Trouble with the Troubles in the Irish Diaspora…

I was talking to a friend in Limerick, who’s particularly well networked (virtually and in real terms) with the Irish diaspora. One of the things he suggested is that that the troubles plays a much larger role, certainly within the Irish diaspora in the states than is often appreciated at home, to the point where there are some profound disconnects between the diaspora and the reality on the ground, ‘back home’.

As Richard McKibbin found recently, whilst those attitudes may be somewhat two dimensional, they are also as sincerely and felt as intuitively as though they were still ‘at home’. He recalls a recent incident in the US:

It was a wintery Chicago day last year when I was stuck in the “Windy City” for a few days on my way home from Texas due to snow on the runway at Heathrow Airport. On the day my rescheduled flight was going I went to an “L” station to get a train to the airport. Being the hopeless tourist that I was I was wearing a cowboy hat. All of a sudden an older man strikes up a conversation asking if I had been out West and I explained I was there to see my then fiancée (now wife) and my flights had been cancelled due to bad weather in London. I explained I was from Northern Ireland and he said “I’m Irish too.” “Really” I replied “What part?” I asked. “My parents are from Kilkenny but I have never been to Ireland” he said and then asked “do you say Derry or Londonderry” I dodged the question by explaining it depends who’s asking and whereabouts I am standing at the time, after which he said “I say Derry” and walked away.

I was shocked to be asked that question outside Northern Ireland frankly, but then I realised I had encountered a Plastic Paddy. Now don’t misunderstand me, not all Irish Americans are really that political when it comes to the Ireland question, but there are some who I refer to as “Plastic Paddys” are more ardent than most dissident republicans.

Yet it the post Troubles Northern Ireland religious affiliation is playing a less important role in how people vote. Yet poll after poll states that 25% of the Roman Catholic population support the union with the United Kingdom. Yet the majority of “Plastic Paddies” seem to believe that religious affiliation sets someone’s political views on Northern Ireland in stone.

The issue may seem trite, on transient. But for me it indicates a deeper problem. The Diaspora is a huge asset (as opposed to resource) to Ireland, north and south. But there is clearly a lot of yardage to be made up between the larger interests of the island now and where it might have been, say, ten or fifteen years ago.

Upping the quality of that engagement not least at a time when the globalisation process is shifting, albeit unsteadily, from the west to the east is critical. It’s not enough to blame Irish Americans for not taking the trouble to understand ‘us’ properly; rather we need to take more trouble to get to know them.

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  • Interesting, Mick.
    Here’s another interesting tidbit. At my work there is a tradition of dressing “Irish” on Paddy’s day, supposedly only for those with an Irish family link. Fully half of the workforce participate. I’m talking about a facility with 2000 employees.

  • I had similar conversations with Englishmen about London. Even after explaining that I was a Yank, they’d ask me, “Are you Protestant or Catholic?” Ugh.

    Inspecting the local university reading list — heavily biased towards Irish nationalism and the IRA — I naively thought choosing Boston — with a more contemporary Irish connection — would give me a more balanced perspective. Ha!

    The best thing I did was to visit Ireland before my uni studies. This was mid 1980s, well before the Celtic boom. Met lots of young people my age (i.e. when I was young!) and got a true, firsthand account of Irish life and politics. This armed me with useful rebuttals at the nonsense propagated by Irish-Americans.

  • michael-mcivor

    There is a problem- abroad a lot of people who are not Irish-want to be more Irish than the Irish-whilst in Ireland-especially in a certain 6 counties a lot of people do not want to be Irish- its a funny old world- but its our world-

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    I am always amused by the dismissive attitude of the liberal meeja when encountering opinions of the Irish abroad that they dont like. Perjorative terms like plastic paddy are merely insulting. The willingness to recognise the Irish disaspora as an asset to be used, as long as they remain silent and dont voice opinions that dont fit with the current liberal agenda. It may be true to say that it is easier for people not domiciled in Ireland to veer towards the extremes of the current political discourse, but this doesnt make their point of view less valid.
    In fact if a sizable portion of the diaspora hold these views then they must not only be recognised but taken into account if there is to be engagement with them in the future – presidential election franchise extended to emmigrants???

    Democracy isnt just for Alliance voters

  • Tochais Síoraí

    I witnessed my own little vignette re the diaspora which I’ve never forgotten. On a late night bus home from Trafalgar Square in the late 80s a discussion started between a couple of Irish groups about Soccer and specifically the ROI team. Others joined in and one person with a London accent made plain his allegiances were Irish. The discussion moved onto players and positions and got heated enough particularly between this guy and a rather loudmouthed Dub who responded to one opinion with ‘WTF would you know? You’re just a Plastic Paddy’ Our new English accented colleague replied with ‘If you’re so fukkin Irish, let’s continue this argument in Irish’ and he proceeded to do so in fluent Kerry Irish. To a chorus of cheers, it shut the other guy up (he was talking shite anyways) but it made the rest of us think a bit and it’s certainly a memory that has stayed with me and I’ve never had much time for the term ‘Plastic Paddy’ since.

  • DoppiaVu

    @Count Eric etc etc

    What exactly is this “current liberal agenda” you refer to?

