Sculpture Journal

Sculpting Irishness: a discussion of Dublin's commemorative statues of Oscar Wilde and Phil Lynott

Sculpture Journal (2012), 21, (1), 71–82.

Abstract

The vision of heroic Irishness represented by Irish monuments has remained rather monolithic since the late-nineteenth-century Gaelic revival, and in recent years scholars working from feminist, queer and postcolonial perspectives have identified its many exclusions. Kathryn A. Conrad argues that Irishness, so rooted in Catholic values, repudiates homosexuality, while Diana Negra observes that Irishness is inextricable from whiteness and expels non-white racial identities. This article proposes that two examples of public statuary erected during the transformative ‘Celtic Tiger’ period of modern Ireland (1993-2007) provide evidence of changing perceptions of Irish identity in the wake of recent unprecedented immigration and ensuing racial tensions. The commemorative statues of Oscar Wilde (1997), an Anglo-Irish nationalist homosexual writer, and Philip Lynott (2006), a mixed-race nationalist rock star, provide a placatory version of contemporary Irishness that addresses the ‘authenticity’ requirement (both Irish by ‘blood’) of conservative nationalism, while presenting the possibility of greater inclusivity.

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Author details

Smith, Sarah