With the above background in mind, I was somewhat perplexed on receiving an invitation to the rst United Islands? symposium to read a paper on the subject of ‘radical poetry and folk song’ in Irish. While I would be quite content to pin the ‘radical’ label on various anglophone bodies situated on the margins of a Patriot opposition that itself drew heavily on Whig ideas – bodies such as Dublin’s Society of Free Citizens in the 1770s, the reform congress of 1785, or the Dublin and Belfast societies of United Irishmen during their legal phase in the early 1790s – it would not have occurred to me to use the term with reference to the vernacular literature of the period.3 Nonetheless, a short period of re ection led me to conclude that the task I had been asked to undertake was neither impractical nor entirely without merit – given the obvious parallels that can be drawn between the political literature composed in Irish during the revolutionary era and English texts from the same period that are conventionally described as radical. e features I have in mind are far from trivial and include the following: hostility to the monarch, the ministry, the established church, and Britain’s war e orts, as well as sympathy for the American colonists, revolutionary France, and domestic opponents of government. But comparisons, as Plato warned us, are slippery, and we need to be on our guard against the temptation to interpret external similarities as evidence of an underlying relationship. oughts such as these persuaded me that it would be a useful exercise to place the apparently radical sentiments found in the literature of the late eighteenth century in context and to show that they owed little or nothing to radicalism but were, in reality, expressions of an indigenous political culture which existed long before 1770 and persisted well into the nineteenth century.