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Non-Violent Resistance

Irreverence in Irish Culture

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Edited By Agnès Maillot, Jennifer Bruen and Jean-Philippe Imbert

Humour, by its very nature controversial, plays an important role in social interaction. With its power to question assumptions, it can be used a weapon of subversion, and its meaning and interpretation are embedded within the culture that generates them in complex ways. The scrutiny of Irish culture through the lens of humour is highly revealing, contributing to an alternative, and sometimes irreverent, reading of events. As John Updike wrote of Raymond Queneau’s witty re-imagining of the Easter Rising, humour can effectively expose «casual ambivalence».

This volume investigates the many ways in which writers, playwrights, politicians, historians, filmmakers, artists and activists have used irreverence and humour to look at aspects of Irish culture and explore the contradictions and shortcomings of the society in which they live.

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2 ‘The Long and the Short of it All’: De Valera, Seán T. O’Kelly and Dublin Opinion (Felix Larkin)

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FELIX LARKIN

2 ‘The Long and the Short of it All’: De Valera, Seán T. O’Kelly and Dublin Opinion

Most cartoonists actually enjoy the thought that they might be upsetting the odd person through their drawings. Perversely, we still see it as our mission to ‘twist a few tails’, as a former editor of the Irish Times was fond of saying.

— MARTYN TURNER (2012)1

The phrase ‘twist a few tails’ captures much of the essence of the concept of ‘irreverence’ – the theme of this volume – and Dublin Opinion, Ireland’s most celebrated satirical magazine, was an exemplar of irreverence in its ability to ‘twist a few tails’ in the newly-independent Irish state. It epitomised Aristotle’s definition of wit as ‘educated insolence [pepaidumenē hubris]’.2 Of the many public figures who fell victim to its sallies, Éamon de Valera and his long-time deputy, Seán T. O’Kelly, are the foremost – partly because they were among the most prominent figures in Irish life during the period when Dublin Opinion flourished, but also because both gave in word and deed many hostages to fortune which the magazine was not slow to exploit.

Dublin Opinion first appeared in March 1922, in the middle of what has been termed the ‘cold civil war’, the hiatus between the signing of the ← 37 | 38 → Anglo-Irish Treaty the previous December and the start of the actual civil war with the bombardment of the Four...

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