Exile, Dual Belongings, and Long-Distance Nationalism: The Role of the Irish Diaspora within the Irish Independence Movement, 1919-1921


  • Joseph Duffy Freie Universität/Humboldt Universities Berlin




This paper examines long-distance Irish nationalism between 1919 and 1921. It analyses two primary source bases; the documents adopted by the first meeting of the Dáil Éireann in January 1919, and three speeches recorded by Éamon de Valera in 1921 during a tour of America. It is argued that these sources reflect the instrumental role that the Irish diaspora played in the formation of the Irish state and reveal the symbiotic nature of Irish long-distance nationalism, in which the homeland and diaspora drew strength from one another. The Dáil documents reveal how the Irish nation was conceived by actors who thought globally and looked outward, both to Ireland’s diaspora and to an interconnected world. De Valera’s speeches posited a broad definition of belonging to the global Irish nation that allowed for dual allegiances to the homeland and host country – an elasticity which benefitted the nationalist movement. This loose sense of attachment was connected by feelings of generational loss, exile, and dispossession. This cohering sense of exile was strongly linked to Ireland’s experience of imperialism and led the leaders of the Irish diasporic movement to position themselves between one ascendant (American) and one descendant (British) empire. It is argued that, whilst the Irish diaspora is rightly not considered a ‘classic diaspora’, strong similarities can be drawn between the nationalisms of classic diasporas and Irish long-distance nationalism. Finally, conclusions are offered regarding the ‘Wilsonian moment’, the nature of long-distance nationalisms and the global origins of the Independent Republic of Ireland.






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