I toured Ireland (Dublin really) with the SAIMUN group in 1992.

I still find it unbelievable that a country the size of Ireland could have such an impact on the world at large. After all we're talking James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, etc. etc.

Rather than belaboring Irish history with yet more interpretations, let me offer an insight. First, it rains all of the time. That means, you have to stay somewhere. Since you're already cold, you need something to warm you up. Hence, you go to a pub and down, well, the strongest thing you can find.

More seriously, Irish history seems to have three phases. In its earliest phase Ireland offered a "would've been." What would've been the fate of Europe had the Romans NOT defeated and amalgamated the Celts? Gaelic culture, romantic, wild, and tribal, survived in Ireland. When Roman culture faltered, this Irish culture, as best expressed in vibrant Irish monasterial based Christianity, seemed poised to conquer the continent or at least influence it. Recall that in the Dark Ages, even the Roman era Celtics seemed advanced and cutured.

The second, and perhaps most studied, phase of Irish history involves its long struggle NOT to become England. True, a bunch of Norse showed up first, not English, but English culture absorbed a lot of Norse elements anyway via the Normans and Danes. When England finally emerged as a single culture, its shear numbers and power launched it at all of its Celtic neighbors, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

Partly due to geography, the Irish resisted most sucessfully of the three. However, one cannot view this as a singular struggle for survival because, as the less advanced culture, the Irish constantly learned from the English even as they fought and resisted them. Irish culture then became a mix of Irish and English elements, more Gaelic than its neighbors, but far more English than, say, any European power. Yet, in its resistance, it not only retained some elements of the Gaelic past but the sheer tradition of resistance, overt and covert, became part of Irish culture.

The measure of the Irish success finally becomes clear in the later centuries when the English dominated the world. Can any nation of Irelands size boast its success in literature and in a language not even its own? India, a nation of a billion, has fewer Nobel prize winners than Ireland. The United States, albeit a younger country, can't match the Irish despite the far greater wealth. Truly, in some ways anyway, the Irish beat the English at their own game (Ask U2 about that).

Finally, the third phase of Irish history began in 1916. After the revolt, Ireland finally emerged as free to become "what it wanted." It has taken awhile, I think, for Ireland to go beyond just becoming "not England." That process really started in the 1970s with the death of the Revolutionary generation and continues to this day. What exactly will a modern Celtic (English influenced) nation look like? I think everyone was surprized by the emergence of high-tech. "Celtic Tiger" of the past ten years. What will the future bring?

The Irish National Anthem


As Gaeilge:

Seo dhibh a chairde duan Oglaigh,
Cathreimeach briomhar ceolmhar,
Ar dtinte cnamh go buacach taid,
'S an speir go min realtogach
Is fonnmhar faobhrach sinn chun gleo
'S go tiunmhar gle roimh thiocht do'n lo
Fe chiunas chaomh na hoiche ar seol:
Seo libh canaidh Amhran na bhFiann

Sinne Firnna Fail
A ta fe gheall ag Eirinn,
buion dar slua
Thar toinn do rainig chugainn,
Fe mhoid bheith saor.
Sean tir ar sinsir feasta
Ni fhagfar fe'n tioran na fe'n trail
Anocht a theam sa bhearna bhaoil,
Le gean ar Ghaeil chun bais no saoil
Le guna screach fe lamhach na bpilear
Seo libh canaidh Amhran na bhFiann.

Cois banta reidhe, ar ardaibh sleibhe,
Ba bhuachach ar sinsir romhainn,
Ag lamhach go trean fe'n sar-bhrat sein
Ta thuas sa ghaoith go seolta
Ba dhuchas riamh d'ar gcine chaidh
Gan iompail siar o imirt air,
'S ag siul mar iad i gcoinne namhad
Seo libh, canaidh Amhran na bhFiann

A bhuion nach fann d'fhuil Ghaeil is Gall,
Sin breacadh lae na saoirse,
Ta sceimhle 's scanradh i gcroithe namhad,
Roimh ranna laochra ar dtire.
Ar dtinte is treith gan spreach anois,
Sin luisne ghle san speir anoir,
'S an biobha i raon na bpilear agaibh:
Seo libh, canaidh Amhran na bh Fiann.


We'll sing song, a soldier's song,
With cheering rousing chorus,
As round our blazing fires we throng,
The starry heavens o'er us;
Impatient for the coming fight,
And as we wait the morning's light,
Here in the silence of the night,
We'll chant a soldier's song.

Soldiers are we
whose lives are pledged to Ireland;
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave.
Sworn to be free,
No more our ancient sire land
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the gap of danger
In Erin's cause, come woe or weal
'Mid cannons' roar and rifles peal,
We'll chant a soldier's song

In valley green, on towering crag,
Our fathers fought before us,
And conquered 'neath the same old flag
That's proudly floating o'er us.
We're children of a fighting race,
That never yet has known disgrace,
And as we march, the foe to face,
We'll chant a soldier's song

Sons of the Gael! Men of the Pale!
The long watched day is breaking;
The serried ranks of Inisfail
Shall set the Tyrant quaking.
Our camp fires now are burning low;
See in the east a silv'ry glow,
Out yonder waits the Saxon foe,
So chant a soldier's song.


The Emerald Isle

The Dublin Area

The Oldest Ireland

Dublin Castle, built first in Norse times.

A cathedral of medieval vintage

Another historical cathedral

The interior of St. Patrick's Cathedral

A chandelier in the Statehouse (I think).

Another view of the Castle. They did build onto it over the ages.

The English, For Better or Worse

Christchurch, the center of Anglican Ireland

Another view.

Yet another view.

Trinity College, the Harvard of Ireland.

The famous college yard. Note how it's always over cast.

The Inns of Court.

Formerly a barracks, this now serves as part of the Irish museum.

A real Irish landmark: the Guiness brewery.

This building was originally designed to convince the Irish to use soap. This is all kind of ironic, given the popularity of "Irish Spring" soap.

Poets, Revolutionaries, and Scribblers

This honors Parnell, the "king" of Ireland

Oscar Wilde, kicking back in the park.

Is this the GPO where the 1916 revolt started?

Three of my students playing James Joyce's piano: stream of painful consciousnes? Portrait of the Musician as a young nerd? Ulysses..strikes back?

The SAIMUN group. Want to see more? Click on this.

A more balanced view. Why the castle again? Here, the British government gave up control of Eire to Michael Collins.

Play a U2 song?

A view of the president's house: She revived the old Irish custom of putting a lamp in the window so guests could find a place to rest. I think she left the lamp on a bit TOO high.


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