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Authority and Wisdom in the New Ireland

Studies in Literature and Culture

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Edited By Carmen Zamorano Llena and Billy Gray

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland has witnessed a profound reconfiguration of its cultural, political, constitutional and religious identities, resulting in an unparalleled questioning of the dominant discourses and narratives that have seemingly defined the nation. The essays in this collection examine the ways in which established Irish socio-cultural structures of authority and their constructs of collective identity have been challenged within literary and cultural discourses of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Every challenge to the purported wisdom of these authority structures adds a new facet to the complexity of Irish national identity and contributes to the continuous evolution of the ‘New Ireland’, a phrase often used to signify the momentous transformations of the country in times of change.
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Bryce Evans - The Shadow of a Gunman: Seán Lemass and National Artistic Expression

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BRYCE EVANS

The Shadow of a Gunman: Seán Lemass and National Artistic Expression

In Irish collective memory, few historical figures are as acclaimed as Seán Lemass. The most fondly remembered Taoiseach in Irish history, Lemass led Ireland from 1959 to 1966. In popular discourse, the ‘Age of Lemass’ refers to pre-Troubles, swinging sixties Ireland. It was in this period that the country is said to have ‘opened up’ both culturally and economically as a result of Lemass’s fabled ‘turn’ away from protectionism and towards foreign investment.

Lemass (1899–1971) has been the subject of six published biographical studies (Farrell, 1983; O’Sullivan, 1994; Horgan, 1997; Savage, 1999; Garvin, 2009; Evans, 2011) reflecting his prominence as the key economic policy maker in every Fianna Fáil government from 1932 onwards. The sparkling allure of Lemass as an economic moderniser ensured he was much feted during Ireland’s Celtic Tiger boom as the archetypal economic ‘pragmatist’ who dispensed with the sentimentalism of twee auld Ireland. Celtic Tiger Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said of his fellow Dubliner: ‘I never miss a chance to state my belief that Lemass was in the vanguard of almost every great event and decision that shapes the Ireland in which we live’. Ahern’s successor, Brian Cowen, not only used Lemass’s name to encourage support for his government’s bail-out of the banks, but initiated a ‘Seán Lemass Award for Enterprise’ (Ahern 2009: 19). During the Celtic Tiger boom, then, Lemass...

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