A ‘Carnival of Reaction’: Partition and the Defeat of Ireland’s Revolutionary Wave


  • Fergal McCluskey
  • Brian Kelly


For more than a generation, establishment historians and their acolytes in the southern media have dominated public debate about the nature and form of the Irish revolution. In their rendering, the Rising constituted an unnecessary skirmish between a benign, reforming empire and ultra-Catholic madmen and militarists. For many ordinary southerners, understandably cynical about the influence welded by the Catholic Church and a corrupt political establishment since partition, the seeds of conservatism seem apparent from the outset, flowing inevitably from the Rising and the revolutionary upheaval that followed. Since the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969, especially, a persistent and well-resourced effort has been made to show that partition reflected immutable differences between antagonistic ‘ethno-national’ or ‘ethno-religious’ blocs. Despite their rhetorical nationalism, the Dublin elite, fearful that northern political instability might spread southwards, went to great lengths to block popular sympathy for the northern struggle.