"What have the British ever done for us?"

It’s just over a year since the British Council in Dublin launched the Through Irish Eyes report. The week after next it launches a series of essays on the island’s complex cultural and political relationships with Britain and Leviathan cabaret featuring a panel discussion on “What have the British ever done for us?” You can set the scene for the set piece debate by banging in your answer to the formal proposal: “This house believes Britain is just another foreign country?”

  • maca

    Pepper spray is one of the best devices IMHO. Most UK cops are equipped with it as far as I know. ?

  • Biffo

    Davros,

    Was that the man they shot in Liverpool? If so, it seemed to me at the time that they could have shot him in the legs, they were trained marksmen, he was standing 20 or 30 yards, from the cop with the gun, waving a sword about.

    They shot him dead with one bullet. If these people know how to handle a gun, I imagine they had other options than a coup de grace.

    That was the opinion of his family and a lot of other people at the time. It seemed fair enough to me.

  • SeamusG

    In the past few years UK police have used lethal force against men armed with: a) a chair leg, and b) a cigarette lighter shaped like a gun. A few years ago they also shot dead a Wild West enthusiast, a grandad, who was messing about dressed as a cowboy.

  • maca

    I don’t know anything about that case but at 20-30 yards you can be extremey accurate with a gun (some personal experience). Having said that if the guy was moving especially advancing i’d say a torso shot is *perhaps* the safest option for the officer.

  • maca

    extremey = extremely

  • Biffo

    SeamusG

    I was just about to mention that, The Scottish fella who went into a pub in London with the table leg in the plastic bag, had a swift one and left to go home.

    Someone phoned the cops and told them an Irishman with a gun has just left the building.

    A lethal combination in the imagination of many English people.

    They shot him, no questions

  • Davros

    Biffo – it would have been better if they had used a PB in his case – yes or no ?

    Maca – pepper spray – problems with indiscriminacy and range.

    Anyhow, been a good discussion, Goodnight all.

  • Biffo

    No, it would have been better if people didn’t have such negative attitudes to those who are different

  • Biffo

    SeamusG

    You were talking about this earlier and there is no doubt that attitudes to the Irish have changed a lot in England over the last ten years, I know that and it’s a good thing

    But there are many English who still have negative stereotype ideas of the Irish.

    5 or 6 years ago I applied for a job in Brighton. I turned up on the day in question and had to do a series of aptitude tests. One was a test of English comprehension, I passed it, it was basic stuff.

    So I progressed to the next stage – I had to take my English test result and go into another room where a man checked my Driver’s license, as any endorsements were a bar to this particular job.

    I sat down and the man looked at my drivers license (the address on my license is “Belfast” -Ulster prods take note – at that stage that’s all he had to go on)

    He checked it and went “OH! you’re Irish!,eh, are you Irish? What’s your English like, did you pass the test?” and he did a double take on the result, just to satisfy himself that an Irish person can read, write and understand basic English. Poor man, he was genuinely surprised at such a phenomonen. (my English is crap!)

    Anyway, I didn’t take that job, I wondered later if i had would I have had to work twice as hard as everyone else in a place like that to get over the Irish handicap.

  • SeamusG

    Biffo,
    We can only speak as we find and I know that round where I live, and in my local pub, the mix is totally multicultural and works really well. My local pub is a great mix of Irish, English and Scots and I can’t remember an incident where nationality has ever been a cause for anything other than a bit of light banter (especially where sport’s concerned). A lot of us have worked together and it’s a great way to see that we have more in common than we differ. My son is called Seamus and that has never raised an eyebrow anywhere either. (That said, he goes to a Catholic school)
    Surprised about the attitude in Brighton though, I thought that was THE most cosmopolitan place in the UK – although I’ve only ever seen it on the telly so I’m no expert.

  • Tom Griffin

    One aspect of British influence on Ireland that is often overlooked is, paradoxically, the British influence on Irish nationalism.
    After all the American republicanism of 1776 was of culturally English origin, and the philosophy of the united Irishmen would have been closely related.
    In some ways, the American/Tom Paine/Wolfe Tone tradition could be seen as an alternative line of English cultural development to the one represented by the United Kingdom, and one which England in particular may need to lear from in future.

  • Nathan

    I’ve noticed that its the plastics and the brittles who encourage alot of those wishful stereotypes and cliches about the charming and soulful Irish. You only have to attend a St.Patricks Parade, for a bit of staged Oirishy, to realise that.

  • IJP

    There’s a basic assumption here that the option was ‘British colonization of Ireland’ or ‘non-colonization of Ireland’.

    This is not so. Given its internal divisions, it was never a question of whether Ireland was colonized, but by whom.