    Is this the bit where people who live in Ireland (north and south) actually would like to have some f**king peace for a while?

  • Mick Fealty

    This from one comment on Slugger’s Facebook page:

    Mick: may be a diaspora thing. Among American Jews, uncritical devotion to Israel is often greater than among many Israelis. For some it has a transformational impact in re religiosity and certainly increasingly colors their politics and social life. In the meantime, most Israeli born Americans seem to be secularists and critical realists about Israel…

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    @ DoppiaVu – its the agenda adopted by mainstream media outlets which slavishly follows the GFA agenda that proscribes one way forward as espoused by the british and irish governments and the main parties in northern ireland and woe betide any person, group or organisation which deviates from this. They are described as peace wreckers, dissidents, micro-groupings, plastic paddies etc – any adjective which will belittle, marginalise or associate their views with the ignorant and the unrealistic.

    Hope that cleared that up for you.

    If people in Ireland (north and south) would actually like to have some f**king peace for a while – I suggest that they stop treating each other like s**t and paying lipservice community ideals and just get on with it in practice. Not sure how the opinion of someone who lives abroad can impact negatively on what people in Ireland need to do.

  • Mick Fealty

    Count,

    Have you actually read the piece above?

  • DoppiaVu

    @Count

    Can you define exactly what you mean by “the GFA agenda”? I’d say most mainstream media outlets – liberal or otherwise – are in favour of an agreed peace. They don’t care particularly whether it is via the GFA or any other particular framework or agreement.

    “They are described as peace wreckers, dissidents, micro-groupings, plastic paddies etc – any adjective which will belittle, marginalise or associate their views with the ignorant and the unrealistic.” – hey you’re entitled to whatever views you want. Just don’t expect anyone that actually is Irish to take you overly seriously.

  • sonofstrongbow

    It seems that mopery is a widely exported product. I had the Londonderry/Derry conversation in San Francisco after a fellow diner eavesdropped a conversation at my table. He went on to proclaim his Irishness (although neither he or his parents had ever been to Ireland). He also walked us through Perfidious Albion, Cromwell, land theft, the Plantation, the Famine, the bold Fenian men, etc, etc, etc.

    I managed to shut him up when I pointed out the benefits Yankees like himself had accrued from a British plantation and the exploits of his own ‘Cromwell’ in the personage of George Armstrong Custer. He departed after I had suggested that Russell Means should be immediately appointed US Vice President.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Mick,

    I did read it and while Richard states he feels the attitudes towards the troubles are felt sincerely as if that person were at home, he goes on to refer to the man in his encounter as a ‘Plastic Paddy’.

    Now maybe that’s a compliment where he comes from but it doesn’t read well from my point of view and is dripping with a conceited snobbery that implies the author is a ‘better Irishman’

    But not to get bogged down in this, the point I was trying to make ineloquently was that like the heirarchy of victims, there appears to be a drive for a heirarchy of citizenship where location, contribution, affability, experience, eruditeness (?) all contribute to whether a person has the right to hold an opinion. If they are based in the US, are against the GFA and are coarse – they score zero points and their opinion is dismissed out of hand. Retired doctors who vote Alliance in North Down are top of the anecdotal points list, if you’re interested.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Inspecting the local university reading list — heavily biased towards Irish nationalism and the IRA — I naively thought choosing Boston — with a more contemporary Irish connection — would give me a more balanced perspective. Ha!

    Mr Ulster
    I find that quite hard to believe. One argument that can’t be credibly sustained is that academia has been biased towards Irish nationalism and the IRA. Perhaps you can share some of those texts with us? Having completed a couple of degrees with an Irish politics focus, I’ve yet to come across a reading list- never mind credible range of texts- which can be depicted as being of an Irish nationalist slant.

    Yet it the post Troubles Northern Ireland religious affiliation is playing a less important role in how people vote. Yet poll after poll states that 25% of the Roman Catholic population support the union with the United Kingdom. Yet the majority of “Plastic Paddies” seem to believe that religious affiliation sets someone’s political views on Northern Ireland in stone.

    Mick
    That deeply suspect paragraph usefully highlights the fact that it is not just members of the Diaspora who can have incorrect assumptions about the conflict in the north of Ireland.

    Basing his assertions not on electoral results but on highly suspect opinion polling is hardly good practice.

    I often find that the misconceptions regarding northern realities can be found in Dublin or London as much in the Diaspora, which seems to be so accused simply because the majority of its members appear to be of a nationalist disposition.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    @DoppiaVu
    “Just don’t expect anyone that actually is Irish to take you overly seriously.”
    I’m Irish and while I dont pretend to sway the masses with my rhetorical skills, when talking about matters political with friends and acquaintances, the banter is good, the points are serious and the discussion invigorating.

    I must have missed the election when I voted for you to speak on my behalf or on behalf of ‘anyone that actually is Irish’.

  • @Chris “One argument that can’t be credibly sustained is that academia has been biased towards Irish nationalism” Seriously? Let me put this another way. Over here, whenever an American university student would consult me about their academic research project, invariably it would be about Sinn Fein and/or generic peace process (“What aspect?” I would reply. Response, “The whole thing.”). I then suggest investigating loyalism and they barely know what a Loyalist is.

