Fascism in Ireland

I’m working on an article on right-wing nationalist movements in Ireland, focusing on Anti-Corruption Ireland, the National Party, and Identity Ireland, with a historical background of the Citizenship Referendum of the early 2000s. These parties employ rhetoric and tactics associated with fascism. Political scientists don’t typically agree on all of the ideas that define fascism, but they do agree on a couple: (1) Pro-natalism and anti-abortion policies that oppress women while simultaneously idealizing them as keepers of the “home”; women thus have the responsibility of raising the next generation of X nation; (2) Extreme nationalism that rejects immigrants and other “races” as inferior and as defiling the purity of the nation; this type of nationalism also looks to the nation’s mythic past and wants to restore the nation’s bygone greatness; (3) corporatism that tames capitalism, and attacks powerful/wealthy companies (and labor unions, sometimes).

I posted about my research on Twitter, with a little joke about Justin Barrett and Gemma O’Doherty having an excellent ouija board with which they communicate with Benito Mussolini.

This was an excellent lesson for me in Internet cultures, and how such groups operate. First, a supporter of Gemma O’Doherty asked me a question about alleged fascism in Israel–a response to a tweet that had literally nothing to do with Israel. This person started by saying: “Weinstein. Interesting name, that,” followed by a question about the Israeli government. The implication here was clear: Because my last name is Weinstein, I’m (1) Jewish, and (2) harbor loyalty to Israel. The person seemed to have been attempting to induce me to defend Israel.

First, this tweet was overtly antisemitic. The deployment of my surname in this way is definitive proof of that. Second, this person invoked the antisemitic trope that Jews have dual loyalty to Israel. I pointed out that I’m American and sometimes live in Ireland, but the person–eventually people–involved in this was not moved. Finally, I noted that while I think Israel engages in a variety of human-rights violations, I’m not an expert on Israel/Palestine, and so I don’t feel comfortable commenting further.

Before I blocked the offending morons, I realized a couple of things about how the supporters of far-right nationalism work:

(1) They operate in online gangs in attempts to bully people into backing off of their positions, or, in my case, research.

(2) While I don’t believe all criticism of Israel is antisemitic, in this case, their use of conspiracy theories to attack Israel stank of anti-Jewish ideas.

I have no interest in engaging with gobshites on Twitter, so I just blocked this person. But, he gave me excellent fodder to open my article when I have enough research to write it. A personal anecdote is always a good way in, right?

For reference, here’s my original Tweet:

My original tweet about my research.

And here’s a small selection of the insanity that I received in response:

A sampling of the bullshit response to my simple statement that I’m researching fascist movements in Ireland.

Update:

These boneheads have also suggested that I’m aiding and abetting paedophiles. Seriously:

seriously!

Book Review: “A Short History of Ireland” by John Gibney

On my recent trip to Dublin, I loaded up on Irish history books that one generally can’t find in the United States outside the realm of Amazon, which I’m trying to use less often. The pile of books significantly increased the poundage of our luggage, but I always find it worth the effort. Also, the Butler’s chocolates contributed to the heft.

One of the books I picked up was John Gibney’s recent survey A Short History of Ireland 1500-2000.

Image result for gibney short history of ireland

This book is a solid introduction to the politics and economics of Ireland, particularly as they relate to religion and Ireland’s relationship with England/Britain. Gibney begins with the Tudor era and control that powerful Gaelic-Irish men had over large areas of the island. He covers the impact of the English Reformation, especially how religion divided the Gaelic Irish from the English who settled there. He goes on to explain the Plantation of Ulster, the so-called Glorious Revolution, the emergence of an Irish identity in the 1700s, the Famine and the fight for Home Rule, and of course the major events of the Twentieth Century, especially the Easter Rising and War for Independence. Gibney definitely hits the highlights of the past 500 years of Irish history.

He doesn’t go into depth on any of these issues, so this book isn’t for seasoned scholars of Ireland. But, if you have an emerging interest in Irish history, you can definitely get a feel for the path that Ireland has taken in modern history (if we consider modern from about the year 1500, or at the earliest the beginning of the Renaissance about 100 years earlier). Gibney addresses a lot of issues that will have curious readers thinking, “I want to know more about that!” I really think he gave short shrift to Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator, who towered over the first half of the 1800s in Ireland. O’Connell was a remarkable figure in Irish history, and he had an impact on people around the world, too–a fact that is not at all clear in this volume.