    The historical truth is that European nation-states had two choices: conquer or be conquered. Even within many people’s lifetimes, every single European state has been occupied by, or has occupied, another – in many cases, both.

    NATO and the EU, for their many faults, are unquestionably forces for the good in this regard as they form a coherent defence and social network which should, properly managed, stop this happening and allow stability across the whole continent for the first time.

    In short, the debate is comparatively irrelevant. There has been large Great-British influence in Ireland, large Irish influence in Great Britain, much interchange between the islands – it’s not good or bad, it’s inevitable.

    Now, the future, anyone…?

  • Biffo

    the future?

    Forget Nato, I’m keeping an eye on the Eurovision.

    For a long the UK has had an unrequited love affair with Ireland. They can’t vote for themselves, so they go for the “next best thing” the one most like themselves.

    So far Ireland has never returned the complement. Will that change, are all sins forgiven?

  • SeamusG

    The Eurovision as a barometer of political thought. Frightening. And probably very accurate. Ask the Greeks….

  • Clady Cowboy

    Hello people!

    British of Northern Ireland,give the sovereignty of Ireland to the people of this Island(as a whole) and i would bet my descendents fortunes that in the next 800 years that we would be a more unified group and the rest of the world would be asking,What did the Irish do for us? I’m sure the answers would be entirely positive

  • Clady Cowboy

    Ah sure i’ll catch youse another time.

    I’m looking forward to putting forward my two pennies in this eternal and unchangeable debate.

    I stand as a republican with socialist ideals and a grasp of history,til we meet good night

  • Mike

    maca:

    “No. Britain didn’t exist until quite a while after aul St.Pat had passed on.”

    Wrong on both counts. The concept of Britain definitely existed at the time of Patrick, though it was in the process of being eclipsed by the gradual formation of England.

    And Patrick was British. There were four main ethnic groups in Britain at the time (as named by Bede) – the British, the English, the Scots (or, depending on the translation, the Irish) and the Picts.

  • Mike

    BTW, I should point out in talking in broad terms about events in the century or so following Patrick’s life.

  • smcgiff

    Mick has started another thread covering the original theme of this thread, so I don’t feel so bad hijacking this one and taking it on a tangent.

    I was driving home from work along the dock road in Limerick yesterday and spotted the Scottish Flag and then the Welsh flag flying outside a pub. Normal enough, but I nearly crashed the car when I saw the St. George’s flag. No sign of the Union Jack, but this seems a good compromise (if not very efficacious).

    Is there a growing trend in the Repubic of flying the St George’s flag outside buildings? I can see why the Union Jack would be treated differently in the ROI, but this could be a sign of warming relations between our countries. I was glad to see it.

  • CavanMan

    I see the Eurovision topic has arisen,Perhaps Ireland have never voted for GB because their songs are terrible,Now The United Kingdom is not the most popular place in europe,with all the political voting taking place between the Baltic states and indeed the western european ones,The UK looked around for an ally,they chose Ireland..and as we all love seeing the british(in fairness only the english) lose at everything they participate in,the chances of us giving them a high vote are minimal to say the least.

  • beano

    I think that Britain contributed more to Irish identity than the Irish did! The main difference between British and Irish culture is the anti-Britishness inherent to Irishness.

  • smcgiff

    The Eurovision barometer will be ruthlessly tested this time around. The embarrassing dirge (Oh, worse than usual I mean) we’re sending this year will hopefully get the votes (or lack of them) it deserves.

  • smcgiff

    ‘anti-Britishness inherent to Irishness’

    That’d make half (I’m in a generous mood) the world Irish! 😉

  • CavanMan

    Beano
    Anti-Britishness as smcgiff has said is huge around the world…there is a degree of anti-britishness in the Irish because of the past sins by British armys of occupation,It is not as widespread as some unionists/loyalists would like to imagine but it exists..In my opinion Britain will always be looked upon in suspicion by many Irish people until there is a United Ireland,however wrong or right that may be.

  • slackjaw

    beano

    ‘The main difference between British and Irish culture is the anti-Britishness inherent to Irishness.’

    Hardly a helpful assessment. All cultures are overlapping. Surely it is not as simple as imagining British and Irish cultures as separate, sealed-off entities.

    Nor is it simply a case of ‘Irish culture’ being, as you imply, a subordinate of ‘British culture’.

