Postcolonial Ireland: Rural Fundamentalism and Industrialization

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This essay aims to analyze the reasons for the concentration of industrialization in western Ireland during the 1960s and 1970s. It will explore this topic by examining the postcolonial era from the 1920s to the 1960s, taking into account how rural fundamentalism influenced social and economic policies. Furthermore, it will assess the impact of poverty, emigration, and unemployment on rural Irish communities. Additionally, it will investigate the significance of economic liberalization and shifts in ideological perspectives in ensuring the nation’s survival.

Moving forward, the upcoming discourse will explore the International Development Authority (IDA) and its pivotal role in fostering industrialization in the western part of Ireland. It will elaborate on the reasons behind the multinational corporations’ preference for locating their operations in the western regions as opposed to other areas of Ireland. The essay will primarily emphasize the societal implications brought about by industrialization on individuals and communities. Furthermore, it will demonstrate that when industrialization occurred in rural Ireland, it was deemed advantageous for the entire population.

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According to Frankenberg (1994), the west of Ireland as described by Arensberg and Kimball was a homogenous community that was well integrated, stable, and harmonious. This unity was demonstrated through kinship and cooring, with the chosen son inheriting the farm and passing it down to the next generation. Agriculture production played a vital role in sustaining rural life, while the community set the moral tone and held the church in high regard. According to Frankenberg, “the small farmers of Luogh have allegiances to all these communities” (p. 26).

Arensberg and Kimball perceived Ireland as an idealistic place, but they overlooked the significant decline of small-time farmers between 1930 and 1934. During this period, these farmers were rapidly selling their land to their neighbors and immigrating to England or America (Gibbon1962). Brody (1973) found that a major shift occurred in the family system, leading to a crisis. Women were emigrating to seek employment in the industrial sector, as they were enticed by urban culture and disinterested in rural life.

The chosen son’s inability to find a wife endangered the concept of reproduction, causing the farmer to become socially isolated. According to Brody, the west of Ireland was experiencing the eclipse of a community, where its inhabitants were becoming isolated and the patriarchy and cash economy were being eroded (Brody, cited in Gibbon 1962:484). Hannon (1992) argues that rural fundamentalism is crucial in maintaining ownership of the land, as it solidifies strong attachments to it (p97).

Rural fundamentalism refers to a set of beliefs and values that view the family owned farm as the primary component of agricultural production. This perspective sees farming as a vital occupation and emphasizes the importance of having a large class of landowners for the prosperity of the nation (Commins cited in Clancy et al 1986). Irish rural fundamentalism also shares this belief, seeing family farming and rural life as essential for political stability, democracy, and equality (Fite 1962, pp. 1203- 1211 cited in Clancy et al 1986).

Clancy et al (1986) noted that De Valera’s philosophy was influenced by a tradition that supported the family farm model. The strongest expression of this belief can be seen in Bishop Lucey’s Minority Report to the commission on emigration in the early 1950s (Commission on Emigration and other population problems, 1948-54, 1955 pp. 335-363). In his report, Bishop Lucey argued for wider land ownership and holding small farms (15-20 acres), as he believed that farms were and still are the best place to raise a family.

This rural fundamentalism significantly impacted Ireland’s social and economic policies until the 1960s (Mac Laughlin 1994). One policy involved transferring control over agricultural education and advisory services from the central government to farmers’ organizations. Another policy aimed to halt Dublin’s growth. According to Harris (1986), economic protectionism played a crucial role in creating Irish industries for the survival of the Irish state from the 1930s to the 1950s. Moreover, these beliefs and values associated with economic protectionism were instrumental in redefining the state during that period.

In 1958, the economy was opened up, marking a change in social and economic ideologies. Commins (as cited in Clancy et al 1986) noted that there was a recognition of the potential for rural prosperity to be achieved through industries like agriculture, tourism, and other ventures (p54). This shift in ideologies was vital for both the sustainability of the west of Ireland and the survival of the entire country.

Industrialization has been instrumental in driving social transformation in rural Ireland for the last forty years (Slater 2011). The future looked grim for agriculture, and rural areas were witnessing a decline in population. In 1940, Sean O Faolain observed that traditional rural Ireland was slowly falling apart (cited in Daly 2006:52). Harris (1984) noted that although other regions of the country were recovering economically, the west of Ireland continued to grapple with high levels of poverty, unemployment, and emigration.

Furthermore, seasonal migration played a crucial role in supporting small farming communities. However, as Brody (1973) points out, young Irish individuals continued to emigrate despite the lack of job opportunities in England and America (p. 83). In 1950, rural communities, including Inishkillane, made the decision to seek alternative living arrangements beyond their familiar parish. Consequently, this led to significant population imbalances (ibid, 1973).

According to Daly (2006), Frank Aiken, a Fianna Fail Minister, believed that Agriculture had the potential to create and preserve jobs on small western farms. However, these schemes proved to be a spectacular failure (p. 39). To address social and economic failures, the Irish state implemented a locational policy aimed at promoting industrial employment in rural Ireland (Slater 2011:3). In 1949, the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) was established and introduced a scheme of grant incentives to encourage firms, especially foreign ones, to establish plants in the under-developed areas of the west of Ireland (Wickham 1980).

