Scholar and critic Fintan O’Toole delivers the annual Robert Fagles Memorial Lecture on “1921 and 2021: The Partition of Ireland, Then and Now” as part of Princeton University’s 2020-21 Fund for Irish Studies series. O’Toole, one of Ireland’s leading public intellectuals, is a columnist for The Irish Times and Leonard L. Milberg ’53 visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton.
In 1921, Ireland was divided by the formation of Northern Ireland as a new political entity in the Protestant-dominated northeastern part of the island. This led to the creation of two sectarian states, each dominated by a single religious culture. The production by the revolutionary James Connolly that partition would create “a carnival of reaction” on both sides of the Border was not far wrong. The Troubles of 1968-1998 served merely to deepen the divide. But Brexit has raised new questions about the future of the UK and therefore of Partition. The contradictions that were frozen in 1921 have emerged anew in 2021.
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The Fund for Irish Studies affords all Princeton students, and the community at large, a wider and deeper sense of the languages, literatures, drama, visual arts, history, politics, and economics not only of Ireland but of “Ireland in the world.” The series is produced by the Lewis Center for the Arts and the 2020-21 edition of the series is organized by Paul Muldoon.
The Fund for Irish Studies is generously sponsored by the Durkin Family Trust and the James J. Kerrigan, Jr. ’45 and Margaret M. Kerrigan Fund for Irish Studies.