Catholicism and political radicalism

How far do these sources support the view that Irish Nationalism remained a ‘curious blend of conservative Catholicism and political radicalism’ (Source 2, lines 41-42) between c1820 and 1921? Although there is no real definition for nationalism, I believe that it is the desire of a nation to be a single state which can be dividing or uniting. The key elements of nationalism are language, race, geography and culture. It was a common idea of the 19th Century as we can see from the example of Germany, which was a 40 state country before 1871.

Source 2, by the historian K. T Hoppen, describes Irish nationalism as a ‘Many branched tree’ which I think is the perfect description at this time because there are so many parts to it, it is hard to keep track of everything. The source defines Irish Nationalism as a single entity with 2 main parts which basically means that Irish Nationalism is the body with 2 arms. One of the arms is the O’Connellites, who were democratic and who used parliamentary methods to try to achieve their goals.

The other arm is the Young Irelanders and the United Irishmen who were republican and they were prepared to use violence to get what they wanted. Hoppen uses the word ‘oscillate’ in line 29 to emphasise the fact that throughout the Irish Nationalism campaign, the power is always moving back and forth between the O’Connellites and the YI and UI and there is never an even balance of power between the two. The source says that this is a ‘Curious blend of conservative Catholicism and political radicalism. ‘ I do not think this is the case here.

It is not ‘curious’ that these two elements work together for the cause of nationalism because if we look at history we can see that what is happening in Ireland is not unusual because nationalism, like a piece of wallpaper, has covered many cracks and variations in all countries. An example of this would be in Italy where Cavour, a nobleman, and Garibaldi, who was an ordinary peasant, worked together for the cause of nationalism and this would never usually happen. Source 1 was written by John Mitchel, who was the founder of Fenianism in 1868 when he was in a U. S jail after the failure of the IRB rising in America.

Mitchel is very critical of Daniel O’Connell because he believed that after Catholic Emancipation was granted ‘Respectable Catholics were contented. ‘ By this he was really saying that all radicalism had been removed which wasn’t good for him because he relied on the radicals for support. In the source, Mitchel points to the social difference between himself and O’Connell in lines 10 and 11 ‘He was an aristocrat…. Name of a Republic was odious to him. ‘ Here Mitchel is saying that O’Connell never wanted a nation free from British rule and that he was fooling the Irish people into believing he did.

All Mitchel’s criticism of O’Connell suggests that the two different parts of nationalism cannot work together yet the YI and Mitchel had worked with O’Connell in the 1840’s. We could therefore describe Mitchel’s feelings towards O’Connell as ‘curious. ‘ Source 3, by the historian E. Norman, really makes us think about the ideas of Irish Nationalism because it questions the definitions of the elements involved. Norman suggests that men like O’Connell, Parnell and Griffith, who describe themselves as nationalists ‘Are most usually described as radicals’ because they were trying to redefine Great British politics.

The Fenians, Pearse and De Valera, who define themselves as Republicans ‘Are more properly designated as nationalists’ because they are the ones trying to break away from Great British rule and have a single nation state. This source therefore lets us see how hard it is to define this ‘curious blend’ because who are the political radicals? O’Connell’s nationalism was supported by peasants who needed social; change yet O’Connell’s nationalism was all about political change. This reinforces the suggestion that there is a ‘curious blend’ in Irish Nationalism.

Source 4 is a speech by Charles Stewart Parnell who was the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. In this speech we see the continuity in Irish Nationalism because Parnell used O’Connell’s methods from 50 years previous, using social discontent to drive political change. Parnell was also an aristocrat like O’Connell but still appealed to peasants and tenant farmers. This lets us see that the ‘curious blend’ is still very much in evidence. Source 5 shows how the popularity of the IPP increased while Parnell was in charge. In the two decades before the Fenian rising in 1867 there was very little parliamentary action.

The source lets us see that the methods previously used by O’Connell and now used by Parnell are still very effective because the IPP had approximately three-quarters of Ireland’s representatives in the United Kingdom parliament at Westminster. Here we again see the ‘blend’ remains in Irish Nationalism. In source 6, George Bernard Shaw is supporting nationalism only because he feels that Ireland needs it before it can move on to more important things and forget about all the in-fighting. ‘A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man of his bones.

‘ In the source Shaw also points to the blend of Irish Nationalism not including ‘The Orange’ who were the protestants. If Irish Nationalism did include them we would then have a really ‘curious blend’ but they don’t fit in because Irish Nationalism was mainly run by conservative Catholics. Source 7 is from a debate in the Dail on the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. It points to the differences in Irish Nationalism coming to the fore when the opportunity for a type of Irish nation was to appear Eamonn De Valera said ‘I am against this treaty….

two nations of Great Britain and Ireland. ‘ But Arthur Griffith, who went to London along with Michael Collins, argued that the treaty did not ‘Give away the interests and honour of Ireland. ‘ Once the glue was removed, which was the hate of the British, we got to see the old variation within Irish Nationalism which led onto the Irish civil war in 1922 between the two parts of nationalism. The contradiction of Irish Nationalism is contained within Eamonn De Valera because although he was very conservative Catholic he was the most radical politician.

In conclusion, I believe that yes, the sources do support this ‘curious blend’ of elements in Irish Nationalism because they are all so different from each other, but in terms of nationalism such a mix is not so unusual. At various points we see that the blend is not even because different parts are dominant, for example, conservative Catholicism has always been there but it is not as prominent. It is clear for us to see that there is a tradition of Catholicism and radicalism in Irish history.