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Abstract

That the island of Ireland is the home of the Irish, and consequently that ‘the nation’ and the territory of the island mutually define one another, has been one of the central assumptions of Irish nationalism. Just as an island is a single discrete entity -- the very icon for something well marked off from other things by ‘clear blue water’ -- so the people on it have been assumed to be a distinct group. More than just a collection of individuals or families, they have been assumed to form a ‘nation’ with a separate identity and destiny from their neighbours. This distinction has been elaborated in several modes: culturally, linguistically, religiously, and most frequently politically; but the underlying theme is that Ireland (the island) is identical with Ireland (a cultural entity generated in the imagination: ‘the place we call home’), and can be identified with its nation, the Irish (an ethnic concept/entity) and with a political expression, ‘Ireland’ when this is the label placed before an ambassador.

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