Britain and Ireland live…

For those of you who think I have no life outside Slugger, I do. My other place, mostly magazine but blog driven, is the Britain and Ireland site. We’ve just published its second issue on Culture, in which we have: Conor Brady on the race to the bottom between British and Irish media; a (camera phone) photo essay on Ulster Scots in the classroom, featuring a Lambeg played in a de-sanctified chapel in Ballymena; an essay on Heaney, Wogan and the Queen; and Edna Longley who argues the need to move away from the antagonistic/symbiotic binary of British vs Irish identity towards the recognition of the multiple layers of cultural complexity.

  • Deep and thought-provoking,
    Protestants who talk of their backs being against the wall have actually backed themselves there. They don’t understand themselves, let alone the supposed ‘Other’.
    Translates into “wrapping yourself up in a Union Jack, and burying your head in the sand, hoping all the problems will go away”.
    If identity is the problem then it’s also the solution.

  • BogExile

    ‘But equally unfortunate, in some ways, is the very strong identity that is being asserted on the nationalist side. It seems to me both anachronistic and ill-founded’

    You’re perhaps being a leeetle bit selective in your analysis. Equally valid:

    Wrapping yourself up in a tricolour, rubbing their noses in it and hoping the settlers will go away 🙂

    I agree it’s all a question of identity, but we don’t solve it by undermining the validity of either Britishnesss or Irishness.

  • good reposte BogExile.
    Now I’m thinking:
    You can’t beat the Irish out of the Irish, but perhaps you can beat the Britishness out of the northern irish unionists and you’ll be left with Irishness; albeit a more ulster-scots and orange-tinged Irishness
    That’s fine, as that’ll leave and allow the tri-colour to represent the two strands of Irishness on the Isle of Ireland.
    Case solved!
    The Union Jack needs sending back to the mainland, then the historical conflict would be at an end. 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Not being funny, but did you read the rest of the Longley interview?

  • Mick,
    Yes as much as I could digest.
    Maybe I’m talking out of my arse, it would’nt be the first time 😉
    However I do have my own views, my current thinking on the identity problem is:
    Beneath every “Britisher” in the north is an Irishman dying to get out. That natural feeling of needing to belong is suppressed by the DUP, hence the neurosis and schizophrenia.
    Am working on the cure.

  • TAFKABO

    Beneath every “Britisher” in the north is an Irishman dying to get out. That natural feeling of needing to belong is suppressed by the DUP, hence the neurosis and schizophrenia.

    looks like “physical force” republicanism is being replaced with “patronising pish” republicanism.
    Talk down to me a little more, who knows I might start agreeing with you.

    ( don’t hold yer breath mo chara)

  • TAFKABO

    Just read the interview Mick.

    Interesting stuff, but my own take on it is that in the same way politics is hostage to events, Cultural identity is always going to be hostage to local politics, or at least until such time as the big questions are sorted out.

    Then again, I could be wrong.The welcome influx of immigrants to Ireland is bound to have a cultural impact sooner or later.
    Who knows, it may enable us to rexamine our true shared cultural identity as we reflect upon the identity of our new citizens?

  • Mick Fealty

    I know the comment zones there are a bit empty at the moment, but please feel free to make any substantive points you want to there. After a series of thematic issues we’re hoping to dig deeper into certain areas flagged up by contributors and readers.

    Suggested additions to the best reads section is also appreciated here.

  • Mick,
    I’m grateful for the link to CAIN study
    British? Irish? Or what?
    Have left a comment.

  • BogExile

    Mick,

    Was the jist of your original post, ‘dear God these boys could read a 900 page discourse on the geology of Northern Ireland and still only argue about whether there is more orange rock than green?’

    🙂

    If so point taken. Edna Longley once praised my poetry (she may have been drunk at the time) So she’s all right in my book.

  • barnshee

    “Beneath every “Britisher” in the north is an Irishman dying to get out. That natural feeling of needing to belong is suppressed by the DUP, hence the neurosis and schizophrenia.
    Am working on the cure. ”

    what ????
    we prods want to look and sound like travellers, listen to tuneless repetitive music idulge in bizarre dance forms and play made up games that nonone else plays–join a scoiety that was forced into modernity by UK and German handouts?- hardly –thanks but no thanks.

  • Brian Boru

    It would be interesting if a similar study into Southern attitudes to NI could be carried out including interviews and detailed findings rather than just Yes/No questions because I found the interviews and findings from Northerners intriguing. I thought that the Northern Prods only saw themselves as British cos we are always hearing them going on about how “British” they are and waving Union flags.

