It had been my intention to write a single volume on the history of the period, but the vast quantity of data I collected on social and economic conditions compelled me to gather it into a separate volume. The subject is so vast that in the course of a single volume only the barest outline of each topic can be given. There is no room for recounting different interpretations among scholars that belong more appropriately to more specialist publications. My aim is to provide a hand-book for the general reader or general student of Irish history, but also one into which the specialist may dip concerning matters not of their speciality.
The period 1800 to 1850 in Irish history has not been particularly frequently or well researched. Distortions too were caused by the political objectives of the various writers. Facts were selected, omitted, or twisted to suit political objectives. Catholic or nationalist writers wrote with their own religious and political objectives in mind, and Protestants or loyalists likewise.
Historians concentrated on the political struggles and conflicts, omitting investigation of other aspects of society, particularly the social and economic conditions and practices of the time. Some of these have long since vanished. Others are still with us but very much altered. Local government for example was drastically altered in the second half of the century. Some people too know institutions and customs only in their British or American forms. Nowadays, for the most part, historians take a much more objective approach, and the study of social and economic history has been developed.
Social and economic institutions were well developed in Ireland in the early nineteenth century. It was not a primitive country, or yet one where a native population was ground down by colonial oppressors. The people, Catholics and Protestants, regarded themselves as living in a free and democratic country. There might be more freedom and democracy in America, but they considered that what they had was more suitable for their country, and congratulated themselves on having escaped the excesses of the French Revolution. Very few after 1800 looked for a republic. There was a free press and letters to the editor were particularly illuminating.
There were great political struggles between Catholics and Protestants, but these were very similar to those between Republicans and Democrats in the United States later in the century, violence and all. Catholics in the nationalist party in Ireland and Catholics in Tammany Hall in the United States came from the same families. It was not an anti-colonial war.
There were troubles and disturbances without doubt. Society was very unequal, and many rewards went to those already rich. But there was equality before the law and equality in business. Attempts were always made to remedy real grievances and numerous commissions of enquiry were appointed. Reliance was normally placed on the ordinary processes of the law. Extraordinary measures to deal with outbrea
Was It For This...? delves into the Irish psyche to answer the questions: What happened to our hopes and dreams? What is at the heart of the sense of betrayal that we feel? In the rush to modernity, did we throw away everything of true value? Have we lost the ideals of nationhood and patriotism set out by those who dreamt of the Irish Republic?
John Waters’ remarkable new book sweeps through the pages of our recent history to get to the heart our political, social and existential identity crisis. Ranging across a vast canvas, Was It For This...? argues that the Celtic Tiger was built on a collective delusion, and that the seeds of its destruction were sown many years before it even began, when we exchanged our colonial shackles for a no-less destructive dependency for short-term gain. Ireland’s sovereignty was given up long before the IMF came to town.
Along the way, Waters ponders our love/hate relationship with Fianna Fáil; the undercurrents that ran through the 2011 presidential election; why our political leaders and commentators have clung onto the remnants of 1960s revolutionary fervour long after the revolution was won; how our denial of an authoritative father figure has led to a leaderless ‘sibling society’; the emptiness of our ‘youth culture’ and the suppression of real thought and discussion through cynicism and irony; and why we have lost the very language that once enabled us to speak of ‘Ireland’ with pride.
Cork entered the 1980s with swagger. The 1970s had been dominated nationally by the city's favourite son, Jack Lynch, who was Taoiseach for much of the decade. And the sense of superiority wasn't confined to the political arena. The city had given Ireland a world-class rock star in Rory Gallagher, and boasted one of the first internationally recognised film festivals. Cork bustled: Patrick Street on a Saturday afternoon heaved with shoppers in Roches Stores and Cash's. There was a stability to the city, anchored by the institutions from which it drew its identity: the university, the Murphy's and Beamish breweries, the English Market. Underpinning those were key employers such as Ford, Dunlop and Verolme – internationally recognised names, deeply rooted in the fabric of the community after providing decades of employment. Confident and busy, Cork seemed to buck the trend of the late 1970s, as the ripples of the oil crisis spread economic uncertainty across the globe.
But by the middle of the 1980s, the city had been plunged into chaos. Ford, Dunlop and Verolme all closed within eighteen months. Every institution in the city seemed under threat. The two breweries came close to shutting down. The English Market survived not one but two devastating fires. Cork Corporation strongly considered turning it into a car park. The uncertainty spread beyond the unemployment statistics, horrific though they were, manifesting itself in religious hysteria, protest voting and crime. Cork had become a rust-belt region.
But a spiky self-belief, determined natives and vital new industries made all the difference as the city began the often painful transition from traditional manufacturing to what we now term 'the knowledge economy'. Drawing on extensive interviews with politicians, workers, writers and industrialists, Michael Moynihan weaves a sweeping tapestry of the city at a critical juncture. In a rich narrative, he tells the compelling story of how Cork's eventual status as a high-tech hub was won.