Like so much of Ireland, there is a duplicity at work on Saint Patricks day, we have our own traditions which we learn in school or as children on our grandparents knees, such stuff as the sainthood for the expulsion of snakes, shamrock etc.. and irrespective of historical accuracy or otherwise those traditions assist us in forming some kind of self-identity. That other stuff the hi-jacking of our collective culture by corporate interests or just drunks in other countries toasting saint Patty.. well that’s all simply beyond our control..
Ya see I'm fully Irish.. love my country, traditions, and heritage.. I’ve learned to respect shared spaces and differences of opinion. What I understand of my culture I tend to embrace and cherish in the hope of imparting some of that to my three sons. Like anyone who has accessed vast volumes of information and learned a lot, most importantly of all I may know I still have a whole lot more I can learn. I fully understand that I will never know enough about what it is to be Irish to allow me to become any kind of actual authority on that subject at a societal level. To paraphrase Freud; as a nation we are beyond psychoanalysis. Personal interviews with all four million would take too long.
So I can really only know with certainty about my own Irishness. Those are simple facts. I don’t drink alcohol and all that leprechaun shenanigans and convoluted contemporary St Patrick’s day marketing malarkey can at times irritate me more than just a little. Yet I fully respect the fact that everyone is entitled to enjoy themselves and celebrate their identity in whatever manner they wish (i.e. once it’s within the law) and their opinions about Irish-ness, however unique or common, are just as valid as mine. Even if I sometimes see mystical potential in just being Irish.
In academia we have ‘Irish Studies’. So I am also very aware that in many instances, particularly in respect of our projected selves, i.e. usually through the lens of self-depreciation, the Irish sense of humour can be pretty evolved relative to some other societies. All nations have a percentage of their population that are actually ignorant, thick, or stupid, or perhaps just enthusiastically naïve, in our case we have a name for that section of our population, we call them eejets. Some Irish people even like to occasionally pretend to be an eejet, such behaviour can also be called ‘acting the eejet’..and it does not necessarily involve any kind of malicious intent or deception. We tend to forgive ejeets, well most of them, especially after they shaft us politically.
So with so many eejets about.. why are we Irish even liked ?.. well maybe because as a nation of eejets we lost the run of ourselves when we eventually got some (fake-credit bubble) money, which we then actually agreed to pay back… or the authentic remembered pain of the famine.. or we are a small nation that never actually officially invaded anyone, but fought in wars for others, e.g. Spain, Mexico, USA, UK, (as well as among ourselves most obviously) We have been confirmed as the most charitable nation on earth, also our land is the mythical land of ‘saints and scholars’ that actually has some basis in fact, i.e. we certainly preserved a lot of the European Christian culture in the 7th century while the rest of Europe was burning.. we have also done pretty well in the literature stakes too, specifically in terms of Noble Prizes and famous writers/poets and don’t get me started on the scientists.. there’s also the superficial general TV entertainment fluff: Terry Wogan, Eamonn Andrews, Graham Norton, Dara O etc etc etc.. Let’s not even mention all those nuns and priests that went out to convert and teach people all over the globe.. Please no one use the phrase ‘punching above our weight’…. It’s the people I tell ya.. the Irish People that other folks like, not the platitudes about the national psyche or the litany of achievements.
But then there is this provincial thing that goes on. And here I’d like to mention the Irish Poet Paddy Kavanagh who said; in the parochial we find the universal and in the universal the parochial.. Paddy specifically scorned the provisional.. and perhaps that’s part of our problem, the fact that Ireland is allegedly made up of four provinces. Look at them fellas over there, who do they think they are, if they’re almost one of us…. But not quite.. Strangers are grand we see them for what they are, but them fellas there that (seem to tell us that they) are almost like us.. what’s their fecking problem ?
Ulster most famously is said to be the most troubled province, it is certainly the one that has garnered the most column inches and media attention in recent years, for sadly the troubles, or even the Ulster troubles (as the media branded it in the beginning) that saw over 3000 tragic deaths and the maiming of tens of thousands both physically and emotionally, real damage that has left permanent societal scars.
Living most of my life in the shadow of the troubles in a border town I can state unequivocally that it has been about a lot more than simply troubles. It has directly wrecked thousands of lives, damaged untold numbers of individuals and altered a whole section of Irish (& British) society. It has eroded the society that resides in Ulster, its outlook, its concept of trust, its very sense of identity, or perhaps its very sense of duel identity. A thirty year journey of pain, pain, and even more pain.
And still the media roundabout in Ulster never stops, what used to be reports on tit for tat killings, assassinations, thankfully have reduced to tit for tat political point scoring. While there is plenty of really good people from both traditions trying very hard towards seeing the normalization of a collective society, despite the ingrained bigotry and myopia of so many eejets, like eejets in the media who cut n paste trite phrases like ‘historical tensions are never too far below the surface’ and other such phrases from their lexicon of laziness. Those older or less informed parts of society maintain that provincial partitionary perspective to the detriment of all future generations.
Today I read a lazy article by a respected journalist from Northern Ireland that fundamentally spat vitriol at that other province, the Irish American Province, simply for lack of understanding… for failing to know what the journalist thinks he knows. You see just like the Irish in the UK and the other diaspora across the globe (of which there are now purportedly 70 Million souls) Our American cousins are another province, and like pockets in Cork, in Limerick or indeed Foxrock, there are eejets aplenty to be found in every pocket in every province, they too have plenty of eejets with all manner of views..
The Irish American contribution to the Peace process in Northern Ireland was immense, in full view, in the limelight, in back rooms, in backyards and behind back alleys, it far outweighed the noraid or republican fund raising campaigns in the USA in terms of actual impact on the course of the conflict.
To me that is a more significant fact than who is walking in a parade in New York and whether anyone over there knows what a journalist thinks he knows about what some of the eejets don’t know.. I feel like a bit of an eejet writing that.. but then I felt like a total eejet reading an article that was fundamentally, to use a technical term, complete bullshit and unnecessarily demeaning to a whole section of people who have an affinity to my country, its past and its current welfare, who took an interest in the welfare of their cousins 3000 miles away and put their money were their mouths were, rather than just being a complete journalistic eejet mouthing away for money…