Entwined Lives

BBC NI’s Hearts and Minds was packed with good and interesting discussion tonight. Here’s one of the examples. Starting from the Lives Entwined essays the subsequent studio discussion between three contributors to that project, Olivia O’Leary, Susan McKay and Richard English, referred, directly or indirectly, to the need to change our understanding of Britishness and Irishness, the Republic of Ireland’s view of the “mad old uncle” in the [Northern] attic, the effect of amending DeValera’s constitution, and, among other things, the need for a process of civilisation.

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  • JG

    Cheers Pete. Interesting discussion alright.

  • manus

    I thought Eamoon Pheonix sounded rather remote in relation to the history of The Troubles. How can history be evaluated by future historians, maybe thirty or forty years from now, if those that were involved in that history, don’t bequeath their accounts for posterity, while they’re alive? One thing’s for certain; they sure can’t leave them when they’re dead.

  • Pete Baker

    manus

    Perhaps you should wait until that particular discussion is up for debate.

    We already have a discussion on the floor.

  • joeCanuck

    Something they didn’t consider at all is the huge increase in foreign travel, courtesy of Ryanair and charters. I would imagine that that alone must have exposed more Irish to English etc and vice versa on both islands and venues abroad. In my experience, it’s awfully hard to hate/dislike people once you have met them and got to know them a little.

  • PJM

    Can I point you all to Michael Longley’s contribution to a Heritage Lottery Fund conference last year – Digging Deeper: Sharing our Past Sharing our Future.

    Here Michael, in a thought piece on his own sense of Britishness and Irishness, talks about the “wonderful cat’s cradle of cultures that intertwine and pull against each other … a whirlpool that causes violence sometimes, but it can also generate energy and creative commotion. We’re gradually harnessing for good the power of the whirlpool’.

  • PJM
  • … the “wonderful cat’s cradle of cultures that intertwine and pull against each other … a whirlpool that causes violence sometimes, but it can also generate energy and creative commotion. We’re gradually harnessing for good the power of the whirlpool’.

    On a very simplistic level it does seem that living in close proximity to more than one culture can have an effect on creativity. In the context of Ireland, some of the most well-known (I won’t say ‘best’) artists, writers and thinkers have tended to come from the Protestant minority in the south, who have always been confronted with a culture that differed in many ways from their own. In a similar way, Catholic writers, both north and south, have always had to contend with the dominance of anglo-centric culture, while still being imbued with a culture that is subtly different.

    The point I am slowly coming to (deliberately slowly, because it is often a sore point for some unionists, and Newton Emerson has even sneered at people who point it out), is that northern Protestant culture is conspicuous by its absence from the wider stage. Apart from Longley himself (who acknowledges his own sense of Britishness and Irishness), there are very few northern Protestant writers or artists of note. Could it be that northern Protestant culture identifies too completely with the dominant British culture, to the extent of entirely ignoring the Irish culture that is so near to them, and this to their own creative detriment?

    To partially refute my own hypothesis, many mono-cultural groups manage to produce amazing works of art, music and literature. Britain itself produced many treasures long before it became ‘multi-cultural’, so clearly Longley’s ‘cats-cradle’ is not a pre-requisite. France, Germany, Italy, Russia …. the list of similar cases is long.

    Groups similar to the northern Protestants have, in comparable circumstances, produced creative genius – Coetzee in modern South Africa comes to mind; there must be Israelis too but I can’t think of any names. Why the conspicuous absence of the northern Protestant tribe?

  • BonarLaw

    Unusually I managed to sit through last nights’ H & M without wanting to defenestrate the television. O’Leary was excellent and the quality gap between her contributions and those of McKay was stark.

  • Pete Baker

    PJM

    Thanks for that. I may put it above the fold in a post of its own.

    Horseman

    “Why the conspicuous absence of the northern Protestant tribe?”

    I think you’re looking in the wrong places, for the wrong things.

    BonarLaw

    More of a difference in emphasis than quality, I’d suggest. But it was certainly one of the better H&M;.

    I may also have more clips to post from it.

  • Pete Baker,

    “Why the conspicuous absence of the northern Protestant tribe?”

    I think you’re looking in the wrong places, for the wrong things.

    What do you mean?

  • Is there really any need for this insistent ‘racist’ pigeon-holing of artists, authers, poets et al? Does it reflect an underlying inferiority complex?

    The Ulster-Scots brigade is the latest manifestation in the culture wars marching to history’s tune.

    If you can’t ‘eat a flag’ should you give yourself indigestion with a Paulin poem? Mind where you put your foot 🙂

  • Nevin,

    Is there really any need for this insistent ‘racist’ pigeon-holing of artists, authers, poets et al? Does it reflect an underlying inferiority complex?

    As I said above, this is a subject that tends to upset some unionists.

    Neither unionism nor Protestantism is a ‘race’, so I don’t think my comments are racist. I posed the question simply because, out of all of the various sub-categories of Irishness, one is conspicuously absent. And not because it is bringing its cultural gems to a different stage – it is just plain absent.

    As for an ‘underlying inferiority complex’, I wonder who you might be referring to. My own sub-category is well represented in almost all fields (sport is conspicuous by its paucity, though). I suspect the unionist over-reaction to the very posing of the question exposes a nerve, so perhaps it is within unionism that you need to search for the answers.

    Pete Baaker,

    Any hints as to what you were talking about in your 11:17 AM post?

  • Juan Kerr

    Missed Hearts & Minds last night cos I was out getting p*ssed but on a related point I cannot believe that David Adams, in his essay, dares to suggest that ireland owes Britain some sort of apology.I normally think he writes good, sensible stuff but he is talking completely out of his arse on this one.

