Sexual images and innuendo have become commonplace in contemporary advertising; they often fail to register in any meaningful way with the audience. This book examines the essentially racist stereotypes through which Irish people have conventionally been regarded have been increasingly challenged and even displaced perhaps by a sequence of rather more complimentary perspectives. The various developments that are signified within the figure of the Celtic Tiger might be considered to have radically altered the field of political possibility in Ireland. The enormous cuts in public expenditure that marked this period are held to have established a desirable, stable macroeconomic environment. The Celtic Tiger shows that one can use the rhetoric about 'social solidarity' while actually implementing policies which increase class polarisation. The book discusses the current hegemonic construction of Ireland as an open, cosmopolitan, multicultural, tourist-friendly society. The two central pieces of legislation which currently shape Irish immigration policy are the 1996 Refugee Act and the Immigration Bill of 1999. The book offers a critical examination of the realities of the Celtic Tiger for Irish women. Processes of nation state formation invariably invoke homogeneous narratives of ethnicity and national identity. To invoke a collective subject of contemporary Ireland rhetorically is to make such a strategic utopian political assumption. For the last few hundred years, the Gaeltacht has exemplified the crisis of Irish modernity. Culture becomes capital, and vice versa, while political action increasingly consists of the struggle to maintain democratic autonomy in the face of global market forces.
The end of Irishhistory?
An introduction to the book
During the Easter vacation of 2001, I happened to be travelling through
the United States and picked up a copy of a renowned popular music
magazine to pass the time on a short internal flight. While leafing through
the publication, I stumbled across a feature that struck me as having no
little cultural significance. It was a single-frame, full-page advertisement
for some commodity or other set in a stylish contemporary bathroom
that could have been located in more or less any major city in
The tragedy (and comedy) of accelerated modernisation
Kieran Keohane and Carmen Kuhling
, what clues can we find that,
in their ends (their goals), reveal the ends of contemporary forms of
Irish life, and the end of Irishhistory?
James Joyce’s interiors in Dubliners, especially and typically in the
stories ‘The Sisters’, ‘The Boarding House’, ‘Clay’ and ‘The Dead’, are
microcosmic representations of paralysis, darkness and death, the closed
inner worlds characteristic of Dublin crushed and squeezed by the British
Empire, the Holy Catholic Church, nationalism and commercialism.24
More recently, the London-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh has
affirmative, albeit qualified,
response. The colonial legacy is seen as enduring and all attempts to
‘revise’ Irishhistory beyond the nationalist myths are rejected out of
hand. Thus, for example, Robbie McVeigh argues that this move to
‘decolonise’ (or ‘postcolonise’) Irishhistory is ‘factually incorrect and
intellectually dishonest’ and we are enjoined ‘to address the colonial
legacy directly in order to transcend its negative and corrupting consequences’.14 This point may be taken simply as a truism but it does point
to an apparent blind spot of the new ‘postcolonial
about Northern Ireland is now rather greater than before. Anecdotal
and personal experiences suggest that there has, in recent years, been a
growth in anti-unionist prejudice in the Republic. The recent rehabilitation of Michael Collins, an individual who had previously virtually
disappeared from Irishhistory, and the controversy that attended the
proposal that the Orange Order should march in the centre of Dublin
both suggest that nationalism continues to exercise an appeal within the
twenty-six counties. Each
Community, language and culture under the Celtic Tiger
individual hearths, creating an all too worldly power – a
Here, the state was selling back to its people something that already
belonged to them – a semi-state company – but it was also selling back
to them a particular sense of their own ‘traditions’. Throughout Irishhistory, relatively localised cultural forms have been appropriated as emblems of wider collectivities. In the process of Irish nation building, forms
of popular expression which originated in the relatively autochthonous
This chapter presents the journey of the author through Postmodern Dublin. The author wanted to strip Dublin of its ethnological content, resituate it as archaeology and embrace the much postponed confrontation with the tangles of postmodernity. Postmodern renderings of Dublin invoke a nostalgia for the 'modern Dublin' reputedly best exemplified in James Joyce's Ulysses and redeploy that nostalgia into the listless contemporary. Contemporary Dublin sees sex released from its necessary association with Catholicism and freed into a general regime of commodification. Irish sin, or sex, is transformed in postmodern Dublin and forms a new defining relationship to money. The author explained that postmodern Dublin was characterised by many examples of such historical transformations and oppositional disruptions in the tranquillity of our modern consciousness. Globalised postmodern Dublin is allowing us to re-represent our identity, where the only inauthentic place is the hysterically immediate present.
This chapter reflects on two qualitative research projects, How Was It For You? and Balancing Your Life, that was carried out between 1999 and 2001, with people experiencing both the ways of life. It discusses the connections between individual choices and the ways that economic values affect society, and asserts that the public and private spheres cannot be considered in isolation from each other. Democracy in growth economies, which include Ireland, has been undermined by the extreme wealth owned by global corporations. Limits discourses create the conditions for critical thinking about the bigger picture and the longer term. Many people consequently live in a work-earn-spend cycle, spending much of what they earn on possessions and services now considered essential for everyday life. The 'reality' discourses have the effect of making people feel trapped in a cycle of earning, working, spending, consuming and meeting financial commitments, including the servicing of debts.
The single overriding factor in the 'success' of the Celtic Tiger was the arrival of huge clusters of foreign subsidiaries in a few sectors, and predominantly from the United States. The broad changes in the Irish economy during the 1990s were crucial, because there was strong evidence that growth had been associated with inequality under the Celtic Tiger. The Republic of Ireland's share of foreign investment inflows into the European Union (EU) had tripled between 1991 and 1994, as it attracted forty per cent of US electronics investments in Europe. Irish governments tightened their conservative fiscal policy of spending restraint and ran higher and higher budget surpluses. The main policy target was employment, as the country had continued to endure high unemployment rates even into the mid-1990s. Economic growth, investments, high profits, high-technology products and higher wages were heavily concentrated in the transnational corporation (TNC) sector.
Class polarisation and neo-liberalism in the Irish Republic
Celtic Tiger shows that one can use the rhetoric about 'social solidarity' while actually implementing policies which increase class polarisation. The growing difficulties with the US model cast a new light on the 'Boston or Berlin?' debate which emerged in the last phase of the Celtic Tiger. The dominance of neo-liberalism in Irish economics means that the US boom of the 1990s is accepted simply as given and as implicitly proving the benefits of deregulated markets. Information and communications technologies account for 40 per cent of total exports from the Irish Republic, having grown at an annual average rate of twenty-three per cent between 1993 and 2000. The period of social partnership has coincided with a wider change whereby the ratio of social security spending to gross domestic product (GDP) fell markedly in Ireland.