Identification and Location. For the Irish and Ireland, identification and location are inextricably linked aspects of self-definition. Ireland, located between 51°30′ and 55°30′ N and 6°00′ and l0°30′ W, is an island 480 by 273 kilometers at its longest and widest (N-S and E-W, respectively). It is separated on the east from Great Britain by the narrow Irish Sea (17 to 192 kilometers wide). To the west is the Atlantic Ocean. The island consists mainly of low-lying land whose central lowlands support rich pastureland, agricultural Regions, and a large central peat bog. The rim is mountainous, especially in the west, but elevations are rarely higher than 900 meters. Ireland's geographical location—combining proximity to England with peripherality vis-à-vis Europe—has played the major role in defining its historical experience. This relationship has also made the definition of just who and what is Irish problematic. Centuries of British rule culminated in the division of the island in 1922 into two political entities: the Republic (Free State from 1922 to 1949) of Ireland, comprising twenty-six counties and 70,550 square kilometers, and the Province of Northern Ireland, comprising six counties and remaining part of the United Kingdom. The population of the republic is 95 percent Catholic and that segment identifies itself unambiguously as Irish. Members of the Protestant minority may choose to emphasize their English ancestry, but they typically call themselves "Irish"—or "Anglo-Irish" as they are identified by their Irish Catholic neighbors. In Northern Ireland, however, the situation is more complex. The substantial Catholic minority—whatever their political affiliation—consider themselves ethnically Irish, while the subjective and objective identification of Protestants has been far more fluctuating and context-dependent. At various points, they may identify themselves as "Irish," "Ulster," "Ulster Protestant," or "British." The merging of Religious, geographical, and ethnic labels is also applied from the outside. Irish Catholics may use a variety of such terms to identify their neighbors, and the choice of label nearly always has a political subtext.
Demography. The population of the Republic of Ireland was 3,540,643 in 1986, representing an increase of 97,238 persons since the 1981 census. The population, which began a steep decline during the late 1840s famine, has been increasing since the 1961 census and has now been restored to the level of 1889-90. However, a recent decline in the birth-rate and a leap in the emigration rate (at least 72,000 Between 1981 and 1986), makes the demographic future uncertain. The high birthrate in the sixties and seventies has made Ireland one of the youngest countries in Europe, and migration to Dublin has made the population far more urban than it had been up until recently (57 percent urban, 43 percent rural), with close to a third of the population living in Dublin County.
Linguistic Affiliation. Although Irish Gaelic is the official language of the republic, the vast majority of people on both sides of the border speak English. Irish is the daily language of only tens of thousands (disputed number) of inhabitants of scattered Gaeltacht zones mainly along the west coast. Irish Gaelic, a Celtic language, has three main dialects and is closely related to Scottish Gaelic. The Goidelic Branch of the Celtic languages also includes Manx (once spoken on the Isle of Man), while the Brythonic Branch is represented by Welsh and Breton. The language issue has played a central part in the ethnic identity issues previously mentioned. Although Irish Gaelic was by the late nineteenth century very much a minority language, proponents of Irish nationalism (Protestant and Catholic) favored the restoration of the "national language" as a critical element in the maintenance of a distinct national identity and culture. Government measures meant to ensure this restoration have gradually relaxed over the decades, however, and despite the persistence of Irish in a few enclaves and a lively Irish-language literary and cultural scene, English is clearly the de facto national language.
History and Cultural Relations
The earliest inhabitants of Ireland were Mesolithic hunter-gatherers whose sites are dated as early as 8980 B.P., but it is the extensive Neolithic settlement that has left a large number of impressive megalithic constructions. The exact origin point of "Celtic culture" in Ireland and its relation to preexisting cultures and/or populations is much disputed. By the first few centuries b.c., however, a clearly Celtic culture was established all over the island, with clear connections to continental Celts. Iron Age Celtic society established a lasting economic, political, social, and cultural framework for Irish society. Unhampered by the Romanization that transformed so much of continental Europe, Ireland's cattle-based chieftaincies remained the basic social unit through the early Christian period, giving Irish Christianity a Celtic construction that would give rise to Roman consternation at various historical junctures. Celtic Ireland was notably rural, and it was the Vikings who established the major port cities that would continue to play an important role in Irish history (e.g., Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Wexford). The English Presence began with the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman expedition under the auspices of Henry II, in aid of one side in an internecine struggle in the south. The invaders settled, particularly in the southeast, bringing with them a manorial type of settlement and economy, as well as a new language and Culture. The succeeding centuries brought much cultural borrowing between native Irish and Anglo-Norman cultures, particularly in areas distant from the capital. The Cromwellian and Williamite wars of the seventeenth century established Ireland as a fully colonial society, with political rule and most landownership in the hands of English-speaking Protestants, and with a native population of mainly Gaelic-speaking Catholics, the vast majority of whom were poor tenant farmers, seen and described by their overlords in increasingly "primitive" terms. The wars also brought the "plantation" of Northern Ireland, the importation of thousands of mainly Presbyterian Scots who took ownership of small farms and settled in areas from which Catholic Irish had been driven. There was also a very considerable influx of Protestant English into the south. For most Catholic tenants, the central issue through the eighteenth century was local land tenure, and a variety of locally based secret societies—such as the "White Boys"—were active in retaliatory guerrilla raids against landlords, agents, or collaborators. After the failure of the United Irishmen's rebellion in 1798, land tenure as well as cultural and religious identity came more and more to be linked with nationalism. The nineteenth century saw a series of attempts, armed and legislative, to win independence and/or redress land issues, culminating in the Easter Uprising of 1916 and the war of independence that followed. Ireland achieved independence as a Free State with the treaty of 1922, which left the six Protestant-majority counties of Ulster in the United Kingdom. The Free State became Eire, or the Republic of Ireland, in 1949. One faction of the Irish—represented thereafter by the Irish Republican Army (IRA)—refused to accept the legitimacy of the boundary. Within Northern Ireland most Catholics—and a few Protestants—are "nationalists" favoring a "United Ireland." The vast majority of Protestants—and very few Catholics—espouse "Unionism," seeking to remain a part of the United Kingdom. It is difficult to assess what proportion of either population supports the activities of violent paramilitary organizations, which continue to carry out assassinations and bombings. After the bloody reaction to Catholic civil rights demonstrations in Northern Ireland in 1969, the British Army began to maintain a strong and active presence that continues to this day.
In addition to the political developments already described, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought tremendous economic and social upheaval to Ireland. The population increased at a tremendous rate and grew increasingly dependent on the potato for sustenance. The great potato famine of the late 1840s (numerous smaller ones occurred before and after) led to evictions and immigration that vastly increased the flow of Irish to America.
While significant numbers went to England—and, to a lesser extent, Canada and Australia—the large proportion of Irish in America has had a great and lasting impact on both the United States and Ireland. Even since 1973, when Eire joined the European Economic Community, cultural (as opposed to economic) attention has been focused on the United States, to which the current crop of emigrants have once again come.
Settlement patterns have of course varied much over time and place. The dominant Celtic pattern seems to have been scattered fort/cattle pen/households (rath ). Peasant communities following a mixed-cattle, agricultural regime, at least in the west of Ireland, lived in small hamlets (clachan or clibin ), using a commonly held infield for grain and vegetables and an extensive outfield "mountain" for livestock. This pattern was generally eliminated (though there are a few survivals) through landlord intervention by the middle of the nineteenth century. The demise of such traditional patterns was also accelerated by the famine and emigration. The resulting pattern was of more or less dispersed households and farms, or more concentrated but separate rows of dwellings where geography and varying land type made that form appropriate. In either case, however, the "townland" (baile fearainn ), which corresponds to the common holding of the traditional cluster settlement, may continue to operate as a socially Significant "neighborhood" and its inhabitants may even continue to hold common rights to turf (for fuel) in bogs and grazing land on mountains. Elsewhere other agricultural and/or geographical factors made for other settlement types, including dispersed large farms, estate villages, or the street market towns, which mainly developed in the nineteenth Century under landlord regimes.
Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Agriculture, until recently the overwhelming mainstay of the Irish Economy, remains important, although a decreasing percentage of the population is engaged in such pursuits. Most arable land is devoted to pasture or hay production, and livestock and livestock products are the most important exports, sold in European and Near Eastern markets. The United States is also a major trading partner. Tourism, greatly promoted in recent decades, provides the single largest item in the country's net earnings. Since the 1960s, attractive conditions have brought many foreign-owned small factories to Ireland, and they along with Irish manufacturing and construction firms now employ around 27.5 percent of the labor force. While the city of Dublin has grown at a great rate, the lack of a large Industrial or commercial base there has meant much unemployment. Membership in the European Common Market has benefited agricultural producers through subsidies and opened up new channels for emigration for professionals, but so far has not done much to change the economic peripherality of Ireland. The relative prosperity of the sixties and seventies seems to have been based on borrowed money, leaving Ireland with one of the highest per capita foreign debts in the world. Inflation and high unemployment fueled renewed Emigration, mostly to the United States, in the late 1980s. In the west of Ireland, where most anthropological fieldwork has been carried out, small farms—where viable—continue to produce livestock and dairy products sold at marts or through local cooperatives. Much of the extreme west, including Gaeltacht zones, is characterized by underfarmed smallholdings, which support a subsistence crop of potatoes and vegetables, combined in varying degrees with sheep farming (whose economic viability depends on government subsidies). In a few areas small- or medium-scale fishing or rural factory employment adds to the income of such families or provides the total support of younger families. Government welfare and old-age pensions, however, contribute Importantly to the maintenance of many households. Where the farm is viable, it absorbs the labor of the entire family. In smaller holding areas, however, younger family members are often engaged in subsidiary income pursuits. Where available, factory jobs are sought by young men and women. Areas of large farms, such as Meath and West Meath, and the city and suburbs of Dublin exhibit different sociocultural patterns, which are only recently being studied by anthropologists.
Land Tenure. Although after the seventeenth century the mainly British landlords held proprietary rights, the Irish tenantry continued to pass on the right to these tenancies as if they were property. Land reforms in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century turned these tenants into peasant proprietors. Common rights were often retained in bogs (for peat fuel) and in extensive mountain pasturelands.
Kinship, Marriage, and Family
Kinship. Cían is an Irish word and traditionally referred to the agnatic descendants of a common ancestor (e.g., "the O'Donnells"). Such clans had a hierarchical territorial arrangement in traditional chiefdoms, wherein subgroups and individuals were linked to superiors through cattle clientship and/or tribute and service. The local kin group in this system was called a fine. In this way traditional commonage rundale (common land that is distributed among owners in such a way that an individual's holdings are scattered among those of others) was followed by divided inheritance in western Ireland, which gave way, again under landlord action, to enforced undivided inheritance. This continues to be the legal mode today, with the father naming a single son as heir to the farm. The social integrity and relative autonomy of the Household farm based on the single heir is a central concern of many influential studies of the culture. However, in some areas at least, the ethos of continuing obligation to and among all siblings makes "stem family" a misleading designation, even for the contemporary rural Irish family.
Marriage. Sibling solidarity before and after marriage is a striking feature of daily life. In the west, in particular, Individuals still marry close to home and tend to keep up frequent visiting patterns with siblings. In the extreme case men and women may even remain with their natal households after marriage. Unmarried siblings will very often live together and will frequently be joined by a widowed sibling late in life.
Social Organization. Although an increasing share of the population lives in Dublin, rural culture enjoys a disproportionate importance, and many urban dwellers retain ties to the countryside. While an egalitarian ethos prevails in most rural areas, there are large differences in the "objective" class situation of farmers, ranging from large numbers of very small farmers cultivating less than 6 hectares, mainly in the west, to graziers farming hundreds of hectares in the east. The class structure of the cities resembles that of other urban areas in western Europe.