    Why the hell would Ireland owe Britain an apology? What annoys me most about a lot of Unionists is that they often seem to tar ALL Irish people with the same brush and just assume that everybody in the South is Anti-British. There is no way that is even arguable, and it is outrageously offensive to suggest that any atrocities committed by armed republicans during the troubles were somehow carried out in the name of Irish people or the Irish government. That is where Unionism so often gets it wrong and undermines its own position.

    The unpalatable truth is that what happened in the North had nothing to do with us, so please do not try to drag us into this by way of laying blame at our doorstep. Of course there were sympathisers in the south, and plenty of people who willingly got involved in the situation but that is not the fault of ‘Ireland’, its government or people. NI became the mess it became because of the way it was governed and that is quite simply Britain’s own fault. They could have handled things differently if they’d wished, but they made an absolute horse’s arse of it, and now he wants ireland to issue some apology and accept part of the blame?

    And as for his speculation that if Ireland were in England’s position it would have behaved in the exact same way as regards colonialism and Imperialism… What kind of bullshit logic is that? Where’s the evidence for such a suggestion? What a lazy, dismissive, convenient, airbrushed view of history. Total, utter and complete nonsense I’m afraid.

  • Garibaldy

    Have to say I disagree with Bonar Law. O’Leary had a viewpoint that operated only at the top sections of society, but the troubles were always waged by those at the bottom. And the reality is that in terms of housing, socialising etc we are just as divided as ever, if not more so. McKay’s point about the situation on the ground was well-taken, reminding us of both the sectarian and economic realities in too many areas. On the civil servants point, there were links going back well into the Stormont period, so I think that was overplayed, but relevant. Not so sure about the EEC thing. Again, pre-existing links between civil servants on both islands on economic issues.

    But the big thing I think was missed was the extent to which culture, especially popular culture, is being homogenised across the globe in an Anglo-American framework. In many senses Britishness and Irishness have always shared many of the same fundamentals (along with aspects of our European heritage), and this has been increased recently, but I don’t think been fundamentally altered by increased contact. Rather, O’Leary is right to say that economics have changed the southern state’s perception of itself.

    I thought English’s contributions were poisoned by psychobabble, just like his last book.

    And Juan Kerr, if you want to see how Irish people might have behaved as the representatives of an imperial power, simply look at the way they behaved for the British Empire – no matter what their religious or political background at home, they were overwhelmingly happy imperialists.

  • Dave

    Horseman, unionism doesn’t have a distinct culture beyond the dubious sense of fashion that matches a black bowler hat to an orange sash – certainly not one that merits its own State.

    The principle behind the creation of a State, the first article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is that it is a sovereign territorial entity for a Nation (a peoples and their culture); and, ergo, it is a nation state by default and by design.

    The nation state creates an environment in which the Nation protects and promotes its culture. Without that State, those Nations and their cultures struggle to survive, and never flourish.

    The notion of the State sans the nation is meaningless, lacking legitimacy under Article 1, and can promote only a hollow ‘multiculturalism’ as validation. However, those cultures are the products of nation states; and without the nation state, those cultures cannot be produced or sustained. Chinatown in London or New York is meaningless without China.

    So these proposed ‘shared spaces’ that are to operate as States and have only imported cultures are really just parasitic entities. Like all parasites, they are destructive to the host. Those who advocate the State sans a nation are unwittingly advocating the destruction of the source of cultures that they wish to share.

  • BonarLaw

    Dave

    what a charmingly fascist post.

  • what a charmingly fascist post.

    At least you understood it …

    :-[

  • It is nice to see the essence of nationalism described so transparently though.

  • Dave,

    To stick to the bit I did understand (i.e. the first half-sentence) – I am not talking about a ‘unionist’ culture, or even a ‘Protestant’ culture. I’m trying (vainly, I suspect) to understand why the members of those two groups in the north appear to have contributed very little of noticeable worth to the common cultural wealth of the English-speaking world.

    Why did Yeats come from the south and not the north? Why did Patrick Kavanagh come from Monaghan and not Armagh? How come U2 are from Dublin and not Belfast? How many times have southerners (P and C) won the Booker Prize, while northern Protestants never have even been short-listed? Where is the northern Protestant contribution to our cultural wealth?

    I’m not trying to get at members of that group (some of my best friends, etc, etc ….), but just trying to understand where its creativity actually goes.

  • joinedupthinking

    “Missed Hearts & Minds last night cos I was out getting p*ssed but on a related point I cannot believe that David Adams, in his essay, dares to suggest that ireland owes Britain some sort of apology.”

    I think you might find if you read the FULL Irish Times piece that he was being rather tongue in cheek, merely pointing up how ridiculous the prevailing notion within Ireland is of always having been the innocent victim. As example, he mentions the southern political offences legislation that cost so many lives during the Troubles as having been conveniently forgotten about.

    Having just read the Lives Entwined thing, he doesn’t say anything about apologies in his essay – which is rather good by the way – so must have been making general comment.

  • Little Eva

    Horseman

    Are Van Morrison, James Galway, CS Lewis, James Nesbitt, Stephen Rea, to name but a few, not artists from the Protestant and/or unionist tradition?
    Do we need to go into the sporting field as well?

  • joeCanuck

    It is always wrong without exception to make sweeping generalizations.

  • Little Eva,

    Yeah, those five probably count for something – I thought of CS Lewis just after I posted. I don’t really consider actors as ‘creators’ of cultural wealth, more interpreters.

