Over centuries successive state regimes, and other interested parties - such as religious and socio-economic collectives, established and aspiring elites, and commercial interests - have depicted the Irish nation in various ways to suit their purposes. In this process of invention they have selected, suppressed, transformed and improvised in order to arrive at defining combinations of national characteristics. These combinations are constantly changing and are seldom internally consistent. Thus, at one time the Irish nation is supposedly Protestant, at another supposedly Catholic, at yet another supposedly neither. In the early 20th century ardent young Irish nationists denounced the public house as an English import designed to undermine the morale and degrade the spirit of the Irish nation. At the beginning of the 21st century the Irish pub is the universal manifestation of what the world is thought to admire in an Irish ethnicity supposedly characterized by easy-going gregariousness and a propensity to break into song under the influence of a few "pints".
This book analyzes the work of such "inventors" in key areas of culture such as religion, language, music, literature and sport in regards to "Irishness". Prior to this it explores the assertions and assumptions about origins that are basic to all their endeavours.
This book gains credibility from its sensitivity to the relevance of concepts of nationhood outside the abstract concerns of academia Volume 12, No 3 2004 Irish Studies Review The scholarship and clarity of argument is hugely impressive. A whole range of historical stereotypes are effectively challenged. - Vol 90 Issue 1, January 2005 HISTORY - Journal of the Historical Association