  • Brian Boru

    Barnshee how dare you compare me to a Traveller 🙁
    We have problems with them down here too and empathise with British ppl who are tired of endless knocks on the door trying to sell them stolen stuff and parking illegally and demanding money (not all Travellers but a fair number). Do not tar us with that brush. The Travellers like to be Irish abroad and a separate ethnic group in Ireland. That allows them to plead discrimination wherever they are.

    And while I agree that to a degree the EU has modernised us, don’t forget that the Union was what held us back for so long. The only part of the island that was industrialised on a large scale in 1920 was the Northeast of the island – which happened to be Protestant. Centuries of trade-blockades on Ireland to protect British merchants from competition, together with bans on us getting an education and on property ownership, together with rack-renting landlords explained our being so poor for so long. We had a long way to catch up in 1920 but have now passed you by so plz do not patronise us.

    There is much to be said for reunification, and not merely based on religion or culture, including:

    A: The benefits of neutrality. Southern Ireland was spared the blitz and thousands who would otherwise have died didn’t. Being a small neutral in the most strategically irrelevant part of the world nowadays is also advantageous in that you don’t come under pressure to join in military adventures.

    B: Irish opinion is firmly against nuclear power, protecting Northern Ireland from Sellafield-style cancer-factories being built in the North. Chernoybl has brought thousands of cancer cases and miscarriages in Belarus to the point where the death rate is now 10% higher than the birth rate. Girls aged 12 are having hysterectomies because of cancers caused by Chernoybl. A United Ireland would give Unionists security from a Sellafield being built in the North.

    C: The chance to participate in EMU, which has greatly benefited the Republic. You can then compare prices across 12 (and soon more) countries more easily, enabling pressure to be brought to bear on rip-off merchants in the North. Inclusion in the 12% Corporation Tax rate of the South would also attract large-scale multinational investment to the North. Chancellor Brown will never agree to let the North undercut Britain in corpo-tax rates as this would lose mainland UK investment. Put your own interests before theirs! 🙂

    D: A fairer electoral system in which every % counts. Our PR-STV electoral system guarantees coalition government and so Unionists could very well be kingmakers in Dail Eireann whereas their views are just ignored in Westminster.

    There see it isn’t so bad 😉

  • Martin

    Southern Ireland was spared the blitz and thousands who would otherwise have died didn’t. Being a small neutral in the most strategically irrelevant part of the world nowadays is also advantageous in that you don’t come under pressure to join in military adventures

    I think that the Second World War is a particularly bad choice of conflict to describe as a “military adventure” and you can rest assured that many thousands more in Ireland would have died had Germany won the war, neutral or not, specifically the entire Jewish population. Neutrality in this instance is nothing to be proud of.

  • Brian Boru

    Martin it was plenty to be proud of. We had only just become independent 19 years earlier and we didn’t trust your intentions in pressuring us to join the war. Also, the Holocaust was not known about by the Allies until 1942 and even then, it looked like the Nazis might win. We were a very small country and militarily, we would not have brought military strength to the war. We were suspicious that you would use the war as a pretext for keeping your army in the South after the war, and possibly reincorporating us into the UK or British empire. If you hae come from a country that was once ruled by another country in the recent past you would be better able to see our point of view.

    I wasn’t specifically referring to WW2 as an “adventure”. I was making the point that in WW2, thousands of Southern Irish lives were spared that would otherwise have been lost I would point out also that 65,000 Southerners fought in the Allied armies in WW2 and that excluding that from your analysis is a travesty.

    We did not have your military technology or manpower so our country joining the War would not have materially affected the war’s outcome. If you wanted us to join then your government should not have intervened to scupper representations made by the Irish government to the Americans with respect to buying arms to upgrade our military with. Because you were trying to stop us arming ourselves, effectively this meant that the only way Ireland could have been defended in the event of a German-invasion would have been by British troops. But we had only recently become independent and so soon afterwards it was unrealistic to expect us to welcome our former rulers back into our state.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it was far from clear who was going to win the war in 1939-42 – especially as D-Day didn’t happen until 1944 and the the war against Germany until 1941. Britain was all that stood against Germany in the West, so we were naturally terrified of what fate would befall us if we provoked them – assuming Britain fell which many believed – especially after Dunkirk – would soon happen. You are analysing the situation from a “large country” perspective and your country controlled a large empire at the time. To expect a tiny country to be so willing to enter conflicts between large countries – and on the side of the recent rulers at that – was just too much to ask.

