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5. A Lifetime Quest to Solve the Meaning of Identity

The Ultimate Identity Partition

When discussing the notion of “Irish identity” in modern Ireland, what springs to mind are the main partitions of society (e.g. Protestant v. Catholic  or loyalist v. nationalist); these divisions are almost clichés. Additional complexities must now be acknowledged, like the presence of foreign newcomers with their distinct cultures.

More subtle internal fractions also exist or existed within the main groups like the Anglican v. dissenter divide within Protestants; or cleavages between Gaelic Catholics and the Old English (Normans and other descendants of pre-Reformation invaders). When drilling down further, we encounter ever-finer partitions.

GKIS #4a

The Ultimate Identity Partition

The ultimate partition is to be found—at the individual level—where internal conflicts arise as a result of incompatible inherited cultural memes that compete with each other and question the very nature of one’s personal identity, as demonstrated by Raymond Keogh in his forthcoming book Shelter and Shadows.

Messy Cultural Entanglements

Raymond acknowledges that he cannot claim cultural purity, declaring: I am a hybrid; a mix of Gael and Old English; a blend of opposing cultures that created a stark landscape fracture on my mind. This was the base of my cultural discrepancies. The degree of underlying tensions that I experienced highlights the reality and strength of conflicting ancestral memes in one Irish household. … My mother and father accommodated them separately in their unspoken truce; however, the anomalies made me uneasy because, it seemed, a complete commitment to one particular set of inherited values … necessitated a rejection of the opposite set. In other words, it appeared that I had to make a stark choice: I was an Irish nationalist or Old English; I could not be both.[1]

Raymond decided to focus on a single cultural background. He totally ignored his Old English dimension and embraced his Gaelic heritage. But, he would eventually find that he could not live a false identity and be true to himself.

Distinct Approach to Exploring Identity

Int ID

Exploring identity in universal terms using Ireland as the initial focus

The Gerald Keogh Identity Series is framed around Shelter and Shadows which describes Raymond’s lifetime quest to resolve his cultural dilemma and discover his true identity.

The book uses the ultimate identity-partition as the bedrock for self-analysis (personal identity) before attempting to understand identity at the communal, national and international levels. By following this blueprint, the Series deviates radically from many other approaches to the subject. But, in doing so, it provides an approach that anyone can apply when exploring their personal identity.

As such, the discussion is not confined to Irish identity per se, but explores the meaning of “Identity” in universal terms, using Ireland as its prime example.


[1] Keogh, R. M. Shelter and Shadows. Our Own Identity (due to be published September 2016)

Photos: Keogh Photography (first above); second photo—R. M. Keogh

Coming Next

An Identity that Didn’t Fit here

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