This is a generic term for the forms of cultural nationalism, that took shape during the 1890s and in the first decade of the twentieth-century. The most potent expressions of Irish-Ireland are found in the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language (1876), the Gaelic Union (1880), the Gaelic Athletic Association (1884), the Gaelic League (1893), and Cumann na nGaedheal (1893). One should also include socio-political groups such as the Land League and the Home Rule movement. The concept of ‘Irish Ireland’ owed much to the writings of Thomas Davis and the Young Irelanders of the 1840s. However, the immediate historical source can be best traced to the address of Douglas Hyde in 1892 on ‘The necessity of de-anglicising Ireland’, in which he argued that Ireland should follow her own traditions in language, literature and even in dress.
Michael Cusack founded the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in 1884. Cusack, a teacher, and one-time enthusiast for cricket and rugby, had become disillusioned with the social exclusiveness of existing sporting bodies and the association of sport and gambling, and was convinced that the spread of English games was destroying national morale. The GAA from the start attracted substantial Fenian support. By 1886, Fenians dominated the executive and Cusack himself had been ousted as secretary. Open Fenian domination provoked the hostility of the Catholic clergy, especially when the GAA, supported Parnell in 1890-1, and membership slumped badly in the 1890s. From 1901, however a new generation of IRB affiliated leaders rebuilt the GAA as an openly nationalist but not explicitly revolutionary movement that could attract clerical endorsement and broad support. Rules excluding from the association anyone who played or even watched ‘imported games’ and all members of the police and armed forces were quietly dropped during the difficult 1890s and reinstated during 1902-3. The GAA was thus part of the new nationalism of the years before 1916.
Eoin MacNeill and others established the Gaelic League, an Irish language organisation in 1893. Douglas Hyde was its first president. It superseded the Gaelic Union which had been founded by Ulick Joseph Bourke in March, 1880. Unlike earlier movements concerned with antiquarian and folkloric studies, the League sought to revive Irish as a spoken and literary movement. It ran language classes and Irish–speaking social gatherings, including from 1897 a national festival, an tOireachtas and published a newspaper, An Claidheamh Soluis and sponsored the publication of contemporary verse and prose. Public awareness of its work was heightened in 1899 when it opposed attempts, headed by John Pentland Mahaffy, provost of Trinity College Dublin, to have Irish removed from the Intermediate school syllabus. During 1908-9, it campaigned successfully to have Irish made a compulsory matriculation subject in the new National University of Ireland.
The membership of the League was drawn mainly from the urban lower middle classes of English–speaking Ireland. As such, it testifies, like the GAA, to the acute need for cultural roots felt by many at the end of several decades of exceptionally rapid social change. There was an inevitable tendency to idealise the culture and way of life of the surviving Gaeltacht areas. The leadership of the League, notably Hyde, insisted that it should be non-political and the movement initially attracted significant support from Protestants and Unionists. However, given its obvious political overtones, there were differences between nationalists and Unionists. League members took a prominent part in the 1916 rising and in the subsequent growth of Sinn Féin and the IRA.
The Abbey Theatre was founded in 1904 from a merger of the National Dramatic Company, owned by the brothers Frank and William Fay, and the Irish Literary Theatre Society. At the suggestion of Willy Fay, a Manchester heiress, Miss Annie Fredericka Horniman bought the Mechanics’ Institute in Dublin (1904) as a home for the Irish National Theatre Company. With the aid of £1500 provided by Miss Horniman, the Institute was adapted as the Abbey Theatre. The Abbey was opened on 27 December 1904 with performances of Yeats’s On Baile’s Strand and Lady Gregory’s Spreading the News. The new theatre received an annual subsidy of £850 from Miss Horniman and a patent, made out to Lady Gregory, was granted by the government. The brothers Fay left the Abbey in 1908 and two years later, the theatre was forced to become a self-supporting entity when Miss Horniman withdrew her assistance.
Cumann na nGaedheal was founded by Arthur Griffith and William Roooney in September 1900 to help diffuse Irish history, language, music, art. At the same time , it pushed for Irish economic independence. This was to become the central aspect of Griffith’s later teachings. Griffith called upon the Cumann na nGaedheal Convention in 1902 to demand the withdrawal of the Irish Paliamentary Party from Westminster.
The Irish-Irelanders sought cultural and economic independence. They aimed to achieve genuine autonomy, but this would not be possible without self-sufficiency. There was much disagreement among the different groups and personalities on how these aims could be achieved. In 1905, David P. Moran (1869-1936) of the Leader published a collection of essays under the title ‘A Philosophy of Irish Ireland’ based on a series of articles he had published between 1893 and 1900. In stating his concept of Irish nationalism, he pointed to what he saw as flaws in the Irish idea of Irish culture, identity, and independence. He has often been criticised for employing chauvinistic images and crudely sectarian terminology. Commentators have variously described him as a bigot, a xenophobe, a racist, and as “a great hater” of anything that might be deemed non-Catholic or non-Irish. In their enthusiasm Irish-Irelanders often developed a deep intolerance for Britain and all things British, regarding their near neighbour as the source of all the influences which were corrupting Irish national values. Hyde famously revealed the irony of those who “protest as a matter of sentiment” to “hate the country which at every hand’s turn they rush to imitate.” Enthusiasts such as Hyde and other members of the League saw the Irish language as a means of forging an allegiance that might transcend politics and demonstrate a shared, traditional cultural heritage. As Seán Mac Réamoinn so correctly points out “we do well not to assume that Gaelic always meant Roman Catholic.”
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