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Redefinitions of Irish Identity

A Postnationalist Approach


Edited By Irene Gilsenan Nordin and Carmen Zamorano Llena

Recently, the issue of postnationalism has encouraged intense debate, which has been reflected in the publication of numerous books and articles in various fields of study, including politics, history, philosophy and anthropology. However, the work produced in Irish literary criticism has been much sparser. This collection of essays aims to fill this gap and provide new insights into the debate on postnationalism in Ireland from the perspective of narrative writing. The book collects thirteen essays by academics from various countries, including Ireland, the United States and Sweden. It analyses the concepts of the postnational and the postnationalist in relation to globalisation, as well as the debate that postnationalist discourse has opened in various fields of knowledge, and its definitions and implications in the contemporary Irish historical and literary context. The literary forms under consideration include essay writing, drama, fiction, autobiography, film and poetry. The authors whose work is analysed here include Dermot Bolger, Hubert Butler, Ciaran Carson, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Marie Jones, Derek Mahon, Frank McGuinness, Robert McLiam Wilson, Conor McPherson, Sinéad Morrissey, Nuala O’Faolain and David Wheatley.


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Michael Böss Irish neutrality: From nationalism to postnationalism 17


Michael Böss Irish neutrality: From nationalism to postnationalism In order to pave the way for a Yes at the second referendum on the Nice Treaty (scheduled for 19 October 2002), the Irish government succeeded in persuading the EU summit in Seville (21–22 June 2002) to issue a declaration which said that the treaty did not ‘impose any binding mutual defence commitments’, nor did ‘the development of the union’s capacity to conduct humanitarian and crisis management tasks involve the establish- ment of a European army’. For its own part, the Irish government declared that Ireland confirmed ‘that its participation in the European Union’s common foreign and security policy did not prejudice its traditional policy of military neutrality [my emphasis]’ (Seville Declarations: 13, 14). Nevertheless, at the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty six years later, the issue of ‘Irish neutrality’ once more came up in debates and contributed, with a host of other reasons with little or no relevance for the substance of the treaty, to the no-vote of 52.3 per cent.1 It has been common since the 1950s for Irish politicians to describe the Irish policy of neutrality as a ‘tradition’. It was not until the Seville Declaration of 2002, however, that Irish neutrality was written into an official, international document.2 In this essay I will argue that today ‘neu- trality’ is a key symbol of Irish identity, and that its symbolic significance increased as the nationalist perception of Ireland as a Catholic and Gaelic nation began to...

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