In 1967 the late F S. L. Lyons published an essay entitled ‘The minority problem in the 26 counties’, defining the minority in the Irish Free State as ‘unionist in politics and mainly protestant in religion’. Since that date the topic has received considerable scholarly attention. Indeed the tendency has been to approach the cultural development of the new state in the years after independence from the point of view of that minority. While this paper does not seek to minimise the significance of the minority’s role in the evolution of the new state, it does seek to question the validity of the perspective produced by an excessive preoccupation with that role. That perspective is most clearly articulated in the published version of Lyons’s Ford lectures, Culture and anarchy in Ireland, 1890-1939. The vision there presented is of an island rent by ‘four irrevocably warring cultures’ (Gaelic, English, Anglo-Irish and Ulster protestant). The cultural history of the Irish Free State in the first decade of independence, it is argued, is best understood as a battle between two of these apparently immutable cultures. In essence this view presents the nineteen-twenties as the decade during which Gaelic and Anglo-Irish Ireland confronted one another in the arenas of language and religion. The images are now fixed.