One national myth that has been lately punctured is that the Irish don’t protest.Back in 2008 the Dundalk troubadour Jinx Lennon could still classify the Irish as a race who would stand up only for a football result.And that also means that the myth of the passive Irish, who do not protest, may also be broken.” Allen’s conclusion has of course been borne out in recent months, as ordinary Irish people have instigated unprecedented revolt against seven years of “austerity” – a Beckettian word co-opted for political capital, as if poverty were an aesthetic choice – and Irish Water.
Is it coincidence that the young entrepreneurs and hip London expats who emerged over the following decade might well have been the first generation of Irish schoolchildren who were not roared at, beaten or told they were worthless on a weekly basis?
Geraldine Moane’s essay reiterates postcolonialism as a condition that manifests itself through low self-esteem, alcohol abuse, dysfunction, doublethink and doublespeak long after the coloniser has gone, but it also indicates that forms of social domination and control – be they colonial (the crown, the church) or postcolonial (the troika, the IMF) – have always required the collusion of a domestic elite.
She goes further out on a limb by proposing myth, storytelling and even indigenous shamanism as possible means of healing the national schism. The GAA as a social phenomenon is covered, but international achievements in rugby and boxing are mentioned only in passing.
In his enormous, two-volume biography of Yeats, the Irish historian RF Foster begins by defending his exhaustive, chronological approach to the poet’s life.
“We do not, alas, live our lives in themes,” he writes, “but day by day.” A wave of autobiographical books from new Irish writers reject the idea that life cannot be experienced thematically, adopting an approach that is at once fragmentary, fluid, personal and expansive, and using that most malleable of forms: the essay. Initially published by the independent Tramp Press in Ireland in 2018, it contains six essays on Pine’s experiences of alcoholism, grief, parental separation, the female body, sexual violence and workplace sexism. Gleeson’s book is a personal history both grounded in the stories of her body, with essays on bones, hair, blood, pregnancy and surgery, and illuminated by interrogations of the art, literature and music that have influenced her.