    I don’t have BGSU’s reading list from 1984 at hand, but one key text was “The Longest War: Northern Ireland and the IRA”, by Kevin Kelley, a self-described “North American radical journalist”, in the preface he says he makes no pretence of being neutral or objective, and later in the book concluding, “There is no real middle-ground in unionism and there is no such thing as forgiving and forgetting. Shades of political belief are sometimes detectable, but these almost always reflect differences over how to keep the Croppies down, not whether they ought to be flattened in the first place.”

    Thankfully my professor at Boston University provided us a more critical review of Irish history.

    @Mick I agree with the Facebook comment about American Jews. It is incredible to hear clearly American accents by various Israeli settlers on internationally televised complaints against local Palestinians.

  • DoppiaVu

    @Count

    I don’t dispute the quality of your debate etc.

    The point I’m making is that virtually everyone that I know that is Irish (by virtue of being born and bred on the island of Ireland), is pretty scornful of those that call themselves Irish yet (for example) have never set foot on the island. And that view cuts across people that I’ve known regardless of religion, political view, or whether they are from north or south of the border.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    @DoppiaVu.

    I am much less selective and while I recognise that trait in my fellow countrymen, I believe never setting foot in Ireland isnt a barrier to being an erse.

    But we’ll leave it there and look forward to the next time.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mr Ulster
    So instead of a reading list, you base that assertion on the fact that one text was written by a person who describes himself as a “radical?”

    If you really have completed academic courses with a focus on Irish politics, then I’m sure you’ll have come across texts written by people like Conor Cruise O’Brien, Paul Bew, Henry Patterson, Richard English and many more who are extremely hostile to not just republicans but Irish nationalism.

    And, by the way, they’re perfectly entitled to hold such views, and each has written a number of very informative texts which I enjoyed- though often did not agree with.

    Indeed, I suspect the reason you could think of but one text is that the bulk of academic texts regarding the Troubles were written by individuals quite hostile to Irish nationalism- and certainly to Sinn Fein!

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    Interesting you use the term ‘incorrect’. That’s a term I was careful to avoid in drafting the post. Its generally true that Northern Irish nationalism has been very good at engaging the American diaspora, Unionism has been less keen to get out there, no doubt distrustful a legacy narrative that reflexively puts them in the dock for everything that went wrong, ever.

    Richard’s quotation of the Irish Voice story of Rory McIlroy accepting his MBE is an interesting example of how the subtlities of the changes in NI are not quite breaking out even to professional journalists stateside.

    PS, Chris, if you can find a single quotation from any of those authors as crass and stupid as that Kelley quote, I’d be very surprised.

  • @Chris You actually expect me to retain a 30-year-old reading list from an American university that I did not attend? And were you living in the American Midwest as the same time as me?

    Indeed I acknowledge the recent (past 20 years) work of Bew, Patterson, English et al.

    The point I’m making is that within American academia pre-ceasefires, one was not likely to come across a British or Unionist account of Northern Ireland history.

    Since then the story has changed. But I still doubt your assertion that the “bulk” of academic text is biased against Irish nationalism. It is certainly more critical now, but I’m confident most Irish studies programmes at American universities lean, unsurprisingly, towards the Irish perspective (clue in the title of the course).

  • Chris Donnelly

    no doubt distrustful a legacy narrative that reflexively puts them in the dock for everything that went wrong, ever.

    Mick
    Whilst we’re talking about crass commentary……

    I don’t have the time to hunt out crass or stupid comments from those authors, but I can recall Paul Bew making some pretty foolish comments in reaction to the release of the Michael Collins movie.

    Mind you, I might not agree with their analysis but I still respect both Paul and Richard as authors and lecturers who I had the privilege to work with at Queens.

    On the substantive allegation being made by Mr Ulster, I take it you’d agree that the idea an American university would load its reading lists for students with pro-Irish nationalist/ IRA reading material is rubbish?

  • Brian

    I live in America now, and have experienced some of this, especially if they bother to ask whether I used to live in Northern Ireland or ‘regular Ireland’ (I heard that one time, that made me laugh!).

    Most people will just say, “oh I am Irish you know!” after hearing my accent, describe how their grandparents came from Cork or wherever and leave it at that.

    Occasionally, you get some of these types mentioned in the blog post above but not near as much as I was expecting after hearing stories about them being plentiful.

  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t know. I’d like to see it disproven though.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    When Americans describe themselves as Irish, Italian, Swedish or whatever what they mean is they’re Irish -American, Italian American etc etc, It’s usually just a way of distinguishing themselves from their fellow countrymen and because they’re usually talking to other Americans the American bit is pointless so they call themselves Irish or Italian or whatever. We sometimes get our knickers in a twist because they’re so used to dropping ‘American’ that they forget to add it back on when they’re talking to us so we can find it a bit weird when they tell us they’re Irish but have never been to Ireland.

