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.

Irish History

Commemorating what? And why?

Our acts of remembrance in this decade of commemoration should perhaps include some consideration of the failures of the past as well as its successes, and indeed the failures of the present. And might this not be a good time to have done with militarism once and for all?

The Black Diaries: the Case for Forgery

In spite of television documentary investigations proclaiming the notorious Black Diaries of Roger Casement to have been solely his own work, there is still an excellent case to be made that they are forgeries, based on erasures and interpolations, designed to blacken Casement’s name.

Punished for being Poor

It is clear that no real effort was made by the Irish government to seriously consider alternatives to the strategy of institutionalisation developed in the nineteenth century. Adoption was illegal until 1952 and boarding out was resisted on the religious grounds of concerns about proselytism.

Loyal Servant

Roger Casement understood that in his official duties he was serving not just a British king but the king of Ireland. If there were then betrayals within the United Kingdom it was England which first betrayed Ireland.

Comrades in Death

In the 1920s many republican leaders insisted that they did not object to the commemoration of the WWI dead but to the jingoism and glorification of imperialism that accompanied it, like the ostentatiously offensive behaviour of Trinity College students and the overt militarism of the British Legion (issues that also vexed the Garda).

Making the Link, Breaking the Link

The common religious outlook of the English and Scots, albeit favouring different forms of Protestantism, produced conditions that were more favourable to political union than was the case in Ireland, where the majority continued to cling stubbornly to its Roman Catholic inheritance.

Governing in Hard Times

Ireland’s first independent government was faced with the ruinous cost of the Civil War, low levels of educational attainment and a tax base heavily eroded by emigration. While they could perhaps have done more to develop the economy, they succeeded in establishing a stable democracy and, in a Europe that was plunging into authoritarianism, transferred power peacefully to their successors.

From Salonika to Soloheadbeg

We may disagree over how best to commemorate the First World War, but we should recognise that it fundamentally changed Ireland, creating the conditions that made possible the revolutionary events of 1916 to 1923.


It is proper to retain some scepticism about the prevailing heroic narrative of the War of Independence, which was not without its unattractive features, but to claim that an armed campaign was unnecessary is to make an assertion for which there is little evidence.

That’ll All have to go

It’s a wonder any of Georgian Dublin survived at all given how many enemies it had, from government ministers bearing historic resentments to state companies wishing to make a mark, speculative property developers in cahoots with party fundraisers, dangerous buildings inspectors and demented roads engineers.