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Harvard University

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Ireland: Transformation of Social and Political Conflict


This project was born of my personal interest in revolutions. I have always been fascinated with history and have devoted a good deal of interest to the American Revolution and the heroes that came out of it. Through the course of my studies of Irish history, I began to develop an equal fascination for the series of revolutions that took place here, which are seemingly all strung together into a solid tradition of violent rebellion in Ireland. As discussed in more detail below, this interest evolved into a focus on Glasnevin Cemetery, where many of these revolutionary heroes are buried, and the political implications and consequences of events that occurred there.

In order to show how funerals and treatment of grave sites are used as important political tools, this paper is focused on Glasnevin Cemetery and is divided into three sections: an account of the founding of the cemetery, which required a significant amount of political capital; a discussion of four public funerals held in the cemetery, showing how various groups politicized these events and subsequent commemorations at the graves; and an examination of the ongoing construction and renovation at Glasnevin and the possible political motives or ramifications behind it.

The four funerals play a central role in one’s understanding of this topic. The men discussed are: Terence Bellew MacManus, a Young Irelander originally interred in the U.S. and moved to Glasnevin some months later, chosen because his funeral is identified by several sources as the precedent that all nationalist funerals to come would follow; Charles Stewart Parnell, the prominent political leader of the late 19th century, chosen to give an example of a constitutionalist republican funeral (as opposed to physical-force republicanism, the ideology of the other three men); Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Fenian leader, chosen because of the popular interpretation of his funeral as a direct call to arms for the 1916 rebellion; and Michael Collins, military leader and statesman, chosen because of his ongoing popularity and reputation as a definitive Irish hero.

A significant problem with any field-study based historical paper is that many or most people one would profit from talking to are dead. Surely, this analysis would have benefited greatly from the perspectives of planners and attendees of the funerals. However, I believe that the generous use of primary documents, mainly newspaper accounts, constitutes a fair attempt at filling this void. The particular literature I used and people I spoke to are detailed in the methodology section, which follows.


European History | History | Political History | Social History


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