GENDER, SEXUALITY AND THE IDEOLOGY OF THE FAMILY IN IRELAND
Keywords:Catholicism, the family, homosexuality, Ireland, the Irish Constitution, gender, patriarchy, performance
In Ireland, the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 was followed by the institutionalisation of a deeply conservative notion of national identity, firmly sustained by Catholic and patriarchal values which were at odds
with the personal rights of women and homosexuals. Described in the 1937 Constitution as “the natural, primary and fundamental unit group of society” (article 41.1), the traditional definition of family seems to have played an instrumental role in the promotion of a national ethos in the newly independent Republic (Brown 2004:152; Conrad 2004:10; Mullally 2005:85). Making use of a cultural and historical perspective, this article will discuss how defining family entails conflicts of interpretation as well as questions of legitimacy that relate to constitutional law and the accepted mores of society (Hodgson 1994:222; Martin 2005:18). This study is also informed by Judith Butler’s theorisation of the “performative”, which views gender as socially constructed. Likewise, the structural forms of legitimacy involving the family are fluid, thus keeping a correlation with current social values.
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