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Response to Review of Remembering the Irish Revolution: Dissent, Culture, and Nationalism in the Irish Free State

I thank the reviewer for his detailed comments and that he judges the book to be a ‘thoughtful and impressively researched’ contribution to debates of wide historical interest in and beyond Ireland. I welcome the opportunity to respond and clarify various aspects he raises.

Given my explicit assertions that it would be a mistake to consider the four subjects of my study as proto-revisionists (pp. 6, 201), it is curious that the reviewer has nonetheless portrayed my analysis in this light. It points to the continuing endurance of an imagined binary between revisionist and anti-revisionist camps, which the reviewer not only insists on applying to the subjects of the book but also to myself, apparently on the basis of who I thank in my acknowledgements (strangely described as a ‘statement of allegiance’). This framing of Remembering the Revolution as nothing more than an expression of the so-called ‘revisionist school’ is unfortunate. Not only is it unfounded, it is particularly inappropriate for a book that has as its central premise the idea that we should think about revolutionary memory in the Free State on its own terms, rather than through the lens of post-1970s historiography.  The review ignores many of the book’s key arguments, most notably the transnational context it offers for understanding revolutionary memorialization in the 1920s and 1930s. Instead, it describes the kind of books about the Irish revolution that the reviewer would like to see written, together with attacks on a series of caricatured positions he attributes to ‘revisionism’. On this basis, it is alleged that the book constructs Catholicism as a ‘backward relic’ and a ‘brake on progressive tendencies’, even though no correlation between rejection of Catholicism and ‘progressive’ ideas is expressed or implied at any stage. Indeed, anachronistic terms such as ‘backwardness’ and ‘progressiveness’ play no part in the analysis, which sets out to excavate the complexities of lived nationalist and religious experience on a granular level. Even if, for the sake of argument, one were to apply these terms, readers would find a variety of examples that point the other way: in the 1930s, Eimar O’Duffy combined a renewed Catholic faith with a very ‘modern’ critique of capitalism in the form of Social Credit; P. S. O’Hegarty, an avowedly secular nationalist, held reactionary views on gender and egalitarianism in the same period. In preferring to focus on imputed present-day ‘allegiances’ rather than the substance of historical argument, there is much in the review that conforms to the contours of early 20th-century historical debate that I describe in the book.