Irish Nationalists Struggle for Independence from Britain Essay

Irish Nationalists Struggle for Independence from Britain Essay

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Irish Nationalists attempted to establish continuity with what they believed to be appropriate or suitable aspects of Irish history and culture. These attempts lead to both the revival and invention of a culturally distinct Irish heritage not associated with British rule in order to justify a sense of nationhood and to support the Irish struggle for Independence (Hobsbawm in Laurence, A p176) (Laurence, A p.160).
Whilst there is no single definition of Irish Nationalism, as the various groups and movements within the Nationalist cause differed in views, opinions and methods. Irish nationalism can be defined as the early struggle in the nineteenth and twentieth century to achieve independence from British rule, achieved in 1921 and the later movements to reunite the six counties of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland (Laurence p.157). For the purpose of this essay, focus will be placed on the early struggle to achieve independence from the United Kingdom and the later efforts of the Irish Government to further justify their cause for nationhood by establishing continuity with an Irish past free of British influence. Both prior to and after achieving independence this was done through a revival of language, myth and folk culture and through the preservation of sites of historical and symbolic importance.

One of the most notable examples of how nationalists strived to establish a suitable historic continuity in order to justify a sense of nationhood prior to Independence was through symbolism and the symbolic importance of ancient Irish sites and monuments. Daniel O’Connell a political Nationalist used symbolic representations of ancient Irish heritage to garner support to the nationalist cause. O’Connell’s conscious d...

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... as the Rock of Cashel a former stronghold of Irish Kings and site of early Irish Christian importance and the Neolithic Newgrange. Unlike the reconstruction of Dublin, there was no pressing need for the rebuilding of either site. But rather can be perceived as the efforts of Nationalists to further justify a sense of nationhood through the revival of an ancient history.

Just as the members of the Anglo-Irish Literary revival had used various mythological heroes from Irish past, such as Cu Chulainn, to evoke a sense of Irish heritage and justification for nationhood, so to did the new Irish government. Those involved in the Easter Uprising of 1916 and the War of Independence were recreated as heroes like those in Irish Myth. The statue of Cu Chullain within the rebuilt GPO stands in commemoration to those involved in the Easter Uprising (‘Ireland’ 2008 DVD).

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