    There are others, of course: the late Derek Bell (of The Chieftains), Charlie Lawson (of Coronation Street), Snow Patrol (part of), etc. But you’d have to admit that it is slim pickings. If you have more names, especially writers (my own interest), please let me know.

  • Michael Longley, Glenn Patterson.

  • John Hewitt of course.

  • Garibaldy

    I am totally loathe to get involved in this thing about whether Ulster Protestants produce great literary figures (especially as I reject the definition of them as fundamentally different from the rest of the people on the island) though I think that the leading modern interpreter of Shakespear probably deserves a mention.

    But as I say, the whole thing strikes me as nonsense.

  • Oh, and music too, if you know of any, Little Eva. I count Stiff Little Fingers as one of Belfast’s best cultural products, but maybe that opinion is not too widespead …

    On the broader point – Entwined Lives – culture forms a very important part of the communication and contacts between Britain and Ireland (sport, business, etc are other important parts). In the case of culture, though, the British (island of) are well acquainted with Irish culture (largely southern) through books, films, and music. In Ireland, of course, we consume huge amounts of British culture. So on a cultural level our lives overlap quite a lot. But, to return to my point, the contribution of members of the (largely synonymous) northern Protestant and unionist groups to this interaction is minimal. Hence, to be honest, I think England (at least) knows more about nationalist Ireland than about unionist Ireland, and as several of the Hearts and Minds contributors said, this makes Britain and the south more at ease with each other. Hence the importance of the absence of northern Protestants/unionists.

  • Juan Kerr

    JUP – I did read the entire IT piece. You may interpret it as being slightly tongue in cheek, maybe my sense of irony has failed me on this occasion but it would perhaps explain such a half-baked hypothesis.

    And Garibaldy, speaking of things hypothetical, I’m sorry but ‘might have’ and ‘would have’ are hypothetical terms and as such are not empirically sound foundations on which to base an argument that Ireland somehow ‘owes an apology’ to Britain. And I’ve read all of the posts and all of the opinions on the other thread discussing Mr Adams’ article and as usual it’s descending into a typically tribal farce but I’ve seen nothing in any of the arguments put forward by Unionist posters to make me think otherwise. It is absolutely crazy to suggest that Ireland either ‘had it coming to them’or were somehow willing participants in their own subjugation and domination by an aggressive foreign power. To try to argue such a point goes way beyond spin and revisionism. It’s just rubbish.

    I suspect David Adams signed up with the intention of making a worthwhile contribution to this forum, but then found he had nothing much to say, panicked when he saw the deadline looming and just started writing for the sake of it but it is one of the worst pieces of opinion-based ‘journalism’ I have ever encountered in the Irish Times.

  • runciter

    the contribution of members of the (largely synonymous) northern Protestant and unionist groups to this interaction is minimal.

    How many names would have to be mentioned before you gave up this thesis?

  • Garibaldy

    I reject ahistorical apologies wherever they come from. But the point I was making was that there is a great deal of evidence for Irish imperial activity. And it’s not pleasant. I believe in your first post you said there was none. Irish people were active imperialists (even the boul Wolfe Tone hoped to establish Irish colonies at one point), while right up to WWI the overwhelmingly popular Irish Parliamentary Party was an imperialist party. Irish people might not owe the British an apology, but nor should they deny the reality of their history.

  • Dave

    “what a charmingly fascist post.” – Bonar Law

    On the contrary. Multiculturalism would be, for example, Spanish music playing on the street, an area called Chinatown, Indian, French, and Italian restaurants, Latin dancers, Russian accents, ect.

    Now what do all those cultures have in common? The clue is in China, German, Italian, etc.

    They are all cultures that are the products of nation states.

    Eradicate the nation state and you eradicate the culture. So, those who propose the state sans the nation are not promoting culture: they are destroying it.

  • runciter

    How many names would have to be mentioned before you gave up this thesis?

    Well, if many of them were actually of wider standing it would help. I mean, mentioniong people who are barely known in NI, let alone outside of it, is useless. Seriously, imagine if you stopped someone in New York, Paris, or even London, and asked them to name a Northern Irish writer, musician, or poet. Do you really think they’d know any of the names mentioned? I think Van Morrison is the closest you’ll get to famous. Try the same trick with ‘Ireland’, and you’ll get a load of replies, but none of them will be of ‘that tribe’.

    I’m not trying to be insulting here, it is genuinely an issue of interest for me.

  • Garibaldy

    “They are all cultures that are the products of nation states.”

    And here was me thinking that cultural nationalism predated the establishment of nation states, and was one of the main reasons for them.

  • joinedupthinking

    Juan Kerr
    As I said, I have read the Lives Entwined essay, my friend was at the Belfast launch the other day and grabbed me a copy, and it doesn’t mention anything about an apology. It’s actually very good, and very balanced.

  • runciter

    if you stopped someone in New York, Paris, or even London, and asked them to name a Northern Irish writer, musician, or poet. Do you really think they’d know any of the names mentioned?

    Well, they’d probably know these: Van Morrison, James Galway, CS Lewis, James Nesbitt, Stephen Rea, Snow Patrol.

    They might not identify them with ‘Northern Ireland’ per se, but that’s a different issue.

  • Dave,

    I would think that cultures were created by peoples rather than states. The existence of a state is not necessary for a culture (except the highly subsidised modern pseudo-cultures). Italian culture existed long before Garibaldi, and German culture long before Bismark. Yiddish culture existed (and thrived) while there was no Jewish state.