Political Organization. Eire is a parliamentary democracy with a nonexecutive president elected by direct vote. The Parliament (Oireachtas) consists of a lower house (An Dail Eireann) elected through proportional representation by a single transferable vote, and an upper house (An Seanad Eireann). The government is headed by a prime minister (An Taoiseach) chosen by An Dail. The two principal political parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, are both centrist in European terms and owe their origins to respective positions on the border question seventy years ago. There are a variety of other parties holding few seats, including the Labor Party and Sinn Fein (the political wing of the IRA). Local government is through the "county council," but recent changes in the structure of taxation have left that body with little real resources and hence little power, making Eire's political system an increasingly centralized one.
Social Control. In rural areas, the local community and kin groups continue to play the most obvious role in daily Social control. The Catholic church, especially in the person of the parish priest, typically continues to exercise considerable authority, especially in the rural areas. In these same areas the "legitimacy" of the state to interfere with local practice may be more often questioned.
Conflict. Irish nationalists tend to sum up Ireland's History as "800 years of British oppression and Irish resistance." Academic histories currently debate whether the local uprisings and guerrilla activity of the eighteenth century, the 1798 rebellion, the Fenians of the nineteenth century, and the ongoing "troubles" can best be understood in terms of class, nationalism, or local interests. From any point of view, however, conflict continues to define the Irish experience, historically and currently.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs and Practices. By any measure, Ireland is a profoundly Catholic country and culture. Weekly mass attendance continues at nearly 90 percent of the population, and the influence of the clergy on all social as well as narrowly religious questions is enormous. Ireland, alone with Malta in Europe, has no legal divorce, and abortion—never legal—has recently been made unconstitutional. The central tenets of the Catholic church are mainly accepted, but various local heterodox usages continue in some areas. Notably, holy well cults are still an important aspect of local practice. There are more than three thousand holy wells listed for Ireland, most of them associated with a Roman Catholic saint and with beliefs about curing, indulgences, honor, prayer, etc. Major pilgrimage points within Ireland (Knock, Croagh Patrick, Station Island, Lady's Island) attract tens of thousands annually, and the Irish are disproportionately represented at Lourdes.
Arts. Language remains perhaps the most important form of expressive culture: from the oral narrative that still characterizes much local Irish life to one of the most vibrant literary traditions in Europe. Although less well-known, there is a lively visual art scene in the urban centers. Music, always important in the folk tradition, has made a great resurgence in recent decades with much creative interaction between folk and rock forms.
Medicine. Although most Irish avail themselves of whatever modern medical facilities are available, many will combine such treatments with propitiation of saints and/or pilgrimages to the above sites.
Death and the Afterlife. For the vast majority of Irish, the rites of the Catholic church are followed scrupulously on the occasion of death. Wakes held in the home of the deceased for two or three days, however, continue to provide a central communal focus to the event in many areas. Appropriation of the powerful act and rites of death has characterized Irish Political activity, especially in the twentieth century.
See also Gaels (Irish); Irish Travellers; Northern Irish; Tory Islanders
Arensberg, Conrad (1937). The Irish Countryman. New York: Macmillan.
Arensberg, Conrad, and Solon Kimball (1968). Family and Community in Rural Ireland. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Curtin, C., and T. Wilson (1989). Ireland from Below: Social Change and Local Communities. Galway: University College Galway Press.
Fox, Robin (1978). The Tory Islanders: A People of the Celtic Fringe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
O'Kelly, Michael P. (1989). Early Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Taylor, Lawrence J. (1989). "Bás InÉirinn: Cultural Constructions of Death in Ireland." Anthropological Quarterly 62:175-187.
LAWRENCE J. TAYLOR
From 1845 until the 1850s, every harvest of potatoes, the sole crop for most Irish farmers, failed. The result was over a million deaths in Ireland from starvation and disease, and somewhere close to two million people emigrated, mostly to the United States. Protestant Irish had been immigrating to America since the 1700s, but the Irish Potato Famine led to the first large wave of Catholic immigrants, who for the most part were poorer, less educated, and less skilled than their Protestant counterparts. Additionally, sentiment against them was imported from England, and that, coupled with American anti-Catholicism, led to racism and prejudice.
POVERTY AND PREJUDICE
Irish immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century tended to settle in such East Coast cities as Boston, New York, and Pittsburgh. Although some went west and a few became millionaires during the California gold rush of 1848 and 1849, most Irish immigrants refused to return to farming, defeated by the potato blight. These predominantly rural Irish chose the burgeoning metropolitan areas instead, adapting to urban life just as urban life was beginning to burst. Slums and ghettos developed, and a shantytown in the Upper West Side of Central Park was established by those who were either evicted from the slums or refused to live in them.
The immigrants quickly discovered that their treatment in America was no different than it had been in Ireland by the British, although historians have noted little material evidence of the infamous No Irish Need Apply signs and the job discrimination that were said to be rampant in the mid-to late nineteenth century—what Richard Jensen calls a "myth of victimization." However, no matter the extent of prejudice against Irish Catholics, they believed themselves to be oppressed. The only comfort was the church or, for some, alcohol. The stereotype of the Irish as heavy drinkers followed them from Ireland. In Ireland people drank, but the heavy drinker was seen as natural as fairies; in America the heavy drinker became the fat, bulbous-nosed, dirty Paddy of the contemporary cartoons. The drinking patterns from rural Ireland worsened in the urban immigrant slums and led to increased crime, violence, male desertion, and insanity among the immigrant Irish.
Men often worked in the coal mines or on railroads—dangerous work that forced them to leave their families for extended periods. Irish women were often more employable than men, especially those who already had a background supporting themselves in Ireland. In the United States they were able to work as maids and to earn a decent living, room and board included; in addition they were exposed to the values of middle- and upper-class Americans, thus easing acculturation. These women encouraged their daughters to be teachers and office workers: in 1870, 20 percent of New York City schoolteachers were Irish or Irish American women (Diner, p. 97). After marriage Irish immigrant women stayed home and ran the household, often alone. Thus the stereotype of the bossy Irish matriarch exists only in the United States: in 1875, 16 percent of Irish American households were headed by women (Biddle, p. 101). The Irish American matriarch was responsible for keeping her children inside the Catholic faith and civilizing the family, keeping the men from drinking, saving the money, and pushing her children toward middle-class professions such as teachers, policemen, or priests.
Anti-Catholicism had been a feature of American society since colonial times yet became increasingly virulent as more Irish and German Catholics entered the country from the 1820s onward. The Catholic Church and Catholic immigrants were seen as bowing to a foreign power, with priests and nuns portrayed in the popular press as immoral and unsavory. In the 1850s the antiforeign and anti-Catholic American Party, commonly called the Know-Nothing Party, advocated national unity, the exclusion of foreign-born people from voting or holding public office, and anti-Catholic legislation. However, the Know-Nothing Party eventually dissolved as a result of internal conflicts, and the force of the nativist movement declined after 1856.
Although anti-Catholicism did not disappear, the issue was subsumed by the Civil War. Large-scale Irish immigration to the United States only began with the famine generation. Between 1845 and 1870, 2.5 million Irish immigrated to the Untied States; and between 1871 and 1921, 2.1 million more came (Fanning, Irish Voice, p. 157). Unlike the famine generation, this second wave of immigrants arrived to find an economic, political, and social network that made their acculturation easier. Their knowledge of English as well as their "whiteness" made them eligible for citizenship and thus able to enter politics more quickly than other immigrant groups. In 1880 William R. Grace, who made his money in shipping, became New York City's first Irish Catholic mayor. Such growing political power, however, led to a new wave of nativism and anti-Catholic sentiment. The Immigration Restriction League was founded in Boston in 1894, mostly against new immigrants but particularly against Catholics. As late as the 1920s, Catholics, along with Jews and African Americans, bore the brunt of attacks from the Ku Klux Klan. Yet by 1900, although Irish ghettos still existed and unskilled Irish laborers continued to take dangerous jobs on the railroads and in mines, most first- and second-generation Irish had moved from the tenements to the suburbs and thus into greater contact with Protestant Americans.
The Catholic Church played a significant role in hastening the assimilation of Irish immigrants and their children. Church reformers tried promoting American patriotism and capitalist values among their Irish parishioners. Irish journalists and clergy denounced drunkenness and attempted to teach what were defined as the Protestant habits of "industry, thrift, sobriety, and self-control" (Miller, p. 333). Between 1870 and 1921 the Catholics constructed thousands of churches, convents, colleges, and schools, including the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., which opened it doors to students in 1889. Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in New York City was completed in 1879, a powerful symbol of the success of the Irish.
However, some Irish Americans were insecure and anxious about their tenuous position within the middle class; these "lace-curtain Irish," as they were called, became the subject of much concern in the literature of the period. George McManus's popular cartoon strip "Bringing Up Father," which debuted in 1913 and became an instant hit, mocked an Irish American couple who wanted to Americanize at all costs. Their scars of poverty and social ostracism still palpable, the couple, Jiggs and Maggie, were particularly concerned with maintaining financial success and appearances. Maggie's characteristic exclamation "what will the neighbors think!" reflected a sensitivity to still perceived anti–Irish Catholic prejudice. A fear of poverty sometimes led to miserliness and identification as slum-lords, as Eugene O'Neill (1888–1953) depicts in Long Day's Journey into Night, his autobiographical play set in 1912 and published posthumously in 1956. Irish foremen in shops, no longer subject to the oppression of their former American superiors, treated their often Slavic workers worse than they themselves had been treated decades earlier, as Upton Sinclair (1878–1968) depicts in his novel The Jungle (1906). This dangerous tendency to lose one's values and culture during the process of assimilation was well represented by Irish American journalists and novelists.
THE IRISH AMERICAN LITERARY RESPONSE
Fiction by Irish American writers in the late nineteenth century often focused on this conflict: the desire for middle-class respectability in the face of ongoing poverty and economic depressions versus the fear of losing one's sense of Irish identity. The Irish American press played an important role by printing an abundance of short fiction written by Irish Americans in this period. Periodicals such as the New York Irish World and the Boston Pilot sought to counteract stereotypes yet in the process often ignored reality. They published stories that rarely showed tenement life or working conditions despite the fact that many Irish were still in the ghettos in the 1870s; instead, they emphasized success stories about Irish immigrants who Americanized without losing their ethnic identity. For the most part the Irish American press printed stories that, although unrealistic, provided early positive images of Irish Americans who worked hard but stayed Catholic in the process of assimilation.
However, fiction by first-generation writers, often in the form of domestic novels or fallen-women novels, did depict the struggles that immigrants faced, not always successfully, in the New World: the desire for economic security; the difficulty of maintaining one's faith; the power of the Irish immigrant mother; and a nostalgia for Ireland and for the supposed innocence of the past. Some of the titles emphasize these themes: The Lost Rosary; or, Our Irish Girls, Their Trials, Temptations, and Triumphs (1870) by Peter McCorry (writing under the pen name Con O'Leary) and Annie Reilly; or, The Fortunes of an Irish Girl in New York (1873) by John McElgun. These writers used popular literary conventions to address issues of concern to Irish immigrants and their children.
The second-generation writer Katherine E. Conway's best-selling Lalor's Maples (1901) argues that the ruthless search for the American Dream was ultimately self-destructive and, more importantly, could destroy Irish American family life, including traditional gender roles. Mary Lalor, an immigrant from a middle-class background, marries John Lalor, another immigrant who works his way from poverty to economic success during the late 1860s. Mary is domineering, obsessed with attaining and retaining middle-class respectability and objects, including the house named in the title. Her role as mother is tarnished as she uses her daughters as a means to upward mobility and then as a way to save the family from financial ruin.
