The Republic: issue 4

Sally Richardson reviews The Republic, issue 4: Culture in the Republic (part 2), Finbar Cullen and Aengus Ó Snodaigh, (eds), The Ireland Institute, £6.50, €10

THIS,THE most recent issue of The Republic, is concerned with culture in its widest sense. The editorial tackles head-on the insularity, racism and self-complacency that has been exposed in Ireland's reaction to new immigration. The articles provided here offer alternative responses.

Appropriately P J Mathews's piece 'In Praise of "Hibernocentrism"' suggest that Irishness needs to be reconfigured to take account of the whole population, indigenous and immigrant. Shared geographical space can bring people together as effectively as shared cultural bonds. Different cultures find ways to connect with one another.

Tariq Modood's essay on multiculturalism is critical of the way a secular society neglects to take account of the role religion plays in the lives of many people. He demolishes many of the myths that the West continues to harbour about Islam and points out that 'mainstream Islam and mainstream secularism are philosophically closer to each other than either is to its radical versions.'

However, his idea of religious groups being formally represented in the political system is questionable. It is likely that the most reactionary and least progressive members would come to the fore (the Anglican bishops in the House of Lords that he cites with such approval are a case in point!)

The interview by Philippe Petit with Julia Kristeva is fascinating but sometimes frustrating. Interesting ideas are thrown into the arena and then abandoned while the reader is still trying to assimilate them.

Lawrence White writes about Peadar O'Donnell's founding of The Bell. He traces O'Donnell's political activities leading up to the collapse of the Irish Republican Congress, after which the provision of a forum for open and broad-ranging cultural and political debate seemed like a good direction to take. The Bell countered the sham republicanism of the Irish Free State with the genuine article.

Two enjoyable and accessible articles on music are by the composers Raymond Deane and Patrick Zuk. Part One of Patrick Zuk's essay, 'Music and the Republic', appeared in Issue Three and rather than squeeze in a mention of it in my review of that issue I decided to wait for the publication of the second part.

Zuk outlines the importance of music in the education system of classical Greece, where its civilizing powers were much attested, and shows how giving music a central place in modern education can have benefits for everyone, not least in encouraging social cohesion. Raymond Deane discusses the neglect of Irish classical composers because they don't fit easily into the largely imaginary continuity of the classical tradition. He opposes the tendency to reject art that cannot be easily located within the mainstream, 'which,' he writes, 'in our culture is that of neo-liberal, developmental capitalism.'

Zuk cautions us about the deadening effect of state attempts to control or censor music and the other arts. This is well attested under Stalin but Zuk gives a hilarious example of a French revolutionary patriotic song which plumbs the depths of banality and shows even the best intentions going well wide of the mark.

Zuk and Deane write with passion and style and their ideas go well beyond the confines of music. Their articles are a real pleasure to read.

This journal continues to provide high-quality debate from a wide range of experts for the general reader. In an attractive livery with Robert Ballagh's photograph of the 1916 Proclamation at Arbour Hill, these volumes provide plenty of intellectual nourishment. You would be hard pressed to find better value.

Copies of The Republic, including back issues, can be obtained from the Four Provinces Bookshop, 244 Gray's Inn Rd, London WC1X 8JR or direct from The Ireland Institute, 27 Pearse Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.

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