  • SlugFest

    Chris,

    Boston College is a private (using American terminology here – ‘private’ meaning not state or federally-funded/expect to pay a whole lotta money to enroll) Jesuit (Catholic) university just outside Boston (a very ‘Irish’ American city, at least in the South end). While I couldn’t find a current reading list for BC’s Irish Studies program, I did find their Spring 2012 course list, which sadly only offers two seemingly barebones/cursory history courses (note course descriptions are not available online):
    http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/centers/irish/studies/academics/courses.html

    New York University is also a private university in NYC; note it has no religious orientation. I looked at the course descriptions for NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House program (created and funded by Lewis L. Glucksman and Loretta Brennan Glucksman, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Glucksman) . While they’re certainly an improvement over BC’s offerings, they still seem quite myopic:
    http://irelandhouse.as.nyu.edu/page/ugcoursedescriptions

    Queens College, located in Queens County, NYC, is a public (state-funded) college. Their Irish studies program is quite impressive, and the only one of all 3 that even bothers to offer an in-depth, comprehensive look at all peoples and political persuasions:
    http://www.qc.cuny.edu/Academics/Degrees/DSS/IrishStudies/Courses/Pages/default.aspx

    In my experience as an American of Irish descent/Irish American/call me what you wish, the offerings of the first two universities – both of which cost an arm and a leg to attend – represent the airbrushed history that many Irish Americans cling to. They do not dig deep nor do they confront any difficult and uneasy questions. Instead, they continue to ignore the Unionist side of the story which – even if you disagree with it – enriches the overall history of Ireland.

  • New Yorker

    Most Irish Americans I know would not have a high opinion of politics in Northern Ireland or the Republic either. Opinions would have been a bit higher when the violence stopped in the North and the Republic was the Celtic Tiger. But that seems like a distant age now that politically the two communities in the North seem more at odds and the middle has been squeezed, while the Republic’s sleaze and looting of the public purse are stomach-turning.

    The phrase “Plastic Paddy” is offensive. There are some but the majority of Irish Americans are well-educated and fairly affluent. Of the people I know they would not opine on Ireland unless they were well informed by reading the Irish Times and many books on Irish history and culture.

    I would not pay much attention to Richard McKibbin both after looking at his slight website and considering his reaction to the man in Chicago. It could be that the fellow was using the Derry/Londonderry question to find out if McKibbin is Catholic or Protestant.

    On the subject of which authors are used in Irish history courses in the US, I think Roy Foster and Joe Lee would probably be at the top of the list. I have yet to come across a respected academic who could be considered pro SF, and that should be mulled over.

    I agree that Americans often drop the “American” when citing their ethnic identity. In fact, you might hear “I’m Irish, Danish, German with some Italian.’

  • Skinner

    Tochais – that is absolutely correct, I tried to explain it to some friends once but you did it much more eloquently. Americans saying they’re Irish when they’ve never been there should not be a source of ridicule. They acknowledge that they are American first and foremost.

  • braveheart

    The reason yanks/plastic paddys ask what religon you are has more to do with identifyng their own. Its not about supporting i.r.a. They know the brutality the protestant community unleashed on the catholics. In america they know who the aggressor was, and in all fairness, people arent going to support a community who denies the native indigenous people civil rights.
    Another thing is that a lot of 3rd generation (irish)) protestants in America call themselves Scotch Irish, god forbid, they may be mistaken to be a catholic.

  • NoAttachmentToDust

    BH “In america they know who the aggressor was, and in all fairness, people arent going to support a community who denies the native indigenous people civil rights”

    I nearly choked on my toast. I assume you do know the history of the native American Indians since the rest of you arrived?

  • Jimmy Sands

    The comparison with Israel is well made. It seems to be in the nature of things that the diaspora is more zealous than those left behind. The shortest route to Tara, after all, is through Holyhead. This is compounded when the politicians try manipulate this phenomenon. I was struck when i moved to London by the number of English people of my generation who in ILEA schools had been given a version of Irish history far greener than anything available in Ireland. I understand there are parts of the US where this is even mandated by law. Interestingly something similar seems to be happening in relation to the French Armenian community in the run up to the Presidential election.

  • Chris Donnelly

    @Chris You actually expect me to retain a 30-year-old reading list from an American university that I did not attend? And were you living in the American Midwest as the same time as me?

    Indeed I acknowledge the recent (past 20 years) work of Bew, Patterson, English et al.

    The point I’m making is that within American academia pre-ceasefires, one was not likely to come across a British or Unionist account of Northern Ireland history.

    Since then the story has changed. But I still doubt your assertion that the “bulk” of academic text is biased against Irish nationalism. It is certainly more critical now, but I’m confident most Irish studies programmes at American universities lean, unsurprisingly, towards the Irish perspective (clue in the title of the course).

    Mr Ulster
    Firstly, historians and political commentators like Bew, English, Patterson, Murphy and O’Brien have been writing for more than 20 years, and indeed the revisionist interpretation of the Nationalist narrative they articulated has been the predominant theme in Irish political studies throughout that era, both north and south.

    If you are going to make the sweeping claims that you’ve made in your initial contributions, then I believe you are obliged to provide more than a solitary reference to one book whose author you seem to have disliked.

    btw given that these authors predominated the reading lists in Irish universities over the past twenty years, does that entitle me to say the political departments of Irish universities were airbrushing out the Irish nationalist perspective?

    Oh, and I was living in Phoenix, Arizona until 25 years ago….

