De-inventing Ireland: Creating a new Republic through theatre and education

Michael Finneran, Head of the Department of Arts Education & Physical Education at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick

Co-presented with the Faculty of Education and Social Work, the University of Sydney

The Republic of Ireland has undergone a sobering and painful decade. Not only have our traditional bastions of government, church and finance failed, they have readily demonstrated that the Celtic Tiger identity and way of life, was in fact a mythic construction of seismic proportions. As the country begins to emerge from the grip of the financial troika, the case for a ‘new’ Republic is now being heard from many quarters. Central to this is a debate around what it means to be a citizen of that Republic. In aspiring to re-invent Ireland, this talk will examine the idea that we must first de-invent Ireland by stripping away some of the baggage of the past two decades, and by returning to forces that are of us, and speak deeply to us.

It will be argued that these core cultural identifiers were largely ignored over the boom period, but in bust they can play a pivotal role in helping redefine our citizenship and reclaim our sovereignty. The theatre, in the unique way in which it relates to Irishness, is a reliable barometer and pressure value. The relationship of the Irish education system to the people it serves, is unique. A refined focus on education and theatre, both individually, but more potently, in collaboration with each other, can play a significant role in enabling Irish people to become critical citizens, ready to play their part in building a new Republic


Michael Finneran is senior lecturer in drama and Head of the Department of Arts Education & Physical Education at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland. He holds a PhD in drama education from the University of Warwick. Michael was academic director for the International Drama in Education Research Institute (IDiERI), held in Limerick in July 2012 and he is a reviews editor for RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance. Michael is a board member of the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick, and has carried out work nationally and internationally in both the arts and education sectors. He remains a practising theatre artist, regularly directing and designing work in Ireland.