  • CavanMan

    Yes some people believe Irish Culture to be a subordinate of British culture,This is british people trying to claim that the Irish as a whole are british subjects,which couldnt be further from the truth..This is in the same context of British people referring to Ireland as Eire,they cannot bare that the vast majority of the people on this island want nothing to do with their ”glorious” Commonwealth..Britain needs to learn that we(as Peter Robinson put it at the Small Business Asssociaton function in Dublin)”we want to be your friends,not part of your family”,Only when britain realises this,will relations between the two countries improve radically.

  • maca

    Mike
    “The concept of Britain definitely existed at the time of Patrick, though it was in the process of being eclipsed by the gradual formation of England.”

    The “concept”.
    As far as I know the island was given the name “Britain” by King James 1/2 in the 16th C. I could be wrong, i’m just being pedantic here 😉

    “I think that Britain contributed more to Irish identity than the Irish did! The main difference between British and Irish culture is the anti-Britishness inherent to Irishness.”

    My lord, what utter rubbish!

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    “I actually feel economically and culturally closer to the people of Germany and France myself Cavanman.”

    George, since this thread seems to be about criticizing a nation over things it did many years ago (you posted about oppression of Catholicism for example which stopped being a British policy a very long time ago), how can you say you feel culturally close to Germany given it’s role in two major world wars ? Hitler had plans to invade Ireland.

    And you’re talking like the French never had an empire or a monarchy. In the view of the 800-year history people are bouncing around here discarding the recent stuff, France and Germany are firmly monarchies.

    [me, I think anyone who judges a nation on what it’s government did years decades or centuries ago is utterly moronic. If the attitudes being expressed about Britain here prevailed in Europe in other conflicts, the European Union would never have happened and quite possibly a lot of us would be dead. ]

  • Lafcadio

    CavanMan – “same context of British people referring to Ireland as Eire,they cannot bare that the vast majority of the people on this island want nothing to do with their ”glorious” Commonwealth..” believe me, you are exaggerating enormously the concern of British (by which I assume you mean English) people with Ireland, and indeed with the Commonwealth. When was the last time anyone saw or heard of the Commonwealth mentioned in the mainstream Britsh press – I’ll wager it was the Commonwealth Games however many years ago..

    When English people refer to Ireland as Eire it tends to be an attempt at accuracy (as indeed it is – go and read your Constitution), and also because in my experience, legal documents will refer to Eire. You overstate enormously the importance of Ireland in the English psyche – most English people in my experience think of Ireland as a fairly friendly place next door, nice destination for a weekend, with good beer – and that’s it!

    Of course there are some little Englanders, still smarting from the loss of empire, who feel otherwise, but they are very much in the minority these days.

    In fact, what exactly is your objection to English people saying Eire?

  • Biffo

    Roger,

    At least in Germany there isn’t a bar on a Jewish person becoming head of state.

    The UK and Germany are cultually closer than you think – English is a Germanic language. the fact that we use it here, is a legacy of the original German invasion of the British Isles way back in the first millenium.

  • Biffo

    Roger

    “..how can you say you feel culturally close to Germany given it’s role in two major world wars ? Hitler had plans to invade Ireland.”

    “[me, I think anyone who judges a nation on what it’s government did years decades or centuries ago is utterly moronic”

    So does that make you a moron?

  • Mike

    maca –

    “As far as I know the island was given the name “Britain” by King James 1/2 in the 16th C. I could be wrong, i’m just being pedantic here”

    Nope…you mean you haven’t heard of the Roman provine of Britannia!

    Another reference from the Dark Ages, Gildas’ “On the Ruin of Britain” – focuses on the troubles caused by the invading English…;)

  • slackjaw

    Oh who cares if you’re a practising Brit or Irishman/woman these days, as long as you look fabulous?

  • CavanMan

    Lafcadio
    My objection to the use of the word Eire,is that 1.It is not the correct name of my country
    2.the term Eire is used to try to undermine the differences between the irish and the british,I know it is mostly used by British Radical right-wing groups such as the NF and C18,who try and claim some sort of authority over Ireland.Lafcadio i may be wrong but i do believe you are a unionist,if so how would you feel if Northern Ireland was left out of the ”United Kingdom and Northern Ireland” title,which to a degree disclaims your wish to be british,The use of the word Eire,has such an impact on Irish citizens in this country.

  • Lafcadio

    CavanMan:

    1) I quote from the Irish Constitution: “Article 4 The name of the state is Éire, or in the English language, Ireland”

    2) I repeat, you read much too much significance into the use of this term. I live in London, and so am mostly in contact with decent, middle-class English people, not far-right nut-jobs, and on occasion I have heard Ireland referred to as Éire – and in no case was it intended as some kind of put-down, rather in an attempt for accuracy. The truth is, most English people these days simply wouldn’t be interested enough in Irish politics to go to the bother of seeking out subtle ways of trying to do down the Irish.