    Slugfest
    I see no problem with the reading lists of those courses at all. I certainly don’t see reference to texts of authors who could be clearly identified as pro-nationalist in the way that many of the authors I outlined above have clearly been actively involved in unionist politics (Cruise O’Brien involved in the UKIP party; Bew as an advisor to Trimble; Patterson as a member of the Cadogan Group.)

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick

    Further to your challenge to find ‘crass’ comments from said authors, I believe this fits into the category quite neatly:

    “It is a very serious weakness of your coverage of Irish affairs that you are a very poor judge of Irish Catholics. That gifted and talkative community includes some of the most expert conmen and conwomen in the world and I believe you have been conned.”

    Cruise O’Brien to Mary Holland.

    Point or order: O’Brien joined UKUP, not UKIP…..

  • Jimmy Sands

    Chris,

    Unless you’re suggesting he quote is from States of Ireland then it’s hardly a valid comparison is it?

  • PaddyReilly

    In the last general elections only 11% of Ireland’s voters voted Unionist. They are thus a largely irrelevant minority, to everyone but themselves. There is a strong possibility that they will eventually become less numerous in Ireland than both Poles and Chinese. There is thus no reason why an American should want or need to know about them,
    any more than they or we know the ins and outs of Sorbs, Szeklers, Tsintsar and Gagauz or similar European minorities.

    There is a glaring illogicality in this article, in that it scorns the right of Irish-American ‘Plastic Paddies’ to call themselves Irish, plenty of whom were born in Ireland, while insisting on the right of immigrants from up to 400 years ago to call themselves British. I would suggest that it is the ‘Diaspora British’ who are out of touch with reality.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I got into a conversation with a guy in a town called Bandera ( near San Antonia) inTexas. He heard my accent and told me that his wife was Irish american and of how awful it was that we couldn’t speak our own language in Ireland anymore. When he said to me “isn’t it garlic you speak” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  • That’s hilarious, Alan. I would have shook my head and laughed.

  • carl marks

    For a few years i was the manager of a now sadly closed Youth Hostel, during this period I met many “Irish Americans” my most interesting one was the gentleman who after spending four days in the country called me a traitor for daring to suggest that the armed struggle was counterproductive, he then went on to tell me that I didn’t understand my own history. I laughed so hard beer came out my nose (we were in the pub).

  • Jimmy Sands

    Back in the days of the old PINI board there was a large American contingent. One in particular objected to my lack of national zeal and concluded therefore that I could not possibly be Irish. He would set me little questions on Ireland hoping to catch me out. I played along for a bit until one day he asked me if I knew what a fong was. I told him I hadn’t a clue, whereupon he announced triumphantly to the board that I had been unmasked as an imposter. He was crestfallen to learn that no-one else knew what he meant either, so he tried to explain. Once it became apparent that the word he had been groping for was fáinne he went rather quiet.

  • That’s a terrible waste of beer, Carl, and I’ve had it happen, a most unpleasant experience (beer out nose that is)

  • Turgon

    carl marks,
    I second joe’s remark. Might I suggest that you should have asked him for more beer (paid for by himself) or had he refused suggest he try getting into the youth hostel on Sandy Row and repeating his opinions at the public house opposite.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Paddy Reilly,

    I do often wonder about the sanity of people who in 2011 take pride in being ‘Ulster Scots’ because their ancestors came from Scotland in the 17th century yet on their other side of their face laugh at Irish Americans who cherish their native roots from the 19th century or after.

  • latcheeco

    Mick,
    By “the larger interests of the island” do you mean that you would prefer it if the Boston Irish behaved more like the Bangor Irish rather than Bellaghy/Bogside/Ballymurphy Irish? Perhaps we are ignorning the possibility that distance gives perspective and maybe those plastic Irish are not just another translation of those apelike chaps in buckled shoes from Punch cartoons.

    The diaspora is nationalist and it’s never going to be anything else. This thread smacks of nothing more than a silly reaction to the fact that when our man said ” Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” unionists and quasi unionists didn’t realise until this week how many children he was actually talking about

  • PaddyReilly

    My time in America was largely spent living among Jews and Blackamoors, so when I ventured across a community of Irish Americans it was definitely a homecoming. Obviously they look Irish, they behave like Irish, they also listen to Irish music and read the same books as me. Their accent, though it might sound appallingly American if you encountered it in Derry, sounds Irish from the vantage point of an American and is full of obvious hibernicisms. Just because you move to America doesn’t mean your DNA changes. Given that there is relatively little interbreeding with blacks and an incredible amount of Irish blood to start with, the Irish identification is not going to go away.

    There are plenty more doubtful cases, hybrids like Cassius Clay, J.D. Salinger, and Barack Obama, but these people tend not to identify as Irish and even in Dublin there’s plenty of people who are something else on their mother’s side.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Republic of Connaught

    Surely the difference between the ulster scots (scots irish is a far better name)) and the american irish is that the ulster scots are not pretending that they are fully scottish. On the other hand 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation american irish really believe that they are as irish as the person born in Dublin, belfast cork etc. Many of these people have never set foot in the homeland of their ancestors and yet claim to belong there.

    I’m off an english background on my father’s side (2nd generation) yet I do not call myself english. I’m also of scottish extraction on my mother’s side. I’m northern irish and proud of it. If you are born in america and have an american passport, then in my eyes you are american.

