contemporary English verse to produce an authentic piece
of Gaelic literature rooted in the society he came from:
His language – that is its principal glory – is also a complete break with
literary Irish. It is the spoken Irish of Clare … What Merriman aimed at
was something that had never been guessed at in GaelicIreland; a perfectly
proportioned work of art on a contemporary subject, with every detail
subordinated to the central theme.33
Yet Merriman, ‘the intellectual Protestant’ and schoolteacher-farmer
who somehow ‘knew as much about Lawrence and Gide as he knew of
perspectives, subordinated a pre-Enlightenment GaelicIreland to an imported
modernity. In its crudest form the conflict was one between isolationists
who sought to protect Ireland’s authentic culture, however understood,
from outside contamination and their intellectual opponents. The politics of cultural nationalism since the death of O’Connell had presented
the Gaelic revival as a cultural restoration. But Tierney on one side and
O’Faoláin on the other acknowledged that what had been attempted
was a ‘fake’ restoration, a reconstruction based on an idealised
Pádraic Pearse, Collected Works of Pádraic H. Pearse: Political Writings and
Speeches (Dublin, 1916), 263.
Tom Garvin, Nationalist Revolutionaries in Ireland: 1858–1928 (New York, 1987),
Darrell Figgis, The Gaelic State in the Past and Future (Dublin, 1917), 17.
Themes and influences
a motif which ran through Irish separatist thought, from Theobald Wolfe Tone
through to the Irish state-builders. The fact that they could locate it in the Gaelic
state was an added advantage.
Another facet of life in GaelicIreland which appealed to the
introduction of limited self-government at the provincial level, provided by the 1919 Government of India Act, would have the effect of loosening the imperial grip in that country. 1 The forces of disintegration within the Empire were also thought to be at work in Ireland. Events there since 1916 had seen the eclipse of Irish constitutionalism and the resurgence of ‘physical force’ republicanism and an inclusive, self-consciously Gaelic, Irish nationalist movement embodied in Sinn Fein. 2 Sinn Fein’s electoral advances during the 1918 General Election would spread panic
substantiation of the declaration contained
in Article 2.
The name of the State and the Irish language
One of the ways in which it was attempted to prove to the people that this was
a fresh start with a new trustworthy Constitution was to entrench the idea of a
GaelicIreland into the Constitution. The people needed to feel that this was their
State and their Constitution, and the introduction of Irish terminology helped to
reinforce this.51 Furthermore, it was a signal to the rest of the world; our ancient
language proved that we had always been a separate ancient nation.