I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Guns and Chiffon

Guns and Chiffon

Richard English
Irish Nationalist Women, 1900-1918, by Senia Pašeta, Cambridge University Press, 300 pp, £60, ISBN: 978-1107047747 Probably the most fluently articulate interviewee I have ever encountered was the former Provisional IRA bomber Marian Price. I disagreed profoundly with much of the political argument that she set out in interview. But there was no doubting at all the impressive articulation of her activist commitment and analysis. I was reminded of Price when reading Dr Senia Pašeta’s extremely well-researched study of early twentieth century Irish nationalist women. The book draws deeply and very impressively on first-hand sources from 1900-1918 (letters, speeches, newspaper articles, a wide range of archival documentation) and the female players’ zealous belief in changing the world is often matched by a striking felicity of phrasing on their part. The book wonderfully recreates the world of politically active Irish nationalist women during the turbulent years at the start of the last century, and it does so with some real sympathy for the people under scrutiny. Dr Pašeta presents her women as cooperating across their various differences of opinion rather more than some previous accounts have suggested: “Women from all camps within the suffrage-nationalism debate did manage, despite their disagreements, to work well together on many occasions”; “friendships and working relationships could survive between women whose political views did not always correspond”. This excellent work clearly establishes what it meant to be a female nationalist in the early 1900s; and in practice it often involved joining multiple organisations and groups. As Pašeta herself rightly concludes: “This was an exciting time for young activists.” They were not however always (to this reviewer’s eyes) innocent of annoying self-righteousness. In her commitment to buying Irish, the indefatigably impressive Helena Molony “would go into shops, ask for items she knew were made in Ireland but, having ascertained that the ones shown to her were imported, she would declare that she would buy only the Irish-made product and walk out of the shop”. It was claimed that this had a “wonderful effect”; it would be interesting however to have an account of the detailed reactions of some who witnessed it. (Anti-apartheid activists in Oxford in the mid-1980s used a modified version of the tactic, filling supermarket trolleys with South African produce, getting to the front of the check-out queue, letting the cashier process it all ‑ then declaring that they couldn’t buy it since it was South…

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