Other late-nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century fiction, now mostly out of print but identified by the literary historian and critic Charles Fanning in his book The Irish Voice in America: 250 Years of Irish-American Fiction (2000), eschews sentimental plots for more realism and satire. Such works include Henry F. Keenan's The Aliens (1886), about the prejudices faced by famine immigrants in Rochester, New York; Maurice Francis Egan's The Disappearance of John Longworthy (1890), the satire of a corrupt, social-climbing Irish American politician and other lace-curtain Irish; James W. Sullivan's Tenement Tales of New York (1895), about a child called Slob Murphy, who lives and dies in the slums; Kate McPhelim Cleary's short story "The Stepmother" (1901), recounting the lonely experiences of an Irish immigrant woman in Nebraska; and Harvey J. O'Higgins's "The Exiles" (1906), detailing the harsh life of New York City servant girls. One of the few Irish American dramatists before Eugene O'Neill was Edward Harrigan, whose play Squatter Sovereignty (1881) takes place in New York's Central Park, site of the Irish shantytown created by evicted Irish immigrants. Unlike other plays of the period, which featured the so-called stage Irishman with a brogue that boomed in anger when drunk, Harrigan's play had more-realistic, less-stereotypical characters (Flynn, p. 10).
Few Irish American writers of the period reached a wide non–Irish American audience; however, one was able to bridge the ethnic reading gap. In the 1890s the Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne, who was American-born of Irish parents, created "the first fully realized ethnic neighborhood in American literature, Bridgeport on the South Side of Chicago" (Fanning, Irish Voice, p. 214), and its central character, Martin Dooley, a bachelor saloon keeper. Dunne's sketches, written in pure Irish dialect, satirize almost every aspect of Irish life in America, including drinking policemen and cheating local politicians. He sympathetically portrays the Irish American working class in Chicago yet also mocks the pretensions of the lace-curtain Irish while at the same time recognizing that assimilation is inevitable. In one sketch recounted by Charles Fanning there is a debate between a Mr. and Mrs. Hogan over the naming of their children:
After the births of Sarsfield, Lucy, Honoria, Veronica, and Charles Stewart Parnell Hogan, the old man tries to name his tenth child "Michael" after his father. "Ye'll be namin' no more children iv mine out iv dime novels," he declares. "An' ye'll name no more iv mine out iv th' payroll iv th' bridge depar-rtmint," says his wife. In the end, Mr. Dooley is on hand to watch the new baby christened—Augustus, "th' poor, poor child." (Fanning, Irish Voice, p. 227)
Another sketch shows the generation gap with teenager Molly Donahue worrying her parents with her feminist viewpoints and non-Irish music on the piano. Dunne is also critical of such Irish Americans as landlords and politicians who abuse other Irish Americans. But his power lies in his depiction of the everyday Irish American at the end of the century in characters such as Father Kelly, Fireman Shay, and workingmen like Malachi Hennessy.
THE IRISH IN MAINSTREAM AMERICAN LITERATURE
The Irish are not major characters in most mainstream American fiction during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, and often their ethnicity is never explicitly emphasized. However, anti-Irish caricatures were popular with some readers after the Civil War and into the 1890s: Thomas Nast's cartoons were published in both the popular Harper's Weekly (1862–1880s) and in the short-lived America: A Journal for Americans out of Chicago (1888–1891), a journal that was both high-brow and anti-immigrant generally, anti–Irish Catholic specifically. Nast's "Simian Irishmen—St. Patrick's Day 1867" portrays the Irish as apes attacking the law, and his "Tammany Hall" series of cartoons in 1869–1871 helped topple the rule of the corrupt political boss William Marcy Tweed of Tammany Hall.
Several American novels had stereotypical Irish characters, though their Irishness was not always relevant to their roles in the plots. Henry James, whose ancestry was Irish, had few notable Irish characters in his fiction, with the exception of Mrs. Muldoon in his short story "The Jolly Corner" (1908). In Frank Norris's novel McTeague: A Story of San Francisco (1899), the main character has an Irish name, but the character himself is not explicitly identified as Irish, although one could argue that the portrait of the character includes negative stereotypes associated with Irishness: an apelike body, stupidity, violence, and drunkenness. In the same way, Mark Twain's Pap Finn, the notoriously drunk and abusive father of Huck Finn, is not explicitly identified as Irish despite his Irish surname, although Twain has said that the prototype of Pap was Jimmy Finn, a Hannibal town drunk (Smith, p. 197). Twain does briefly depict lace-curtain, social-climbing Irish Americans in The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873), with the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Patrique Oreille (O'Reilly) and their daughter Breezhay (Bridget) who pretend to be French rather than Irish; but they are relatively minor characters.
Stephen Crane's Maggie, A Girl of the Streets: A Story of New York (1893) depicts the dismal lives of tenement immigrants in general rather than of the Irish specifically. A journalist, Crane (1871–1900) went to the Bowery, a squalid and violent slum, in 1891–1892 to see tenement life for himself; at the time 40 percent of the population in that area was Irish (Smith, p. 200). However, although the characters listen to Irish songs, they are not identified as Irish, and Johnson, Maggie's family name, is not particularly Irish. Some critics saw Crane's purpose as illustrating the effects of tenement living, which creates the conditions for a world of its own morality and values, a world where drunkenness leads to violence and too many children: "In the street infants played or fought with other infants or sat stupidly in the way of vehicles" (p. 6). Others argued that his depiction supported the fear that these immigrants and their children would become a threat to Americans. Yet Crane's Maggie, who has the humility and chastity of the ideal nineteenth-century woman, is foiled not by her ethnicity but by her environment. Unlike her mother, who adapts to her environment by becoming the antimother—violent, drunk, a destroyer rather than a nurturer—Maggie is unable to adjust to the tenement world and is unaware of a middle-class world outside her geographical boundaries. She falls into prostitution because she has no other way to survive. For Crane, Maggie's ethnicity is less relevant than her impoverished environment.
Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945), who like Crane is identified as part of the school of naturalism, a literary realism proposing that one's environment, not free will, determines one's fate, gives a realistic portrayal of an Irish American politician and political machine in his novels The Financier (1912) and The Titan (1914), which are the first two volumes of his Trilogy of Desire. The first novel is set in Philadelphia in the 1870s and 1880s, when the Irish were gaining control of politics in that city. Edward Malia Butler arrives in the city an illiterate, unskilled immigrant who soon builds a successful business and becomes a politician. His stereo-typical brogue and temper is modified by love for his daughter, by the Catholic faith, and by sobriety. As with Crane, however, Dreiser blames the politician's corruption on urban America rather than on his ethnicity. Similarly in The Titan, the politician Cowperwood's corruption, while more crude and vicious than Butler's, is also depicted as a result of the Chicago Irish political machine, an American phenomenon, rather than purely on his ethnicity. Unlike Butler, Cowperwood does not maintain family or religious ties, thus his corruption is less sympathetically portrayed.
For Upton Sinclair in The Jungle it is the capitalistic system that is at fault rather than ethnicity. In one of the few novels where Irish Americans interact with other immigrants—in this case Lithuanians at a Chicago meatpacking factory—the Irish foremen are the victimizers. The stereotypical Irish characters—for instance, Phil Connor is a drunk who extorts sex from the immigrant women he supervises—only reinforce Sinclair's theme of capitalism's destruction of every-one's humanity.
Two non-Irish writers in the late nineteenth century who explicitly focused on ethnicity and the interaction between Irish and non-Irish were Harold Frederic (1856–1898), particularly in his novel The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896), and Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909), in her stories from the 1880s and 1890s about Irish immigrants in coastal Maine. Frederic was a New York Times correspondent in London who wrote so sympathetically about Irish home rule that many readers assumed he was Irish Catholic. In his novel Theron Ware is a Methodist minister assigned to Octavius, a town with a large Irish Catholic population. At first the minister, like his wife and congregation, holds only negative opinions of the Irish. He views the priests, through his reading of anti-Catholic fiction and Thomas Nast's anti-Catholic cartoons, as "black-robed, tonsured men, with leering satanic masks, making a bonfire of the Bible in the public schools" (p. 50), though he admits to himself that "so far as personal acquaintance went, the Irish had been to him only a name" (p. 48). Yet his disillusionment with his congregation and his encounters with the Catholic sacrament of extreme unction as well as meeting the educated and cultured Celia Madden and Father Forbes eventually make him idealize the Irish as culturally and intellectually superior to the puritanical Methodists in Octavius. The ritual of extreme unction has a powerful effect on Ware, who sees it as more transformative than Protestant rituals.
Although they are relatively minor characters, Jeremiah Madden, said to be the wealthiest man in Octavius, and his son Michael Madden affirm the nobility and morality of the Irish. Jeremiah built himself up but never turned his back on his fellow Irishmen. Michael is kind and religious, recognizing that Ware's transformation is self-destructive. Frederic seems to suggest with the drunken younger brother, Theodore, that the second generation of Irish were at risk of contamination by America. Theodore (who has thus Americanized his Irish name Terence) is described as "the product of a wholly different race" (p. 87), and his alcoholism is the result of both his becoming too assimilated and his involvement in the corrupt politics of Tammany Hall. Frederic's novel echoes themes seen in Dreiser and Dunne, particularly the potentially negative effect of Americanization on Irish immigrants.
Sarah Orne Jewett's "Irish" stories also sympathetically depict the effects of assimilation on Irish immigrants and their children. In several stories Jewett describes the Irish immigrants' homesickness as well as their yearning to succeed in America, sometimes at great cost. In "Between Mass and Vespers," Dan Nolan travels west to seek his fortune but becomes instead a con man turning his back on the value system of Irish community until he is saved by Father Ryan, the village priest back in the New England mill town. Yet Jewett does not always blame Americanization specifically. In "Luck of the Bogans" the immigrants Mike and Biddy Bogan leave their farm in Ireland to immigrate to America so their son can become upwardly mobile. Instead, he is corrupted at the public school, becomes a drunk, and finally gets killed in a fight. However, the son's egoism and his parents' pushing him to succeed are identified as the causes of his death, with the narrator ironically noting that the climate in America brings out the best in the Irish, a sentiment also noted with sarcasm by Father Forbes in The Damnation of Theron Ware.
Eugene O'Neill, a pivotal figure in American drama, effectively brings Irish and Irish American family life into the mainstream with Beyond the Horizon (1920), a Cain and Abel story (influenced by the Irishman T. C. Murray's 1911 play Birthright) set on a small New England farm. Despite their Irish name, Mayo, the ethnicity of the characters is subsumed by their humanity, echoing the position of Irish Americans by 1920. World War I and the Easter Rising (24 April 1916) occurred at the same time that the third- and fourth-generation Irish ceased yearning for a long ago, idealized past, choosing instead to take part in America's future.
Conway, Katherine E. Lalor's Maples. Boston: Pilot, 1901.
Crane, Stephen. Maggie, A Girl of the Streets: A Story of New York. 1893. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999.
Dreiser, Theodore. Trilogy of Desire: Three Novels. New York: World, 1972. Contains The Financier (1912), The Titan (1914), and The Stoic (1947).
Fanning, Charles, ed. The Exiles of Erin: Nineteenth-Century Irish-American Fiction. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987. This anthology contains several of the works, or excerpts from them, that are mentioned in this article.
Frederic, Harold. The Damnation of Theron Ware. 1896. Introduction by Scott Donaldson. New York: Penguin, 1986.
Jewett, Sarah Orne. The Irish Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett. Edited by Jack Morgan and Louis A. Renza. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996.
O'Neill, Eugene. Beyond the Horizon: A Play in Three Acts. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920.
Biddle, Ellen Horgan. "The American Catholic Irish Family." In Ethnic Families in America: Patterns and Variations, edited by Charles H. Mindel and Robert W. Habenstein, pp. 89–123. New York: Elsevier, 1976.
Bramen, Carrie Tirado. "The Americanization of Theron Ware." Novel: A Forum on Fiction 31, no. 1 (1997): 63–86.