Still, the book left me with some questions that I now want to explore further. For example, Gibney writes, “…the period of economic growth in the later 1960s became a time of considerable educational reform, with a great emphasis on modernising an outdated system and making it as widely accessible as possible” (223). But, he doesn’t tell us what it meant to “modernize” the Irish educational system, and he does note that it was still dominated by the Catholic church. I’m eager to know how the system changed.

The author makes a claim that in 1966, “the [fiftieth] anniversary of the rising was also an opportunity to articulate a critique of a state that, for many, was an abject failure when judged by the benchmark of the principles of the rising (at least as contained in the famous proclamation)” (224). While it is true that Pearse’s proclamation of Poblacht na hÉireann offered “equal rights and equal opportunities to all [Ireland’s] citizens,” the Proclamation said little about the vision for a sovereign Irish republic. I think this is an important point that Gibney leaves out of his analysis–there was no clearly articulated vision for an Ireland free of British rule.

As a former history teacher, I appreciate that this book includes short sections titled “Where Historians Disagree” at the end of each chapter. These short sections give a lay audience a basic understanding of what historians do, and the concept of historiography. I wish more history books that are written for a lay audience would in some fashion teach the reader that history is not merely “what happened in the past.” A popular falsehood propagated in some circles (notably by irishcentral.com) is that the Famine was a genocide, and I’m glad that Gibney asserts that no serious scholar of Ireland would make that claim. He also notes differences in opinions among historians about the extent and nature of sectarian violence and discrimination in both Éire and Northern Ireland.

Gibney’s book fails in one key respect: its treatment of women in Irish history. Indeed, at the end of his book, Gibney refers to women’s history as “niche.” And my blood pressure spiked 20 points.  Niche? Really? I suppose if one is still inclined to follow the archaic “add women and stir” approach to women’s history, then it makes some more sense to omit women from this text. But that approach has been vanquished for a good reason–women are not somehow separate from history; they are an integral part of every era. In particular, Gibney should have discussed the role of women in the Protestant Reformation in Ireland (or their role in resisting it). Women have historically been guardians of the faith in many religions, and surely their part was relevant here. Thus, a better understanding of this book is “A Short Political History of Ireland,” as politics and the relationship between Ireland and Britain are the main focuses–and women were left out of formal politics until the mid-1900s.

So, if you have a burgeoning interest in Irish history, this book is a solid place to start. Just be sure to make notes along the way of topics you want to learn more about.

Reflections on my recent trip to Éire

Returning to the United States from Ireland is always difficult, because I immediately miss the beautiful scenery, mellifluous speech, and friendly people of Dublin. This time, returning was particularly painful because the first news we heard about upon disembarking from our flight to Newark was that two mass shootings had occurred in under twenty-four hours. And we wanted to turn around and hop on the next flight back to Dublin. This trip that began in Norway and ended in Dublin was our honeymoon, and we have babies on our brains. We can’ t help thinking about where we want our children to grow up: in Donald Trump’s violent and hateful America, or in a more civilized country such as Ireland or Norway?

My husband, Chris, remarked after watching 12 days of European news coverage, “Wow, no one here challenges the fact of climate change that is caused by humans.” He is, of course, correct. Norway is particularly concerned with global warming and pollution–and rightly so. Norway’s natural beauty is unmatched by anything I’ve ever seen. The stunning clear water of the fjords that reflects the mountains that grow out of the earth; the delicious cheese that derives from the humanely-treated goats and sheep that roam the mountains, freely grazing on grasses and plants that grow in the wild. And on these issues, Ireland is much the same. On our drive up to Belfast, we heard the faint mooing of happy cows, and indeed we saw a few goats as well.

In Norway and in Ireland, we realized, capitalism and freedom aren’t viewed as synonyms. People don’t want to abuse nature in order to maximize their profits–or if they do, there are widespread and powerful forces to restrain these perverse desires. Does the goat cheese in Norway and Ireland taste better because it’s made from the milk of happy goats who are free to be goats and enjoy nature? I think it does.

I hadn’t been to Ireland since the centenary celebrations of the Easter Rising in March of 2016, but I hadn’t been to Belfast since May 2011. Dublin remains largely the same in character, with maybe a few more trendy shops. But despite the proliferation of high-end donut joints, my favorites still remain the Rolling Donut stand on O’Connell Street. Om Diva still showcases young Irish designers; as much as I wanted to, I didn’t have the opportunity to venture out to Jennifer Rothwell’s shop, now that it’s no longer at Powerscourt. (You should go, though, if you’re in Dublin!)

