 students provided an overall sense not only of permission but of
pressure in Irishculture to drink. Thus ‘the Irish as drinkers’ operates as a perception by others, as an identity or
practices which continued to be recognised as central to social life.
Ireland’s geographical and geopolitical position, its habitats and agricultural habits,
the voices of its languages etc. all contributed to continuity. My point is to
question, as Leerssen has done, the validity of the conception that Irishculture is
somehow bifurcated, with one part constantly assimilating and accommodating
itself first to the Empire and later to a broader globalised culture, and another part
which never changes, serving as a repository of ancient essence. It is helpful to
boardrooms. It was about the body, not the body politic.
Masturbation was a much more serious sin than tax evasion. In a mindset
where homosexuality was a much worse sin than cooking the books, it was
okay to be bent as long as you were straight. (O’Toole 2009, p. 183)
As Irishculture became fixated on the pursuit of material wealth at
all costs, there was a move away from the religious ‘habitus’ that had
held sway for a number of centuries. In the words of the sociologist Tom
Inglis, Ireland went from a culture of self-denial to one of self-indulgence
(Inglis 2006, pp
and Politics (Dublin, 1991); Maryann Valiulis, ‘Power, Gender and Identity in
the Irish Free State’, in Joan Hoff and Moureen Coulter (eds), Irish Women’s
Voices: Past and Present (Bloomington, 1995), pp. 117–136.
2 Ryan, Gender, Identity, p. 42.
4 Ibid., p. 49.
5 Brozyna, Labour, Love and Prayer, p. 27.
6 Jan Jindy Pettman, ‘Boundary Politics: Women, Nationalism and Danger’,
in Mary Maynard and June Purvis (eds), New Frontiers in Women’s Studies:
Knowledge, Identity and Nationalism (London, 1996), p. 195.
7 Mahood, The Magdalenes, p. 165.