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.

Barra Ó Seaghdha

History from the top II

Amid the consensus about Ireland being a victim of politicians, bankers and out-of-control developers, is it right to forget the additional uncomfortable fact that large numbers of ordinary Irish people had been ripping off their fellow-citizens with ardour during the Celtic Tiger years?

History from the Top

An account of Irish history whose gaze is fixed on intellectual or elite culture and does not engage with whole areas of the existence of the inhabitants of the island, particularly those who found themselves on the sharp end of colonisation, must necessarily be an incomplete one.

The Master and his Men

Conor Cruise O’Brien went off the rails towards the end of his career, adopting increasingly bizarre positions on Northern Ireland and uncritically supporting Israel. Few of his admirers followed him in these courses, yet for old times’ sake perhaps, they were reluctant to criticise their leader.

Mapping the Revival

A handsome new publication provides a survey of that period of ferment and rejuvenation that, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ‘fashioned a new civic culture outside the scope of institutional religion, the colonial state and conventional politics’.

Big Picture History

A new study examines Ireland from medieval times in the context of social organisation, how surplus wealth is created and deployed, how literacy affects authority and how elites foster a supportive class between themselves and the masses.

The Harvest In

Seamus Heaney’s conception of poetry meant he had to trust that his disciplined tending of the ground would lead to harvest, that if the writing self was kept open the poems would come through.

Problematising Undecidability

The transferability of postmodern discourse, and its endless repetition over recent decades in academic essays, papers, dissertations, articles, talks and books, throws its usefulness into question in a way not intended by its adherents; it may also induce in the reader an impatience that cannot simply be ascribed to intellectual conservatism, the kind of impatience that would arise if every news programme or sports commentary had to be preceded by a fifteen-minute homily on the indefinability or impossibility of objective truth.

A Gift of Tongues

With so little available for the general reader on Irish literary culture between 600 and 1600, in either Irish or English, we have to wonder at the failure of most of the few dozen relevant academic Columbuses to report back to us on their explorations. To how many of them has it ever occurred that the occasional act of public communication would not be a sin against the integrity of their trade?

New Irelands

French Catholic culture offered a supplementary world, and in some cases a focus for unfulfilled longings, for those who found Free State culture insufficient or repetitive. Conor Cruise O’Brien’s Maria Cross can strike today’s reader as brilliantly eccentric, an anomaly; it should instead be regarded as the finest analytical product of a culture we have almost forgotten.

The Harvest In

O’Driscoll raises the matter of the many conferences, launches, conferrings and other public events in which Heaney participates. “Ongoing civic service, I suppose,” Heaney responds ... Life has been good to him in many ways; poetry has enriched his existence both privately and in the social and intellectual worlds it has opened up to him. In return, though under no obligation to roll up his shirtsleeves and take part in the meitheal, Heaney performs his neighbourly duty as few in his position would.