By Cathal McCall (auth.)
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Additional resources for Identity in Northern Ireland: Communities, Politics and Change
A major problem for the modern state-building on the island that occurred between 1920 and 1921 was that the distinction between the ethnic Ulster Protestant community and the Irish nation did not have a clear territorial boundary. The problem was highlighted by local elections in January and June of 1920 that resulted in Nationalist-Sinn Féin control of ten urban councils – including Derry, Strabane, Enniskillen, Armagh and Omagh – in the six counties due to be granted a northern parliament in the Government of Ireland Act (Bardon, 1992, p.
The social anthropologist A. P. Cohen would support Beckett’s belief that nationalism offers a distraction from the individual’s self-consciousness: The manufacture of national identity might reasonably be argued as an attempt to diminish people’s consciousness of their individuality, and superimpose over this a consciousness of both their similarity to their co-nationals and their difference from others (Cohen, 1994, p. 156). Beckett derided the symbols used by Gaelic Revivalists as an exercise in illusion.
56). In this interpretation, nations and nationalism are the necessary product of a dispassionate modern rationality that recognizes their utility in the provision of an effective system of communication required by a newly industrialized society. However, the ability of nationalism to recreate a passionate sense of exclusive identity that taps into a real and imagined ethnic past for vitality is not explained by Gellner’s ‘nationalism-as-a-function-ofmodernization’ interpretation. Indeed, the new mobility of the industrialized era deprived individuals of the security offered by their set social positions within their premodern society.