Post-Independence Perspectives on ‘Irishness’ and Identity

A radically new perspective on Irish identity is presented in this issue

“For historians, the objective definition [of identity] unburdens them of the impossible task of trying to reify Irish identity from the ever-changing narrative of its people or visualise it through the whims of shifting political and cultural perspectives over time.”

So writes Raymond Keogh in his article of the same name in the current issue of History Ireland (March/April 2021). The nature of identity, or ‘Irish identity’ is a question that seems to have no definite answers. Hence it resurfaces continually giving it a semi-permanent presence as a topic of discussion.

Another way to describe the phenomenon is that we, as curious rational creatures, cannot leave unfinished business aside for long and, therefore, take up the challenge repeatedly only to be frustrated once more in a sort of Groundhog Day cycle, after which we push the quandary to one side. Thankfully, there is a way out.

Molecular biologists Francis Crick and James Watson are credited with the discovery of DNA in the 1950s . By 2003 the mapping of the entire human genome was achieved. A practical offshoot arose after 1987 when hundreds of forensic cases were decided based on the uniqueness of DNA sequences in a person’s body. If these sequences are the same from the zygote stage to end-of-life, then we also have an answer to the conundrum of “sameness” in the individual. We are the same person because it can be shown that “sameness” resides in our underlying genome. This becomes the basis of the new paradigm of identity (also called objective-, scientific-, or universal-identity).

This radical solution emerged from the author’s original work called Shelter and Shadows here. This book, which was produced from material gathered over 50 years, was published by Our Own Identity in 2016.