Slater (2011) states that the implementation of a locational policy in western Ireland aimed to attract more job opportunities and assist with population displacement. The IDA offers different incentives including tax relief and grants. In 2003, the corporate tax rate for multinational companies increased from 10% to 12.5%. Deductions can be applied to machinery, materials, plant hire, and buildings. Additionally, there are grants for development, training, and research; however, the availability and amount of these grants vary depending on the region.

According to IDA Ireland (2011), designated areas receive a higher proportion of capital grants for new industry compared to non-designated areas. In designated areas, the percentage is 60%, while in non-designated areas it is 45%. This could be a contributing factor for multinational firms choosing to locate in the West of Ireland, as it allows them to maximize their profit margin from the industry. Additionally, Wickham (1980) suggested that rural regions in Ireland were appealing for establishing new industries due to a lower percentage of the population engaged in industrial work and fewer trade union ties.

The author argues that the trade union connections were mostly found in Dublin-based industries, while multinational firms were located in the west of Ireland due to the availability of cheap labor. According to Slater (2011), these multinational firms typically hired young employees with no prior industrial work experience, often recruiting small farm owners. Harris (1986) provides evidence that these multinationals created 2100 jobs, with 1875 of them filled by women. However, the IDA publicly emphasized that these jobs were meant for males, suggesting that they would be more qualified, full-time, and well-paid (Corcoran et al 2007:73). In reality, rural women were recruited, as noted by Harris (1986), with half of them coming from small farm backgrounds and commuting to work daily. This employment allowed women to earn money and be seen as consumers, leading to economic changes in rural towns and the opening of new shops. These changes also brought about new identities for women who now had access to power through industrialization. For the first time in history, women were no longer limited to their roles within the family and could experience the world outside through their own endeavors. As Harris (1984) suggests, daughters were even receiving land from their fathers to establish their own homes.According to Harris (1984), as a result of industrialization, women were experiencing increased liberation in their domestic roles. However, in the workforce, they were perceived as passive since men held managerial positions at multinational firms while women were confined to working on the production line and had limited or no opportunities for advancement.

As a result of rural industrialisation, there was a change in the communities of the west of Ireland. Harris (1984) observed that part-time farmers worked alongside women in factories. Upon getting married, women brought home their wages and combined them with the earnings from multinational firms. This form of pluriactivity contributes positively to community development as it is widely acknowledged as the only way to sustain farming in the area. Local people are fully aware of its significance in preserving the countryside (Kinsella et al 2000:488).

This paragraph explores the impact of industrialization on rural Ireland and its national identity. It cites Brody’s (1973) research, which highlights that small-scale farmers feel less isolated when their land remains unchanged. The article investigates the reasons behind industrialization in rural Ireland during the 1960s and 1970s, as well as examining the postcolonial period in Ireland from the 1920s to the 1960s. It delves into rural fundamentalism and how poverty, emigration, and unemployment affect the community. Furthermore, it argues that opening up the economy and a shift in ideologies were vital for ensuring the survival of the nation.

This essay presents multiple reasons for the decision of multinational firms to establish themselves in the western region and the resulting impact on the social and cultural aspects of individuals and communities. Ultimately, the industrialization of the west can be regarded as a success as farming households engaged in pluriactivity are actively contributing to community development and maintaining the rural environment.

6 Bibliography

Brody, Hugh.1973.Inishkillane: Change and Decline in the west of Ireland.London: Allen Lane

Clancy, et al.986.Ireland A Sociological Profile.Dublin: Institute of Public Administration.

Commission on Emigration and other population problems 1948-54, 1955.Reports, Dublin: Stationary Office

Daly, E. Mary.2006.The Slow Failure Population Decline and Independent Ireland 1923-1970.University of Wisconsin Press.

Frankenberg, Ronald.1994.‘Truly Rural: Ireland – The Pioneer Study’, in his Communities in Britain: Social Life in Town and Country.Aldershot: Gregg Revivals.

Gibbon, Peter.1973.‘Arensberg and Kimball revisited.’ Economy and Society.:4 -479

Hannon, Damien and Patrick Cummins.1992.The Significance of Small- Scale Landholders in Ireland’s Socio-economic Transformation.Dublin:

Harris, Lorelei.1984.‘Class, Community and Sexual Divisions in North Mayo’ Pp.154- 171 in Culture &Ideology in Ireland, edited by C. Curtin, et al.Galway: Galway University Press.

Kinsella, J. et al.2000.‘Pluriactivity as a livelihood strategy in Irish farmholds and its role in rural develpoment’ Sociologia Ruralis 40:4-481.Retrieved 23/11/11

Mac Laughlin, Jim.1994.IRELAND The Emigrant Nursery and the World Economy.Cork: Cork University Press.

Share, Tovey and Mary P. Corcoran.2007 A Sociology of Ireland.3rd ed.Dublin: Gill &Macmillan.

Slater, E. 2011, Restructuring the Rural – Rural Transformation, NUIM, Retrieved 23/11/11 Politics of Dependent Capitalism: International Capital and the Nation State, written by James Wickham in 1980, can be found on page 53-73 in the book Ireland Divided Nation Divided Class, edited by A. Morgan and B. Purdie. The book was published in London by Ink Links. The source for this information is and was retrieved on 19/11/11 at 7 o’clock.

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