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 Into The Mainstream

Into The Mainstream

George O’Brien
After the Flood: Irish America 1945-1960, James Silas Rogers and Matthew J O’Brien (eds), Irish Academic Press. 223 pp, £45, ISBN: 978-01716529873 Paris has its Avenue du Président Kennedy, Antwerp its Kennedytunnel. There’s an Avenue Kennedy in Istanbul. The Piazzale John F. Kennedy in Rome is tucked away in the city’s EUR area, an ambitious show project initiated by Mussolini – not all that appropriate perhaps, but still. And of course there’s Berlin’s John-F.-Kennedy-Platz. The Hague’s President Kennedylaan doesn’t sound like anything to write home about in Joseph O’Neill’s Neverland – “a broad monotonous thoroughfare where the buildings of the Dutch secret service were said to be located” – but here’s another capital city where the name of the most famous Irish-American is given a certain civic place. This has not happened in Dublin. With all due respect to the residents living in the various Kennedy-named streets out by Fox and Geese, no street downtown has had its name changed to commemorate Kennedy. The correspondence lately in The Irish Times about whether or not to rename Victoria Quay suggests that it may be premature to expect JFK to be given something of his public due. The country at large, of course, has honoured the Kennedy name in all sorts of ways. All the same, its absence from Dublin’s cityscape does rather stick out, and while it would be stretching a point to take the omission as a sign of the uncertain relations between Ireland and Irish-America, it’s also tempting to think of it as an unconscious expression of that uncertainty. For if, as Winston Churchill had it, England and America are two countries separated by a common language, one conclusion suggested by the essays in James Rogers and Matthew O’Brien’s After the Flood is that Ireland and Irish-America are two communities separated by a common heritage. The book’s main editorial thrust is to offer a corrective to the notion of “ethnic fade”. According to that well-attested notion, post-World War II America saw the major European ethnic groups – Irish, Italians, Jews: peoples of the flood, as the book’s title would have them ‑ shed their ethnic colouration with the help of educational opportunities made available through the GI Bill (which financed the education of ex-servicemen), the job security offered by corporate America (whereby scrivening became the new navvying), the growth of the suburbs (with the single-family home becoming the essential embodiment of the American dream) and the increasing ability…

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