Three Decades of Fine Gael Leadership Challenges

Few political leaders leave on their own terms. At tonight’s meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, Enda Kenny pledged to deal conclusively with the leadership issue when he returns from the United States after his St Patrick’s Day visit next month. Although it seems he will name the date of his departure, his hand has been forced. He will now take his place alongside former party leaders since the FitzGerald era who were either pushed or voted out of office.

By the time that Garret FitzGerald stepped down as leader of Fine Gael in 1987, he had taken the party to both its highest and lowest points. At the time of his departure, Fine Gael was suffering an identity crisis. The divisions, which had emerged in the 1960s over Declan Costello’s Just Society proposals,[1] became far more pronounced as FitzGerald took the party into government. Unlike Costello, he actually had the opportunity to implement the policies that formed the basis of his Constitutional Crusade –a plan to build a pluralist Ireland, based on the principles of Tone and Davis. He had attempted (somewhat unsuccessfully) to carry out a delicate balancing act in an effort to keep together a party internally divided on all of the major socio-moral issues that faced his government.

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New Exhibition: Electric Generations

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I’m very excited to be working on a new exhibition with my wonderful colleagues, Owen Davies and Ceri Houlbrook, from the University of Hertfordshire, and Deirdre McParland from ESB. Electric Generations: The Story of Electricity in Irish Homes grew, in part, out of the ‘New Technologies’ section of my Modern Wife, Modern Life exhibition.

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New Book: Perceptions of Pregnancy

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Perceptions of Pregnancy from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan. This collection of chapters, which I co-edited with my University of Hertfordshire colleague Jennifer Evans, is written by members of the Perceptions of Pregnancy Researchers’ Network. Jen and I co-founded this network in summer 2014 following our hugely successful three-day conference by the same name.

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Sex Education Without the Sex

I like to dip into previously watched programmes on Netflix whenever I’m too tired to fully concentrate but want to unwind by watching some TV. Recently, I’ve taken to watching Orange is the New Black again.

Early on in episode four of season two, viewers find Poussey, Taystee, Suzanne ‘crazy eyes’, Black Cindy and Janae in the dining hall of Litchfield Prison animatedly discussing female anatomy. To the astonishment of her friends, Poussey (though not actually using the scientific labels) revealed that women urinate via the urethral hole and not the vagina, as the other women thought. Their disbelief prompted her to query, ‘Didn’t ya’ll take sex ed?!’ Later in the episode, Sophia draws a diagram for the women. The day before watching this episode, I happened to be reading sex education guides published in Britain and Ireland in the first half of the twentieth century. Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this! Continue reading “Sex Education Without the Sex”

Leinster House: Seat of Power documentary

A new documentary exploring the history of Leinster House as the site of the Irish parliament aired tonight on Oireachtas TV. Presented by John Bowman, it looks at how the building was adapted and used to house the government of independent Ireland. I contributed to the documentary and offered commentary on the Cumann na nGaedheal governments of the 1920s.

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