Main de Dieu – what it tells us about national characters

Sunday Times columnist Dominic Lawson certainly inherited father Nigel’s splendid disdain for group think over world scale matters like climate change and spending out of a recession. I marvel how exquisitely he gets right up the noses of Irish and British alike in a few phrases, over that notorious qualifier.

In the case of Thierry Henry’s handling of the ball, which led to the French scoring a decisive goal in their World Cup eliminator against the Republic of Ireland, an entire nation has taken on the role of unjustly oppressed victim — something the Irish do well, having had several centuries of practice…
The Irish should be especially dismayed by the way the British press has lavished such sympathy on them for their misfortune in the Stade de France, as it merely demonstrates that we still condescendingly feel Ireland is an extension of the United Kingdom

Well, to me and many others without condescension, the ROI has always been a home nation. Fintan O’Toole’s reflection is nearer the mark.

It would have been almost comforting had Ireland failed because they were simply not good enough. Fatalism is still the default condition of Irish culture.

  • Driftwood

    I think Dominic probably speaks for the majority of people here on this issue, even if he is a loony left political commentator.

  • Scaramoosh

    Perhaps, the more simple, and honest, answer, is that the Irish dislike injustice.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Perhaps the British Press, ie, Sky Sports, simply react to consumer demand, Dominic? How many Sky Sports subscribers in Ireland?

    Do you think the Sky bosses in Britain give a shit whether those consumers are British, Irish or Chinese as long as they pay their Sky bills every month?

    I think not.

  • ML

    I don’t think one needs to have any particular political view to sympathize with the Ireland team. They were rob pure and simple. That is a fact. The game’s call “football”, not “handball”. With a few exceptions, you’re suppose to use your feet.

    So, I don’t see what the brouhaha is all about.

  • Coy Royle

    I don’t know this offspring,no-mark,Dominic.

    Is he a fat, ugly fecker like his alleged da, Nigel?

  • rapunsel

    Who gives a fuck what Dominic Lawson thinks. I suppose his great grandparents were justly oppressed or did they just have several centuries of practice too?

  • Seymour Major

    Its not just sympathy for the Irish though, is it?

    English antipathy and animosity towards the French arises out of the Norman invasion of 1066 and wars with the French in every century until 1815.

    The Sun likes to bring out the anti-French jingoism out when it gets the chance. On the front page of one of its editions was a picture of the handling incident under the caption “Hand of Frog”

  • snail in a bottle

    Home nation? It’s not a question of personal preference or not Brian. We either are or not a home nation in the game of Association Football. And the simple truth is that we’re not.

    Don’t like the truth Brian?

    (I thought that truth was what being a writer is all about…)

  • lula

    Oh come on, Brian, it’s a story right out of a comic book. The team played with genuine heart. The underdog always gets greater sympathy. Of the two teams, the natural “just” narrative is for the underdog with heart to prevail over the impossible Goliath. Throw into the mix that that “natural” narrative was overthrown by cynicism (i.e. the handball) and it makes for a great story.

    The loss was a grave disappointment. For over an hour the entire nation (and a good portion of soccer-watching Europe) though that the great “just” narrative would become true. In a moment, the narrative was reversed and Goliath won the day by a trick of cynicism over heart (or that’s the apparent narrative at least).

    What does it mean for the Irish psyche? Well we already knew that we had a thing for narratives. We also knew that we have a touch for playing the victim. We knew too that we as a nation we can act as one, that we are very patriotic. Is it embarrassing that our Foreign Minister and Prime Minister raised the result of a football game at an EU Council meeting? A little. Is it a bad thing? No, this is a republic. I like the idea that our politicians evidently no different from the rest of us. I like the idea that they think of “normal” things like the rest of us.

    But we need to get over it now. There’s been a lot of comparisons between the Hand of Gaul and the Hand of God. Really, if there is anything that is different between us and the English, please let us not still be going on about how “wronged” we were a quarter century from now. Life goes on.