Casey, Daniel J., and Robert E. Rhodes, eds. Modern Irish-American Fiction: A Reader. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1989.
Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.
Diner, Hasia R. Erin's Daughters in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century. Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, 101st ser., no. 2. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.
Drewniany, Peter. "Not Marionettes: The American Irish in The Damnation of Theron Ware." Eire-Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies 16, no. 4 (1981): 48–58.
Fanning, Charles. The Irish Voice in America: 250 Years of Irish-American Fiction. 2nd ed. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000. The first edition was subtitled Irish-American Fiction from the 1760s to the 1980s.
Flynn, Joyce. "Sites and Sights: The Iconology of the Subterranean in Late Nineteenth-Century Irish-American Drama." MELUS 18, no. 1 (1993): 5–19.
Jensen, Richard. "'No Irish Need Apply': A Myth of Victimization." Journal of Social History 36, no. 2 (2002): 405–429.
Smith, Herbert Joseph. "From Stereotype to Acculturation: The Irish-American's Fictional Heritage from Brackenridge to Farrell." Ph.D. diss., Kent State University, 1980.
Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1993.
Stacey L. Donohue
POPULATION: 3.6 million
LANGUAGE: Irish Gaelic (official); English (primary)
1 • INTRODUCTION
The Republic of Ireland, which consists of twenty-six counties, covers five-sixths of the island of Ireland. The remaining portion is occupied by the six counties of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The division of the island into two political entities is the legacy of a long period of British rule. It dates back as far as 1171, when England's King Henry II declared himself king of Ireland. Eventually the English controlled most of the island. With the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, the division between the conquering and conquered peoples took on a religious dimension. The Protestant English began to try to eliminate native Irish Catholicism, further increasing hostility between the two. When the Republic of Ireland won its independence in 1922, Northern Ireland became a separate political entity, remaining part of the United Kingdom. In recent decades it has been the site of violent conflict between Catholic nationalists and Protestant extremist groups. The Republic of Ireland became a member of the European Community in 1973.
2 • LOCATION
Ireland occupies an area smaller than the state of Maine. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the south, west, and northwest, and by the Irish Sea on the east. The country's two main topographic regions are a fertile central lowland and the mountain ranges that surround it. Most of the country is less than 500 feet (150 meters) above sea level. The Irish trace their ethnic origins to the various groups who inhabited and ruled their land over the course of history. These include the Celts, Norsemen, French Normans, and English. The people living east of the Shannon River generally have a higher standard of living, with a more advanced level of industrialization and richer farmland. The Gaeltacht along the western coast is the nation's Gaelic-speaking region.
3 • LANGUAGE
Irish Gaelic is the official language of the Republic of Ireland. However, English is actually more widely used. Only about 30 percent of the population know Gaelic well enough to use it in daily conversation. Gaelic is a required subject in school. Signs throughout Ireland are written in both English and Gaelic. Irish Gaelic is a Celtic language closely related to Scottish Gaelic. Irish people speak English with an accent known as a brogue.
|good night||codladh sámh||kull-uh sawv|
4 • FOLKLORE
The Irish are master storytellers. Their tales and legends date back to Druid priests and early Celtic poets who preserved the stories of Ireland's pre-Christian heroes and heroines. Many tales recall the exploits of Cuchulainn, who defended Ulster (Ireland's northern counties) single-handedly. Other tales come from the era of Cormac Mac Art, Ireland's first king. They include the love story of Diarmid and Grania and the exploits of Finn MacCool. Modern authors have helped keep these folk traditions alive. The poet William Butler Yeats wrote five plays based on the legendary adventures of Cuchulainn. James Joyce's final novel, Finnegans Wake— whose main character is identified with the mythic figure of Finn MacCool—is filled with Irish legends and mythology. Irish children today still learn tales about these legendary heroes, including MacCool and Saint Finnabar, who is said to have slain Ireland's last dragon.
5 • RELIGION
Ireland is a staunchly Catholic country. Roman Catholics account for about 95 percent of Ireland's population, and nearly 90 percent of the Irish people attend Mass every week. Pilgrimages to shrines and holy places at home and abroad attract tens of thousands of people each year. Catholicism is deeply intertwined with Irish nationalism (patriotism). Before Irish independence, the British attempted to eliminate Catholicism from Ireland. This caused the Irish to cling even more fiercely to their faith. The non-Catholic minority is mostly Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Jewish.
The patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, is honored by people (not only those of Irish descent) worldwide on March 17 each year. Patrick, according to legend, dreamed that he received a call from the Irish people to help them. Ireland was overrun with snakes and reptiles in such large numbers that it was considered a plague. Patrick went a high mountain, carrying a staff to show that he was a priest. He charmed the snakes with prayers, and gathered them all together. When every last snake had responded, Patrick drove them all into the sea, freeing Ireland from the reptile plague. The Irish people gathered around him to thank him, and he began to preach Christianity to them. The peasant people could not grasp the meaning of Christianity's holy trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. When Patrick spotted the three-leafed shamrock, he picked it and used it to help explain how three gods, represented by the three leaves, could be one. This is the legend explaining how St. Patrick eliminated snakes from Ireland, led the Irish people to Christianity, and became their patron saint. It also explains why the shamrock is the national symbol of Ireland.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
Ireland's legal holidays are New Year's Day (January 1), St. Patrick's Day (March 17), Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, bank holidays (days when banks, schools, etc., are closed) on the first Mondays of June and August, Christmas (December 25), and St. Stephen's Day (December 26). St. Stephen's Day is referred to as "Wren Day," reflecting the ancient druid belief that the wren was sacred. On this day, young men ("Wren Boys") dress in outrageous costumes and paint their faces. They go from house to house in a silly parade "hunting the wren," and people may throw them a few coins. In addition to these holidays, a variety of customs and celebrations are associated with various saints' days. St. John's Day (June 24), for example, is traditionally the time to dig up and eat the first new potatoes. On the night before, bonfires are lit on hilltops throughout the west of Ireland. A dish called colcannon, made from cabbage, potatoes, and milk, was traditionally served on Halloween with a ring, coin, thimble, and button inserted into it. Whoever found the ring was supposed to be married within a year. The coin symbolized wealth; the button, bachelorhood (a man who never marries); and the thimble, spinsterhood (a woman who never marries). Sometimes, the colcannon is left out on Halloween as a snack for the fairies.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
As in most West European countries, most births occur in hospitals. In Roman Catholic families, the child is baptized within a week or so of birth. First communion and confirmation are important events for Catholic children. Marriage generally takes place in church. Weddings are festive events. In the west they may still be attended by "straw-boys," uninvited guests dressed in straw disguises who crash the wedding and play about in good-humored fashion.
Death is a solemn occasion. Although the Irish were once known for their wild wakes (a time for people to view the body before burial), these are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
The Irish are famous for their hospitality, which dates back to olden times. It was believed that turning away a stranger would bring bad luck and a bad name to the household. (According to one Christian belief, a stranger might be Christ in disguise coming to test the members of the household.) The front doors of houses were commonly left open at meal times. Anyone who passed by would feel free to enter and join in the meal. While many of the old superstitions are a thing of the past, Irish warmth and hospitality toward strangers remains. Hospitality is practiced not only at home, but also at the neighborhood pub (bar). Anyone joining a group of drinkers immediately buys a round of drinks for everyone at the table. (Similarly, no one smokes a cigarette without first offering the pack to everyone present.)
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
The traditional rural home was narrow and rectangular. It was built from a combination of stones and mortar (made from mud, lime, or whatever material was locally available). The roof was often thatched. Rural homes and those in some urban areas are commonly heated by fireplaces that burn peat (called "turf" in Ireland) instead of wood. (Peat is soil from marshy or damp regions, composed of partially decayed vegetable matter. It is cut and dried for use as fuel.) Modern homes are replacing traditional dwellings both in the country and the city. Families generally live in brick or concrete houses or apartment buildings. Large numbers of people have emigrated to Ireland's cities since the 1950s. Consequently, a great demand for new housing has been created, and developments have gone up around most large towns and cities.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
The Irish have an extremely strong loyalty to the family. The nuclear family is the primary family unit. However, an ailing elderly relative and an unmarried aunt or uncle may also be included. Young people have traditionally lived at home with their parents until they marry, often after the age of twenty-five or even thirty. Bonds between siblings are unusually strong, especially in the western part of the country. Unmarried siblings often live together, sometimes joined by a widowed sibling later in life. While women are playing an increasingly active role in the work force, traditional gender roles are still common at home. Women perform most of the household chores and child-rearing, and the men fill the traditional role of breadwinner (the one who earns money to support the family, or "buy the bread").
11 • CLOTHING
People in Ireland wear modern Western-style clothing. Durability, comfort, and protection from Ireland's often wet weather are of primary concern. The Irish have been known for their fine cotton lace-making since the early 1800s. Handknitted sweaters are another famous Irish product, especially those made on the Aran Islands. Tweed—a thick cloth of woven wool used for pants, skirts, jackets, and hats—is another type of textile for which the Irish are known. The Irish have decorated (and fastened) their clothing with bronze and silver brooches since the third century ad, Traditional designs have included detailed engravings, animal designs, and enamel inlays.
Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 Tablespoons caraway seeds
- ½ cup raisins
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- Place raisins in a small saucepan and cover with water. Heat over medium heat until the water boils. Lower heat, cover pan, and simmer about 5 minutes. Drain well.
- Stir together flour, sugar, salt, baking power, and baking soda. Add caraway seeds and well-drained raisins and mix well.
- Add butter and mix with very clean hands until butter and dry indredients are combined well.
- Add buttermilk and mix with a fork.
- Grease well a round baking pan or cast iron frying pan about 8 or 9 inches in diameter.
- Pat dough into greased pan and bake at 325° F about 75 minutes until lightly browned. The soda bread is done if a fork poked into the bread comes out clean.
- Remove from pan and cool before cutting.
Serve by cutting into pie-shaped wedges. May be served with butter or preserves.
12 • FOOD
The Irish have hearty appetites. Potatoes are the main staple and, together with cabbage, the most popular vegetable in Ireland. Dairy products are a favorite, and a great deal of milk and butter are consumed. Irish stew, one of the most common traditional dishes, consists of lamb or mutton, potatoes, onions, herbs, and stock. The main meals of the day are breakfast and lunch. The traditional Irish breakfast includes sausages, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, pudding (hot cereal), other meat dishes (such as liver or lamb chops), and bread, all washed down with plenty of tea. (Many have abandoned this menu in favor of lighter fare.) A typical lunch might include a hearty soup, a serving of chicken or beef, and vegetables. Supper usually consists of sandwiches, cold meats, or fish. Soda bread, made with baking soda and buttermilk, accompanies many meals. Popular desserts (called "sweets") include scones, tarts, and cakes.
13 • EDUCATION
Adult literacy is nearly universal in Ireland. All children must attend school between the ages of six and fifteen. Most go to single-sex rather than coeducational (girls and boys together) schools. Both English and Gaelic are taught in primary school (called National School). Secondary school students receive an Intermediate Certificate at the age of fifteen or sixteen. Following an optional two more years of study, they receive a Leaving Certificate, which is required for admission to one of Ireland's three universities. Ireland's oldest university is Trinity College, also known as the University of Dublin.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
The Irish place great value on the arts. Ireland's writers, composers, painters, and sculptors do not have to pay income taxes as long as their work is recognized as having "artistic or cultural merit." Ireland's greatest contribution has been in the field of literature. Its great writers include Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels; the playwrights Oliver Goldsmith and Oscar Wilde; and such giants of twentieth-century literature as playwright George Bernard Shaw, poet William Butler Yeats, and novelist James Joyce. Yeats won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923, as did his fellow Irishman, playwright Samuel Beckett in 1969. Contemporary Irish writers include poets Seamus Deane and Seamus Heaney. Heaney won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995. There is also a considerable amount of modern literature written in Irish Gaelic, including poets Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Máirtín Ó Direáin.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
In 1992, 59 percent of Ireland's labor force was employed in service sector jobs, 28 percent worked in industry, and 13 percent were in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Primary industries include meat, dairy, and grain processing; electronics, machinery, beer, shoe, and glassware production. Farming takes place on both small subsistence farms where families raise just enough to support themselves, and on large sophisticated commercial farms that produce food for export. Tourism is a mainstay of the service sector. It provides restaurant, hotel, and retail jobs and it expands the range of government employment.
