“The spiritual thing which is the essential thing in nationality would seem to reside chiefly in language (if by language we understand literature and folklore as well as sounds and idioms). And to be preserved chiefly by language; but it reveals itself in all the arts, all the institutions, all the inner life, all the actions and goings forth of the nation. It expresses itself fully and magnificently in a great free nation like ancient Greece or modern Germany; it expresses itself only partially and unworthily in an enslaved nation like Ireland. But the soul of the enslaved and broken nation may conceivably be a more splendid thing than the soul of the great free nation; and that is one reason why the enslavements of old and glorious nations that have taken place so often in history are the most terrible things that have ever happened in the world. If nationality be regarded as the sum of the facts, spiritual and intellectual, which mark off one nation from another, and freedom as the condition which allows those facts full scope and development, it will be seen that both the spiritual and intellectual fact, nationality and the physical condition, freedom, enter into a proper definition of independence or nationhood. Freedom is a condition which can be lost and won and lost again; nationality is a life which, if once lost, can never be recovered. A nation is a stubborn thing, very hard to kill; but a dead nation does not come back to life, any more than a dead man.”
- Pádraig Pearse, The Spiritual Nation.
The quoted passage from Pádraig Pearse’s The Spiritual Nation has been included in full due to its supreme relevance to the topic this article wishes to articulate – the concept of the “national revival” that Irish nationalists throughout history have strived to achieve. The idea of a national revival is one of sound reason – that the deprived state of modern Ireland, plagued by a miasma of materialist consumerism, necessitates a grand reshaping of its social and cultural realms; but should we wish to further evaluate and pursue such a policy the reasoning behind it must be further elucidated. Through the comparison of the social, cultural and political conditions we see today with prior examples of national revival, such as the Easter Rising, we may discover the factors of the national revival that are most important for our circumstances.
For Irish nationalists, the Easter Rising remains a deeply symbolic event. Through initiating an Irish national revival at a time it most needed, the legacy of its leaders has become a crucial lesson for Irish nationalists today. The romantic undertones of Pearse’s character in both his written words and virtuous deeds place him as a prime exemplar of the warrior-poet archetype, thereby demonstrating the sine qua non of a successful nationalist revival like the Easter Rising to be a synthesis of both intellectual and spiritual principles in service of the national idea. Despite its apparent failure, the Easter Rising was able to mobilise the public conscience through the symbolic act of a blood sacrifice and thereby reawaken an Irish national spirit that was nearing its immolation.
Pearse’s romanticisation of the aims of broken and defeated nations like Ireland conveys the sentiment that there is something uniquely noble in the struggle of an enslaved nation to earn its freedom; that despite all adversary, we Irish have maintained our national identity is a testament to our perseverance and our fidelity to the national idea. The leaders of 1916 recognised that early 20th century Ireland was approaching such a junction that, should she not assert her right to independence, all aspects of Ireland’s national character would be extinguished by the consolidation of a farcical West-British identity; thus, a mentality of both urgence and sacrifice characterised the Easter Rising as a desperate struggle to renew the standard of Irish nationalism.
Through their failure and execution, the leaders of 1916 had cleansed the Irish soul of its shame as an enslaved nation, thereby bringing about a national revival capable of rekindling the hopes of a people long deprived of their cultural heritage.
The Easter Rising and modern anti-nationalist historiography:
Today the leaders of the Easter Rising have received neither the honour nor accolades which the Irish nation owes to their memory. How has the Irish state neglected to acknowledge the significance of such a pivotal event in Irish history? The conclusions drawn by contemporary Irish political classes to redefine the very concept of Irish nationality into oblivion have been emboldened by the political influence of Anglo-American multiculturalists, though we must not neglect the role of historical revisionism in providing the justification for such a policy.
The work of revisionist historians has been instrumental in identifying the Irish nationalism’s rightist tendencies, and thus does not deserve outright rejection. There is no reason their descriptive claims cannot be recontextualised through an interpretation of Irish history that affirms the aspirations of Irish nationalism. The compatibility of revisionist analysis with the efforts of Irish rightists today suggests the need to integrate the contents of these analyses, whilst rejecting their anti-nationalist narratives and conclusions. Despite the indisputable value of revisionist texts to Irish nationalists today, there remains a severe consequence of allowing historical revisionism to develop unhindered.
