Language, nationality and cultural identity in the Irish Free State, 1922-7: the Irish Statesman and the Catholic Bulletin reappraised

Thursday 18 May 2023

O’Callaghan, Margaret. Irish Historical Studies 24, no. 94 (1984): 226-245.

In this article, Margaret O’Callaghan takes a closer look at the creation of an Irish national identity in the early years of the Free State. She examines the need to establish an individual identity, separate from that of the English colonizer with particular reference to the use of the Irish language and the ‘Gaelicisation’ of the state. Furthermore, O’Callaghan discusses the role of the Anglo-Irish intelligentsia and ‘Southern Unionists’ in the formation of the new state, from their engagement with the new political landscape to conflict which arose of their literary achievements. This paper makes a strong case for the position of the Irish language as a symbol of Irish independence, both politically and culturally. While the use of Irish in the Republic has never reached the status of a majority language, its use in political and education settings continues and its status in Northern Ireland has been hotly contested. As such, this paper not only gives an insight into the complicated process of post-colonial identity formation in the Irish Free State, but also highlights the symbolic power of the Irish language, North and South of the border.  

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