16 • SPORTS
Ireland's most popular sports are hurling and Gaelic football. Hurling, similar to field hockey, is played by two teams of fifteen players who, with long sticks called hurleys or camans, attempt to knock a leather ball through their opponents' goalposts. The All-Ireland Hurling Championship is the Irish equivalent of the World Series in the United States. It is held in Dublin every September. The women's version of hurling is called camogie. Gaelic football combines elements of soccer and rugby, and also culminates in an All-Ireland match in the nation's capital. Another popular traditional Irish sport is road bowling (played mostly in County Cork). Its object is to advance a metal ball, called a "bullet," over a two-or three-mile (three-to-five-kilometer) course in as few throws as possible. Other widely played sports include soccer, rugby, cricket, boxing, and track and field. Horse racing is a favorite national pastime, and Ireland's famous races include the Irish Derby and the Grand National (the race featured in the movie National Velvet ).
17 • RECREATION
Irish men spend many of their hours in pubs (bars), drinking beer or ale, playing darts, and socializing with their friends. In recent years, it has become increasingly acceptable for women to frequent pubs, although the neighborhood pub still remains primarily male territory. Pubs are also the scene of traditional music sessions, which are associated with craic (pronounced "crack"). This is an all-around term for having a good time that can include playing and/or listening to music, joking, getting drunk, or flirting with members of the opposite sex. "The craic was mighty" means that someone had a good time. Other popular leisure-time pursuits include chess, bingo, and bridge (a card game).
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Traditional crafts include tweed and linen weaving, wool knitting, glass blowing, and woodcarving. Belleek china and Waterford crystal are especially famous. Rathborne, which has been producing candles for over 450 years, is Europe's oldest candle maker. The women of the Aran Islands are known for their distinctive woolen sweaters. (At one time, every family on the islands had its own sweater pattern, which aided in identifying drowned sailors.) Ireland has a rich folk music tradition, and ancient jigs and reels can be heard at local festivals and during informal performances at neighborhood pubs. Since the 1960s, groups like the Chieftains and Planxty have revived national interest in traditional tunes and instruments. They have also gained an international audience for Irish music, both live and recorded. Traditional instruments include the fiddle, flute, Celtic harp, accordion, bodhran (a hand-held drum), and uilleann pipes (a bagpipe-like instrument powered by bellows).
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Ever since the great potato famine of 1845, Ireland has lost a large percentage of its population to emigration. People regularly leave in search of better opportunities abroad. In addition to inflation, high unemployment, and the highest taxes in Europe, the nation must deal with one of the largest per capita (per person) foreign debts in the world. Terrorist attacks among competing Protestant and Catholic factions have killed more than 3,200 people in Northern Ireland since 1969.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Fairclough, Chris. We Live in Ireland. New York: Bookwright Press, 1986.
Gall, Timothy, and Susan Gall, eds. Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. Detroit: UXL, 1996.
Ireland in Pictures. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1993.
Pomeray, J.K. Ireland. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.
Lecturer at Trinity College. [Online] Available http://www.bess.tcd.ie/ireland.htm, 1998.
Mystical Ireland. [Online] Available http://1adventure.com/Ireland/default.htm, 1998.
Interknowledge Corporation and Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Northern Ireland. [Online] Available http://www.interknowledge.com/northern-ireland/, 1998.
World Travel Guide. Ireland. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/ie/gen.html, 1998.
Since 1169 Ireland has been occupied by an English army: the history of the Irish, like the history of many oppressed, colonized people, has had great influence on the character of the Irish in Ireland and abroad. Penal laws were instituted by the British beginning in 1695 to force the Irish to adopt both the Protestant faith and the capitalist ethic of the industrializing English nation. The adopting of such external values offered the Irish a way out of poverty to economic security, but leaving the Catholic Church required a rejection of one's self, family, community, and history. The Penal Code restricted all but the converted Irish from any mobility (including education and landownership), took away their language, and attempted to take their religion.
IMMIGRATION TO AMERICA
Protestant Irish had been immigrating to North America since the 1700s, and in 1815 and 1816 twenty thousand mostly Protestant Irishmen from Ulster arrived in the United States. But it was not until the mid-1820s that poorer Catholic Irish, self-identified as laborers, began to immigrate in significant numbers. By the late 1830s the majority of immigrants from Ireland were Catholic, rural, and poor. Large-scale Irish immigration to the United States began after the period from 1845 to 1849 known as the Irish potato famine, also called the Great Hunger, when a series of potato crop failures, the sole crop for most Irish farmers, led to extreme poverty and starvation, leading to over a million deaths in Ireland and as many emigrants leaving Ireland. Between 1845 and 1870, 2.5 million Irish immigrated to the United States.
Emigration for the famine generation Irish was not seen as a way to strike it rich in the New World but rather as a forced, involuntary exile. Before a family member was about to leave, an "American wake" was held, a ceremony bemoaning the necessity to emigrate. Of course, there were those Irish who chose willingly to go, particularly women—who were doubly oppressed—and anglicized Irish. But on the whole, continuing religious persecution from the British combined with extreme poverty were the motivating factors to undertake the arduous and often dangerous crossing of the Atlantic: in 1847 (known as "Black '47") 20 percent of Irish passengers on the sea died either during or shortly after the voyage, a total of over forty-two thousand people.
Famine generation Irish immigrants often did not have the support network available to those arriving afterward and were vulnerable to experiences of homesickness, unemployment, and cultural dislocation. Although some went out west and a few became millionaires during the California gold rush of 1848 and 1849, most often these predominantly rural Irish immigrants (who refused to return to farming, defeated by the potato blight) settled in the burgeoning metropolitan areas, adapting to urban life just as urban life was beginning to burst. Slums and ghettos developed, and a shantytown in the upper west side of New York City's Central Park was established by those who were either evicted from the slums or who refused to live in them.
The immigrants quickly discovered that their treatment in America was no different than it had been in Ireland by the British. Anti-Catholicism had been a feature of American society since colonial times, and it became increasingly virulent as more Irish and German Catholics entered the United States from the 1820s onward. The Catholic Church was seen as bowing to a foreign power, with priests and nuns portrayed in the popular press as immoral and unsavory. Antagonism between Catholics and Protestants also followed the immigrants from Ireland: in 1837 a mob of Protestant workmen in Boston burned a Catholic convent; in the 1840s it was not uncommon for riots to evolve out of the fighting between Protestants and Irish Catholics, and several Catholic churches were burned in Philadelphia. In the 1850s the antiforeign and anti-Catholic American Party, commonly called the Know-Nothing Party, advocated national unity, the exclusion of foreign-born people from voting or holding public office, and anti-Catholic legislation.
Conflicts between Irish Americans and African Americans began in the 1830s and 1840s when Irish immigrants were recruited to work on the canals of upstate New York, thus displacing other unskilled workers, including free blacks: "To many Irish, abolitionism was a nativist and anti-Catholic movement that represented a profound threat to their livelihoods: the freeing of four million enslaved Americans would compete with them" for jobs, suggests Maureen Dezell (p. 147). Despite such feelings, Irish immigrants enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War in high numbers, often for the pay. Yet when the federal government passed a draft law in 1863 allowing rich draftees to pay their way out of the war, many poor Irish immigrants responded angrily. The Civil War draft riots, says Dezell, were "the largest and bloodiest insurrection that has ever taken place in the United States. Blacks had been used as strikebreakers in New York and were exempt from the draft, and Irish laborers turned on African Americans" (p. 147). The burning and looting of buildings, including the draft board building and the Negro Orphan Asylum, went on for four days, ultimately confirming the negative stereotypes of Irish immigrants.
AMERICANIZING THE IRISH AMERICAN: FAMILY, POLITICS, AND THE CHURCH
Despite the conflicts that the famine generation of immigrants faced, Irish arriving in the United States were relatively successful in assimilating due to three pillars: the family, politics, and the church. All three institutions helped to protect Irish immigrants from anti-Irish Catholic prejudice yet at the same time encouraged assimilation.
Unlike Protestant Irish immigrants, who often discouraged family members from following them to the United States, Irish Catholic immigrants, perhaps because of the starvation faced by family members during the potato famine era, often sacrificed themselves to save enough money to bring family members to the United States. Although such attention to family ties may have impeded economic success in the United States, close family relationships provided psychological support for immigrants on their own in a new country.
Yet economic effects in the United States also had a transforming impact on Irish American family structure, particularly in terms of gender roles. In Ireland, family duties, social events, and even church attendance were all sex- and age-segregated. Although a wife might occasionally work in the fields during harvest time, the spheres of influences for both sexes were clearly delineated: women controlled the house, men the farm. Men were in control of economic and marriage decisions. As Irish families established themselves in the United States, however, new family structures emerged that gave rise to the stereotype of the controlling, bossy Irish matriarch. The immigrant husband would work long hours, often far away from home, giving the wife total control over family life, including money management and the raising of the children. Also, in times of high unemployment, Irish women, married or not, were often more employable than men. Although most married women did not work outside the home, some had to, and virtually all Irish women worked before marriage. The effects of this change in gender roles were not entirely negative: children of such mothers were usually pushed to succeed economically, helping the Irish to assimilate in terms of social and economic class within a single generation.
"NO IRISH NEED APPLY"
"No Irish Need Apply" was a popular song among Irish Americans in the 1860s. This version was written by John Poole.
I am a dacint Irishman, just come from Ballyfad;
Oh I want a situation and I want it mighty bad.
A position I saw advertised. 'Tis the thing for me, says I;
But the dirty spalpeen ended with: No Irish need apply.
Whoa! Says I; but that's an insult—but to get this place I'll try.
So, I went to see the blaguard with: No Irish need apply.
Well some may think it a misfortune; To be christened Pat or Dan
But to me it is an honor; To be born an Irishman.
Well I started out to find this chap, I found him mighty soon;
He was seated in the corner, he was reading the TRIBUNE.
When I told him what I came for, he in a rage did fly.
And he says, you are a Paddy, and no Irish need apply!
Then I felt me dander rising, that I'd like to black his eye
To tell a dacint gentleman: No Irish need apply!
Well, I couldn't stand his nonsense so ahold of him I took
And I gave him such a batin' as he'd get in Donnybrook
And he hollered "mile murder" and to get away did try
And he swore he'd never write again: No Irish need apply.
He made a big apology; I bid him then goodbye
Sayin' when next you want a batin' write: No Irish need apply.
Well, I've heard that in America it always is the plan
That an Irishman is just as good as any other man;
A home and hospitality they never will deny
To strangers here, or ever write: No Irish need apply.
Ah but some black sheep are in the flock: a dirty lot says I;
A dacint man will never write: No Irish need apply!
Now old Ireland on the battle field a lasting fame has made;
You all have heard of Meagher's men and Corcoran's brigade
Though fools may flout and bigots rave, fanatics they may cry,
But when they want good fightin' men the Irish may apply.
And when for freedom and for right they raise the battle cry
Those rebel ranks will surely think: No Irish need apply!
Moloney, Far from the Shamrock Shore, p. 16.
