In September 2011 — as an interdisciplinary group of scholars gathered at NUI Galway to consider shifting representations of masculinity within Irish culture over the preceding, momentous, decade — the country was in the final phases of an eventful presidential election. While political campaigns are, by their nature, topical, this one was remarkable in several respects, but particularly for the way that it revealed the uncertain state of Irish manhood. The context for the election was one in which gender was unusually prominent for Irish politics since the office of President had been successively held (and subsequently shaped) for the previous 21 years by two remarkable women — Mary Robinson (1990–7) and Mary McAleese (1997–2011). Robinson was a highly regarded lawyer, scholar and feminist who later became the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; McAleese an equally brilliant academic, lawyer and journalist with a common touch who worked tirelessly and with great success for building relationships across the ‘peace divide’ in her native Northern Ireland, and whose presidency would culminate in the historic and unprecedented visit of a British monarch to the Irish Republic.
KeywordsPeace Process Popular Music Irish Theatre Gender Body Irish Identity
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