Themes

A History of Conquest

Both the mythic and mortal histories of Ireland show that this island, fertile land at the farthest western extreme of Europe, has been washed repeatedly by waves of invaders. Traditional Irish mythology talks of Nine Waves of newcomers, each rolling over and dominating the previous inhabitants, eventually settling and becoming the true inhabitants of the island, until the next wave crashes over them, and the cycle begins.

These waves of invasion have left scars on the city, both physically and psychically. The landscape around the city is dotted with ancient barrows, standing stones, viking ruins, and the like, while the inhabitants seem to view themselves as being constantly under siege from outside influences. These waves of invasion continue to this day, with the upswing in immigration from Eastern Europe and the prevalence of American media. The new prosperity is, in its way, another assault on the historic Ireland, moving attention away from tradition, to a more modern, worldly view.

Aspect: The Weary Shore
Face: Constance Rutherford, Historian

Lyric vs. Prosaic

Irish heritage has always been a heady mix of the worldly and the fantastic – the pragmatic and the mythic. The Irish will work all day at back-breaking labour in rough conditions, and spend the evening at the pub regaling each other with old stories of the ancient days, singing songs, and engaging in great feats of oratory. For the Irish, the art of words is as vital and essential to life as the tilling of the fields and the rest of the workaday world, and the greatest heroes of the stories succeed as often through wisdom and art as they do through force of arms.

In Dublin today, the tradition continues. Pubs feature working-class men and women coming in after a hard day’s work, pulling tin whistles out of their pockets, and settling down for a session. Buskers line the pedestrian markets of Grafton Street and Moore Street, and rich, lyrical rhetoric spouts from the most unexpected sources. Everywhere, the soul of Ireland gleams amid the modern trappings of a sophisticated European city.

Aspect: The Songs We Sing
Face: O’Carolan, Blind Bard

Old vs. New

Rowhouse tenements with outhouses in the back yard, side by side with modern apartment blocks. Castles amid office buildings. Wi-fi connectivity in Georgian guest houses. Cell towers rise over viking ruins. Modernization has come recently to Ireland, and Dublin is a strange mix of the ancient and the cutting-edge.

This is not confined to architecture and scenery; the new prosperity of the nation, facing a setback recently, has created a schism in the cultural consciousness. The old ways and stories survive, but side-by-side with the latest advances and a thriving tech industry. Goblin markets and stock markets mirror each other, and raves are held in the crypts of medieval churches. The old and the new compete and blend.

Aspect: Where Do We Go Now?
Face: Kathleen MacDonnell, Editor of The Independent

Rife With Corruption

It has been said that the political parties don’t really have philosophies in Ireland – merely different corporations that they work for. This may not be strictly true, but land developers do seem to have the city council of Dublin in their various pockets. The robber-baron mindset of Thatcher’s 80’s reached Dublin late, but it found fertile ground in which to take root. Politics is all about the back-room deal, the old boys network, and the discrete envelope of cash.

The police bow to the political pressure exerted on them, and follow the example of their masters, doling out preferential treatment, protection, and a blind eye in return for payoffs from gangsters, drug dealers, pimps, and terrorists. While there are many among both the politicos and the police who still keep their integrity and principles, the overall system is one of corruption and bribery.

Aspect: Everyone’s For Sale
Face: Anne Mullen, Head of Civil Service Union

Themes

Feints & Gambits Grendel