These revisionist historians have unfortunately postulated bizarre and scandalous theories about the lives of Irish national heroes, with no evidence to back their claims beyond salacious misperceptions. The improper historical narrative constructed by revisionists like Ruth Dudley Edwards and Seán Farrell Moran is exemplified by their characterisation of Padraig Pearse as a sexually repressed homosexual with a lust for his students. Such a disgraceful description of an Irish national hero is indicative of the moral character, or lack thereof, of contemporary Irish historiography.
The revisionist postulation that Pearse’s awkward social skills and peculiar pedagogical disposition is indicative of his sexual orientation lies upon a cardinal error – that all love is erotic in nature. It is this lascivious presupposition that sees modern evaluations of historical figures and their personal relationships become mere opportunities to falsify scandals and obfuscate the truth.
The following quote perhaps crystallises the approach of the revisionist historian in its essence: a concrete statement of truth, followed by a senseless denial of the truth just espoused.
“There is thus nothing to indicate that he saw sexual relations with boys as a preferred or exclusive way of achieving sexual satisfaction. According to the most recent diagnostic criteria employed in modern psychiatric practice, Patrick Pearse was not a paedophile. What is important is that he obviously was so attracted to boys.”
- Seán Farrell Moran, Patrick Pearse and the Politics of Redemption.
Given the extreme likelihood of Pearse’s undiagnosed autism and career as an artist, all of Pearse’s bizarre social behaviours can easily be understood as a part of his eccentric nature. With the romantic appeal of a Gaelic national identity and his love of early Irish literature, Pearse’s status as an educator would see his concern for the nation at large reflected in his avowed concern for the education of Irish children. So great was this concern that Pearse would propose the idea of a Gaelic philosophy of education that may instil in the children of Ireland a comprehensive understanding and a deep appreciation of their heritage.
Truth is far simpler to grasp than modern historians will try to make it seem. To them historiography has become nothing but an intellectual exercise stripped of its significance to the nation at large. Similar to scandalous allegations issued against Pearse, the memory of James Connolly is now claimed by internationalist Marxists who deny the very existence of Irish nationality and mistakenly lay claim to his legacy, with an absolute disregard for his nationalist writings. If we are to re-educate the Irish people so they may truly appreciate their history, we must first quash the anti-nationalist myths that have been left to propagate unabated.
The generational consequences of such fallacious perceptions of history is the institution of cultural amnesia amongst the Irish public. Lacking the sense of romanticism that has mobilised the hearts and minds of nations, they are unaware of and separate themselves from our rich, spiritual nationalist tradition; consequently, they are rendered incapable of grasping even the most objective intellectual arguments in support of Irish nationalism. To one without a spiritual fealty to the Irish inheritance, all intellectual principles, no matter how persuasive, are bereft of a foundation. How could anyone claim to be a nationalist while lacking in reverence for their cultural heritage and ethnic identity?
Contemporary Irish students are taught by teachers who, educated by the same historians who have created this contrarian anti-nationalist school of Irish historiography, have propagated the very lies that have laid the foundation of the existential social and political crises our nation is faced with today. Generations of Irish children, having been reared by a false sense of Irish identity throughout their education, are now severed from their cultural inheritance; deprived from comprehending the intellectual history of our national literature, they are simultaneously detached from its inseparable counterpart – the Irish soul.
We must dispel the unspoken myth that permeates the public consciousness, that with partition and independence, our national mission is complete, for such a mentality is corrosive to a healthy nation. To shatter the looking glass of revisionist historiography a new nationalist school of Irish historiography must be constructed, beginning with the Easter Rising as a marking point for our ‘first national revival’ from which we may anchor our understanding of the Irish national ideal.
The apparent military failure of the Easter Rising itself has been outlasted by its permeating effects on Irish society; its invocation of an Irish national revival evoking awe from the Irish people. Through the Rising’s unexpected occurrence and the blood sacrifice of its participants, the Irish people had rediscovered their cultural heritage and were therefore spiritually reinvigorated as the pervading spectre of Anglo-Irish Ireland came to dissipate.
The Easter Rising embodied the Gaelic Idealism that has characterised successive generations of Irish nationalists and its poetic nature will inspire generations of nationalists to come. This romantic characterisation of the Easter Rising is of great importance to an Irish nationalist historiography, by ensuring our perceptions of history are in accordance with our cultural inheritance, we are both affirming our national character and laying the foundations for a new national revival.
