Ireland & the Left in an Age of Revolution


Present six talks on Irish history at Nottingham Irish Centre by Dr Pat Murphy


Picture: Jim Larkin

Ireland is one of the few European countries where the left has been marginalized and played only a peripheral role in shaping the Irish Free State in 1922 and the emergence of a sectarian six county state in the north. In an age of revolution the left and the labour movement found it impossible to assert itself against conservative nationalism in the south and sectarianism in the north. Too often it complied with the demand that it should wait until the ‘national question’ could be resolved; in Peadar O’Donnell’s memorable phrase Labour “confused the prompter’s stool with a place on the stage”. The aim of this series of six talks is to examine the role of the left from 1880 to 1930, from the Land War to the establishment of the Irish Free State and the Northern Irish state. This will be explored through six notable figures who attempted to overcome sectarianism and bridge the gulf between Irish nationalism and socialism. Each session will look not only at the lives of these six individuals but also at how the left was marginalised in this, the most turbulent period in modern Irish history.

The course is open to everyone and no previous knowledge of Irish history is necessary.

£3 per session. No booking needed.

  1. Michael Davitt -Wednesday 19th October at 7.30pm

More than any other notable figure from the Irish nationalist left, Michael Davitt’s early life inspired his politics and spoke of suffering, endurance and resilience. Born in the midst of the Famine, his family were evicted from their small farm by their landlord because they were in arrears with the rent. The family moved to England where Davitt became active in the Fenian movement. He was instrumental in founding the Land League to fight for a fair land dispensation for Ireland’s tenant farmers and impoverished rural working-class. His influence as a nationalist leader, campaigner for land reform, writer and politician has been widely underrated but his story is one of the most inspiring in Irish history.

2) James Larkin –Wednesday 16th November at 7.30pm

Like Michael Davitt, Jim Larkin’s personal experience of poverty while growing up in Liverpool drove his relentless energy for social justice and the transformation of society through militant working-class struggle. Larkin succeeded where many had failed in organising  unskilled workers into Ireland’s first ‘One Big Union’, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913 he led the union in an epic struggle in the Dublin Lockout and, with James Connolly, founded the Irish Citizen Army. Larkin is now seen as a divisive figure but by his charisma and sheer energy he was able to inspire those who had been previously ignored by the political elite and the trade union movement.

3) Sean O’Casey –Wednesday 14th December at 7.30pm

Sean O’Casey was born to a Protestant working-class family in Dublin. He was attracted to politics initially through his interest in Gaelic culture and the Irish language, but his conversion to socialism was triggered by the Dublin Lockout when he was blacklisted and became unemployable. He was briefly involved in the formation of the Irish Citizen Army but his legacy is not that of a political activist but as a writer and playwright who was willing to take on contentious issues that other writers ignored. In what is thought of as his greatest play The Plough and the Stars he explores the conflict between the lives of working-class people living hand-to-mouth in the Dublin slums and a narrow conservative nationalism that takes no account of their interests.

4) James Connolly – Wednesday 25th January 2023 7.30pm

James Connolly is an iconic figure in Irish nationalism, known as much for the manner of his death following the Easter Rising as for his political accomplishments. For Connolly, independence was about far more than breaking the link with Britain. He opposed sectarianism and conservative nationalism, arguing that for the working-class “a change from Toryism to Sinn Féinism would simply be a change from the devil they do know to the devil they do not.” But in the end he, and the Citizen Army he led, joined with nationalists in a rebellion that led to the kind of independence he had feared and predicted. Yet, his searing analysis of the limitations and the debilitating effect of sectarianism and nationalism has stood the test of time.

5) Constance Markiewicz – Wednesday 22nd February 2023 at 7.30pm

Constance Markiewicz, ‘The Red Countess’, was born to one of Ireland’s leading Anglo-Irish families, the Gore-Booths. Yet her life was marked by a rejection of comfort, privilege and position. Both she and her sister, Eva Gore-Booth, became involved in radical politics and she played a leading role in the Irish Citizen Army and the Easter Rising. She was also the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons and the first female cabinet minister in the pre-independence Irish government. Throughout her life, Constance Markiewicz refused to be defined by restrictions of gender or class and, for that, attracted much criticism and many detractors. Seán O’Casey, not one of her greatest admirers, said of her: “One thing she had in abundance  —  physical courage; with that she was clothed as with a garment.”

6) Peadar O’Donnell – Wednesday 22nd March 2023 at 7.30om

Peadar O’Donnell was a a republican, revolutionary socialist, intellectual and writer. He was politically active from a young age as a teacher and an organiser for the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. He went on to become an IRA leader in the War of Independence, fought on the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War, and later became a founding member of the Republican Congress, an attempt to forge a socialist republican movement. He was a prolific writer and journalist and produced memoirs, novels, and edited The Bell, a literary journal which led the intellectual assault on the insular and conservative society which evolved after independence. His prison memoir The Gates Flew Open is one of the most widely read books of the revolutionary period. 

