National Regeneration and
A NECESSARY MEANS of regaining self-confidence, Irish cultural nationalism acquired accentuated resonance after the collapse of political agitation and outbreaks of 'Pat-riot-ism'. In the aftermath, the first priority was to disabuse host attitudes, to refute the prejudice and ethnic denigration aroused to fever pitch by Irish 'commotion'. However, while confuting the derogatory portrayal of the Irish, nationalist cultural brokers, anxious to ensure against further defamation, exhorted their less fortunate fellow-countrymen along the path of reform, respectability and rehabilitation. Liverpool, they were only too well aware, was renowned for its 'unenviable pre-eminence in the unnecessary superfluity of its moral and material temptations to wrong-doing'.1 Much more than a rejoinder to ethnic defamation, respectable advocacy of Irish culture offered salvation for exiles of Erin adrift in an alien and corrupting waterfront environment.
Promotion of 'respectable' national values crossed the spectrum, from liberal advocates of integrative assimilation to ethnic purists campaigning for celtic separatism. At the same time, the specious 'anti-political' ethos of cultural activity provided ready cover for a 'revolutionary underground' disillusioned by the depredations, sleaze and compromise of constitutional politics. In trying to unravel some of these ironies and complexities, this chapter follows a chronological path through nationalist cultural endeavour. Most notably, it highlights a significant shift in focus from contestation of host stereotypes to inculcation of 'Irish-Ireland' culture, a project that exposed the gulf between cultural 'purists' and second-generation Liverpool-Irish. Where early nationalist
1 'Liverpool's Character', Porcupine 30 June 1877.