    On the other hand, there are many states without a clearly defined ‘culture’ of their own (Belgium, Switzerland, etc).

  • runciter,

    … they’d probably know these: Van Morrison, James Galway, CS Lewis, James Nesbitt, Stephen Rea, Snow Patrol.

    You really think so?

    You should get out of NI more often, and you’d see how tiny those people are in world terms. CS Lewis is probably the only one o those names that would be easily recognised in the English-speaking world. Out in the wider world, none of them would be recognised, whereas US, Enya, James Joyce, etc, are all truly global brands.

  • … whereas US, Enya …

    Should, of course, read “… whereas U2, Enya ….

  • susan

    a few point of interests, Horseman, which member of U2 is Catholic? James Joyce and Nora Barnacle got on a boat to get away from people who think like you. Van Morrison is a genius. And what kind of mind knows or cares what religion James Galway is?

    I think I will try to catch Mass sometime today, and it isn’t even a First Friday. I just feel completely skeevy just even skimming over the steaming, dehumanising heaps of pettiness that constitute some of the posts on this thread.

  • Little Eva

    Horseman

    Now you’re taking liberties. Van Morrison not known in the USA? You’re having a laugh, surely?
    As for CS Lewis, he’s beloved by the God squad in the States, of which there are very many.

  • runciter

    Out in the wider world, none of them would be recognised

    Overstating your case only undermines it.

    whereas US, Enya, James Joyce, etc, are all truly global brands.

    Which implies that this is a case of marketing.

    I might remind you that your initial claim was: “there are very few northern Protestant writers or artists of note”

    You seem to have changed your position somewhat.

  • Dave

    Horseman, the true multiculturalist is one who believes in the nation state. Irish dancing, for example, is a product of the nation state of… Ireland. It is that “peoples” who are the nation that is the state.

    These nation states are the entities that produce the cultures that comprise the multiculturalism we enjoy around us. However, that multiculturalism should not be used as a pretext to eradicate the nation state. It is being used as such a pretext. Obviously, if the nation state is eradicated then so too is the source of the multiculturalism.

    Yes, nations can survive without a State, but, as I said, they do not flourish. How well have the Aborigines fared? You mentioned Jewish people, well they found that a State was an essential element of survival from those who wished to eradicate them, didn’t they? There are many houses within a house, and Yiddish Jews are about, I think, 5% of Jews within Israel. All nations have an implicit desire for a state, even if we are Zionists. 😉

  • susan,

    … which member of U2 is Catholic?

    In a real sense, probably none. However, three are from Dublin, and one is English (tho lived in Dublin since infancy). None is a northern Protestant/unionist.

    James Joyce and Nora Barnacle got on a boat to get away from people who think like you.

    Van Morrison also moved to Dublin, to get away from, perhaps, people like you? Your post is veering towards the ad hominem, by the way. Thats a no-no on this site!

    Van Morrison is a genius.

    Maybe. I only like some of his music.

    And what kind of mind knows or cares what religion James Galway is?

    Bear in mind, it was not me who mentioned him. I have no idea of his religion, and I imagine he would be quite quick to distance himself from any identification with unionism …

    I fully understand your distaste for the mention of religion here. I would be more happy to talk only of members of the ‘unionist community’, but it wouldn’t change the thrust of my argument. That community is largely absent from the British-Irish cultural conversation (as Mick might call it).

  • runciter

    … your initial claim was: “there are very few northern Protestant writers or artists of note”

    You seem to have changed your position somewhat.

    Au contraire. The second-rate offerings that have been suggested here have merely proved my point. None of them are well known on the world stage. Most not even on the national stage …

  • Dave,

    Irish dancing, for example, is a product of the nation state of… Ireland.

    Wrong. Irish dancing (and music, and language and literature, and theatre, etc, etc) preceded the establishment of the state. I wonder if you actually know what a state is?

  • Little Eva

    Horseman
    Are you just a bigot masquerading as something else?
    If not you’re one hell of an actor.

  • Little Eva,

    Given your binary choice, I would have to be a hell of an actor, then.

    As an (ex)-Protestant I don’t think I am particularly bigotted – I dislike all religions equally – maybe that’s bigotry too, I don’t know. I am merely trying to discuss an issue of interest to me – the apparent absence of a large chunk of my fellow countrymen and women from the cultural shere. Its bizarre, but yet clear as daylight. Something in the northern ‘unionist community’ stops it from producing works of outstanding cultural merit. Unionism per se isn’t the problem, because plenty of southern unionists produced art, literature and music, as have nationalists north and south (of all religions and none).

  • Dave

    Okay Horseman, be a tit on your own time.

    I suggest you acquaint yourself with the first article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as mentioned earlier. It might clue you in that a nation preceeds a state, being the basis for granting the concession in international law.

  • runciter

    The second-rate offerings that have been suggested here have merely proved my point.

    Your opinions (that these artists are second-rate and not well-known) do not prove your point.

  • runciter,

    Precisely eight names have been suggested, if I’ve counted correctly:

    CS Lewis – I accept his iconic status in the English-speaking world. I’ve eeven read the Narnia books! He is the single northern ‘unionist community’ writer of that stature.

    Van Morrison – Likewise, he is well know, in blues circles at least, worldwide.

    James Galway – hmm, slipping down the ‘recognition’ ladder already. But at least some people might know who he is.

    Michael Longley – I already excluded him very early on from the mono-culturalism of the ‘unionist community’ as he himself acknowledges the Irish dimension of his identity. He is, therefore, taking part in the ‘conversation’.

