Sons and Daughters of the Gael: Youth in Irish Social Thought

  • Desmond Bell
Part of the Youth Questions book series (YQ)


In this chapter we examine the treatment of the ‘youth question’ in post-war Ireland both north and south of the border. Both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland contemporary youth subculture has been seen as a threat to cultural tradition. In the Republic of Ireland representations of ‘youth’ have been bound up with that society’s experience of rapid ‘modernization’ since the 1950s. Youth is often viewed as a conduit to a baneful modernity. In a real sense Irish youth has yet to be treated sociologically in its own right. Similarly in Northern Ireland the discussion of ‘youth’ has been dominated by psychological perspectives concerned with assessing the effect of the civil violence on the personal development of the young. There has been a studied neglect of the role of youth subcultural activity and representations in the reproduction of sectarianism. The dominant psychological approach to youth, operating as it does within a ‘correctional perspective’, has accompanied and legitimized a major expansion of the interventions of the state in the lives of the adolescents of Northern Ireland via the youth service and Youth Training machinery. It has been less successful in actually explaining the persistence of sectarian sentiments and behaviours amongst the young.


Young People Ethnic Identity Moral Panic Irish Society Civil Conflict 
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© Desmond Bell 1990

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  • Desmond Bell

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