Experience in politics learned in Ireland also worked in the favor of the Irish immigrants: between 1820 and 1880, the Irish worked together to create political allegiances that reached an apex in the influence they wielded within the Democratic Party organization of Tammany Hall in 1880s New York City. Irish immigrants used existing structures such as local parishes and saloons in order to organize, quickly electing fellow Irishmen as leaders within the Democratic Party and achieving power within the political systems of most urban areas. Voter loyalty was maintained through patronage: in cities such as New York, Chicago and Boston, the Irish quickly held leadership posts in police and fire departments and in sanitation and public works jobs. Most Irish Americans were upwardly mobile economically by the late nineteenth century.
The Catholic Church in the United States was also essential in the Americanization of the Irish immigrants. With the sheer numbers of Irish immigrants, Irish clergy easily gained control of the church in the United States. Before the 1830s, the leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States was mostly French or French-trained, but by 1860 the church had become an immigrant church. Although most pre-famine Catholic immigrants were non-churchgoing, the leadership of the Irish-born bishop John Hughes (1797–1864) in gathering Irish immigrants into the church family was effective. By 1870 the parish church became the center of the immigrant community: priests were directly involved in Irish American family life, and Irish families returned the favor by contributing money to build churches and parochial schools and to support more priests from Ireland.
THE IRISH IN AMERICAN LITERATURE
The Irish American literary tradition began with the first wave of Protestant Irish immigrants in the eighteenth century and has continued into the twenty-first century, making it "the most extended continuous corpus of literature by members of a single American ethnic group available to us," writes Charles Fanning in the introduction to his anthology The Exiles of Erin (p. 1). Unlike the famine generation writers who followed, the first Irish immigrants to the United States were generally received with indifference more than hostility, and because there were so few of them, they were able to assimilate more quickly. Granted, the British had exported an anti-Irishness that was seen in American newspapers and magazines even before the arrival of mostly Irish Catholic immigrants in the form of Irish stereotypes: the alcoholic, baboon-like figure who cries in his beer while singing a ditty, for example. But early Irish-born writers in America, usually educated and middle class themselves, used satire and parody to combat these stereotypes.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was unusual in the thoughtfulness of his references to the Irish immigrants in Walden (1854) and in his journal: he criticizes the Irish at first for their poor living conditions, yet at the same time he praises those Irish immigrants in Concord, Massachusetts, whom he considered hard working and frugal. One might notice a small irony in the fact that Thoreau built his cabin at Walden Pond from the wood of an Irishman's shanty. In his journal for 1851, Thoreau writes about several Irish immigrants as individuals who impress him, including a young Johnny Riordan who walks to school during the Massachusetts winter without shoes or coat. As Herbert Joseph Smith notes in his impressive study of the Irish in American fiction: "Thoreau's observations constitute the fullest record of a major American writer's personal reflections on his encounters with the Irish during this period" (p. 179). Most non-Irish writers of the time either referred to the Irish immigrants stereotypically or not at all.
In Exiles of Erin, Fanning notes that works by Irish immigrant writers before the 1840s illustrate a return to the eighteenth-century use of self-satire as a response to immigration and to the Irish immigrant position in the United States. For example, The Life and Travels of Father Quipes, Otherwise Dominick O'Blarney (1820) and The Life of Paddy O'Flarrity (1834), each ostensibly an autobiographical narrative "written by Himself," are anonymously produced satires of the Irish immigrant dream of success in the United States. Six Months in the House of Correction; or, The Narrative of Dorah Mahoney (1835), by another anonymous Irish writer, mocks the anti-Catholic fiction of the period. John McDermott Moore's The Adventures of Tom Stapleton (1842) mocks Irish American and American "social, political, and literary life, while parodying a range of New York dialects and the conventions of popular, sentimental fiction" (Fanning, Exiles, p. 23). One of the earliest Irish American novels is by an Ulster Protestant immigrant, James McHenry: The Wilderness (1823) is the story of Ulster immigrants to western Pennsylvania. Fanning argues that McHenry's novels "are pioneering attempts to define Irishness for an American audience" (Exiles, p. 23).
By the time Irish Catholics arrived in the United States from Ireland, they chose to address their fiction to their own kind, other Irish immigrants, dismissing satire as just too cruel for a people so constantly humiliated. The fiction turned serious and didactic, providing pragmatic advice for the newcomers on how to survive their hostile reception in Protestant America.
The themes of this didactic fiction, often in the form of domestic novels, included the struggle between good and evil in the New World; how to become economically secure without losing your faith; the power of the church; the power of the Irish mother; and nostalgia for Ireland. Some of the titles emphasize these themes, as well as the dualistic world-view inherent in them: examples include The Cross and the Shamrock; or, How to Defend the Faith (1853) by Father Hugh Quigley; and The Lost Rosary; or, Our Irish Girls, Their Trials, Temptations, and Triumphs (1870) by Peter McCorry. Writers such as Mary Anne Sadlier and Father John Roddan reassured Irish immigrants that they too could partake in the American dream of prosperity without giving up their Irish culture and Catholic religion, yet only if they could overcome the many obstacles in their path. The hero of Roddan's novel John O'Brien; or, The Orphan of Boston (1850) nearly loses his faith in the process of working for a series of Protestant employers. Although he ends up in a reformatory, he eventually returns to the Catholic Church and at the end is rewarded with economic prosperity.
Fiction by Irish American writers in the late nineteenth century often focused on this conflict: the desire for middle-class respectability in the face of ongoing poverty versus the fear of losing one's sense of Irish identity. The Irish American press played an important role in immigrant literature by printing an abundance of short fiction written by Irish Americans in this period. Periodicals such as the Boston Pilot, a popular Catholic magazine that had a national circulation as early as the 1840s, sought to counteract stereotypes and promote Irish nationalism in its Irish American readers. Yet, like the fiction of the time, such magazines published stories that rarely showed tenement life or working conditions—despite the fact that many Irish were still in the ghettoes as late as the 1870s. Instead they emphasized success stories about Irish immigrants who became Americanized without losing their ethnic identity. For the most part the Irish American press printed stories that, although unrealistic, provided early positive images of Irish Americans who worked hard but stayed Catholic in the process of assimilation.
MARY ANNE SADLIER: BARD OF THE IRISH AMERICANS
One of the most popular women writers of this period was Mary Anne (Madden) Sadlier (1820–1903), who in 1846 had married James Sadlier of the publishing firm of D. and J. Sadlier and Company, a prominent member of the Roman Catholic press based in Montreal and New York. She wrote dozens of novels, all best-sellers within the Irish immigrant community. Her literary fame in America began when her first immigrant novel, Willy Burke; or, The Irish Orphan in America, was published in the Pilot in 1850 and then later that same year published as a book. In her preface to Willy Burke she identifies the didactic goal of her immigrant fiction: it was "written for the express purpose of being useful to the young sons of my native land, in their arduous struggle with the tempter" (p. 3). The novel sold seven thousand copies within a few weeks of publication. At the end of the optimistic novel, the hero Willy not only achieves economic success, but he successfully gets two Protestant characters to convert to Catholicism.
Sadlier shrewdly marketed her books with an eye to reaching an audience of Catholic working-class immigrants. The scholar Michele Lacombe notes that Sadlier bears comparison with her contemporary Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896), in that she "claimed to be working not for fame but for God and country—in this case the Catholic faith and the Irish nation in America"—but she was rewarded with fame nonetheless (p. 101).
The Blakes and the Flanagans: A Tale, Illustrative of Irish Life in the United States (first published serially in 1850), Sadlier's most popular novel, depicts one of the central issues in Irish American politics in 1850: the "schools question." Catholics objected to the Protestant-controlled public school system and set out to create a separate system of Catholic schools. The idealized, "good" Catholic Flanagans in Sadlier's novel find success in America as a result of their piety: their children are not corrupted by the public school system. The Blakes, however, are depicted as fallen Catholics, worse than Protestants, and are justly punished for their betrayal of Catholicism. In Sadlier's works, loyalty to the Catholic Church supersedes all. Irish Catholic tradition (as well as the ideal of the Victorian American woman) expected women to be both submissive to their husbands and also moral and religious guardians. It is not surprising then that Sadlier's women characters like Mrs. Blake are the first to recognize any encroachment on their religion: it is Mrs. Blake, and not her husband, who first realizes the not-so-hidden agenda of the public schools.
The novel also explicitly notes that the virtue of working did not mean, for good Catholics, that money was the sole object. Mr. Blake is criticized for spending more time earning money than watching over his family. Sadlier particularly feared that social mobility in America threatened what she saw as indivisible safety nets for Irish immigrants: religion, family, and ethnicity. The Blake children learn to reject both Catholicism and all things Irish while in public school—this, in turn, destroys family ties between generations. By maintaining ethnic and religious ties, the Flanagan family stays intact: they earn a comfortable living at a family-run business.
In The Blakes and the Flanagans (1850), Mary Anne Sadlier illustrates the conflict over identity faced by the Irish in America, and she advocates the values of those characters who maintain their sense of Irishness. When Miles Blake warns that "men can't be Irishmen and Americans at the same time; they must be either one or the other," his nephew Ned Flanagan answers:
I myself am a living proof that your position is a false one. I was brought up, as you well know, under Catholic—nay, more, under Irish training; I am Irish in heart—Catholic, I hope, in faith and practice, and yet I am fully prepared to stand by this great Republic, the land of my birth, even to shedding the last drop of my blood, were that necessary. I love America; it is, as it were, the land of my adoption, as well as of my birth, but I cannot, or will not, forget Ireland.
Fanning, The Irish Voice in America, p. 124.
Although Sadlier only implies the real-life social problems of Irish immigrants in her early novels (perhaps to avoid focusing on ethnic stereotypes), by the time she wrote Bessy Conway (1861) she highlights them: alcoholism, poverty, and spousal abuse exist within the Irish community, and not just as punishment for lapsed Catholics and Protestants. Here Sadlier takes the more American stance of blaming the individual rather than the circumstances. The novel depicts the tale of hard-working Bessy, who refuses to convert to Protestantism in order to save her job and who is rewarded at the end with a return to Ireland, bringing pockets full of money but warning her neighbors: "Keep your girls at home!" (p. 296). The rest of the novel's characters do not fare as well as Bessy: one cousin becomes an alcoholic and wife beater; his sister-in-law marries a fool who leaves her alone with a crippled daughter. Another character is eventually killed by her abusive husband, and their son is adopted by Protestants who turn him against Catholicism. Meanwhile, pious Bessy returns in time to save her family from eviction and so impresses the landlord's son that he converts to marry her: the self-sacrificing, religious woman who manages to avoid the negative effects of immigration is rewarded at the end, in this world and the next. With this novel, Sadlier effectively moved from being an Irish-American writer to being an American writer, foreshadowing themes in the works of later Irish writers in America where character becomes more important than ethnic circumstances.
Fanning, Charles, ed. The Exiles of Erin: Nineteenth-CenturyIrish-American Fiction. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987. Many of the nineteenth-century works mentioned in this essay are reprinted in part in this anthology.
Roddan, John. John O'Brien; or, The Orphan of Boston. Boston: Donahoe, 1850.
Sadlier, Mary Anne. Alice Riordan: The Blind Man's Daughter. Boston: Donahoe, 1851.
Sadlier, Mary Anne. Bessy Conway; or, The Irish Girl in America. New York: Sadlier, 1861.
Sadlier, Mary Anne. The Blakes and the Flanagans: A Tale Illustrative of Irish Life in the United States. New York: P. J. Kennedy, 1855. First published serially in 1850.
Sadlier, Mary Anne. Con O'Regan; or, Emigrant Life in the New World. New York: Sadlier, 1864.
Sadlier, Mary Anne. Elinor Preston; or, Scenes at Home and Abroad. New York: Sadlier, 1861.
Sadlier, Mary Anne. New Lights; or, Life in Galway. New York: Sadlier, 1853.
Sadlier, Mary Anne. Old and New; or, Taste Versus Fashion. New York: Sadlier, 1862.