  • Mick Fealty

    Hris, the challenge was to debunk Allan’s view about the US academy, not expand on the whataboutery. Remember the Kelley quote was from a book Allan found in a university library. Ver batim from CCOB, not the same thing.

  • DoppiaVu

    what Alan N/Ards said.

  • Graham

    “The phrase “Plastic Paddy” is offensive. There are some…”

    I wondered whether there would be a reaction to ‘plastic Paddy’. If it’s the phrase, as opposed to the concept, that’s offensive, what would be a more acceptable alternative?

  • Brian

    ‘On the other hand 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation american irish really believe that they are as irish as the person born in Dublin, belfast cork etc. Many of these people have never set foot in the homeland of their ancestors and yet claim to belong there.’

    This is total BS. I haven’t met any Irish-Americans in my 10 years in the US who would believe they are as Irish as a person born in Dublin. What an absurd statement.

    Recognizing, and in some cases cherishing, their Irish roots doesn’t mean they don’t recognize the fact that they are not actually Irish themselves. Almost to a man they would say they are Americans first and foremost.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Disgraceful comments posted on this thread at 7.22am. An offensive reference to black people was compounded by the implicit suggestion that they do not have the “look” of being Irish. Further comments about “interbreeding” and referring to people as “hybrids” followed.

    It’s fortunate for this site’s profile that I am talking about a post rather than a tweet.

  • cynic2

    “I find that quite hard to believe. ”

    Chris

    I know that you find a lot of concepts difficult…but do keep trying. And why is there so much anger in your posts these days?

  • Alan N/Ards

    Brian

    I’m afraid that you are mistaken. There are plenty of american irish who believe that they are as irish as people born on this island. I’ve met them and friends have met them. They get very annoyed when they are told that they are not actually irish.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Alan,

    It’s my experience the Irish Americans are among the most patriotic Americans in that entire country. That they still cherish their Irish roots doesn’t detract from the fact they love America first and foremost.

    Ted Kennedy often called himself an ‘Irishman’. He meant it in an American sense, to signify the ethnic group he came from in America. Same as Italian Americans who can’t speak a word of Italian or may have never been to Italy. They still cherish their Italian cultural roots.

    There are of course many Americans among the 40 million who claim Irish links who are superficial. But there are also many who have been brought up in ‘Irish’ households in America who understand the culture. Those people don’t like being called Plastic Paddies.

  • Mark

    Graham earlier asked if the plastic paddy tag was so offensive , what would be a more acceptable alternative ?

    Nothing Graham … That would be an acceptable alternative . Why do we need the term . What’s the big deal ?? Some Americans like to play up on their ” Irishness ” for reasons that have already been given on this thread . If people are bent out of shape because of this , well that’s their problem .

    BTW Son of Strongbow , Phil Lynott should be on Paddy’s list !

  • between the bridges

    Imho plastic paddy is a fair description of someone who has never been to Ireland but says they are Irish; it wouldn’t be a fair description of someone who says they are Irish- American…simples.

  • PaddyReilly

    The situation is as follows. Cassius Clay’s mother, Odessa Grady, could legitimately have claimed an Irish passport as she had a grandfather born in Ireland (Abe Grady of Ennis). Had she then moved to Ireland and given birth to her son there, he would have been Irish, but as she did not we must consider him as a Black American, and after his conversion to Islam and assumption of the name Muhammad Ali, I think we can call him a Black Muslim with American nationality, as that is probably what he would call himself. There has to be some sort of cut-off point, and as Muhammad Ali is only one eighth Irish and has never lived in this jurisdiction, he falls outside it, in his own opinion as well as that of Irish law. His own opinion in the matter can be divined by his statement “No intelligent black man or black woman in his or her right black mind wants white boys and white girls coming to their homes to marry their black sons and daughters.”

    The Queen is one eighth Hungarian, but we would not call her Hungarian, and neither would she.

    President Obama, as far as I know, has no plans to claim Irish nationality: his own term for himself was ‘mongrel’, so I can hardly imagine he would object to the word ‘hybrid’.

    Phyl Lynott, though not born in Ireland, legally obtained Irish Nationality through his mother, and prolonged residence in Ireland after the age of 4.

    My German-American friend suggested that I might be of Negro descent because of my tight curly hair, only slightly less so than Lynott’s, but I told him, I think correctly, that curly hair is unremarkable among the Irishry. I may though be 1/16th Romany gypsey: if I turned out to be have a small amount of African blood, it would be irrelevant as the majority is not. I think it has been established that all Europeans are at least 1% negro.

    As for the Irish Americans, well yes they are Irish, within the context that they find themselves: moving to America allows the possibility of metamorphosis, but more often Irish people remain identifiably Irish, just as Ulster Scots still have a great deal of Scottish in them.

    Nationalism is about accommodating all the nation, within reason, and Catholicism is by definition all-inclusive, but Ireland, for climatic reasons, is best suited for people with extremely pale skin and eyes.

    Ulster Unionism is about drawing lines and excluding people in order to preserve power for the elect: an exercise in smoke and mirrors which turns the few into the many: Irish Americans, and any grouping which might upset the delicate balance, are not welcome. Unionist concern for the rights and feelings of any ethnic group apart from Ulster Unionists is generally the rankest hypocrisy.

