The Irish question
- Author: Fran Strachan
- Posted: 16th November 2011
One of Ireland’s most distinguished historians has put the spotlight on the myths surrounding the Irish in Australia in a major address at UNSW.
David Fitzpatrick, Professor of Modern History at Dublin’s Trinity College, delivered the inaugural Patrick O’Farrell Memorial Lecture, established by the John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies (JHIGIS).
The annual lecture honours renowned historian and Emeritus Scientia Professor, Patrick O'Farrell, whose career was dedicated to the evaluation of the Irish contribution to Australian life.
In his address, Professor Fitzpatrick re-examined some of the themes explored in O'Farrell's Ireland's English Question, particularly his ideas on how Irish stereotypes have been expressed and exploited by the Irish themselves.
“The clerical myth of Irish fidelity to faith and fatherland was self-fulfilling, enabling the Church to create an identification between Irishness and Catholicism that reinforced communal bonds and encouraged Irish Australians to idealise their ancestors as members of a more egalitarian society than Australia,” he said.
Professor Fitzpatrick pointed to the fact that beliefs about Ireland and the Irish, though sometimes disingenuous, had left an enduring imprint on Australian politics and culture.
“Irish questions, however misconceived, were until recently an essential ingredient of Australian political discourse, and have yet to lose their hold on popular imagination,” he said.
Professor Rónán McDonald, Director of the JHIGIS, paid tribute to Professor O'Farrell as the foremost historian of Irish-Australia.
“He inaugurated a noble tradition in Irish Studies at UNSW which the Institute seeks to continue,” Professor McDonald said.
Media contact: Fran Strachan | 9385 8732 | 0429 416 070