Gaelic Idealism in Modern Ireland:
“Here it is that the Gaelic movement has special importance. The literature of the Gael is one of the springtime. The stories and poems which our people have cherished are heroic. The civilisation of Ireland was heroic until its fall under foreign might. The heroic ideal was never abandoned; the intruding civilisation of scepticism and materialism never was accepted. Always the Gael resisted the urban system.”
- Aodh de Blácam, Heroic Ireland.
Nationalism, as a distinctly romantic conception of the world, is inseparable from the combined spiritual and intellectual history that long precedes ourselves. Given how significantly detached modern Irish men and women are from authentic Gaelic culture, language and identity, the legacy of the Rising serves an essential role in any movement which wishes to restore Irish heritage.
As the sacrificial act of a long suppressed and forgotten Gaelic Ireland to physically re-manifest itself from the immaterial realm of the Irish soul in which it persisted, it follows that a retracing of our history from contemporary Ireland back in time seems to be a more holistic form of analysis that may allow for the development of various stages and figures in our nation’s history to be understood comprehensively.
This chronologically backwards approach may be unconventional to standard cause and effect historical evaluation. However, the real nature of this approach is to anchor our ancient and mediaeval history to our modern history by constructing a totalising narrative that seamlessly links our Ancient, Mediaeval and Modern histories within a continuous nationalist narrative.
The term Gaelic Idealism is used here to refer to the synthesis of Ireland’s suppressed Gaelic heritage and fight for freedom with political and philosophical idealism, which argue that the world may be understood through the ideals of one’s mental vista as opposed to a sole reliance upon reasoning within the material plain. The development of such a political philosophy among Irish revolutionaries in natural given the declining physical state of Irish national life, an introspective observation within the Irish national psyche would naturally conclude that with the decline of the Irish language and the loss of Gaelic cultural practises, the place in which these elements remained in their most pure form was the soul. Striving to restore Ireland to her native Gaelic state, and thus purifying the disgraced vestiges of Irish heritage under British usurpation, this idea became the cornerstone of Gaelic nationalist sentiment throughout modern Irish history.
Aiming to foster a kind of spiritual rejuvenation within the Irish people, the aspiration to manifest the vision of a Gaelic Ireland has become pivotal to all Irish nationalist movements and it is an ideal that must become more potent now than ever, should we wish to set in motion a new national revival.
The works of Irish literary figures like Thomas Davis and Thomas Moore have left their mark on the idealistic nature of Irish nationalism by reflecting upon the fate of the Irish nation, lamenting its imprisonment and glorifying the premonition of its dawnbreak.
“The nations have fallen, and thou still art young,
Thy sun is but rising, when others are set;
And though slavery’s cloud o’er thy morning hath hung,
The full noon of freedom shall beam round thee yet.
Erin, oh Erin, though long in the shade,
Thy star will shine out when the proudest shall fade.”
- Thomas Moore, Erin, Oh Erin.
Thomas Davis was one of the first modern Irish revolutionaries to recognise the manner in which the Irish nation may achieve independence was solely rooted in its Gaelic character, literature and worldview; that only through advocating for the national language and preserving the aspects of our character that distinguish us from our European brethren, could the national ideal be fulfilled.
It is through the works of writers and poets such as Moore and Davis that Ireland’s national heritage has not only been preserved and developed, but has been elevated to encompass an intangible spiritual feeling known only to Irish men and women. The resilience of this national feeling represents a continuous opportunity for Irish nationalists to seize in revitalising Irish language, culture and identity in the 21st century.
“A Nation’s voice, a nation’s voice—
It is a solemn thing!
It bids the bondage-sick rejoice—
‘Tis stronger than a king.
‘Tis like the light of many stars,
The sound of many waves,
Which brightly look through prison bars,
And sweetly sound in caves.
Yet is it noblest, godliest known,
When righteous triumph swells its tone.”
- Thomas Davis, Nationality
The idealistic nature of Irish nationalism has been the belief that intangible ideals may, through man’s effort, manifest themselves in the physical realm so that an Ireland “not free merely, but Gaelic as well; not Gaelic merely, but free as well” could be achieved. Through triumphant displays of Ireland’s heroic spirit, such as the Easter Rising, we may come closer to restoring our cultural heritage to its rightful place.
