Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I was awoken Kraken-like from my slumbers this morning by the less than dulcet Cork tones of Orla Barry on Newstalk 106 discussing the problems facing English born people of Irish descent currently living on the Emerald Isle. One of her interlocutors was a former student of mine, Sean Folan, now a sports writer for the Indo and the other was some Irish descent guy from the British Council whose name escapes me. The latter appeared to have the possibly interesting (in the Chinese sense) job of marketing British culture on this auld sod.
The gist of this discussion was that the indigenous Irish are quite likely to engage in subtle and less subtle racist gibes and other such malarky when they hear an English accent. The old '800 years of oppression' argument was trotted out and the same dumb disingenuous questions about what football team you support if you're British born of Irish descent, etc. Blah blah blah, yawn, yawn, yawn.
Again as I recall, and bear in mind it was before I'd had my second cup of Kenyan peaberry so no jury in the land could convict me for any errors of recollection, one of the interviewees said that he wouldn't go to watch an international soccer game in a pub because of the responses of his fellow drinkers to an 'Englishman' supporting Ireland.
Now this stuff has serious implications and I've dealt with them elsewhere on this blog, but to be honest, after the best part of a decade's residence on this sainted isle I'm a bit fed up with hearing Irish descent people beating themselves (and on occasion, each other) up about an issue that was not of their making. In my view the ultimate responsibility for such self-flagellation lies with the bad faith of the gombeens who have effectively run this country since the foundation of the state, whenever that was.
These people, who smugly sat by and profited from the hundreds of thousands of their compatriots who were forced onto the emigrant boats to England in the two decades following the second world war, should have been forced to offer a public apology to every migrant who ever left to face the world of 'no blacks, no dogs, no Irish' that was Britain for the latter part of the 20th Century. Their descendants should go down on their knees and thank the children of emigrants for the sacrifice their parents made and remind themselves of that sacrifice every time they sip a cup of latté in their local Fergocino's.
Meanwhile, to British born children of Irish migrants I offer the following strategies to offset the negative effects of an English accent on life here:
1. Pretend to be from Liverpool. Cultivate a 'calm down, calm down' accent, have a bad curly perm and grow an Ian Rush/Graeme Souness moustache. Some people might mistake you for a Mullingar woman and you may have to face a certain amount of benignly patronising guff, but believe me it's worth it. Everyone in Ireland loves scousers because they know that we're better at being Irish than they are. Liverpool people are the Irish the indigenes wish they were; boisterous, aggressive, articulate, funny, friendly, and, above all, untainted by the material benefits of the Celtic Tiger.
2. Take to wearing a Celtic shirt in public places. This really confuses things for would be Anglophobes, particularly the armchair Republicans in the population. The contradiction of the English accent garbed in a Hoops shirts generates the kind of neurotic reaction Pavlov looked for in his dogs in some of his later, crueller experiments.
3. Maintain a critical and vocal disdain for Rugby Union and point out frequently that it's a garrison game played by English public schoolboys and latent homosexuals that any Irishman worth his salt should be ashamed to participate in. Follow this up by asking how they fancy England's chances in the Ashes. (Don't try this in Limerick though).
4. Ask people what soccer team they support and when they reply Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, etc. respond by saying 'That's funny you don't have a Manc/Cockney/Scouse accent' and then show them your Shamrock Rovers season ticket.
5. Never, ever go on the defensive about your English upbringing. Take the war to the aggressor. Mention things like the National Health Service (it's free, don'tcha know?), cheap beer, the relative absence of paedophile priests and corrupt politicians, and the better weather.