Ireland Tradition and Dissent

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Humanities: Tradition and Dissent

TMA03 - Option 1 Ireland: the Invention of Tradition
How useful are the concepts of “tradition” and “dissent” in understanding attitudes to the built heritage of Ireland?

The two concepts of “tradition” and “dissent” are extremely useful in understanding the built heritage of Ireland. To understand the differing attitudes to the built heritage of Ireland is to contemplate the historical accounts, stories and legends that fabricate traditions and incite dissent. The concept of tradition is associated with the passing down through generations, beliefs, thoughts and actions (“tradition”, n.d) and dissent derives from a desire to publicly protest against the traditions and against those holding the authority (“dissent”, n.d). Ireland, ‘the land of saints and scholars’ (Burke, Watson, and Laurence, 2008), is a country coming to terms with its past by acknowledging the wealth it possesses within its built heritage. A past fabricated with tradition and dissent which resulted in the creation of The Irish Free State in 1922, known today as The Republic of Ireland (Hachey, 1996, p. 167). Attitudes to Irish built heritage have been fashioned through the experiences of a people caught in the tides of both tradition and dissent. From the Anglo-Norman invasion in the 12th century to the creation of the Irish Republic, in 1922, Ireland had been battling with an apparent drive by Britain to ‘anglicise’ the isle. Celtic traditions encounter British dissent. Eventually, The Reformation of the 16th century secured a British dominance and thus, new colonial traditions were formed. Oliver Cromwell ensured his ‘plantation’ policies were implemented, whereby, the Irish- Catholics were ‘expelled’ from their lands and the British now landlord over the real estate and its subservient, Irish -Catholic tenants (“Cromwellian-Conquests, n.d). Irelands ‘lost her music, she lost her games, she lost her language and popular literature, and with language she lost her intellectuality” (Hyde, as cited in Laurence, 2008, p.161). The Irish traditions, by way of religion and culture, now became the dissent (Hachey, 1996, p.16). Built heritage is a way to visualise the changes that endure tradition and dissent within society. Architectural structures shaping a landscape by reflecting function, wealth, culture or just personal tastes and fashion. Monuments, churches, houses, ring forts are examples of built heritage in Ireland. Nationalists were able to use the power of the most historic and revered sites to remember the days of a common Gaelic past to restore a sense of nationalism (Laurence, 2008, p.164). One of the most recognised sacred sites by the Irish people is Newgrange, built 5200 years ago, the oldest known astronomically aligned structure in the world (Burke, Watson, and Laurence 2008). Tradition was questioned when Newgrange was restored in 1960’s by Professor Michael Kelly. He used his own controversial interpretation of how the structure would have appeared by the use of stone on the frontage and its overall appearance. The structure now appears as a 1960’s view of a sacred and traditional site (Burke et al. 2008). In the middle of the 20th century, it is intriguing to see the emphasis place on the sites of “ancient places and sacred spaces” (Murphy, as cited in Burke et al. 2008) rather than other structures built whilst under British rule. The Hill of Tara, located in County Meath, is the symbolic capital of Ireland and the seat of ancient high kings. The site became an Irish nationalist symbol when Daniel O’Connell, a nationalist leader, assembled over 500,000 people at the site to protest against the lack of civil rights for Catholics and the oppressive interests of Anglo-Irish landlords (Laurence, 2008, p.159). This protest resulted in the Catholic Relief Act 1829, whereby, for example, Catholics were now able to sit as members of parliament in Westminster. However, as the majority of...
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