Dr Pat Murphy is an independent historian, originally from Cork. His academic interests include the political history of Cork from 1890 to 1923 and the relationship between socialism and nationalism. He is Chair of Nottingham Irish Centre and a founder member of the Nottingham Irish Studies Group.


Irish Film Club: Cal

Monday 3rd April 7.30pm

Nottingham Irish Centre, 2-4 Wilford St. NG2 1AA
Free Admission! and Free Popcorn!

Cal (1984)
The film Cal is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Bernard MacLaverty. Cal (John Lynch) gets caught up in the armed struggle in the North of Ireland. He also becomes involved in a complicated relationship with Marcella (Helen Mirren) who works in the local library. Their past comes to haunt them in a moving tale of the Troubles.
Free admission. All welcome.
Free popcorn!

Films are shown in the Members’ Bar.
Free car parking at the rear of the Irish Centre.

Nottingham Irish Centre is a registered charity. Charity number 1165907

Bloomsday @ Broadway

Bloomsday at Broadway

Saturday, 18th June, 2022.

In celebration of Bloomsday – the day in June on which James Joyce’s Ulysses is set and annually celebrated around the world – Broadway Cinema Nottingham will be introducing the book on both page and screen with a view to challenging its reputation for unreadability.

There will be two sessions. The first is an introduction to the novel, including readings, and the second an introduction to the film. Both sessions are open to allcomers, whether you have read the book or not. So, if you’ve been meaning to read it but never got round to it, or if you’ve never got further than the first few pages, these sessions are for you. In short, these sessions are designed to make the ‘unreadable’ Ulysses accessible.

12pm – 1.00pm: Introduction – ‘Unreadable’ Ulysses by Dr Deirdre O’Byrne, Loughborough University

1.45 – 2.45pm: Ulysses on Film (Dr Ian Brookes, Nottingham University)

3pm – 5pm: Screening: Ulysses (15) (Joseph Strick, 1967)

You are welcome to attend either the session on the novel, or the session on the film, or both. Normal ticket prices apply.

Celebrating James Joyce’s Ulysses on the centenary of its publication in 1922 with an introduction to both the book and its film adaptation (1967), given James Joyce’s keen interest in cinema.
More details on how to book here

An outdoor performance of Letters to Lucia, a play by Richard Rose and James Vollmar, on Bloomsday itself, Thursday16th June, in Northampton. The play considers the relationships between  Lucia Anna Joyce, daughter of the Irish writer James Joyce and the significant individuals in her life. These include her mother Nora Barnacle/Joyce (played in this performance by Deirdre O’Byrne of Nottingham Irish Studies Group), Nobel prize winning playwright Samuel Beckett, Kathleen Neel (‘Kitten’) who was Lucia’s fellow dancer in Paris, and James Joyce himself.
Lucia Joyce, daughter of James and Nora, is buried in Northampton, in Kingsthorpe Cemetery, and the performance takes place in this beautiful tranquil setting, next to her gravestone.
This performance celebrates her life and of course, the centenary of Joyce’s most famous novel, Ulysses (1922).

Follow the link below to download the programme.

New Irish Writing series

Five Leaves Bookshop presents a short series of online events focusing on new Irish writing.
Thanks to Arts Council England for funding, which enables these events to be BSL interpreted.

  1. Thurs 17 June 7-8pm
    Galway Stories
in association with Doire Press, a leading Irish publisher
Galway Stories will feature readings by June Caldwell and Alan McMonagle.
Event host: Deirdre O’Byrne

More information & booking info: Events | Five Leaves Bookshop
New Irish Writing 1: Galway Stories Tickets, Thu 17 Jun 2021 at 19:00 | Eventbrite

2) Friday 25th June 7-8pm
Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh

Kerri ní Dochartaigh will read from and discuss her new book, Thin Places
This event is hosted by Patrick Limb, trustee of Nottingham City of Literature.
Information and booking:
New Irish Writing: Thin Places, with Kerri ní Dochartaigh – Five Leaves Bookshop
New Irish Writing 2: Kerri ní Dochartaigh Tickets, Fri 25 Jun 2021 at 19:00 | Eventbrite

3) Wednesday 21 July 7-8pm
Belfast Stories

Featuring readings by Rosemary Jenkinson and Michael Nolan
in association with Doire Press.

Event host: Deirdre O’Byrne

More info:
New Irish Writing: Belfast Stories, with Rosemary Jenkinson and Michael Nolan – Five Leaves Bookshop

Booking: New Irish Writing: Belfast Stories, with Rosemary Jenkinson & Michael Nolan Tickets, Wed 21 Jul 2021 at 19:00 | Eventbrite

All welcome / Fáilte

Irish History and Story

A short series of four talks hosted by Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham.
There’s an enduring connection between Irish writers and the history and politics of Ireland. In this short course, we explore those links, focusing on four key periods. Dr Patrick Murphy gives a short account of the historical and political background, and Dr Deirdre O’Byrne talks briefly on some literary representations of the chosen period. Each session ends with a Q & A session.

