Gary Mitchell, the Rathcoole-born playwright, said in an interview with Culture Northern Ireland:
"We have this thing where we think middle class people and upper class people are better than us. They [the middle class] can write things, we [the working class] can’t. We can work in factories. And if someone proves that it is possible to go to Rathcoole Secondary – the school you got expelled into - and become a famous writer then they have to pull him down. Because they said, “you’re from Rathcoole, you can’t” and stopped their kids from becoming a writer or wanting to be famous."Gary Mitchell then spoke of the pervasive inferiority complex of the Protestant working class. A culture that says you have to keep up appearances without thinking too much of yourself. Under this culture he was just a wee lad from Rathcoole. He wasn't allowed to be a writer.
Because of his writing, fame and success, Gary Mitchell was forced out of his home and Rathcoole estate with death threats. Expelled for his broad-mindedness. He explained:
"People would see me on the news picking up an award in Dublin. And as far as they were concerned if Irish Catholics were clapping me I must have done something for them. That meant it must have been against Rathcoole."It was rightly said that he got death threats not because of what he had written, but rather, because what people assumed he had written. Gary Mitchell doesn't even think that that those who forced him out home even knew what his plays were about, never mind having seen one. He said of the gang that forced him out:
"They weren’t real terrorists. Real terrorists fly planes into buildings, real terrorists scare people in New York. Intimidating a playwright in Rathcoole? That’s not real terrorism, that’s just a couple of people."Nevertheless, he found the whole ordeal an important reason to keep writing. To prove that even someone from Rathcoole had something to say and the right to say it. Even if no-one in Northern Ireland wants to listen.
This last paragraph has an important corollary. The climate of fear that exists in Northern Ireland because of repressive and aggressive paramilitaries that are not scared to use violence and physical threats to crush views and opinions they don't like.
Mick Fealty said in an article in the Guardian, 'Freedom of speech: a matter of life and death':
"[Sean O'Callaghan speaks of] the burdensome intolerance of dissent which inflects all manner of political and cultural discourse [in Northern Ireland]. In the pre-modern political realities of significant parts of Belfast - expulsion is the preferred option.
And as [Glenn] Patterson argues, this intolerance cuts across the cultural divide. The consequent loss of the talent represented by the forced departure of playwright Gary Mitchell damages all of Northern Ireland's society. It should serve as a warning to the post modern world beyond his native Rathcoole Estate, of the nasty consequences of the routine compromising of freedom of speech and expression."Mick Fealty in full here. Culture Northern Ireland interview in full here. My earlier posts in the 'When it's cool to be dumb' series can be accessed here, here (UDA prisoner), here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. With the Simpsons here. On the Huffington Post UK here.