Therefore, greater emphasis must be placed on the old Fenian sagas and untainted Irish mythological cycles as core reflections of the Irish literary tradition and products indicative of the natural characteristics of the Irish race. That the Irish language plays a pivotal role in this is undoubted, as the explicit goal of the idealistic Gaelic form of nationalism advocated for today is but a continuation of the belief that the paltry remains of Gaelic Ireland may be revivified by the inner preservation of Irish heritage in the spiritual realm.
Defining the national revival today:
The term “national revival” is one that has a long history of use in Irish nationalism, as the spiritually and culturally destitute state of the Irish nation seems to necessitate a form of national resurrection should it seek to rejuvenate the Irish people. At surface level, the imagery and romanticism associated with the concept of national revival are undeniably appealing, but further analysis reveals an unintentional presupposition which unknowingly hinders our national mission. The use of the terms “revival” and “resurrection”, when understood as meaning the return of the dead to the world of the living, are implications that the Irish nation is dead; and as dead men and nations alike cannot be raised from the dead, such a problematic definition of national resurrection implicitly undermines the efforts of the Irish nationalist movement.
All components of the national revival, whether it be the Irish Literary Revival or the Easter Rising should be seen as not as the re-creation of an Irish national feeling, as such a perception indicates that the fundamental concept of Irish nationality has changed drastically under centuries of British rule; rather, these components should instead be treated as resurgences of long suppressed – yet still living entities, with living traditions, however degraded they may be.
To evaluate the prospects of a second national revival we must take note of the health of the Irish nation, which appears to be in a state of obesity, fever and fatigue – but still living. For as long as Irish nationalists remain faithful to the national idea, the Irish nation will persist in some way, shape or form.
It must be emphasised that the idea of the national resurrection, is not wholly incompatible with modern Irish nationalism, given the long spiritual characterisation and intellectual history of Irish nationalists it should be emphasised that the use of the terms “revival” and “resurrection” take on a very different meaning than their literal interpretation, being akin to a “rejuvenation” or “restoration”.
An analysis of the terminology around the 1916 Easter Rising will demonstrate the importance behind the phrases associated with a nation’s history. Why is it that we insist on calling it a Rising? Why is it not resigned to the status of rebellion like that of the United Irishmen and the Young Irelanders? The reason is simply that it reinforces our national pride and evokes imagery of the Irish nation, gallantly, asserting its right to exist; but the term “Easter Rising” also acts as an affirmation of the Christian character of the Irish nation and intentionally evokes comparisons to the resurrection of Christ. Such comparisons of terminology detail the inner significance of historiography to a nation and how the terms used to discuss a nation’s history are more significant that is usually thought – as they are a reflection of the public consciousness and the cultural significance of the event.
When understood in such a manner, the use of such terminology amongst Irish nationalists receives its justification, but we must be explicitly clear as to what a national revival entails and how it differs from a resurgence or re-creation.
Whilst a more literal interpretation of the term ‘national revival’ would undeniably suggest the resurrection of a dead nation, in actuality it is a far more complex ideal, intertwined with centuries of nationalist Gaelic romanticism. Such influences have constructed a kind of national revival that amounts to a revitalisation of the Irish nation from both homologous and analogous sources.
To preserve the continuity of our race’s unique identity and characteristics, our modern political circumstances mandate a national revival that – as a Phoenix rises from the ashes – will restore a youthful vigour to the Irish nation and may purify the impure state of modern Ireland. No other form of revival could ensure the national principles and culture of our race remain unaltered in the Ireland we wish to build.
As a nation becomes culturally exhausted and exposed to decadence, the purposelessness of its existence corrupts all aspects of its society, this trend can be seen in Anglo-Irish Ireland, which has followed the same trend as Western society at large, thus it is both a foreign ideal rejected on those grounds but also is truly infertile grounds for a resurgence nationalism.
Our current Americanised state makes our role as Gaelic nationalists exceedingly difficult, yet this comparison of the mythical phoenix rebirthing itself from its own ashes, the same entity in a new youthful form is exactly what the Irish nation must become.
Returning Ireland to her youth is essential to spiritually and intellectually maintain our traditions, with our sights set not on the past, but with our heads oriented firmly towards the future while our shoulders carry the herculean task of living up to the memory of our national heroes. With our Ancient past firmly grasped and our sights on the future we may weave the thread that connects us to our past to ensure that it is capable of continual extension for as long as the Irish nation exists.