All sessions are now available to listen to online, on Five Leaves Bookshop YouTube channel.

All sessions are free, although you may wish to make a donation to Emmanuel House, which helps homeless people in Nottingham.
Find out more about Five Leaves Bookshop events on their website


i) Let Them Eat . . . Babies? Famine in Ireland
Jonathan Swift wrote about the dire condition of Irish peasants in ‘A Modest Proposal’ in 1729. His satire was popular, but did not alleviate poverty in Ireland, as the poetry of the Great Hunger of the 1840s makes clear.
Follow the link to listen free via Five Leaves Bookshop channel on YouTube.


ii) Listen on YouTube via this link:
From ‘the uncrowned King of Ireland’ to Queen of the Fairies

After the fall of Charles Stewart Parnell, many Irish people turned to ancient Irish mythology and older traditions in a morale-boosting movement that became known as the Celtic Twilight, the Irish Renaissance, or the Irish Literary Revival. The writers held several different political viewpoints, from WB Yeats and Katharine Tynan to JM Synge and Pádraig Pearse. James Joyce also comments on the period in his writings.


iii) Listen on YouTube via this link:

Birth of the Nation: Easter 1916, the War of Independence, and Civil War.
Easter 1916 was known as the Poets’ Rising, so many of its leaders were writers. The conflicts arising from the birth of the Irish nation were immortalised in the plays of Seán Ó Casey, short stories of Frank O’Connor and prose and poetry of their contemporaries.


iv) Listen on YouTube via this link:
From Rocking the Cradle to Rocking the System: Radical Sexual Politics
The 1980s in Ireland saw several amendments to the Irish Constitution which affected women’s rights, alongside high-profile events such as the Kerry Babies Tribunal and the death of Ann Lovett. In the 21st century, Ireland has radically changed, with its population voting for rights to abortion, divorce, and same-sex marriage. A brief look at the changing social scene is followed by a discussion of how it has been represented in literature.

Five Leaves Bookshop has supported our group in many valuable ways, including by hosting this series. They have an online website. Order your Irish books (and other books) from independent bookshops. They are a vital resource in supporting community groups, including the Irish diaspora in Britain.
Many thanks to Ross Bradshaw, proprietor of Five Leaves Bookshop, for the initial invitation to run this course, and to colleagues Pippa Hennessy and Simon Griffiths, for invaluable technical support.

Online course: Irish History

Dr Patrick Murphy delivers a 6-part online course in Irish History for University of Liverpool Continuing Education, Tues 13 October 2020 – Tues 23 March 2021. All sessions run 7-9pm.

Irish Freedom: From Home Rule to Free State. Six online lectures to mark the centenary of Ireland’s independence

Host: University of Liverpool Continuing Education

Ireland is marking the 100th anniversary of Irish independence by a ‘Decade of Centenaries’ from 1913 to 1923. At the beginning of this decade there was overwhelming support for Home Rule – Irish self-government within the United Kingdom – but very little for a republic. Yet within  a few years there was a complete transformation which led to Ireland’s break with the UK. These six lectures and discussions will explain why this happened and why it has had such profound consequences, not only for Ireland but also for the United Kingdom.

  1. Tuesday 13 October 2020 7 -9pm

The Undoing of Irish Constitutional Nationalism:  The Home Rule Crisis and the Great War – 1914-1916.

2) Tuesday 3 November 2020 7-9pm

‘All changed, changed utterly’: The Easter Rising  and the Triumph of Defeat

3) Tuesday 1 December 7-9pm

‘The Banner that Flies Nearest the Sky’: The Irish Republic and the Death of Home Rule – 1916-1918.

4) Tuesday 2 February 2021 7-9 pm

‘The Freedom to Achieve Freedom’: The War of Independence and the Anglo-Irish Treaty – 1919—1921

5) Tuesday 2 March 2021 7-9pm

The Unfinished Revolution: Civil War, the Eclipse of Social Radicalism and the Irish Free State – 1922-1924

6) Tuesday 23 March 2021 7-9pm

‘A Temporary Exclusion’: Partition, Sectarianism and the Northern Ireland State.,

Sláinte = health. Safe home / Slán abhaile.

Beannachtaí na Cásca oraibh, a chairde.
(Say: bann-okh-thee nah caw-skah ur-iv, ah khaw-ir-deh)

Easter greetings, friends.

Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís.

(Say: Guh merr-imm-eed be-yoe err on owm shoh arr-eesh)
That we may be living at this same time again – ie, this time next year.

Téigí slán / Go safely.

(Say: thay-agh-ee slawn)

Sláinte – the customary Irish salutation when raising a glass – means health, and is, of course, a wish for Good Health.
The Irish for goodbye is Slán
(say: slawn).
A longer way of saying farewell is Slán abhaile
(say: slawn ah-wal-ya).
This directly translates as Safe Home: a parting wish still said by many Irish people when friends and relatives are setting out on the road after a visit.