Context and Development of Irish Literature:
History, Poetry, Landscape
continued: Ireland 1922-present
Ireland between 1932
and 1948 was characterized by an extreme social conservatism.
The Catholic Church held such sway that the state was a virtual
theocracy. Divorce was outlawed and the list of censored
or banned books soon numbered in the thousands. The
enduring political conflict between Unionist and Nationalist,
Protestant and Catholic, and even Free Stater and Republican,
found continued focus on the border issue and dominated Irish
political reality to such an extent that other political
parties, most notably Labour, found little purchase on Irish
soil during this time.
Culturally, the most
defining aspect of Ireland was its policy of language revival.
The government committed itself to restoring the Irish language,
making its study compulsory in all government schools, and
required of all civil servants and government documents and
publications. Yet despite this effort, the language
continued to decline, as immigration drained the Gaeltacht
(Irish-speaking) areas dramatically and as popular culture began
to infiltrate Irish society.
Ireland's most notable action was its decision to remain neutral
during what it termed "The Emergency," what the rest of the
world termed World War II. De Valera, with admirable
diplomatic dexterity, avoided dragging Ireland into the conflict
on either side.
had little industrial development, and its economy remained
largely rural, tied to the small family farm and the rural town.
The Irish economy remained inevitably tied to that of its
domineering neighbor, Great Britain. Migration was a
dominant facet of Irish life, with many of its young people
seeking better employment and a higher standard of living in
England and America. Gradually, as popular culture in the
form of radio and film, and eventually television, brought
images of the larger world to Ireland, awareness of the relative
poverty of Ireland brought about increasing dissatisfaction with
began in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Sean Lemass
took over as de Valera's successor in the leadership of Fianna
Fail and initated several economic and cultural reforms that
moved Ireland closer to late 20th century European life.