This article is one of a series commissioned by Government and Opposition exploring identity politics in several national and international contexts. Though ostensibly a civic republic, Ireland has been shaped by a certain conception of Irish culture. Cultural claims are typically political but have the potential to allow community interests to override concern for individual well-being. The construction of the Irish state focused on the maintenance of an idea of being Irish rather than on the welfare of people throughout Ireland, both North and South. As a result, a conservative formulation of Irish identity was locked into the state’s structures.