  • Graham

    Mark, the term exercised an eyebrow of my own and I merely sought to establish the cause of this burst of energy and avoid any recurrence.

    I take no issue with what I perceive to be an increasing acceptance of freedom to choose one or multiple national indentities. It’s definitely not unique to Irish or Irish-Americans. I do, however, recognise that this acceptance could become stretched during politically sensitive discussion, particularly if the allegiance of natives is being called into question.

  • PaddyReilly

    Another point I should have made if that if the person described in McKibbin’s original article had, as he stated, parents from Kilkenny, then obviously there is no objection to granting him an Irish Passport. It would be a breach of ECHR rules not to, as well as the UK Human Rights Act. We have a right to family life: you cannot breach that right by denying to the offspring residency which you extend to the parents.

    So far from being any kind of Plasticisable Paddy, he had every right to move to Kilkenny, and indeed to Carrickfergus if he wished. McKibbin apparently believed that he had the right to marry a woman from Chicago and import her to Northern Ireland if he so desired, which presumably he did.

    This reminds me of a famous case in Derry, back in the 60s or before, where a (Catholic) woman from Donegal applied for a job and was refused, because she was a ‘foreigner’: the post was later filled by another woman from Donegal, who was a Protestant. So effectively what is being preached by McKibbin is that Protestants can be imported into Northern Ireland, even if they have no birth connection with the area, whereas as Catholics may only leave.

  • JAH

    I had to check the dates that it wasn’t Ist April when I read PaddyReilly’s classic:

    Nationalism is about accommodating all the nation, within reason, and Catholicism is by definition all-inclusive, but Ireland, for climatic reasons, is best suited for people with extremely pale skin and eyes.

    An interesting viewpoint that Nationalists can only be Catholic and white. Hardly inclusive!

    As for the plastic paddy’s they are as common in England. Invariably second generation they spit venom at Martin McG who has of course sold out. They are appalled to meet anyone Irish who is not Catholic and act accordingly. The irony is they seem to scare Northern Catholic friends more than myself as the blatant bigotry seems from a bygone era. I suppose its always easy to have someone to blame for the problems in your life.

  • PaddyReilly

    An interesting viewpoint that Nationalists can only be Catholic and white. Hardly inclusive!

    An interesting example of adding together bits from 3 different statements to make a completely different one, rather like the chimera monkey who has been made in the USA with DNA from 6 different monkeys. I will repeat myself:-

    1) Nationalism is about accommodating all the nation, within reason. Under this rule we incorporate into the Irish Nation Phyl Lynott and Tim Brannigan, because their mothers were Irish, and just about everyone born in Ireland (though, by mutual agreement, probably not John Churchill, born in the Viceregal Lodge and the younger brother of Winston Churchill) but, again by mutual agreement, exclude Muhammad Ali, boxer, because the connection is too remote. Anyone born in Ireland, Catholic, Protestant, or Jew, who makes a name for himself in literature or science or any other sphere of endeavour will probably end up on one of the Republic of Ireland’s stamps, though not so far Carson (probably by mutual agreement) or Chaim Herzog, (President of Israel born Cliftonpark Avenue Belfast) because he has his own country to celebrate him, with which he has chosen to be identified.

    A counter-example to this was John F. Kennedy, whose picture adorned many an Irish house, and probably made the stamps as well. He had no grandparent born in Ireland, though all his great-grandparents were born there. But this never happened in my house. I myself admired George McGovern, who I should point out, was not actually a Catholic: I admired him for his left wing stance.

    2) Catholicism is all-inclusive. Yes, Catholic means all-inclusive, and the Catholic Church does include more members of more different racial types than any other creed I can think of. As most Irish are Catholic this does mean they can marry non-Irish Catholics without experiencing the disapproval of family or Church. In my own family there are instances of intermarriage with German, Swiss, Italian and Spanish Nationals, all of which took place in Ireland.

    3) Ireland best suited for people with extremely pale skin and eyes. Yes, it is an anthropological fact that the Irish have the lightest eyes (more blues and less browns) of any country in the world. The incidence of freckles, a condition which can cause fatal skin cancer among those who emigrate to Australia, is also extremely high. This is not my fault, if you have issues with it, take it up with God.

    So it is not the case that an Irishman needs to be fully white but it is an observable fact that most of them are. When I get off the plane at Knock International, there is a guard who stares at all the arrivals: I sometimes wonder if he instructed to stop anyone not suffering from pernicious anemia. Equally, when shown a photo of a Boko Haram volunteer, I do not immediately think, that man must have an Irish connection; or, I must sponsor this man for a job in Dublin.

    Nor does an Irish Nationalist need to be Catholic: indeed, if I seriously thought I could convert any number of Ulster Protestants to that viewpoint, I would be out there knocking on doors. But a study of the Stormont electoral returns indicates that the number of nationalist MLAs returned corresponds almost exactly with the proportion of Catholics in the population, especially since Dr Deeney has left politics.

  • Decimus

    Nationalism is about accommodating all the nation

    So long as they conform to nationalism’s ideology.

