Sample essay: Critically analyse the significance of nationalism in Irish politics (1700 words)

Introduction [130 words]

This essay focuses on the role of Irish nationalism in the Republic of Ireland. The essay contends, that at a foundational level, the broad principles of Irish nationalism are of great significance in Irish politics as they underpin the geopolitical status of the state and its relationship with the European Union (EU). However, this essay also notes that Irish nationalism, as a systematic political ideology, is of less significance in the day-to-day politics of the Republic of Ireland, as demonstrated by an examination of attitudes towards Irish reunification. The essay is structured in three sections. The first section discusses how nationalism underpins the geopolitical status of the Irish nation-state. The second section contends that Irish nationalism is broadly supportive of European integration. While the final section discusses attitudes towards Irish reunification.

Section 1

The legitimacy of the Irish state rests upon the central tenets of Irish nationalism: that the Irish people constitute a distinct national group and require a separate state …

Section 2

The second section of this essay discusses how Irish nationalism relates to European integration. In contrast to various European nationalisms that oppose European integration as a threat to national sovereignty, Irish nationalism can be seen as being broadly supportive of Ireland’s participation in the EU …

Section 3

The final section of this essay contends that, within the day-to-day politics of the Republic of Ireland, Irish nationalism, as a systematic political ideology, is of marginal significance. This is demonstrated by examining attitudes towards Irish reunification …

Conclusion [230 words]

In summary, a distinction can be drawn between the two levels at which nationalism is significant in Irish politics. Firstly, at a foundational level which determines the geopolitical status of the state, nationalism is of great significance. The belief that the Irish people constitute a distinct nation and require an independent polity underpins the legitimacy of the Irish state. This belief is strengthened through every-day or ‘banal’ practices that remind individuals of their nationhood and by the development of the apparatus of the nation state. Irish nationalism does not run counter to European integration as Ireland’s membership of the EU is generally seen as enhancing, not diminishing, Ireland’s independence.

Secondly, at a more superficial level concerned with the day-to-day issues of Irish politics, Irish nationalism as a systematic political ideology is of lesser significance. This is best demonstrated by examining attitudes towards Irish reunification. For the majority of people and political leaders in the Republic of Ireland, Irish unity appears to be a marginal issue as it is not viewed as a priority but instead as a vague long-term aspiration. However, it is worth remembering that one of the largest parties in Irish politics, Sinn Féin, remains committed to reunification as a priority. While it is also possible that public opinion on the issue could change rapidly in light of the consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.