Irish

Playwright and author Lucy Caldwell raises the issue of national identity early in her introduction to this long-running anthology series. She grew up in Belfast but lives in London. Her children sing Bengali nursery rhymes and celebrate Eid. She holds two passports, neither of which adequately captures who she is ...

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A New History of the Irish in Australia by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall

by
March 2019, no. 409

There is much to admire about this detailed and painstaking book. The authors have entered a field that is replete with stereotypes and even gags. They will have none of it. The result is an account of the Irish in Australia subtly modulated and insistent on evidence. It is suspicious of the lore and yarns that have sometimes been made to take their place ...

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It was inevitable, sooner or later, someone would write a book celebrating the achievements of the Protestant Irish in Australia. Books commemorating the part played by the Catholic Irish culminated in Patrick O’Farrell’s ambit claim that they were responsible for just about everything we like to think of (or used to think of) as being distinctively Australian. Now Professor Jarlath Ronayne has given us his own hyperbolic response in the subtitle of this sumptuous publication. The best way to see the book is as a useful reminder that ‘Irish’ and ‘Catholic’ were not synonyms in colonial Australia. Irish-born Protestants, whether they were members of the Ascendancy élite or, as in most cases, of much more modest origins, identified themselves as Irish. In early Melbourne, they joined with the Catholic Irish to celebrate St Patrick’s Day as their national event. However, their Irish ‘nation’ was the Protestant nation euphorically invoked by the Protestant ‘Patriots’ of ‘Grattan’s Parliament’ in the 1780s. And Trinity College, Dublin, was the alma mater of that minority ‘nation’.

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