This time, I had the opportunity to see some of Ireland through my husband’s eyes. I dragged him to a tour of Glasnevin Cemetery, where many of Ireland’s great leaders and rebels are buried. Our tour guide, Bridget, seems to have fallen in love with Daniel O’Connell, and through her eyes Chris was utterly impressed with the brilliance of the Liberator. Bridget clearly cared less for Charles Stewart Parnell, almost taking on the view of the anti-Parnellites who were so offended by his affair with Kitty O’Shea that they repudiated his leadership because of his “immorality.”

She also had undue reverence for Éamon de Valera. Dev had some great moments in Irish history, and he was surely a great leader of the independence movement. I think he was something of a coward in his refusal to negotiate with Lloyd George, and instead notoriously sending Michael Collins to do so. But more than this, de Valera personally crafted Bunreacht na hÉireann in 1937, a document that gave women second-class status in Ireland–an albatross that Irish women are still working to throw off of their backs. To enshrine within the Constitution a woman’s place “within the home” remains utterly repugnant. Women have made great progress, but still we have a long way to go. Electing a female taoiseach would be a nice move (sorry, Leo).

And on to Belfast….

Image result for belfast city hall pride

While I found Dublin to have been very much the same–same joys; same problems (Ireland and Brexit deserves a separate blog, given the insanity of Boris Johnson)–I found Belfast to be nigh on unrecognizable. The photo above depicts Belfast City Hall lit up in celebration of LGBTQ+ pride. We were in Maggie May’s for an Ulster fry and some fifteens (yum), and my old favorite spot also celebrates pride. These photos are my own:

Fifteens! A tasty treat unique to Northern Ireland.

Maggie May’s celebrates Pride 2019.

So of course I give high marks to my former home city for its embrace of pride–although I’m also aware that this embrace isn’t shared by everyone (hey, fuck you, DUP). More than gay pride, though, Belfast has been utterly transformed.

If someone had dropped me into the city centre without telling me where I was, I wouldn’t have recognized Belfast. There are so many posh shops and cafes and restaurants all over! When did all of this happen? Some of the old favorites remain: Maggie Mays, the Crown, Kelly’s, and Archana (best Indian food ever)….but where did all of these swanky places come from?

I’m glad to see all of the prosperity-truly. But I also know that this is an uneasy coexistence with ongoing poverty in West Belfast and much of Derry (among other places). Belfast has a serious drug problem, and sectarianism continues to permeate much of the city. The poverty is difficult to stomach in the face of such blossoming culture–and my distaste for this dissonance is enhanced by the enduring lack of government in the North that has been the status quo for over 2.5 years now.

Stormont was never a terribly effective government–let’s be honest. But at least the MLAs had a realistic picture of the problems facing their constituents on a daily basis. I’m glad Westminster is stepping in to introduce same-sex marriage and abortion, but MPs don’t really give much of a shit about Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson clearly couldn’t give less of a fuck, and his no-deal crash out of the EU is going to be a massive cock up for the North. Shame on the DUP for letting this happen; they are the reason Boris is holding onto power right now, and they are sacrificing the economy of their own country in exchange for what they hope will be greater integration with mainland Britain. Shame.

And while I’m on the subject of shame….Sinn Féin could also put a stop to this. I understand the lengthy history of abstentionism and the reasons for it. Yet, if they really are a pro-EU party, as they currently claim to be (though historically they oppose Ireland’s membership in the EU), they could send a couple of MPs to Westminster to kick out the Tories. So Sinn Féin, too, is willing to sacrifice the economy and the people of the North in pursuit of their ultimate goal of Irish unity. Will Brexit be a big enough disaster to push people into a united Ireland? I surely hope so, because otherwise this Machiavellian strategy will hurt a lot of people for nothing.

But to return to my point about civility…..despite the sectarianism in Belfast, and the housing crisis in Éire, and the new attempt to collect the TV license fees (joke)…..still, it is all far more civilized than Donald Trump’s America. Climate change is real. Vaccines save lives. Strict gun laws prevent mass shootings.

Yes. We would go back tomorrow if there were a job for Chris teaching science. A better place to raise children, without question.