    Glenn Patterson – a big fish only in Northern Ireland’s little pond.

    John Hewitt – I have to say I’ve never read a word he’s written, and I don’t think many people outside NI would ever have heard of him. On Amazon.co.uk his ‘Selected Works’ rank as number 704,054 in Books. Not exactly a big seller!

    The two actors – interpreters, not creators of culture.

    Is that it?

  • Little Eva

    “…but yet clear as daylight.”

    Only to you, and you seem to be wearing a blindfold.

    Many examples to disprove your declaration have been given but you choose to ignore them. Suggests wilful blindness to me and others. The reason for this can only be speculated upon, but unhealthy bias of some sort is at play.
    I for one won’t be indulging your bigotry any more.

  • Garibaldy

    How are actors not creators of culture? Arrant nonsense. So Oilivier or whoever are mere cyphers for words written by others? The thing about performance art is, a lot of it has to do with the performance.

    And as for acknowledging the Irish parts of unionist identity, wasn’t Big Ian doing that this very week?

  • Alan

    Horseman,

    Your point is correct and has obviously touched a nerve hence the unnecessary needle towards you.
    CS Lewis is the only northern writer of a Unionist heritage that is known on the world stage of class A writers of past and present. The rest are barely known in Ireland or Britain.

    From the South of Ireland there are numerous Catholic and Protestant Irish writers of world renown. This is a simple fact. What was it Samuel Beckett said about the cream of Northern Unionism when he spent some time teaching them….

    Seamus Heaney of course proves that the Northern nationalists could still produce world class poets despite the abnormal nature of the northern statelet. Maybe the loyal folk of Ulster should spend more time reading classic literature than marching in silly parades?

    Although Zadie Smith’s husband Nick Laird is supposedly talented, and he’s from a Unionist background. Perhaps he will strike a light for Unionists literature outside of the wee province.

  • Alan,

    … What was it Samuel Beckett said about the cream of Northern Unionism when he spent some time teaching them….

    Unfortunately he said that about the pupils in my own alma mater!

    Don’t worry, I don’t take Little Eva’s criticism too hard. As I said very early on, some unionists get very touchy on this subject. Most of them just go very silent …

    I would be very happy if there were some top bands, writers, film-makers, etc, from the ‘unionist community’. Thing is, there just aren’t. And when someone asks why (as I continue to do), they get accused of all sorts of sins (on this thread alone I’ve been called a racist and a bigot!).

  • Garibaldy

    See the problem here is seeing artistic creation as nothing more than indicative of a community.

    And besides that we are talking about what, 1 million people? Are people in suburbs of New York or London or Moscow having this type of debate?

    And never mind the artificial division of the island’s liteary culture into north and south. After all Yeats, Wilde, Joyce, Beckett, etc come from a time pre-partition. And that is leaving alone the debate of whether they should be seen as Irish writers or not.

    But northern protestants produced Francis Hutcheson. Let’s talk about why Irish Catholics are shit at philosophy

  • Dave

    Alan, does it matter if Unionism has produced a rich culture or not? They never claimed to an ethnic group that was other than British, so they should be included in that cultural group.

    There isn’t any distinct culture of Unionism as an ethnic group that needs to be protected by mandating a state for it, and no one sees Northern Ireland as a proper state – it remains an enclave for those who were ‘settled’ in Ireland during a process of colonisation and who remain loyal to the United Kingdom.

    They will never be loyal to the nation state of Ireland, and the current political process does not require them to be. Instead, the political agenda is to undermine the loyalty of Irish people to their own nation state, thereby smoothing its deconstruction and replacement by a bi-national entity should allowed outcome transpire under the GFA.

    The contempt for democracy in all of this is staggering, but that’s what happens when agencies of the State gain de facto control the media and use it to proffer a political agenda. It looks like politics but it’s really just brainwashing the people to ‘democratically’ support the agenda.

  • Dave

    “And never mind the artificial division of the island’s liteary culture into north and south. After all Yeats, Wilde, Joyce, Beckett, etc come from a time pre-partition. And that is leaving alone the debate of whether they should be seen as Irish writers or not.” – Garibaldy

    Really? You didn’t seem to have such doubts about the nationality of ‘Irish’ people when you were branding them as colonizers a few posts back:

    “…if you want to see how Irish people might have behaved as the representatives of an imperial power, simply look at the way they behaved for the British Empire – no matter what their religious or political background at home, they were overwhelmingly happy imperialists.” – Garibaldy

    Surely there is “debate” about whether or not Irish people are guilty of imperial adventurism at all. Shouldn’t their sins be lumped in with the sins of other British people for the sack of consistency in your derogation, or at least a similar question mark placed over their sins as was placed over their successes?

    Here’s a free clue: you don’t demonstrate how wonderfully non-sectarian you are by attacking Catholics. That is still sectarianism irrespective of your own religion. That isn’t to your credit, despite whatever misguided thoughts may motivate the practice.

  • Dave

    “But northern protestants produced Francis Hutcheson. Let’s talk about why Irish Catholics are shit at philosophy.” – Garibaldy

    Quoted for classic status. 😉

  • Alan

    Dave, you’ll agree Shakespeare is synonomous with Elizbethan England when he is spoken about. He isn’t refered to as a British but as English.

    The point isn’t made to attack Unionista but merely to highlight perhaps a lack of confidence within Northern Unionists to express themselves and their culture in ways other than flags and marching bands with big drums. They don’t seem to have the confidence to do it through areas of high artisitc merit.