    Britain may have stood alone against Nazi Germany in 1940, but the Irish people stood alone against our British rulers for 750 years, as De Valera correctly said. During this time, attrocities every bit as bad and proportionately on the same scale as what happened to the Jews were inflicted on the innocent Catholics of Ireland – most notably by Cromwell. We were not about to place ourselves under a second British occupation, under the first of which we had endured our own version of Nazi terror. Remember that Britain invented the concentration camp during the Boer War.

  • Brian Boru

    ” especially as D-Day didn’t happen until 1944 and the the war against Germany until 1941. ”

    In this section I meant the US war against Germany didnt start until 1941.

  • Martin

    What’s this “you” business? Are you talking to the Brit, the Irish or the Pole in me? This was not an Anglo-German conflict. This was a struggle for all Europe, not just Britain.

    I am not denying that Britain invented the concentration camp. I am not denying the many iniqueties of British rule in Ireland. I’m not much of a patriot. However, small countries like Denmark, Poland and Belgium did not have the choice. Ireland should not have fought for Britain but for Europe. The hundreds of Poles, Slovaks, Czechs etc who faought with the RAF were hardly doing so for the glory of the British Empire. They fought for the many small countries of Europe, including Ireland, who would have fallen under the German jackboot. Are you seriously saying democracy in Ireland would have survived German occupation of Britain? Irish Jews, like the rest of Europe, were counted at Wannasee.

    You are obviously on the defensive on this issue as evidenced by your last paragraph which was apropos of nothing I said. I don’t deny any of that but it advances your argument not one jot. I am not one to wrap myself in the flag and claim Britain stood alone. I don’t think that is true. As you rightly point out we were backed up by the Empire and its half a billion inhabitants and, by 1942, the USSR and the USA. Hardly alone.

    Nonetheless of the many reasons why Ireland stayed out of the war the fact that 300 years previously you were oppressed by someone fighting on the other side – to a not in any way comparable degree I would add, but that is, once more, stepping on a widely held belief that no-one, not even the Jews, could ever have been oppressed more than the Irish. Your last paragraph takes you knowhere and is MOPERY at its worst. If you had told my Great-Grandfather that a modern day Irishman had any claim to victimhood he would have knocked your head off..

    Despite my offense at your statement regarding any equivalence betwen the Holocaust and Cromwell I will leave it. But even if it were true it is no not a statement to support your argument. “Sorry lads, love to help, but it would mean us fighting with the Brits, and we could never do that, do you know what happened 300 years ago?”. This was a fight by many many countries, large and small, against barbarism, even if many of them were not whiter than white, and Ireland stood neutral. THAT is shameful.

    In respect of the Jews BTW I cannot let your statement go completely unchallenged. The Nazi’s eradicated the Jewish population of Europe. Eradicated. No one left. If the Cromwellian invasion were in any way similar (and I am the first to admit that it was barbarous and genocida) you (and I) would not be here typing today. And (maybe because of my Polish, English and Irish ancestry I can see BOTH the glory AND the shame in British history. It is a pity you cannot do the same for your own nation. No country has a monopoly on righteousness, all must face up to their sins, as they celebrate their triumphs. Ireland is a country that has been more sinned against than sinning but one of its sins was, undoubtedly, sitting by as the lights went out throughout Europe.

  • Brian Boru

    ” to a not in any way comparable degree I would add”

    I strongly disagree. 33% of us were wiped out just like 33% of worldwide Jewry. If not as many of us were killed it is only because there were only 1.5 million of us back then in the mid 17th century.

    “In respect of the Jews BTW I cannot let your statement go completely unchallenged. The Nazi’s eradicated the Jewish population of Europe. Eradicated. No one left. If the Cromwellian invasion were in any way similar (and I am the first to admit that it was barbarous and genocida) you (and I) would not be here typing today. And (maybe because of my Polish, English and Irish ancestry I can see BOTH the glory AND the shame in British history. It is a pity you cannot do the same for your own nation. No country has a monopoly on righteousness, all must face up to their sins, as they celebrate their triumphs. Ireland is a country that has been more sinned against than sinning but one of its sins was, undoubtedly, sitting by as the lights went out throughout Europe.”

    No one left is an exaggeration. 300,000 Jews survived in Poland and Romania, as did approximately 30% of those in Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Lithuania, Bohemia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Latvia. In the Soviet Union, 66% of the Jews survived, as did 50% of them in Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Norway and Estonia.

    I would also point out that US soldiers in Algeria collaborated with the Vichy rulers there in persecution of the Jews.