“While Gaelic Ireland was, and remains, a spring-time nation, Anglo-Ireland was autumnal at its best. Berkeley and Swift, the spokesmen of the Anglo-Irish civilisation, were doubters and cynics. They have been succeeded by men who stand for material things: Anglo-Ireland has entered on her winter. The popular Irish mind still craves for virile stories and ballads. Our people of the countryside; sea-taming, earth-conquering, unspoilt men, await writers who shall reflect their life and stir them – writers who will give Ireland a vision and a second Spring.”
- Aodh de Blácam, Heroic Ireland.
Gaelic culture as having been preserved in stasis retains its spiritual vigour, as evidenced by the heroic character of Gaelic literature and the stark absence of the technical ills that have come to characterise modern literature. As old Gaelic literature has remained so pure a source of representation of Gaelic Ireland, we must acknowledge the inseparable nature of the Irish soul and its intellectual traditions that are maintained through such rich literary works.
“Intellect and soul, a capacity for loving the beautiful things of nature, a capacity for worshipping what is grand and noble in man, these things we have yet: let us not cast them from us in the mad rush of modern life. Let us cherish them, let us cling to them: they have come down to us through the storms of centuries – the bequest of our hero-sires of old; and when we are a power on earth again, we shall owe our power, not to fame in war, in statesmanship or in commerce, but to those two precious inheritances, intellect and soul.”
- Pádraig Pearse, The Intellectual Future of the Gael.
The application of modern right-wing political ideologies to the literary and cultural peculiarities of Gaelic Ireland then entails a kind of national revival that synthesises, unchanged, the principles of Irish nationalism with the economic and political, as well as social realities of our time, is imperative should we wish to reverse the ills of Americanisation and Anglicisation on Irish society.
The resurrection of Ireland is not the birth of a new nation, but the rebirth of an old – it is a slow process by which the nation may be re-Gaelicised, as the reservoir of the Irish soul channels water throughout the Irish landscape, purifying and rejuvenating it with all aspects of Gaelic identity. The use of terminology in Irish nationalism acts as both a spiritual tradition in its underlying meaning and an intellectual one in its theory and practice, a symbiosis that must be maintained at all costs lest the subversion and decay of Irish party politics in the Free State come to plague Ireland once more.
The chief obstacle of the national revival today is the social frameworks which have come to pervert the value systems of Irish society in favour of a new cult of reason, one that is unapologetically anti-nationalist and dispossessed the populace of a natural racial pride in both their history and cultural inheritance. The propagators and custodians of these wicked social policies include both the Irish political establishment and the deleterious NGO sector, which together constitute the greatest threat to the Irish inheritance in history.
“‘You think that the intellectual power is something distinct from the vitality of the soul, or, in other words, that even if your reason should be destroyed, (which is nearly is), your soul might yet enjoy beatitude in the full exercise of its enlarged and exalted faculties, and all the clouds which obscured them be dispelled by the sun of Righteousness, in whose beams you hope to bask for ever and ever. Now, without going into any metaphysical subtleties about the distinction between mind and soul, experience must teach you, that there can be no crime into which mad men would not, and do not precipitate themselves; mischief is their occupation, malice their habit, murder their sport and, blasphempy their delight. Whether a soul in this state can be in a hopeful one, it is for you to judge; but it seems to me, that with the loss of reason (and reason cannot long be retained in this place), you lose also the hope of immortality.”
- Charles Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer.
Our national heritage and idealistic nationalism is a tradition that has been diligently passed down by successive generations of Irish patriots, a long tradition of rekindling the flame that represents the soul of our race, but as we face the greatest demographic threat to our peoples existence we are also faced with an ample opportunity that will, if taken, allow for the permeation of every aspect of Irish life with our nationalist tradition – that is the nature of the national revival.
Our parasitic relationship with American culture is a plight that has indoctrinated masses of Irish men and women into a decadent lifestyle that requires a rude awakening, it is imperative that this Americanisation and the underlying English influence in Ireland be rooted out, and replaced with an authentic policy of re-Gaelicisation that will facilitate the growth of a truly healthy nation. Remedying the cultural amnesia and disconnection of the average Irishman from his Gaelic lineage will be the most important task for ensuring the longevity of the ideal of reawakening the Gaelic spirit in Irish society.
As the generation of Irish nationalists who will witness the irretrievable loss or total salvation of the Irish nation we must settle for no less that the complete restoration of the Irish nation.