    Yes, there are only roughly a million of them. But is it nor strange that Beckett and Wilde were Southern Protestant and not Northern Protestant? Does it not show perhaps that Northern Protestantism is much more insular and closed off and in the process the people are unknowingly denied the spiritual freedom of artistic expression so easily found in the less oppressive South?

    Even pre-partition there is only CS Lewis. The nature of Northern Unionism in Ireland is to be always highly strung, defensive and belligerent towards Gaelic Irish. Perhaps this way of life isn’t conducive to artistic creativity.

  • Garibaldy

    What I meant by the Irish writers remark was whether they should be seen as distinctively within an Irish tradition of writing, or within broader traditions, be they British or French even. The same applies to people like Burke, Hutcheson, etc etc. I was reading recently that a Moscow newspaper had printed some stuff things to say to the English football fans, which includes references to Shaw and Wilde as British. Clearly in terms of birth they are Irish, but it is not so clear cut about how we should see their writing.

    As for the question of the involvement in Irish people in imperialism. That was in response to the suggestion that there was no evidence that Irish people had the capacity to act the way the British had done as an imperial power. The point I was making is that even people who wanted some form of Irish independence had proven themselves perfectly capable of engaging in imperial adventures. And that is beyond debate, because the facts are clear, and easily checked. It peaked and was most vividly demonstrated by the attitude of the electorate in supporting Redmond’s Home Rule imperialism, and following him to war.

    And I haven’t attacked Catholics. Perhaps you can point out where I have. The thing was quote on philosophy was (an attempt at being) satirical.

  • Driftwood

    Northern Ireland has Glenn Patterson, Newton Emerson, the guy from Bangor who writes Murphy’s Law…..
    Better than that overrated old tosspot Seamus Heaney anyday.
    Oh and Martin Lynch, presumably on his perch in the John Hewitt as I type.

  • Garibaldy

    “Yes, there are only roughly a million of them. But is it nor strange that Beckett and Wilde were Southern Protestant and not Northern Protestant? Does it not show perhaps that Northern Protestantism is much more insular and closed off and in the process the people are unknowingly denied the spiritual freedom of artistic expression so easily found in the less oppressive South?”

    Yet Wilde wrote before partition and Beckett left Ireland because it was oppressive for a writer like him. So I fail to see how they support the argument.

  • Alan

    Geribaldy, they were both reared in Dublin and went to University in Trinity College which is where their talente were developed. How many Protestant ex-Queen’s students went on to such acclaim inside or outside of Ireland?

    Perhaps the literary tradition has always been much more encouraged in the South and Protestants in the south got that encouragement from an early age which Northern Protestants don’t have.

  • Garibaldy

    But Ireland was not partitioned when Wilde wrote. So what is the justification for splitting north from south? It’s a retrospective, anachronistic one. As for Beckett, first published writing in Paris. Where he met Joyce. Who left because Ireland was too repressive. This is simply nonsense, historically speaking.

  • Alan

    So what if Ireland wasn’t partitioned? Was Belfast not far more sectarian than Dublin even pre-partition? Of course it was, as was all of Ulster which is why Protestants in the South like Wilde, Yeats, JM Synge and Beckett developed literary talents free of Ulster Unionism’s oppressive sectarian politics. None of the four were in the mind numbing Orange Order I suspect despite their religion!

    Yet you would have us believe it isn’t a coincidence that the vast majority of Irish Protestants always lived in Ulster and yet all of the famous Irish Protestant writers bar CS Lewis weren’t of Ulster Protestant background.

    No, there’s no coincidence there at all.

  • Little Eva

    “Of course it was, as was all of Ulster which is why Protestants in the South like Wilde, Yeats, JM Synge and Beckett developed literary talents free of Ulster Unionism’s oppressive sectarian politics.”

    Most of those, at one time or another, all fled the “oppressive”, as Beckett put it, South. Which kind of undermines your argument.

  • Alan

    It doesn’t undermind anything, Little Eva. Because the facts remain they were all born and reared and attented university in the South of Ireland. Upon coming adults they left a very politicised Ireland but they were already writers when they left.

    Earlier Garibaldy used the tame excuse there is only 1 million Northern Prods so you can’t expect too many genius writers. And herein lies the blatant denial of reality.

    Because the Protestant population of Southern Ireland was far less than 1 million. Yet still it produced the four literary greats I mentioned. So clearly there is a reason Protestants in the South created great writers but in insular orange Ulster, Protestant writers didn’t develop at all.

  • joeCanuck

    This sterile argument makes me want to say the “F” word.
    Ah to hell with it, in for a penny , in for a pound – this is a fucking stupid argument.

  • Alan

    It isn’t an argument.

    It’s a simple matter of literary interest. But, of course, mention Ulster Prods in a sentence and the defence barricades come up before they even know what it’s about.

  • joeCanuck

    And if anyone wants to criticize my choice of a specific word, I’m sorry. I wanted to be more creative but unfortunately I’m from the North, just a thick Tyrone man.

  • dave

    “Are Van Morrison, James Galway, CS Lewis, James Nesbitt, Stephen Rea, to name but a few, not artists from the Protestant and/or unionist tradition?”

    I don’t know much about CS Lewis’ background, but each of the others have been proud to call themselves Irish (not northern Irish either) and George Best as well. Anyway to the British people, the most loyal to the queen Orangeman is still and will always be a Paddy, an Irishman.

  • Garibaldy

    Joe,

    It is indeed a stupid argument. But a strangely compelling one.

    Ireland has a vibrant liteary tradition. And Ireland has produced some great writers. That’s how I look at it. Howevere, when I see people introducing retrospective divisions and making ahistorical arguments, I feel I must protest.