    Overall, 33% of world Jewry was butchered by the Nazis. That is equivalent in % terms to the proportion of Irish Catholics killed by Cromwell. For this reason I refuse to withdraw what I said equating Cromwell and Hitler in terms of the scale of what they did to the Irish Catholics and the Jews. I think that the Jews and the Irish people werethe most persecuted people in history. I would not claim that the Irish are in this position nowadays however, nor would I even claim it was the case in the 20th century.

    And it wasn’t because of something 300 years ago that we didn’t join Britain. The Brits had only pulled out their troops fully in 1938 with the handing over of the Treaty ports of Berehaven, Cobh and Lough Swilly. And anyway, the US and UK were giving conflicting accounts of the fate of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. The Roosevelt adminstration was playing it down, while Churchill was playing it up. Irish ministers would have suspected that this was a ruse to lure us into accepting British troops back on our soil. It was hard enough getting them out in the first place without bringing them back. Would they have left after WW2? Would Ireland still be an independent country?

    You need to look at both sides of the story. Like I say – hindsight is a wonderful thing. And while your at it tell me do you agree with the refusal of Churchill to exempt German Jews from the terms of the Trading with the Enemy Act, which confiscated their assets, most of which still has not been restored?

  • Martin

    You still refuse to see this in anything other than an Anglo-Irish context. You fail to answer my point and respond only by mudslinging. Even if what you say regarding the Cromwell in Ireland and Hitler and the Jews is correct (and some 85% of European Jewry was exterminated the only reason it was not more is because Hitler never got out of Europe – as I said they were ALL, officially, legally, marked for death. Effectivel eliminated) that is no way to justify staying out of the war. What had the Polish people done which meant they did not deserve Ireland’s help?

    Many countries got self-determination after the First World War. Eire, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary. Those and many other small nations (Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands)were brutally occupied. Why not assist them? They were brother nations of Ireland having come out of similar circumstances. Because De Valera (like you) could not see beyond Ireland’s relationship with Britain and could not care two figs about anywhere else.

    Ireland is a wonderful country. But to stay out in the face of what was happening in the rest of Europe was shameful. Shameful. Perhaps the only shemful thing Irenad has ever done. That is to her credit bt it is still shameful. It’s the only word. De Valera did not need Churchill or Roosevelt to tell him that half of Europe had been conquered by a barbarian regime, as would have Ireland if Britain had not been in the way. Neutrality did not save the Benelux countries, Denmark or Norway.

    I would also point out that US soldiers in Algeria collaborated with the Vichy rulers there in persecution of the Jews. Your point being…? Are you saying that the USA is culpaple in the holocaust? Why should this have kept Ireland out of the war

    Do explain why abandoning neutrality would have resulted in British troops back on Irish soil? After 1942 it would have been fine to insit that American troops only were there. Brazil and most or Argentina had the good grace to declare war in 1945 without compunction. Late but welcome. Instead De Valera mouned Hitler’s death. Britain occupied Iceland in WW2 to stop the Germans getting there first and got straight back out again at wars end.

    De Valera stayed out of the war because he hated the Brits -that was the limit of his vision. End of story. The rest of the world could hang so consumed was he by hatred. That’s why he signed a condolence book to Hitler months after the death camps had been liberated. He was so keen to give the finger to Churchill that he gave not too hoots about the 11 million fellow Europeans who had died in the war. In doing so he also gave the finger to Europe – which says a lot.

    Oh, and most oppressed people ever. Sure. Tell it to the Poles, the Armenians, the American Indians, the Australian Aboriginies, the Dhalits in India, the Cossacks…the list goes on. There is no monopoly on oppression in Ireland or anywhere else.

    Like I say – hindsight is a wonderful thing. And while your at it tell me do you agree with the refusal of Churchill to exempt German Jews from the terms of the Trading with the Enemy Act, which confiscated their assets, most of which still has not been restored? I make no excuses for this. I make no excuses at all for the crimes of England/Britain’s past. I am happy to acknowledge there were many. Once again you take me for an apologist for Britain. I am not. Many many things Britain has done in its history are shameful, many more than Ireland, all I am asking is for you to put your hands up to ONE mistake in Irish history compared to a catalogue of crimes in British history. Is that so hard? Is it so hard to say “we were wrong – we should have been involved for the sake of European civilisation”?

  • Brian Boru

    There are only 2 aspects of our behaviour in WW2 I can regret:

    A: Dev’s condolences for Hitler’s death. However his colleagues in Fianna Fail were privately horrified at this and certainly the Irish people would not have supported this. I suppose he would have seen it as taking neutrality to its logical conclusion but he should still not have done it.

