AbstractIn the 1932 general election, fewer than ten years after independence, Ireland underwent a peaceful and democratic transfer of power, a process that has occurred all too infrequently in post-colonial societies. Within a year, though, the Irish state faced a serious and violent extra-parliamentary threat to its authority by the fascistic group the Blueshirts. This group was more than just a political association; it constituted a distinct community within Irish society that was disputing the evolving nature of the Irish national collective. The Blueshirt movement represented the last populist opposition to the presumed naturalness of republicanism as synonymous with Irish nationalism. Through its construction of gender relations and ritualistic use of symbols and public spectacle, the Blueshirt organisation unsuccessfully challenged the state’s discursive and material power in fashioning a cohesive yet restrictive Irish national identity. Understanding the group’s failure illustrates the processes of nation building at an important moment in Ireland’s post-colonial history.
Prevailing histories of the organisation, most of which have focused on Blueshirt politics, have provided an insufficient examination of this process. Neither structural explanations for the rise of the organisation nor assessments of individual motivations for joining address the reasons why this movement took the form it did. Why did Irish men and women feel the need to express their political discontent through such a mass movement? Why did women in such large numbers join such an expressly masculine organisation? What were the reasons for adopting the blue shirt? Beyond corporatism, what were Blueshirt politics, and how did they relate to a constructed Irish historical tradition? And, ultimately, what were the implications of the organisation’s demise? These questions revolve around issues of gender, ritual and power that are best analysed by conceptualising the movement as representing a distinct Irish community.
|Date of Award||Jul 2011|