    But I think I’ll give up trying to convince those who refused to be convinced that the world, especially when it comes to the flowering of individual creative talents, many of them beyond these shores, can be a lot more complex than the sectarian division that shapes our current reality.

  • Alan

    There’s absolutely nothing sectarian about glorifying Ireland’s greatest and glorious Protestant writers.

    Nor is ther anything sectarian about wonder why, considering the concentration of Irish Protestants in the North, that all these famous Protestan Irish writers didn’t come from Ulster. Only CS Lewis did.

    And no answer can be given to explain this coincidence so the word sectarian must be trumpeted out rather than ask questions that might not give welcome answers about Orange Ulster.

  • Dave (not dave)

    Do folks really need to be told why they should never separate the nation from the state? If they do, then they should take a look at what happened to the nation (i.e. the people) they last time that happened in Ireland. They state introduced a raft of measures aimed at suppressing the nation and its culture with devastating consequences for it. In Northern Ireland, the nation is still separated from the state, and the nation must struggle against those who control the state for support for its culture. Where the nation and the state are one, as in the Republic, the state may promote its culture as the nation sees fit. In Northern Ireland, the nation begs the state to support the Irish language and the state just mocks the request. In the nation state, there are no mutual vetoes.

    Those cultures that we celebrate today are the ones that survived and flourished because they were protected by nation states. Aborigines are a nation without a state, being indigenous to Australia for 40,000 years, and their numbers has declined by 80% since British colonisation. Lacking the right to self-determination, they are at the mercy of a government that treats them appallingly. Palestinians are another Nation who separated from a State and are likewise, treated appalling by the Israeli government and by the international community. These affronts to nations are in the here and now, but do we really care? Nope, because it’s not our problem – just like nobody will care about us if we are ever dumb enough to concede our sovereignty, independence, and right to self-determination to an entity other than an Irish nation state.

    If folks think that we have moved on to a more enlightened are of universal humanity, then think again. No one gives a rat’s ass about the misery that was inflicted on the Iraqi people in a neo-imperial profiteering or the lies that were told to the people in order to justify the atrocity. They know they were lied to by their own governments in order to facilitate a war that is illegal under international law and that war crimes were committed but they don’t give a rat’s ass about that either. Nations should retain full control of their own affairs, administering the State in accordance with their own culture. Folks are making a fatal mistake if they believe that other nation states, or those who are engaged in engineering an illegitimate super state such as the EU, care about their culture or even about their fundamental human rights. They don’t.

  • susan

    Alan, what conclusions do you draw about my gender, given the paucity of women, Northern or Southern, Catholic or Protestant, republican or unionist, trumpeted on the literary world’s list of “greatest hits”? We’re not all pregnant, all of the time.

    For that matter, what conclusions do you draw about my religion, Catholicism, for that matter, given that most on your list of irish literary greats were not Catholic?

    i would be truly curious to hear your non-sectarian, non-sexist insights into my own religion or my gender based on the yardstick of sales at amazon or nobel prizes.

    My shelves are teeming with novels and collections of poems by Irish women, but none of them could be considered “world famous.” I don’t make or accept generalisations about my gender based on that criteria, why would I accept the definition of another’s identity or community by that standard?

    As garibaldy pointed out, genius in the arts tends to say much about the genius, less about the community in which the artist is either nurtured or rebelling against. If I did try to identify a unifying characteristic in authors I find myself revisiting through the years — Joyce, Shakespeare, Yeats, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Longley and Heaney — perhaps it would be their sense of apartness, or otherness, from the cultures from which they sprang.

    That, and quite a few of them drank like fish.

    What insightful conclusions do you offer about consumers of alcohol, based on their disproportionate representation amidst those recognised on the world’s stage of literary greats?

  • Little Eva

    This started off as artists. Then when a list was issued it became writers. When a list of those was produced it then became “great” writers.

    The whole argument is actually the wrong way around.
    Why did the tiny minority Protestant community in the south produce so many great artists?
    Most likely, Protestants in the south did what a lot of other repressed minority communities do, and found expression through the arts. That is why, per head of population, Protestant artists punched massively above their weight. While the southern majority community produced artists in no more propensity per head of population than any other such society.

    I wonder why the so repressed catholic community in the north hasn’t followed this pattern. Heaney aside, there’s hardly anyone you could consider great.

  • Garibaldy

    Problem with that analysis Little Eva is that most of the people mentioned as being from the were members of the elite that governed the whole of the country, nevermind the fact that they identified themselves mainly as Irish. So why did the well-educated, well-off elite of a country which had access to several great literary traditions – Irish, British and European – and was part of the world’s leading empire at the time produce great works might be a better way to phrase the question.

    But again, the whole point of genius is that it is not representative.

  • dub

    Little Eva,

    The Protestant community in the South is/was a repressed minority?!! You clearly do not have a clue what you are talking about.

    Dave (aka the Dubliner)

    Northern Ireland is not and never has been a State.

    Horseman HAS touched a very raw nerve here. A lot of Ulster Protestants have a kind of settler mentality… they live in Ireland but many do not see themslves as being “of it”. This is unique in these islands, there is no other comparable community of such long standing in a country in the archipelago which has such a view of itself in relation to its surroundings. This was not always the case and i believe that this is now changing. So perhaps we will see more creativity from that community.

    Little Eva,

    Ever heard of Brian Friel or Brian Moore? 2 more world famous writers from the irish untermenshcen in the North which you so evidently look down upon…

  • Dave

    “What insightful conclusions do you offer about consumers of alcohol, based on their disproportionate representation amidst those recognised on the world’s stage of literary greats?”