  • Nationalism and its companion xenophobia are the pits. The nation state is but a recent invention which is being quickly supplanted by the corporate state, perhaps a single entity of a few companies in a 100 years or less.

  • PaddyReilly

    So long as they conform to nationalism’s ideology.

    Not necessarily. The list is here:-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_on_stamps_of_Ireland

    Plenty of people here did not conform to nationalism’s ideology. Wesley? George Fox? Stanford? But there is an absence of those who actively and notoriously opposed it. Equally, Sir Roger Casement is not often featured on the stamps of the United Kingdom.

  • Brian

    “I’m afraid that you are mistaken. There are plenty of american irish who believe that they are as irish as people born on this island. I’ve met them and friends have met them. They get very annoyed when they are told that they are not actually irish.”

    I lived in the Washington DC area for the last 10 years and have met a lot of Irish Americans, some 2nd generation and others far more distantly connected to their homeland. I can’t recall meeting anyone who believe they are as Irish as someone born and still living in Ireland.

    However, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel Irish in some small way. Getting ‘annoyed’ when you tell them they aren’t Irish does not mean they think they are Irish as someone living in Tipperary, Ballymahon, etc.

  • I imagine there are many who consider themselves as Irish as the inhabitants of Finchley.

  • Dewi
  • PaddyReilly

    What annoys me most about Americans is their enduring belief, with regard to us, that having seen one, they have seen the whole. A lady in San Francisco seemed quite put out when I asked for coffee, because she said I was ‘British’, and should drink tea. I have been wondering ever since how I should have replied.

    But here we have the exact reverse. There are a vast number of Irishmen and Irish communities in America, with a vast variety in their preservation of Irish ways. Some are as Irish as if they were in Ireland, some have quite lost touch and changed into something else. Some have been absorbed into a general sludge of Americanness, some haven’t. Anyone who makes money from selling books/CDs or lectures is aware of this. McKibbin’s ideology requires that these people absent themselves for ever: mine doesn’t.

    Joe Canuck seems to think he is qualified to speak on Irish affairs, even though he is resident, long term, in Canada. Of course if you were brought up in a place, you never forget it, you wake up every morning thinking you are still at home.

    The cock crew out that morning, he crew both loud and shrill
    As I woke in Californ-I-A, many miles from Spancil Hill.

    There were plenty of German settlements across Europe who had been there for centuries. At the end of the 2nd World War many of them were kicked out, and had to ‘return’ to Germany. So they were German in the long run. In Nova Scotia there are people who have preserved the Scottish Gaelic tongue in ordinary use, and in Scotland there are those who have abandoned it.

  • Mike the First

    Brian

    “I live in America now, and have experienced some of this, especially if they bother to ask whether I used to live in Northern Ireland or ‘regular Ireland’ (I heard that one time, that made me laugh!). ”

    I heard the exact same phrase from a US immigration officer as I showed my British passport, and my wife showed her Irish one. “So you’re from Northern Ireland, and she’s from regular Ireland?”

  • Skinner

    Paddy

    “This reminds me of a famous case in Derry, back in the 60s or before, where a (Catholic) woman from Donegal applied for a job and was refused, because she was a ‘foreigner’: the post was later filled by another woman from Donegal, who was a Protestant. So effectively what is being preached by McKibbin is that Protestants can be imported into Northern Ireland, even if they have no birth connection with the area, whereas as Catholics may only leave.”

    Your obvious dislike for unionists seems to have facilitated this illogical jump in your reasoning. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to a rational person.

  • PaddyReilly

    McKibbin sits in O’Hare Airport waiting for his American fiancée, whom he subsequently marries. He meets the son of Irish people from Kilkenny and takes offence when the man claims to be Irish. He quotes the results of opinion polls which he thinks show an apparent enthusiasm for the Union among the Catholic population of Northern Ireland: this is hardly relevant to the question in hand, which is whether the city is called Derry or Londonderry. From this I conclude that McKibbin is one of those people whose happiness depends on Fermanagh being in Ulster, but Donegal not, on the emigration of Irish Nationalists and the immigration of British Protestants.

    But it strikes me that I might be wrong. Perhaps McKibbin is an Alliance voter who doesn’t like posers, and his fiancée an Irish-American of Catholic religion. So I had to look further in his blog for his views. Here they are:-

    But tonight we look forward with hope. Hope for the future we look forward with excitement of what 2012 will bring. The Olympic games in London, the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen and the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.

  • Mike the First

    Paddy Reilly

    “There is a glaring illogicality in this article, in that it scorns the right of Irish-American ‘Plastic Paddies’ to call themselves Irish, plenty of whom were born in Ireland, while insisting on the right of immigrants from up to 400 years ago to call themselves British. I would suggest that it is the ‘Diaspora British’ who are out of touch with reality”

    This is wilful ignorance of a quite astounding kind. Surely you must be aware that Northern Irish unionists’ claim to Britishness is little to do with a 400 years ago migration, and a hell of a lot to with the fact that they live in the United Kingdom and hold British nationality.

    The nationality attached to the entire territory of the United Kingdom (and the Crown Dependences, and the British Overseas Territories for that matter) is British. Oh, and if that’s not enough for you, Northern Ireland is part of the British Islands – all of which shares the same British citizenship rights.