    You are indeed wrong, I am not a Unionist; and it’s the “UK of GB and NI”.

  • slackjaw

    British people can call the Republic of Ireland Eire, or Moonbase Alpha or The Evil Empire whatever the hell they want, as far as I’m concerned.

    If I’m eating a hamburger and someone calls it a shit sandwich, that doesn’t change my hamburger into their shit sandwich, and it doesn’t impair the taste either.

  • Vera

    CavanMan,
    Que? Color me confused, I thought Eire was the correct name of Ireland. I know a guy in Cork who nearly always says Eire for Ireland.

    (I don’t know if certain undesirable types in Britain have taken to using the name in the way you suggest, giving it a different connotation in Britain. If so, their bad intentions could be a valid reason to object to their usage of the name. But the assertion that it is not the correct name just seemed strange to me.)

  • Lafcadio

    sorry 2) should read “…live in London, and work in a bank, and so am mostly in contact..” i.e. didn’t mean to say that London’s inhabitants are uniformly middle-class English people..

  • CavanMan

    British people may not be interested in Irish politics,but if they are going to address my country,they should address it in the right way.The Republic of Ireland,or merely Ireland,seeing as they dont have a knowledge of the Irish Language,why try to be smart,and call it by its Irish name,i dont see them calling Germany, its german name Deutschland,The simple reason is most British people are proud of their empire history and cant bring themselves to think that they have lost their colonies,such as Ireland,India etc..and to give themselves assurances that they are still big players in world affairs they still believe they control all of this island.

  • Lafcadio

    CavanMan – sorry, but did you even read my last post?? I’m starting to get the feeling that if all English people called Ireland “Ireland” you would be complaining that the colonialist pigs were “..still trying to destroy the beautiful Irish language, by pretending that the word Éire doesn’t exist..”

    Seriously, when were you last in England? You seem determined to see some kind of antagonism there that really doesn’t exist.

    “and to give themselves assurances that they are still big players in world affairs they still believe they control all of this island.” I mean I’m sorry, but to say that this is the case for most or all English people is just sheer nonsense.

  • Biffo

    Éire, has two meanings, or roles

    1 = Ireland, i.e the island of Ireland, all of it (in Irish).
    2 = The official name of the republic of Ireland.

    These are two distinct concepts.

    Belfast is in Éire, and isn’t in Éire at the same time.

  • Vera

    Oooh! Can I claim Moonbase Alpha as the new name for Florida?! I mean, it’s such a cool name, who wouldn’t want to live there? And yet it might confuse the snowbirds enough that they couldn’t find us anymore.

    Anyway, from here in the Northern Province (aka Crackerland) of Moonbase Alpha you’re all just seen as Damn Foreigners (and, therefore, the enemy) and the differences between Irish and British and German seem insignificant compared to the differences between European and American.

    The British are a slightly more acceptable flavor of Damn Foreigner, but not really, even that nice Hugh Grant fella is startin to piss us off.

    The only truly acceptable Damn Foreigners are Australians. We love that Crocodile Hunter fella. He could come up here and hunt us up some gator for dinner.

  • SeamusG

    “Oh who cares if you’re a practising Brit or Irishman/woman these days, as long as you look fabulous?”
    LOL, magnificent work Slackjaw…

  • maca

    CavanMan,
    Not sure where your going with this at all 😉
    “Éire” or “Ireland” are just fine by me (and are the correct terms of course). “Rep of Ireland” is horrible.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    “So does that make you a moron?”

    No. I am not the person who believes a nation should be judged on what it did in it’s past. I don’t hold “the Germans” or the German nation responsible for the two world wars in the way that people in this thread hold “the British” or Britain responsible today for things that happened ages ago. That is why I think it is weird for one of those xenophobes to make a distinction.

    Cavanman I agree with you, although this happens with a lot of countries. Note how lots of people especially in the media say “Beijing” instead of “Peking”.

  • Biffo

    Roger

    Apologies, I was read to your last comment incorrectly, didn’t pay enough attention to the previous ones.

  • Biffo

    ..i meant I read it wrong.

  • Clady Cowboy

    What have the British done for us?

    They created the Provisional IRA,the Fenians,Sinn Fein,Catholic Ghettos,the Irish diaspora,sectarianism in Ireland,Northern Ireland,hedge schools,our national psyche,oh and Man Utd..
    …we are nothing without them, thank you our neighbouring superior specimen of humanity

  • maca

    Roger
    “Note how lots of people especially in the media say “Beijing” instead of “Peking””

    What should it be actually? Most Chinese people i know call it Beijing in English.