    Well, Ireland is a case apart because its island status means that it could never be fully assimilated into other nations states or its people fully subjugated. This also has the effect that the smell of Guinness can be carried on an east wind from St James’s Gate, chasing the likes of Brendan Behan as he escapes to Wicklow to concentrate on his literacy output as opposed to his drinking. It’s the brewing industry… they put something into their brews that creates with the literary gene. The idea isn’t to profit from selling beers and such to the intelligentsia; it’s to profit from associating their brews with that class. You know… sorta like why sexy blondes are draped over sports cars. Blondes aren’t the target market; they’re just the bait. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Hic.

  • susan

    I’ll drink to that.

  • Little Eva

    dub
    If you believe that, then you clearly have no idea about your own city’s history never mind that of the south as a whole. For a recent example, read what Graeme Norton has to say about growing up there as a Prod.

    As for the untermenschen jibe from the other clown. Christ that’s rich coming from someone who, along with his little bigot mates, have spent all day claiming that northern Prods have produced no artists of any kind. Straight out of failed writer and former “revolutionary” Danny Morrison’s text book that one.

  • Tom

    Enjoying Horseman’s particular line of debate and the reasonably-civilized counterarguments it’s spawning, but I’m afraid Dave (not dave) has hit a particular topical nerve of mine and so I’m going to have to attempt a threadjack.

    Dave, I assume I’m not misrepresenting you to say you subscribe to at least a vaguely ethnically-tinged definition of a nation as a socio-cultural construction that exists independently but in parallel with the state (rather than, say, adopting a recursive one which defines any community of people happily interacting within a single soveriegn state entitity as automatically comprising a “nation”).

    So long as the definition doesn’t drift mid-argument, I don’t see anything wrong with taking such a viewpoint; my own view isn’t particularly different from yours on that count. It mightn’t make certain kumbaya sectors happy, but nations as you describe them do tend to exist.

    And for the great majority of examples, it’s undeniable that the nation and the state match so closely that people quite logically use “nation” as a synonym for “state” and use “national” as an adjectival form because “statey” or “stateish” just don’t seem to cut it (eg, “international relations” is the field that predominantly concerns itself with the relationships between “states”).

    So yeah, the Japanese nation and the Japanese state do overlap quite nicely, as does the Icelandic state and the Icelandic nation. Even though the American nation involves peoples of all colours and origins, I, too, think you can make the case it exists, and fills up the United States of America quite handily. Perhaps someday an all-island Irish state will indeed encompass an all-island Irish nation. I don’t doubt a great many people disagree with that.

    But this whole “without a nation a state fails” line of argument is sheer bollocks, precisely because there are states–not many, but enough–that function just fine without a unicultural heart.

    For instance, could Dave explain who the “Canadian nation” is? Perhaps he could cite some examples of Canadian food, or dance, or costume or something that jibes with that definition.

    G8 country. 33 million people. Chugs along quite happily while the economy to its south goes kaput. Even produces some half-decent cultural output. Has occasional ideological crises precisely because it doesn’t have a nation-to-state relationship that matches very well with what seems “normal” elsewhere in the developed world. But, um, it seems to endure.

  • Steve

    Tom

    As a Canadian I think you slightly misrepresent us. We do not have a clearly defined national character or costume or food but we do share common traits and while us prairie folk dont sound at all like the newfies, the societies we both inhabit differ only slightly. probably the most obvious disparate character is not infact the french but the Albertans, they are far more conservative than the rest of the centre left nation

  • jaffa

    Susan,

    Perhaps we should conclude that the only people rated for their cultural genius by southern irish men are southern irish men.

    Horseman.

    If you’ve never read John Hewitt you should really read John Hewitt. He may not be as great an international figure as Heaney but the fact that he’s not known to you south of the border begs questions as to the republic’s selection of poets for your english syllabus.

    “Why did the tiny minority Protestant community in the south produce so many great artists?”

    good schools and a leisured upbringing?

    Btw if we really want to get nasty we can take this taxonomy of cultural retardation still further. CS Lewis was, like this anglo southern prods, an anglican so obviously the problem in the black north is the mindset of the Scottish Presbyterian.

  • jaffa

    “Most likely, Protestants in the south did what a lot of other repressed minority communities do, and found expression through the arts”

    If art/culture is concerned with reconciling the personal with the social/trancendent then maybe it takes a certain amount of outsiderness to trigger the creative appetite. Not neccessarily “repression”.

    The question is what happens to creativity when the people of a state becomes self-satisfied and everyone agrees on a received national story and pre-digested “national” culture?

    Oh yes…..Dustin.

  • Robbie

    What writers has the Protestant community contributed? Aside form the poets, try the playwrights: Sam Thompson, Stewart Parker, John Boyd, Graham Reid, Gary Mitchell, Christina Reid, Marie Jones…Let me guess you haven’t heard of any of these, of course not.

    If you haven’t heard of them you’ll look it up on Amazon and not read it but formulate an opinion based on how much the book has sold. Quite. A very Celtic Tiger trait: patent but highly stupid. Going back to the writers – funnily enough, they put on ‘Spokesong’ and ‘Pentecost’ at the old Northern Bank building in Belfast recently, and anyone who witnessed those shows was pretty blessed. Any single human being who believes that U2 and Enya is superior to the aforementioned plays and playwrights should be clinically certified and locked away for the rest of time. I can only pity the epic stupidity of some of the things said on this thread.