Sadlier, Mary Anne. Willy Burke; or, The Irish Orphan in America. Boston: Donahoe, 1850.
Thoreau, Henry David. The Annotated Walden: Walden, or,Life in the Woods. Edited by Philip Van Doren Stern. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1992.
Thoreau, Henry David. Journal. 8 vols. to date. Edited by Elizabeth Hall Witherell et al. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981–.
Biddle, Ellen Horgan. "The American Catholic Irish Family." In Ethnic Families in America: Patterns and Variations, edited by Charles H. Mindel and Robert W. Habenstein, pp. 89–123. New York: Elsevier, 1976.
Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History ofImmigration and Ethnicity in American Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.
Dezell, Maureen. Irish America: Coming into Clover. New York: Doubleday, 2000.
Diner, Hasia R. Erin's Daughters in America: IrishImmigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.
Fanning, Charles. The Irish Voice in America: 250 Years ofIrish-American Fiction. 2nd ed. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000.
Jensen, Richard. " 'No Irish Need Apply': A Myth of Victimization." Journal of Social History 36, no. 2 (2002): 405–429.
Lacombe, Michele. "Frying Pans and Deadlier Weapons: The Immigrant Novels of Mary Anne Sadlier." Essays on Canadian Writing 29 (summer 1984): 96–116.
McDannell, Colleen. The Christian Home in VictorianAmerica, 1840–1900. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.
McDannell, Colleen. "The Devil Was the First Protestant": Gender and Intolerance in Catholic Fiction." U.S. Catholic Historian 8 (winter/spring 1989): 51–65.
Moloney, Mick. Far from the Shamrock Shore: The Story ofIrish-American Immigration through Song. New York: Crown, 2002.
Olson, James S. The Ethnic Dimension in American History. 3rd ed. St. James, N.Y.: Brandywine Press, 1999.
Rose, Anne C. Voices of the Marketplace: American Thought and Culture, 1830–1860. New York: Twayne, 1995.
Smith, Herbert Joseph. "From Stereotype to Acculturation: The Irish-American's Fictional Heritage from Brackenridge to Farrell." Ph.D. diss., Kent State University, 1980.
Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1993.
Walsh, Francis. "Lace Curtain Literature: Changing Perspectives of Irish American Success." Journal of American Culture 2, no. 1 (1979): 139–146.
Stacey Lee Donohue
POPULATION: 4.3 million (2007)
LANGUAGE: Irish Gaelic (official); English (primary)
RELIGION: Roman Catholic; Protestant, and Jewish
The Republic of Ireland, which consists of 26 counties, covers five-sixths of the island of Ireland. The remaining portion is occupied by the six counties of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The division of the island into two political entities is the legacy of a long period of British rule, dating back as far as 1171, when King Henry II declared himself king of Ireland. Eventually the English controlled most of the island. With the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the division between the conquering and conquered peoples took on a religious dimension, as the Protestant English began the suppression of native Irish Catholicism, further aggravating the hostility between the two. When the Republic of Ireland won its independence in 1922, Northern Ireland became a separate political entity, remaining part of the United Kingdom. It was the site of violent conflict between Catholic nationalists and Protestant extremist groups until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated between the Irish and UK governments. The Republic of Ireland became a member of the European Community (now the European Union) in January of 1973. Ireland's economy began to grow rapidly in the 1990s, fueled by foreign investment: it became known as the "Celtic tiger." This attracted a wave of immigrants to a country where, traditionally, mass emigration was the norm. Today, Ireland has been transformed from a largely agricultural society into a modern, high-tech economy. Bertie Ahern, elected prime minister (taoiseach) in 1997, began a record third consecutive term in office in June 2007. However, Ahern in 2006 was criticized over controversial loans he received from friends when he was finance minister in the 1990s. In March 2008 he announced he would resign.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
Ireland, which occupies an area smaller than the state of Maine, is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the south, west, and northwest, and by the Irish Sea on the east. The country's two main topographic regions are a fertile central lowland and the mountain ranges that surround it. Most of the country is less than 500 feet above sea level. Ireland's population of 4.3 million people is evenly distributed throughout the country. The Irish trace their ethnic origins to the various groups who inhabited and ruled their land over the course of history, including the Celts, Norsemen, French Normans, and English. The people living east of the Shannon River generally have a higher standard of living, with a more advanced level of industrialization and richer farmland. The Gaeltacht along the western coast is the nation's Gaelic-speaking region.
Irish Gaelic and English are the official languages of the Republic of Ireland, and English is more widely used. Only about 30% of the population knows Gaelic well enough to use it in daily conversation, and only about 50,000 people living in the Gaelic-speaking or Gaeltacht area on the west coast use it as their primary language. The use and recognition of Gaelic has been taken up as a nationalist cause since the late 19th century. Today Gaelic is a compulsory subject in school, and signs throughout Ireland are written in both English and Gaelic. Irish Gaelic is a Celtic language closely related to Scottish Gaelic. Irish people speak English with an accent known as a brogue.
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The Irish are master storytellers, and their tales and legends date back to Druid priests and early Celtic poets who preserved the stories of Ireland's pre-Christian heroes and heroines. There are tales about the exploits of Cuchulainn, who defended Ulster single-handed, and tales from the era of Cormac Mac Art, Ireland's first king, including the love story of Diarmid and Grania and the exploits of Finn MacCool. Modern authors have helped keep these folk traditions alive: the poet William Butler Yeats wrote five plays based on the legendary adventures of Cuchulainn and James Joyce's final novel, Finnegans Wake — whose main character is identified with the mythic figure of Finn MacCool —is filled with Irish legends and mythology. Irish children today still learn tales about these legendary heroes, including MacCool and Saint Finnabar, who is said to have slain Ireland's last dragon.
Ireland is a staunchly Catholic country. Roman Catholics account for about 88% of Ireland's population, but only 48% of the Irish population in 2006 attended mass every week (down from 81% in 1990). Pilgrimages to shrines and holy places at home and abroad attract tens of thousands annually. Catholicism is strongly woven into the fabric of Irish life, influencing its laws, education, architecture, and daily life. Divorce only became legal in 1997. Abortion is illegal according to the Irish constitution. Catholicism is also deeply intertwined with Irish nationalism: before Irish independence, the British attempted to eradicate Catholicism from Ireland, causing the Irish to cling even more tenaciously to their faith. The non-Catholic minority is mostly Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Jewish.
Ireland's legal holidays are New Year's Day, St. Patrick's Day (March 17), Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, bank holidays on the first Mondays of June and August, Christmas, and St. Stephen's Day (December 26). In addition to these holidays, a variety of customs and celebrations are associated with various saints' days. St. John's Day (June 24), for example, is traditionally the time to dig up and eat the first new potatoes and on the night before, bonfires are lit on hilltops throughout the west of Ireland. A dish called colcannon, made from cabbage, potatoes, and milk, was traditionally served on Halloween with a ring, coin, thimble, and button inserted into it. Whoever found the ring was supposed to be married within a year, while the coin symbolized wealth, the button, bachelor-hood, and the thimble, spinsterhood.
RITES OF PASSAGE
As in most west European countries, most births occur in hospitals. In Roman Catholic families the child is baptized within a week or so of birth. First Communion and confirmation are important events for Catholic children. Marriage generally takes place in church. Weddings are festive events and in the west may still be attended by "strawboys," uninvited guests dressed in straw disguises who crash the wedding and carouse about in good-humored fashion. Death is a solemn occasion and although the Irish were once known for their wild wakes these are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
The Irish are renowned for their hospitality, which dates back to olden times when it was believed that turning away a stranger would bring bad luck and a bad name to the household. (According to one Christian belief, a stranger might be Christ in disguise coming to test the members of the household.) The front doors of houses were commonly left open at meal times so that anyone who passed by would feel free to enter and join in the meal. While many of the old superstitions are a thing of the past, Irish warmth and hospitality toward strangers remains. Hospitality is practiced not only at home, but also at the neighborhood pub, where anyone joining a group of drinkers immediately buys a round of drinks for everyone at the table. Until 2004 no one smoked a cigarette without first offering the pack to everyone present. But that year Ireland became the first country to have a nationwide ban on indoor smoking in all public spaces, including restaurants and pubs.
The traditional rural home was narrow and rectangular, and built from a combination of stones and mortar (made from mud, lime, or whatever material was locally available), often with a thatched roof. Rural homes and those in some urban areas are commonly heated by fireplaces that burn peat (called "turf" in Ireland) instead of wood. Modern homes have replaced traditional dwellings both in the country and the city, where families generally live in brick or concrete houses or apartment buildings. The large numbers of people emigrating to Ireland's cities since the 1950s have created a great demand for new housing, and developments have gone up around most large towns and cities.
Health care in Ireland is based on a person's ability to pay for services, with low-income persons and those over the age of 66 receiving most services free of charge. Hospital care is free for all children through the age of 16, and the costs of medication are covered for people suffering from infectious or chronic illnesses. Both infant mortality (5.22 out of 1,000 live births) and average life expectancy (77.9 years) are close to the European average.
The Irish have such a strong allegiance to the family that their constitution even recognizes it as "the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable . . . rights" and guarantees to protect it as "indispensible to the welfare of the Nation." While the nuclear family is the primary family unit, it expands to include elderly relatives when they become infirm and may also include an unmarried aunt or uncle. Young people have traditionally lived at home with their parents until they married, often after the age of 25 or even 30. Bonds between siblings are unusually strong, especially in the western part of the country, and unmarried siblings often live together, sometimes joined by a widowed sibling later in life. While women are playing an increasingly active role in the work force, traditional gender roles still predominate at home, with the woman doing most of the household chores and child-rearing, and the men fulfilling the traditional role of breadwinner. Before 1972 married women could not be hired for professional positions in the public sector.
People in Ireland wear modern Western-style clothing, with an eye to durability, comfort, and protection from Ireland's often-wet weather. The Irish have been known for their fine cotton lace-making since the early 1800s. Handknitted sweaters are another famous Irish product, especially those made on the Aran Islands, with their high-quality yarn and distinctive patterns. Tweed —a thick cloth of woven wool used for pants, skirts, jackets, and hats —is another type of textile for which the Irish are known. The Irish have adorned (and fastened) their clothing with bronze and silver brooches since the 3rd century ad, and traditional designs have included detailed engravings, animal designs, and enamel inlays.
The Irish have hearty appetites. Potatoes are the main staple and, together with cabbage, the most popular vegetables in Ireland. Many rural dwellers grow their own potatoes and use them in their meals on a daily basis. Dairy products are a favorite, and milk and butter consumption are both heavy. Irish stew, one of the most common traditional dishes, consists of lamb or mutton, potatoes, onions, herbs, and stock. The main meals of the day are breakfast and lunch. The traditional Irish breakfast (which many have abandoned in favor of lighter fare) includes sausages, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, pudding, other meat dishes (such as liver or chops), and bread, all washed down by plentiful servings of tea. A typical lunch might include a hearty soup, a serving of chicken or beef, and vegetables. Supper usually consists of sandwiches, cold meats, or fish. Soda bread, made with baking soda and buttermilk, accompanies many meals, and popular desserts (called "sweets") include scones, tarts, and cakes.
Adult literacy is nearly universal in Ireland. All children must attend school between the ages of 6 and 15, and most go to single-sex rather than coeducational schools. Both English and Gaelic are taught in primary school (called National School). Secondary school students receive an Intermediate Certificate at the age of 15 or 16 and, following an optional two more years of study, a Leaving Certificate, which is required for admission to one of Ireland's seven universities. Ireland's oldest university is Trinity College, founded in 1591 and also known as the University of Dublin.
