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Posted: 27 March 2008

Periodicals hold key to intellectual battles that shaped modern Ireland

The intellectual battles that shaped modern Ireland can be broadly traced through five influential twentieth century Irish periodicals, according to Dr Bryan Fanning from the UCD School of Applied Social Science, the author of a new book - The Quest for Modern Ireland - The Battle of Ideas 1912-1986.

“In The Bell, Sean O’Faolain rallied liberal writers against the national myths which seemed to obscure the hidden Ireland of the 1940s,” says Dr Fanning. The Bell presented compelling snapshots of everyday life in Irish society. O’Faolain insisted that the radical change in thinking that was truly needed resulted from being able to speak clearly about real problems and everyday life. Many writers of non-fiction in The Bell were those whose own fiction was banned.

Even though Christus Rex, Ireland’s first Irish journal of sociology launched in 1947, came from the conservative Catholic perspective, Dr Fanning explains that “contributors and editors grappled with the problems of emigration, rural decline and how Ireland might come to terms with social change.”

In Administration, civil servants sought to rise to the challenge laid down by T.K Whitaker, the co-architect with Sean Lemass of post-1950s modernisation. “Administration championed the developmental nation building project that has come to define twenty first century Ireland to the outside world,” says Dr Fanning.

Studies, the Jesuit journal founded in 1912, had close ties with UCD. Its influential contributors included Tom Kettle, Michael Tierney, George O’Brien, Patrick Lynch and Garrett Fitzgerald. According to Dr Fanning, the journal fostered a long-running engagement between liberalism and Catholicism which had been ignored within ‘standard’ accounts of Irish modernisation. “For instance, during the 1940s clerics citied The Road to Serfdom by Frederick Hayek whist economists sometimes invoked papal encyclicals to do the same.”

From 1977, says Dr Fanning, in The Crane Bag poets and philosophers led by Richard Kearney placed what he called the Irish mind on the couch in an effort to make sense of the Northern conflict.

The Quest for Modern Ireland - The Battle of Ideas 1912-1986 is published by Irish Academic Press.

Dr Bryan Fanning is a Senior Lecturer in the UCD School of Applied Social Science. His research interests include intellectual history, immigration and the Irish welfare economy. His recent research includes a study of the responsiveness of Irish political parties to immigrants (funded by the IRHCSS). He is currently undertaking a study of demography and immigration (funded by the IRCHSS).


Front-cover images of the five influential twentieth Century Irish Periodicals examined in The Quest for Modern Ireland - The Battle of Ideas 1912-1986:


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Periodicals hold key to intellectual battles that shaped modern Ireland