Inventing Ireland

Cionn Mhálanna (English: Malin Head)


Out of frame is the glorious North Atlantic Ocean, ceaselessly tearing into the Donegal shoreline above which each of these caravans perch. Perched on the boundary of two great competing forces these flimsy fabrications almost taunt the Atlantic in a ludicrous game of dare as they retreat into the rock face as far they can, looking incongruous and utterly impermanent.


I have borrowed the title ‘Inventing Ireland’ from Declan Kiberd’s book of the same name (first published 1995). The book is a critical tour de force examining the creation of a nation state and in particular the complexity of the history between Ireland and England in relation to each Nations self- image. This series of photographs is part of a larger on-going project in which I am examining my part in the age old Irish diaspora. I was born in Derry during a period euphemistically called the ‘The Troubles’. In effect my early years were spent in a city which was occupied by British Government forces which were regularly challenged by various paramilitary factions. Under these circumstances it was inevitable that many people with young families decided that the only way to ensure a safe environment for their children was to emigrate.


As is so often the case with émigré’s, I live with a latent sense of ‘returning’. But return to what exactly? Ireland is, as Kiberd outlines, something of a fragmented mirror and those who look into it expecting anything but a broken image of themselves are inevitably going to feel forever frustrated. My journeys back to Ireland to visit my family offer me the opportunity to reflect on my own condition and reinvent my relationship with ‘Ireland’. These photographs are therefore not so much concerned with evocations of a lost state but are more a meditation on Land / Place and our desire to connect with it. 


Michael McGinley

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