Kate O’Brien: Pray for the Wanderer is an attack on Éamon de Valera. Photograph: Sasha/Getty

Kate O’Brien’s fourth novel, Pray for the Wanderer, is set in the year it was written, 1937, also the year in which Éamon de Valera’s ascendancy was c(...)

‘Rahm Emmanuel, of whom his friend and former boss Barack Obama once said that when he lost his middle finger in an accident it rendered him practically mute, was re-elected as mayor of Chicago last week. But only narrowly and only after being forced into a runoff. It is a development that should be watched carefully in Ireland because it just may mark the death of the Irish machine.’ Photograph: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

The most powerful Irish political machine was not in Mayo or Belfast or Cork. It was in Chicago. And it has just broken down. Rahm Emmanuel, of whom h(...)

Striking workers and union representatives on the picket line at Dunnes Stores on Henry Street, Dublin, last week. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times 2:04

Almost exactly 25 years ago, I was talking to the trade union organiser Peter Cassells, then general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. (...)

No fixed self: Derbhle Crotty in the title role of Katie Roche, by Teresa Deevy, at the Peacock Theatre in April 1994

‘She’s in great danger . . . she doesn’t know how wild she is . . . A girl with such a parentage.” Those words are spoken about Katie Roche, in Teresa(...)

‘Alan Kelly, to his credit, recognised that this was not exactly the best label to stick on his shiny new ministerial suit. He announced that the funding would be temporarily restored pending a review of the whole scheme.’  Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

So the crisis is over – now when does the cruelty stop? When does the petty, mean-spirited and nasty infliction of pain on people who already have (...)

Potent myth: “I did what I had to do to win . . . Then I see all those maggots at the airport. Protesting me. Spitting,” says Sylvester Stallone’s character, inaccurately, in Rambo: First Blood

Earlier this year, when critics raised questions about the historical accuracy of Morten Tyldum’s film The Imitation Game, in which Benedict Cumberbat(...)

Distinct perspective: Oliver Sheppard’s statue was inspired not by the Easter Rising but by the Celtic revivalist interest in the myth of Cúchulainn. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Éamon de Valera, who came to power in the Irish Free State in 1932, always understood the power of his status as the senior surviving leader of the Ea(...)

‘The Bertieist system was highly sophisticated: it created ever-shifting coalitions of interest based not on any long-term coherence but on brilliantly improvised management and huge wads of cash. It was an essentially tribal system, in which the big chief kept control over the little chiefs by distributing or withholding largesse.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

Here’s a question with two radically different answers: did this State ever work? One answer would be resoundingly positive: the State did a remarkabl(...)

Big-house “gel”: Molly Keane at Belleville, her home in Cappoquin, in the 1930s. Photograph courtesy of Waterford County Museum

While WB Yeats was mythologising the ascendancy world of the big house in The Winding Stair, in 1933, Molly Keane was busy demythologising it. As so o(...)

“The habits of suppressing your natural moral revulsion, of dressing up atrocities in verbiage, of obeying the chain of command – these instincts, forged during the IRA’s “war”, seem to die much harder than most of us could have imagined.”

There are two things you need to know about a political party that wants to take power. One is what it will do. The other is what it would never do. T(...)