Saturday, 19 January 2008

Irish contradictions

Since many of you are Irish or claim an Irish identity, I thought I should say something about my own view of the Irish.

I must say I find the Irish very contradictory. On the one hand they praise the Irish culture and the Irish way of life and say they wouldn't want to live anywhere else, but then ten seconds later they'll be running the place down and saying Ireland's going to the dogs.

They'll lay into the transport system, the health service, the roads, the cost of housing, materialism, TV programmes, the Catholic church, Dublin Airport. Nothing seems to be safe from a storm of frustrated invective.

The tourist industry gets it in the neck too - the shamrocks, Oirish pubs, the ubiquitous emerald green, silly hats, paddy wagons, leprechauns - it's all a travesty of the real Ireland that only mindless trippers would swallow.

There doesn't seem to be much left that the residents actually enjoy unreservedly. Though if they're pushed to defend their homeland, they'll spend a few minutes waxing lyrical about the music, the literature, the art, traditional values, the craic, the scenery, the sense of community, the friendliness.

But you get the feeling that sometimes that's more a sales pitch than genuine enthusiasm, put on for the benefit of those arrogant Brits who've dismissed their perfect country for so long.

As soon as you're out of earshot, they'll be on again about that waste of space Mary Harney and how she's f**king up the health service. Or that bastard Bertie and his dodgy piles of unexplained cash. I really don't understand the mixed messages. Will the real Ireland please stand up?

Sources: Irish Times, Irish Labour Party, Irish TV (Prime Time, Questions & Answers, The Panel), Irish blogs.
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Update: Re the British government's plan to ban paid sex, a BBC poll found that 52% of respondents thought it should be banned and 65% thought buying sex exploits women. Among 18 to 24 year olds, 65% thought paid sex should be banned.

18 comments:

gimme a minute said...

Nick, there is no contradiction in being proud of the cultural heritage of one's country and being disgusted with, for example, the way its health service is being run into the ground.

In fact, pride in the positive aspects of one's place of birth should lead to a railing against all that is wrong with it.

I can feel my post colonial inferiority complex coming to the fore here, but in both this and your last post I have detected what I have no doubt is a purely unconscious condescension towards us Micks.

Aren't the Paddies great with their lack of honours system?

And would they ever stop bitching and be happy with their lot?

Nick said...

Gimme, that's true enough about being proud of your heritage and therefore angry with what's going wrong. I suppose I feel the same way about Britain and all the British institutions that are going down the drain. Not condescension, I hope, just bafflement! But I was expecting a few comments that would put this ignorant Brit in his place!

Wisewebwoman said...

You know Nick, being Irish myself, I have a great understanding of what you're talking about. For one, I think the fact that the Irish are being so free in their critiques in front of you (an Englishman) shows a huge level of acceptance, something that would have been unthinkable when I was a young adult in Ireland. We kept the kvetching to ourselves and never aired it in front of the furreners. The blight of materialism and big corp power has hit Ireland in a big way and my relatives and friends, though hoovering at the trough most days, are appalled at what is happening to the sick, indigent, immigrants and addiction raddled. I think there is a huge confusion in Ireland. They got it all, now what? Whinge. Incessantly.
XO
WWW

Baino said...

For some reason, my little corner of the blogs is well patronised by the Irish and those who aren't all want to be Irish! My sister in law married an Irishman and they now live near Dublin. They claim the healthcare is good (it's free and available), Public housing is incredible and once in, owned in perpetuity (would never happen here) they're happy with the education their children receive, just a bit blue about the weather! The tourists probably love the fluffy green hats, lord knows we flog enough stuffed Koalas and Kangaroos!
It's probably a little bit of "I can criticise my own country but don't you dare say anything". I'm certainly like that. I'm a proud Aussie who complains occasionally about social injustice and politics but don't let me catch a foreigner bagging my neck of the woods!

Nick said...

I'm happy to hear the moans, whether it's a moan about Ireland or a moan about me. And yes, www, I gather the accelerating materialism and corporatism are two of the things that most concern Southerners. They're partly the cause I'm sure of the worsening treatment of the sick, immigrants and other vulnerable groups who're unable to keep up.

Nick said...

Oops, crossed comments there, Baino! Yes, it's funny how many non-Irish want to BE Irish. Glad your sister in law is so impressed with the public services - I usually hear a lot more criticism than praise. And I don't mind at all if foreigners criticise my country - their opinions can be very illuminating. Oh and guess what, we have a stuffed koala in our living room....

sean said...

You wont find any contradiction in my words: Ireland would be a grand little place if it wern't for the Irish- a bunch of knackers - all from Scandinavia.

Nick said...

Well, that sounds seriously offensive to me. Bunch of knackers? All from Scandinavia? Can you back up these bizarre assertions??

Caro said...

Gimme's right about there being no contradiction in being proud of our cultural heritage and at the same time being disgusted at how the country is being run. Years ago people accepted that the health service etc. was a shambles, because the country was in debt up to its ears, but I think what gets everybody so riled up is not just the fact that the public services are terrible, but more the fact that we've had the wherewithal in recent years (which we never had before)to sort out the various services and bridge the gap between rich and poor, and that opportunity has been scandalously lost through mismanagement and corruption.

That said, from my personal experience our two-tier tax system with its personal allowances is a far fairer system than that operated in Italy. Our education system is superior to the Italian one and fairer. These are things I would never have noticed had I stayed in Ireland - often you don't appreciate something until you don't have it any more.

Nick said...

That's what I hear all the time, Caro - with all the wealth of the Celtic Tiger, why haven't the public services been upgraded to gold-plated standards instead of still being so inadequate? Where the hell has all the money gone? Glad you're saying like Baino that some public services are actually very good. And that's true, you often don't appreciate something until you see it from a distance.

Manuel said...

eh Top o the Morning til ye (dad would beat me for that) but Nick I've gone and tagged you......

Nick said...

Manuel, you're a naughty naughty boy. But I'll see if I can oblige. Just give me a bit of thinking time....

conortje said...

Being proud of where you come from does not mean you can't complain. In fact they should kind of complement each other. The Dutch complain about The Netherlands just as much as the Irish, believe me. It's normal don't you think?

red said...

I think the longer I am away from Ireland, the more 'Irish' I feel. And the longer I am away from Ireland the less I feel like going back. Now there's a contradiction for you.

Nick said...

Con - there seems to be general agreement on that - not a contradiction, more a rounded view taking into account all facets of life etc. But somehow I think of someone who says he adores restaurant X, though he's not happy with the wait staff, the decor, the location or the food....

Red - that's a fascinating contradiction, sorry paradox. But does the feeling of Irishness become slightly abstract after a while if you're living somewhere else?

laurie said...

hmmmm, the irish sound like minnesotans.

secretly proud, but thinking it's not seemly to brag so we disparage ourselves.

laurie said...

ps and i am nearly half irish. and 100 percent minnesotan. that means i get to complain about both places.

Nick said...

Hi Laurie! Yes, I think there's something in that, disparaging instead of bragging. One thing we all dislike is a smug, complacent person! And complaining about both places, why not? I do the same about Britain and Ireland!