March 18, 2014

Being Irish is not about being not-British, Ctd

Taosieach Enda Kenny with the PSNI and An Garda Síochána (New York 2014)
For Saint Patrick's Day 2014 Gerry Gregg wrote an article in the Irish Herald, 'De Valera's dream is long dead, so why do we keep peddling it?':
"[Eamon De Valera's] vision of the Ireland he fought for and hoped to see was a fantastic description of a land and a people that never existed and whose like will never be seen...  Enda Kenny will march down New York's Fifth Avenue with men who still see Ireland through this prism of piety and patriotism. Kenny's vision of the "ould sod" is his gombeen pitch that we are the "best little country in the world to do business in"...  
This takes us back to 1943, to De Valera and that speech. Ireland was an oasis of tranquillity back then while Europe was going up in flames. We defined ourselves by one religion only, by our attachment to the land, and through our belief that, in some way, God was looking after us...  
National identity is all about agreeing on who "we" are. In 2014, the Irish are struggling on that. We are no longer automatically Catholic. We are also Protestants, Dissenters, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists... We have even discovered there are gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender citizens in our ranks. That Ireland will not be on parade abroad, of course. The old stereotypes will be out in force." 
"Irish people are equally attracted and reviled by the notion of "true Irish" (fior Gael) that De Valera and others pursued. It's led us to weird places... "Authentic" cultural events are for fascists. Embrace your entirely made-up identity this St Patrick's Day.
 
The Economist wrote an article, 'Why Guinness is less Irish than you think':
"Arthur Guinness, who founded the [Guinness] brewery in Dublin in 1759, might have been surprised that his drink would one day become such a potent national symbol. He was a committed unionist and opponent of Irish nationalism, who before the Irish Rebellion of 1798 was even accused of spying for the British authorities. His descendants continued passionately to support unionism—one giving the Ulster Volunteer Force £10,000 in 1913 (about £1m, or $1.7m, in today’s money) to fund a paramilitary campaign to resist Ireland being given legislative independence. The company was alleged to have lent men and equipment to the British army to help crush Irish rebels during the Easter Rising of 1916, afterwards firing members of staff whom it believed to have Irish-nationalist sympathies."
Kilsally (Alan Day) had previously made interesting observations on the Guinness family and their unionism in an article 'Guinness (a Protestant history)':
"Benjamin Lee Guinness (1798-1868), Arthur's son, entered politics by being elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1851. In 1865, he was elected within the Conservative interest to the Irish Parliament. And naturally, he was a strong Unionist. Referring to nationalists, he stated:  
"Those wicked and worthless adventurers who would not only deprive our country of the advantages which, as a part of the British Empire, we enjoy, but who would overturn all the social arrangements of society. 
 On Fenianism, Benjamin stated:
"Irishmen generally abhor the projects of Fenianism; and the sentiments of sedition and rebellion which its followers inculcate have emanated from a foreign land, and been spread and nurtured in this country by emissaries, who hope by deception and by pillage to grasp from its owners their property."
Alan further noted:
"Members of the Guinness family spoke in the House of Commons to recommend the execution of the leaders of the 1916 rising."
Frank Hopkins wrote in the Herald in 2009 that Guinness was once called 'Guinness’s black Protestant porter':
"Arthur Guinness disapproved of the United Irishmen’s Rebellion of 1798. Because of this, the new brew became known as ‘Guinness’s black Protestant porter’. Catholics and nationalists boycotted the drink for a time, but far from damaging his trade, Guinness used the opportunity to set up a lucrative export trade with England."
Another terrific blog post here, very Am Ghobsmacht'Protestant Porter -- What Irish Catholics Don't Know About Guinness.'

Previous post in the series with Fintan O'Toole, Michael Kirke and Brian O'Connor here. Another with Fintan O'Toole here. With Richard Irvine here. With John McCallister here. My blog on the need to end the connection between Irishness and monolithic Catholicism here.

My blog with Stuart Hall, Alex Massie, David McCann and Orange Order member Brian Kennaway on how being British is not about being not-Irish, here.

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