Date of Award

6-2017

Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Andrew Burkett

Language

English

Abstract

Serving as a stepping stone to asserting independence from British authority and oppression, the Bunreacht Na hÉireann, Ireland’s modern constitution, allowed the nation and its people finally to shape themselves by their own legal standards, customs, and norms. Yet, after years of oppression from forced British standards, Ireland began the search for its own distinct voice as a newly liberated, competitive country. This thesis explores how the Irish Constitution contributes to shaping a homogenous society that promotes normative views and behaviors that damagingly marginalize minority groups–who differ from such social standards. By examining the specific language, diction, order and structure of the redrafted 1937 version of the Irish Constitution, this project conducts a comparative study of law and literature that illustrates exactly how the words and structures (or lack-thereof) within the Bunreacht Na hÉireann juxtapose the major marginalized communities they govern, which include Irish Travelers, women, immigrants, emigrants, and the disabled. By taking this constitutional analysis and setting it in dialogue with the social and legal themes explored within the imaginative literature of Donal Ryan–particularly within his novels The Spinning Heart (2012), The Thing About December (2013), A Slanting of the Sun (2015), and All We Shall Know (2016)–as well as the legal theories of Robert Cover, Ireland’s case law, and the country’s current journalism, I unveil the significant degree to which the language of certain provisions under the Irish Constitution–mainly those concerning fundamental and personal rights–anthropologically and sociologically shape the way in which contemporary Irish society functions. Explicitly or tacitly, the Bunreacht Na hÉireann, through its interpretations by the government, courts, and modern Irish society, promotes a dated sense of “Irishness,” one mainly dominated by the early values of the 1900s placed upon white, Irish-born, Catholic males and families, that in turn isolate people of heterogeneous cultures regardless of whether they are Irish or non-Irish, citizens or foreigners. By constitutional default, those that fail to fit the idealized Irish mold are stigmatized as liminal others or as outsiders at the margins of Irish society. Centered around the constitutional themes of citizenship, education, and religion, the project at hand discusses and questions the social and legal permissibility, as well as the consequences, of stifling the voices and rights of minority groups who have now taken on the role of the once colonized Irish. This thesis not only acknowledges Ireland’s marginalized populations but also creates a better understanding of the residual effects of colonization that the Bunreacht Na hÉireann aims to eschew but, paradoxically, promotes in the present because of its current linguistic construction.

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