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What I want for the “What is a Republic Day?”

May 15, 2016


May 23.  Monday.

IONTAS Building Maynooth University

The day will start at 11.00 with coffee and registration.  At 11.30 we’ll hear from Margaret O’Callaghan.  We’ll ask questions of course – have a long lunch – come back for parallel sessions before we learn about a new James Connolly anthology.  Then at 6pm we’ll have a plenary address from Professor Philip Pettit of Princeton University entitled ‘Freedom in the Republic: The History of an Idea’.

Do show up for the plenary address if you can’t make the rest of the day.  But do show up for the whole day if you can.

I suppose what I want… is as many people as possible to show up.

This day will be about what being a “republican” as opposed to a patriot or a nationalist might mean, specifically, and what makes a “republic” different from any other polity..  In Irish political discourse, there’s always been a sense that “republicanism” has sometimes meant merely an extremity of separation from Britain, the clearest articulation of a non serviam reaction to a foreign ruler.  Arthur Griffiths long resisted being identified as a republican, and argued for a “Hungarian” solution to Irish Independence that might have seen George V crowned separately (in an Irish language ceremony) in Dublin Castle as King of Ireland.  Griffith’s political imagination was, however, flexible and mobile.  It moved with the times.

But I’m hoping also for a more international and historical discussion.  Is there such a thing as a republican aesthetic?  How far must national allegiance be depersonalised before you can call yourself a republican?  If a republic is (literally) a “public thing”, then how much of the public do you need to create a quorate “thing”?   Cicero, one the greatest republicans, by common consent, who ever lived was also a firm believer in the rule of the “optimates” and a patrician domination of public debate.   Republicans have also, paradoxically, been fascinated with the nobility of great families and the ancestral appeal and inspiration of dynastic surnames.

I suppose from a more political standpoint what I’d like is a more focused yet more interdisciplinary sense of what’s been consistently cherishable about the idea of a republic.

And I also need to order coffee very soon, so if you could click on this eventbrite link I’d be ever  so grateful.





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