    Do I find it “condescending” that the UK considers the Republic an “extension” of the UK? Well, no, I don’t because I don’t think the UK does. I do think that you are more correct when you describe ROI/all of IRL as still (and always) being one of the “home nations”. As we settle down again to watch the ROI squad play their league matches for English cities (and as we cheer on those teams as if they were our own cities), can we really deny that?

    There is nothing “condescending” about suggesting that after a millennium of British interference in Ireland – and the millennium of Irish interference in Britain that was before then – that there may be just one or two bonds of kinship between our people.

  • igor

    “we still condescendingly feel Ireland is an extension of the United Kingdom.”

    No … we just hate the French

  • 6countyprod

    Had a good chat today with some of the in-laws down south. They seem to have come to terms with the footballing fiasco.

    We all agreed that although the result was unfair, Ireland has benefited in the past from decisions by 2nd rate refs, and that most, if not all teams will cheat to win. We also agreed that it’s time for The Game to come into the 21st century and start using modern methods to eliminate sloppy refereeing and disputed decisions.

    A far greater concern for all the folks there was the presence of ‘hoards of foreigners’ (definitely not the Brits) who were becoming a drain on the State. I reckon, deep down, the Irish still consider themselves part of the family of nations on these islands, even though they are a little wayward.

  • borderline

    I take it then 6cp that you don’t consider yourself to be Irish.

    Although, if you are of auld Ulster stock, I have no doubt your forefathers did.

    When are you coming back?

  • Nick

    So the British media sympathised with the Irish out of some misplaced sense of ‘ownership’ did they.

    Actually, we no longer think like that and nor would we wish to have Ireland as a home nation – we already have one tax-drain to the north of us!

    What is more accurate is that teh Brits tend to believe in fair play and clearly Ireland was robbed by a piece of blatant cheating that was witnessed by millions.

    Shame on Thierry Henry, shame on France and shame on FIFA for allowing the act to go unpunished.

    The very least that should befall the gallic cheats is that FIFA bans Henry from playing in the competition for 6 years.

    And by the way, we actually do not hate the French – many of them that I know are great people. We dont like France though. REason – they attacked us from behind in a cowardly manner when we were dealing with a bunch of vikings in the north – and then claimed some kind of great victory. A bit like their recent football ethics. No?!

  • Greg Hand

    There were a lot of bigots crawling out of the woodwork over this affair.

    You know them by their use of the MOPE construct, and its variants.

    The simple facts are as follows:

    The general observation that Ireland played very well and were unlucky that an illegimate goal was allowed.

    The Roy Keane observation that Ireland are always timimg out to the wire where you need everything to go in your favour, rather than grabbing a win with room to spare.

    Roy has his own issues of course, but he was right on this.

  • kensei


    A far greater concern for all the folks there was the presence of ‘hoards of foreigners’ (definitely not the Brits) who were becoming a drain on the State.

    A far greater concern is if this type of hateful xenophobia is gaining any traction because of the downturn.

  • 6countyprod


    I can assure you that there was nothing hateful or xenophobic in the conversation between a group of northern Protestants and southern Catholics who were all on their best behaviour on a lazy Sunday afternoon. More a deep concern in a rural southern Irish community about when the downturn would end – some reckoned it is going to get a lot worse before it starts getting better – and how in the world they are ever going to continue covering the cost of the dole, over 200 euro/week, to all the foreigners who have recently arrived on their shores.

    Please try to resist your attitude that anyone who is anxious about foreigners is by default a hateful xenophobe.


    Northern Irish, absolutely!

    Some of my ancestors arrived here shortly after escaping the slaughter of Protestants on Saint Bartholomew’s Day. Is that okay? Am I allowed to stay?

  • Henry94

    I thought the interesting thing in the end was 200,000 signing up for various campaigns on Facebook and 200 showing up for a march.

    That’s activism in the 21st Century. Click and nothing.

    an entire nation has taken on the role of unjustly oppressed victim — something the Irish do well, having had several centuries of practice…

    When Maradonna scored his “Hand of God” goal the English whinged like pros despite all their experience of oppression being on the other side of the boot.