The Irish Political Culture

Irish Political Culture
“The term political culture refers to fundamental deeply held views on the state itself, on the rules of the political game and on the kinds of principles that should underline political decision-making. (Coakley, 1999:32)” When the first attempts to examine aspects of Irish political culture got under way in the early 1970’s, it was still possible to describe Ireland as “an agricultural country of small, scattered family farms”; the Irish people as being strongly attached to the Catholic Church and as adhering to a religion of “an austere and puritanical variety that is somewhat cold and authoritarian’; an Irish society as being insulated from Europe by an all pervasive British influence” (Chubb, 1970: 51, 53, 46-7)  
It’s clear that the dominant characteristics of Ireland’s political culture were nationalism, clericalism, authoritarianism, conservatism and neutrality.   Here, I shall examine what impact these have had on Irish political culture.

By the end of the nineteenth century a specific political culture had been formulated, one that distinguished nationalist Ireland from the rest of the state. It’s clear that as Irish people mobilised politically in the nineteenth century the idea of an “Irish nation” based in those who were of Catholic Gaelic background became a central political model.   The emergence of the Irish Free State was not the end of the affair.   Some national issues were still unsettled.   Politicians made sure that constitutional issues and the problem of “the border” were always kept active in the public mind. The main aim of Irish nationalists after 1922 was achieving territorial unification through the annexation of Northern Ireland.   By the late 1960’s, however, many people and most politicians were at last coming to realise the Northern Ireland problem for what it was – a resistance between two deeply alienated communities in the North itself, not soluble by British withdrawal. This shift in opinion received...