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 Out of the Rut

Out of the Rut

John Horgan
Sixties Ireland: Reshaping the Economy, State and Society, 1957-73, by Mary E Daly, Cambridge University Press, 426 pp, £19.99, ISBN: 978-1316509319 If you remember the sixties, someone memorably observed, you weren’t there. Certainly, as Ireland lurched from the full-blown economic crisis of the mid-70s to the mini-crises of the mid-80s and the mid-90s, to the techno-bubble of the early noughties, and finally to the mega-collapse of 2008-16, that decade can sometimes wistfully be seen in retrospect as a slightly psychedelic, all too brief escape from the glum 1950s and the unsettling economic see-saws of later decades. Part of the problem, of course, is that anyone born in or after, say, 1940, will have some strong, if necessarily incomplete and narrowly focused, memories of what the sixties were like. For those of us who were born into the middle class in 1940 itself, as I was, the sixties were the decade in which we grew to maturity, escaped from parental control, got seriously involved with the opposite sex, saw the dawn of the Irish television age, and – if we were lucky, or privileged, or both ‑ set our feet on career ladders that were to last for the next four or five decades. What was not to like? As might be expected, however, this important book demonstrates that pleasant memories were not the lot of everyone, and that the good times were – as always – differentially distributed. Mary Daly has both feet firmly inside this time frame: her initial graduation from University College Dublin (in history and economics) was in 1969, and she got her first academic post there in 1973. Her location on this spectrum therefore more than justifies her interest in the long decade (as 1957-73 can probably fairly be described) and her academic credentials are ideal. Nonetheless, her enterprise is not without risk. Around the beginning of the sixties, a fledgling historian named Dermot Keogh once proposed to the history faculty in UCD that he might do a research MA on the Civil War. Robin Dudley Edwards, the grey eminence of the faculty (in more ways than one), looked at him severely at the interview board and commented: “Young man: we don’t do journalism.” The closer you get to the present, the more people will complain that you are too influenced by your own knowledge of or participation in the events concerned, that you don’t know…

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