The value that the Irish place on the arts can be seen in Ireland's policy of exempting its writers, composers, painters, and sculptors from paying income taxes, as long as their work is recognized as having "artistic or cultural merit." Ireland's greatest contribution has been in the field of literature, and its great writers, include satirist Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels , the playwrights Oliver Goldsmith and Oscar Wilde, and such giants of 20th-century literature as playwright George Bernard Shaw, poet William Butler Yeats, and novelist James Joyce. Although Joyce left his native land as a young man, Ireland and its people play a central role in all his works, which include the short story collection Dubliners and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses , which traces the activities of its characters during the time span of one day in early-20th-century Dublin. Yeats won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923, as did his fellow Irishman, playwright Samuel Beckett in 1969. Contemporary Irish writers include poets Seamus Deane and Seamus Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995, and novelist Roddy Doyle, winner of the Booker Prize in 1993. Brian O'Nolan (Flann O'Brien) was an Irish novelist and satirist who wrote many satirical columns in the Irish Times under the name Myles na gCopaleen. There is also a considerable modern literature in Irish Gaelic, including poets Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Máirtín Ó Direáin.
In 2006, 67% of Ireland's labor force was employed in service sector jobs, 27% worked in industry, and 6% were in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Primary industries include meat, dairy, and grain processing, electronics, machinery, beer, shoes, and glassware. Since the 1960s, many small foreign-owned factories have opened in Ireland. Farming takes place on both small subsistence farms where families raise just enough to support themselves, and on large sophisticated commercial farms that produce food for export. Tourism is a mainstay of the service sector, providing restaurant, hotel, and retail jobs as well as expanding the range of government employment. In the decade up to 2006, property values had risen more rapidly in Ireland than in any other developed world economy. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is 40% higher than that of the four largest European economies and the second highest in the European Union (EU) behind Luxembourg, and in 2007 surpassed that of the United States. The Irish government has implemented a series of national economic programs designed to cut back on price and wage inflation, invest in infrastructure, increase labor force skills, and promote foreign investment.
Ireland's most popular sports are hurling and Gaelic football. Hurling, which is similar to field hockey, is played by two teams of 15 players who attempt to knock a leather ball through their opponents' goalposts with long sticks called hurleys or camans. The All-Ireland Hurling Championship, held in Dublin every September, is the Irish equivalent of the World Series in the United States. The women's version of hurling is called camogie. Gaelic football combines elements of soccer and rugby, and also culminates in an All-Ireland match in the nation's capital. Another popular traditional Irish sport is road bowling (played mostly in County Cork); its object is to advance a metal ball, called a bullet, over a two- or three-mile course in as few throws as possible. Other widely played sports include soccer, rugby, cricket, boxing, and track and field. Horse racing is a favorite national pastime, and Ireland's famous races include the Irish Derby and the Grand National (the race featured in the movie National Velvet ).
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
Irish men spend many of their hours in pubs, drinking beer or ale, playing darts, and socializing with their friends. However, a typical rainy evening also finds many Irish people of both sexes at home reading or watching television. In recent years, it has become increasingly acceptable for women to frequent pubs, although the neighborhood pub still remains primarily male turf. Pubs are also the scene of traditional music sessions, which are associated with craic (pronounced "crack"), an all-around term for having a good time that can include playing and/ or listening to music, joking around, getting drunk, or flirting with members of the opposite sex. "The craic was mighty" means that someone had a good time. Other popular leisure-time pursuits include chess, bingo, and bridge.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
Traditional crafts include tweed and linen weaving, wool knitting, glass blowing, and wood carving. Belleek china and Waterford crystal are especially famous, and Rathborne, which has been producing candles for over 450 years, is Europe's oldest candle maker. The women of the Aran Islands are known for their distinctive woolen sweaters. (At one time, every family on the islands had its own sweater pattern, which aided in identifying drowned sailors.) Ireland has a rich folk music tradition, and age-old jigs and reels can be heard at local festivals and in informal performances at neighborhood pubs. Since the 1960s, groups like the Chieftains and Planxty have not only revived national interest in traditional tunes and instruments, they have also gained an international audience for Irish music, both live and recorded. Traditional instruments include the fiddle, flute, Celtic harp, accordion, bodhran (a hand-held drum), and uilleann pipes (a bagpipe-like instrument powered by a bellows).
Ever since the great potato famine of 1845, Ireland has lost a large percentage of its population to emigration, as people leave in search of better opportunities abroad. At one point in the 19th century, the nation's population fell from 8 to 3 million within the space of a single generation. After a period of relative prosperity in the 1960s and 1970s, the worst economic crisis since independence led to a new wave of emigration beginning in the late 1980s, most of it to the United States. Over 100,000 of Ireland's young people left the country. In addition to inflation, high unemployment, and the highest taxes in Europe, the nation had to deal with one of the largest per capita foreign debts in the world. However, fueled by foreign investment, Ireland made a major turnaround in the 1990s, and was dubbed the "Celtic Tiger" for its fast growing economy. In recent years, Ireland has changed from being a country of emigrationto a country of immigration. Unemployment is very low and 9% of the labor force in Ireland is foreign born.
Politically, the difficulties in Northern Ireland led to violence that claimed nearly 2,000 civilian lives and injured some 40,000 among the competing Protestant and Catholic factions. However, in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed, which sought to address relationships within Northern Ireland; between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic; and between both parts of Ireland and England, Scotland, and Wales. In referenda, 71.2% of people in Northern Ireland and 94.39% in the Irish Republic voted "yes" to accepting the Agreement. An Assembly was elected in September that year, and there is an executive composed of a First Minister, Deputy First Minister and 10 further ministers.
With abortion illegal and divorce only becoming legal under certain circumstances in 1997, the lives of Irish women in many respects are circumscribed. The Roman Catholic Church plays a major role in social and family relations. Irish law prohibits discrimination against women in the workplace and provides for protection and redress against discrimination based on gender and marital status. However, inequalities persist regarding pay and promotions. Women constitute approximately 47.5% of the labor force but are underrepresented in senior management positions. The earnings of women average 80% that of men and women work 10 hours a week less.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Ireland in 1993, and discrimination based on sexual orientation is now outlawed. Ireland also prohibits incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation. A survey conducted in 2008 showed that 84% of Irish people supported civil marriage or civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples, with 58% supporting full marriage rights. Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, began recognizing same-sex civil partnerships in 2005.
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Bluett, Anthony. Th ings Irish. Dublin: Mercier Press, 1994.
Fairclough, Chris. We Live in Ireland. New York: Bookwright Press, 1986.
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— revised by J. Hobby
1. The adjective for Ireland, its people, languages, and traditions: Irish GAELIC, the Irish language, the Irish Question, Irish whiskey. Its nuances are varied, ranging from the sublime (Irish patriot) through such humorous and mischievous ‘institutions’ as the Irish bull and Irish joke, to facetious phrases like an Irish hurricane a flat calm with drizzling rain an Irish rise a reduction in pay. Such expressions are sometimes deliberately used in Britain to express anti-Irish feeling. If something seems unusual, fey, or illogical, a common comment is: That's a bit Irish.
2. Irish Gaelic: In Connemara they speak Irish.
Irish and EnglishThe relationship between the English and Irish languages is at least eight centuries old. In that period, the fortunes of both have waxed and waned, and the contacts have been complicated by conquest, rebellion, religion, ethnicity, immigration, emigration, politics, and education. As English has advanced and Irish retreated, it has been said both that English ‘murdered’ Irish and that Irish ‘committed suicide’ in the face of English. It is certainly true that the main reasons for the replacement of Irish by English are social and political rather than linguistic. They include: (1) The large-scale settlements begun in the 16c by the Tudors and reinforced by the Stuarts and Cromwell in the 17c. (2) The penal laws of the 18c which reduced the native population to subsistence level and ensured that Irish was no longer the first language for those who hoped to improve their political or social position. (3) The introduction of National Schools in 1831, where English was the sole medium of instruction. (4) The years of famine in the mid-19c, which resulted in mass emigration and a belief that land and language were blighted.
The heyday of IrishWhen in the 12c the Normans invaded Ireland, they found a secure language with strong and distinctive traditions. Speakers of Irish had Gaelicized not only the earlier people of the island and other Celtic settlers, but also later Pictish, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse settlers. The French, Flemish, Welsh, and English languages went to Ireland with the Normans and became in due course subject to pressure from Irish. Only within the eastern coastal region known as the Pale did English maintain a fragile grip. Medieval statutes show both the power of Irish and a wish to protect English against it: in 1285, a letter sponsored by the Bishop of Kildare and sent to the king suggested that Irish-speaking clerics should not be promoted because of their wish to maintain their language, and in 1366, the Statutes of Kilkenny (written in French) enjoined the English to use English names, customs, and language. However, Irish encroached even at the highest levels: in the 14c, the Earls of Ormond and Desmond spoke Irish and the latter, although Lord Chief Justice, wrote Irish poetry.
The conquest of IrelandIn the 16c, the English defeated the Gaelic order in Ireland; land was confiscated and plantation schemes brought in large numbers of English and later Scottish settlers. From 1600, English grew in strength and by 1800 was regularly used by up to 50% of the population. However, such was the growth in population that on the eve of the famines of 1846–8 there were probably more Irish-speakers in absolute terms than at any previous time. What began with Tudor pronouncements became more and more part of the social tissue of the island. As the 19c famines and mass emigrations proceeded, English consolidated its position. The Catholic Church became more reconciled to it and wary of Protestant proselytism through Irish, a process started by Elizabeth. Political leaders such as Daniel O'Connell were more concerned with emancipation than language and a school system was established, managed by the Catholic clergy, that excluded Irish from the curriculum. The steady decline of Irish was abetted by a general, pragmatic desire to acquire English. By the mid-19c, few Irish monolinguals were left and bilingualism had become a way-station on the road to English alone.
The Gaelic LeagueThe founding of the Gaelic League in 1893 marked the start of the strongest wave of revivalist sentiment, which has endured in all its vicissitudes. Irish revivalism, an example of linguistic nationalism, arrived only when the language was already in grave peril. Its leaders were such Dublin intellectuals as Douglas Hyde and Eoin MacNeill, whose Irish was acquired rather than native. The movement largely failed to engage the support of the dwindling group of native speakers in the rural and impoverished Gaeltacht: an Irish-speaking area in the west that was idealized, romanticized, and kept at a safe remove. In addition, Irish was often linked with the strength of Catholicism, an association which permitted English to be depicted as the secular medium of a foreign culture, despite the fact that the Catholic Church promoted English even in Irish-speaking parishes.
Irish since independenceThe Gaelic League had considerable success in fighting for Irish in schools and university but did not alter the language habits of the general population. When the Irish Free State was set up in 1921, Irish became a government responsibility. It was declared the national language, but accompanying the rhetoric was a serious and sometimes pessimistic concern for its fate. The government was often (and continues to be) accused of paying only lipservice to revival. It entrusted the task to the schools and it is therefore in education that the most important action has taken place over the last 70 years, such as compulsory Irish classes and making the gaining of an overall secondary school leaving certificate dependent on passing Irish (a rule no longer in effect). However, these efforts have not reversed the long decline: Ireland is now an overwhelmingly English-speaking country in which only 1–2% use Irish regularly and, even in the Gaeltacht, many parents bring up their children in English. Given the strong social currents of English in everyday life, it is hard to see what more the schools could have done than apply a thin wash of Irish across the land. See BORROWING, CELTIC LANGUAGES, HIBERNO-ENGLISH, SHELTA.
I·rish / ˈīrish/ • adj. of or relating to Ireland, its people, or the Goidelic language traditionally and historically spoken there. • n. 1. (also Irish Gaelic) the Goidelic language that is the first official language of the Republic of Ireland. 2. [as pl. n.] (the Irish) the people of Ireland; Irish people collectively. PHRASES: get one's Irish up cause one to become angry: if someone tries to make me do something I don't want to do, it gets my Irish up.DERIVATIVES: I·rish·ness n.