Culture and Politics in Northern Ireland, 1960-1990

By Eamonn Hughes | Go to book overview

2
Northern Ireland:
a place apart?

George Boyce

Since the Northern Ireland troubles first attracted media attention in the late 1960s, its people, and especially its politics, have been the subject of sociological, psychological, historical, politically scientific and legal scrutiny, so much so that they could be forgiven for thinking that they are condemned for ever to live like specimens in a jar, or like the fly in the fly-bottle, only with no hope (in their case) of ever escaping from the bottle. Not even the work of revisionist historians — and history after all is the subject which is supposed to assist the fly to get out- not even revisionist historians have budged the stopper one inch. It is probably true, as George Bernard Shaw remarked, that Ireland is an island surrounded entirely by footlights.1 If this is the case, then it may as well resign itself to the glare of publicity. But it has the right to ask: what has been the consequence of this great examination? What light have the footlights thrown on the region, its culture, its politics, its way of life?

The chief conclusion may be briefly and even simply stated: Northern Ireland, as conceived by many and probably most of its observers, is essentially a place apart — an expression used by one BBC journalist when he stood on a sunny day in July, 1970, and watched the annual Twelfth parades. The collection of rag, tag and bobtail youngsters following the processions, in particular, excited his attention. Watching them, he felt keenly that Northern Ireland was like nowhere else in the world, and certainly nowhere in the United Kingdom.

It is not hard to see why. Northern Ireland's politics are based on confrontation and confessionalism, not the bargaining for social and economic increments that characterises what are called

-13-

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Culture and Politics in Northern Ireland, 1960-1990
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ideas and Production ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Northern Ireland: A Place Apart? 13
  • 3: 'Why Can't You Get Along with Each Other?' 27
  • 4: Cuchullain and an Rpg-7 45
  • 5: The Labour Party and Northern Ireland in the 1960s 69
  • 6: Women in Northern Ireland 81
  • 7: Economic Change and the Position of Women in Northern Ireland 101
  • 8: Notes on the Novel in Irish 119
  • 9: Field Day's Fifth Province 139
  • 10: Intellectuals and Political Culture 151
  • Index 174
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