    B: That we did not let more Jews into Ireland. However, Britain and especially the US didn’t either.

    Anyway, we felt that you were occupying our country and a country can hardly be expected to help someone that is occupying it. I recognise that with the Northern peace deal that it is no longer an occupation but based on the consent of the people in what is called Northern Ireland, but that is not how we saw it back then, especially as 2 of the 6 counties were majority Nationalist whereas none of our 26 counties ever had Unionist majorities. We were still very angry with you over that issue at the time.

    Would you also condemn Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Iceland for non-involvement in the war? At least unlike Sweden, we did not allow Nazi forces to cross our territory. Furthermore, our neutrality was – contrary to Orange propaganda – biased towards the Allies. Under the official rules, soldiers from either side were to be interned. In reality though, Allied soldiers were allowed escape, whereas Axis ones were actually interned for the duration of the war – including German agents. British agents in Ireland at the time were known of by the authorities but were left alone. Also, weather reports provided by Dublin were instrumental in planning for D-Day.

    The picture is not therefore as clear as you make out.

  • Martin

    Here you go with the whole “you” thing again. I’m trying to be objective and I don’t pretend to speak for Britain just because I hold a UK passport. Many other European countries have a right, more of a right, to feel let down by Ireland. Like De Valera in his famous radio retort to Churchill in 1945 it appears that you cannot but see the Second World War as some sort of squabble between Britain and Germany which Ireland could happily sit on the sidelines over – a sort of bigger Falklands. It wasn’t. In a war between civilization and barbarianism Ireland stood neutral in the name of “England’s Peril is Ireland’s Opportunity” which is shameful as in truth it was “Europe’s Death is Ireland’s Opportunity”.

    Switzerland admittedly, with its wartime profiteering, was worse. Sweden too – although their shame is ameliorated by their sactuary for the Danish Jews. Spain and Portugal, unlike Ireland, were not democracies at the time and I at least give them some credit for not joining in with their fellow dictatorships in a war on democracy. Ireland, as a democracy, should expect to be judged at a higher moral standard.

  • barnshee

    “Barnshee how dare you compare me to a Traveller ”

    You have to remember that the Northern Prods first experience of a southern citizen was the “traveller” experience .
    Sorry– you all look and sound the same esp bertie and mmary lou.

    Tarred with the same brush ??–a saler cote fer the droive sorr? or de bellfaast agrrmoint?
    (with apologies to phonics teachers everywhere)

  • Brian Boru

    “You have to remember that the Northern Prods first experience of a southern citizen was the “traveller” experience .
    Sorry– you all look and sound the same esp bertie and mmary lou. ”

    How do you know that when ppl in Donegal and Monaghan have your accent. And I will not apologise for any Southern accent. And we don’t all have one accent. The Dublin accent in particular is radically different from any others down here, as is the Cork one, and the aforementioned 2 counties in my previous sentence have Northern accents. So you have no way of knowing for sure if your first encounter with a Southerner was someone with a Southern accent.

    And we do not sound like Travellers.

  • green eggs and ham

    Martin and Brian Boru:

    Just spent the last 20 mins reading your “conversation”. What a history lesson, It should be taught in that adverserial method in schools. Looks like Homer was on to something! Don’t forget Dev had seen a lot of his friends put against a wall and shot by the Brits! It might explain why he mis-trusted the British so much, At the start it may have been a case of my enimies enemy is my friend, but everybody quickly realised what was going on in Europe and ” breathing space ” was the last thing on Hitlers mind. With hindsight, staying out of the war was a mistake, but at the time I don’t see that we had much of a choice at least officially. Plenty of Irish died in British or American uniforms as well as other covert help like feeding the masses in uniform!

  • Martin

    I enjoyed that 😉

    Back to
    “Beneath every “Britisher” in the north is an Irishman dying to get out. That natural feeling of needing to belong is suppressed by the DUP, hence the neurosis and schizophrenia.

    looks like “physical force” republicanism is being replaced with “patronising pish” republicanism.
    Talk down to me a little more, who knows I might start agreeing with you.

    ( don’t hold yer breath mo chara)

    Posted by TAFKABO on Dec 20, 2005 @ 06:19 PM

    I was considering a similar response but not one nearly as elequent as this.

  • Biffo

    Barnshee

    “we prods dont want to..listen to tuneless repetitive music idulge in bizarre dance forms..”

    You must be an old skool prod.

    You’re missing out on the fastest growing cultural movement in the world – Ulster Scots (It isn’t just about the language, you know)