Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

McMahon, Timothy

Second Advisor

Ball, Alan

Third Advisor

Hay, Carla


This dissertation argues that the dynamic interplay between political and social change on the one hand and organized sport as a communal pastime enjoyed by both athletes and fans alike on the other provides a unique window on the fluctuations of multiple, often conflicting, understandings of what it meant to be Irish. This work utilizes the nationalist theories of Rogers Brubaker and Mike Cronin to consider nationalism as an action, as well as to investigate the complexity of national identity on the island of Ireland. It uses Brubaker’s idea of a triadic nexus of competing nationalisms—the nationalizing nationalism, the national minority, and the external homeland—and applies it to the case of Ireland in the twentieth century This dissertation argues that despite the promotion of a singular “true” Irish identity devoid of any British influence, there are multiple Irish identities, and these identities are constantly interrelated. For example, the dominant southern identity—which is closely aligned to the Gaelic Catholic identity—and the dominant northern identity—which is Anglo Protestant—are deeply entwined, so that politics in one state closely affects the other. The partition of Ireland reflected (rather than caused) a splintered Irish identity. This multiplicity of Irish identities has often been at the center of Irish conflicts. Brubaker’s triad fails to account for the distinct Northern Irish identity because it assumes that the nationalizing nationalism is an imposed British identity that is actually a forcibly imposed false consciousness. Indeed, the idea that Northern Ireland only remains part of the United Kingdom because of forced colonization is inherently tied to this (false) understanding of northern Protestants as having been duped into believing in their Britishness rather than embracing their true Irishness. When in fact there is a northern unionist identity that is separate from both the “Irish” and the “British” identities, and it is as authentically Irish as the southern nationalist identity.



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