Is Ireland a classless society?

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateB, March 2004

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Discuss the contention that Ireland is a classless society.

'Class' is what happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared) feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.' (E.P. Thompson, 1968)

One hundred years ago I might have been able to agree with the title of this essay, I might have been passionately arguing with the ideologists of the time who took pleasure in lauding Ireland as 'classless society'. Years ago, Irish citizens were able to take solace in the fact that their national and cultural identity was assured-being born of Irish heritage virtually guaranteed them Irish citizenship; Irish citizens, as so often occurs throughout the world, defined themselves against a neighbouring, in this case a 'tyrannical' country which lies across the Irish Sea-Great Britain. For years Irish people were united in the search for independence, autonomy of some kind for a forgotten island off the coast of Europe.

First Wolftone, then Parnell, led the fight against 'foreign' rule in Ireland. For a good proportion of the population, Irish autonomy took preference over petty definitions like 'class'. These two gentlemen, both from 'landed' backgrounds, both Protestants, united a diverse population. These men had money, status and property, and although evidently born into different class than the average rural farmer in Ireland, according to E.P. Thompson's definition, this disparate group of people, varying in social status and prestige, can be defined as a 'class'. Back to present day Ireland, and the autonomous, modern society that is Ireland. Nowadays, class structures within our society have become more apparent, largely because of the shift from an agrarian society to a manufacturing one: 'the shift out of agriculture has been central...