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.

Blog Articles

When in Dublin …

A copy of the events magazine ‘In Dublin’ from 40 years ago, long filed away, reveals a city in which it was just becoming possible to publicise gay rights networks and when young whippersnappers like Fintan O’Toole and Colm Tóibín were starting to flex their intellectual and polemical muscles.

This England

While it cannot be ruled out that Boris Johnson will execute a U-turn at the last minute and throw Gove and Cummings under the bus, hard Brexit talk has taken on a dynamic that will be difficult to stop. If this is the course that is taken, Britain is heading for a harsh collision with reality.

That’s far enough!

The Dutch were told they could have a ‘sex buddy’ during lockdown but Boris Johnson appears to have ruled that sex can only take place between cohabiting couples. Fear of infection in fact has had a long history of affecting romantic relationships.

James Dalton – ‘an innocent man’?

IRA intelligence-gathering was highly functional during the War of Independence, but the threshold of guilt and the criteria for punishment could be capricious. Instances of putative informing could be shrouded in spite and the designations ‘spy’ or ‘informer’ sometimes no more than a label of convenience.

Apocalypse No

Predictions of apocalypse tend to situate the ultimate hour within the lifetime of the predicter. Unsurprisingly, since the notion is essentially a metaphorical transference of our individual mortality. And in both biblical and secular versions it is profoundly anti-political, distracting us from what we must do.

Leopold Locked Down

Had he set it in March or April 2020, Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ would probably have been a much shorter novel. Some of the episodes would have been ruled out by confinement measures, while others simply couldn’t be allowed to have happened, being quite politically incorrect.

On the Make

A major book prize has been won by David Hayton for his biographical study of the historian Lewis Namier, who believed that in the 18th century a man never entered parliament to benefit humanity any more than a child would dream of a birthday cake so that others might eat it.

Escaping Lockdown with WB Yeats

From his Galway tower, amid the bitterness of civil war, Yeats looked out his window at an empty starling’s nest and imagined that bees might come to settle there. A timely image, for replacing bitter dissension with bee-like co-operation is surely the path to sweetness and light.

Sunningdale: Trundling On

Was the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973 undermined by the fundamental opposition of many unionists to sharing power with nationalists? Or was it the threat that the Council of Ireland might be a slippery slope towards a united Ireland that was decisive?

Memories of Eavan Boland

Richard Bourke recalls meetings with Eavan Boland as a young man in the 1980s. Being in her company opened a window on intellectual life, albeit one with a quite narrow view. The culture she esteemed was exclusively literary, with pursuits like history or philosophy relegated to the margins.

Italian Diary X

As Italy enters a new phase of its response to the coronavirus crisis, John McCourt has decided to park his diary and return to his Joyce book. Meanwhile, medics and scientists, the very people who are trying to save our lives, are being increasingly portrayed by a noisy minority as the enemy.

Truth Above Everything

He was a champion sprinter, a member of the Irish Volunteers and a gun-runner, a supreme court judge, a translator of Immanuel Kant, a playwright and the author of a whimsical novel in which a group of intellectuals discuss philosophy and Irish politics and communicate by radio with Mars.