Wednesday, March 18, 2015


The land of the "Paddy" and the leprechaun, drunk and starving, talking in an accent out of pantomime, perpetually looking for someone of his own religion to murder because he makes the sign of the Cross differently, or she thinks Mother Mary was more important than Baby Jesus. Nothing like a good, generalised, negative stereotype when you have conquered another country and want to keep it under your thumb!

Ireland, which should be Eireland, or simply Eire, is an island off the west coast of Britain, and I use the word "off" advisedly, because Britain invaded for the first time in 1168, and spent the next eight hundred years conquering it again, and then again, and with even more energy poured into reducing it to an image of primitivity that made it easier to justify the suppression morally.

Most Irish are supposed to be descendants of the Keltoi, or Celts, or Gaels actually, who settled around 500 BCE; though in fact more than a dozen different tribes, from almost everywhere in Europe, added their genes to the pool at some early period, principally a Milesian group from the Basque region in Spain, and then the Tuatha de Dannau, whom the Greeks knew as the Danaans, and the Hebrews as the tribe of Dan, and who were the stars and heroes of Virgil's "Aeneid". When we think of leprechauns, fairies, Druids, wizards, and all the other infantile fantasies associated with Ireland, we are in fact speaking about the ancient religion of the pre-Viking Irish, which was not infantile at all, but what simpler way to destroy a religion than by reducing it to fairy tales? Well, actually, even simpler, is to deny there ever was a civilisation. Let me give a simple example:

All the world has heard of Stonehenge, one of the great ancient religious sites; but who has ever heard of Friarstown, also not very well known as Tara Hill? Call up "the henges of Ireland" on your search engine and the first site to appear will likely be, which will inform you, on the Google-page before you even click to the site, that "henges are only known to occur in Britain and Northern Ireland." An English website, note; and Northern Ireland the one corner of Eire that is still part of English hegemony. Friarstown is just south of Limerick, which was not in Northern Ireland on the last occasion that I looked at a map. The archaeology website can give you a fuller picture of what is in fact a far larger and more significant site than Stonehenge, and any number of other websites will take you to the Carnacs of Egypt and Brittany, the gilgal of Bethel in Israel, the megalithic circles of Guatemala and Belize and Colombia, and other equivalent shrines likewise not located "only in Britain and Northern Ireland", but culturally connected with Tara Hill. I could also mention the Ogham Stone with its related language, literature and civilisation, the Uragh stone circle in County Kerry, Newgrange, just north of Dublin...and the list goes on.

Or take another example, the Irish language, and what happened to Irish identity when the English (the English, note, not the British) made the decision to eradicate the Irish language altogether, as they did the Welsh, with somewhat less success, not simply by imposing the English language for everyday usage, but Anglicising the name of every village, town and city, the name of every hill and wood and river and valley, while simultaneously requiring English as the sole language in schools, and English history as the sole curriculum. Not much sense of national identity left once that has been done. Brian Friel's play "Translations" explores both themes; I mention this in part as a pretext to mourn his recent death, but mostly to provide a segue into that other proof of Ireland's perpetual state of drunken stupidity, the fact that it has produced more artists, novelists, playwrights, poets and thinkers of international merit in the past, let's say 150 years so that we don't have to mention Jonathan Swift or the Book of Kells, than the English and non-Irish Americans between them: Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Sam Beckett, Brendan Behan, Sean O'Casey, Iris Murdoch, Seamus Heaney, Edna O'Brien, C.S. Lewis, William Trevor, Maeve Binchy, John Banville, Colm Toibin....and the list goes on. 

The history of the English conquest of Ireland began, as noted above, with the Normans in 1169, was then repeated at the time of Queen Elizabeth, and again under Oliver Cromwell, but the real conquest came not by armies of soldiers but by armies of colonists, Protestants of course, who were encouraged to settle the Catholic land, in precisely the way the English of today criticise the Israelis for doing in the West Bank, annexing by stealth; Russia has used the same technique in Georgia and the Crimea, and is attempting the same in the Ukraine, and is rightly condemned for it. But still the English hold on to Ireland, obtained in the same manner, formalised in the Act of Union of 1801, sustained by martial law, and only, finally, ended, at least in most of Ireland, after the Easter Uprising of 1916 when, from the English perspective, "mere anarchy" was "loosed upon the world", and from the Irish perspective a "terrible beauty" was born.

Today there are an official 34 million Irish living in America, though the real figure is thought to be as high as 70 million, which means America has more Irish than does Ireland, and the number of significant Americans who claim Irish ancestry adds weight to the argument that the Irish are all drunken leprechauns: Andrew Jackson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tommy Dorsey, Henry Ford, John and Robert Kennedy, (Richard Nixon), Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, John McEnroe, Ed Sullivan, (Billy the Kid), Judy Garland, Joe Biden, Michael Moore...and the list goes on.

Northern Ireland remains a part of England to this day, consolidated by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 in which the Irish republican armies finally if informally surrendered to the power of colonisation, while simultaneously declaring that the war goes on - take a look at Sinn Fein's account of the agreement on their website, or the Irish government's on theirs, both rather different from the view from Westminster, which endorses the historical argument that, if you can put enough of your own people in another country that they become the majority, you can then hold a genuinely democratic referendum on who should rule, and surprise surprise they vote to stay with their homeland. Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands are held on the same lack of principle.

Free Ireland has returned to at least some usage of its ancient language, with Gaelic now the official language, which is why the Prime Minister is called the Taoiseach and the two main political parties are called Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. In fact only about a quarter of the population speak it fluently, and fewer write it, which allows the English, and even a progressively left-wing newspaper like The Guardian, to continue mocking the paddies for their "bog-language" and their resemblance to leprechauns.

Marks For: 5

Marks Against: England

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