Ireland you’re exceptional, we should act like it.

Ireland is an exceptional country, well so I think anyway. I know this is the easiest plug that any person can give a home town crowd “there’s nowhere like …..” and you get your applause. The concept of exceptionalism is more commonly identified with the United States, were the notion of this being a special place is hammered home time and again. My nephews who are all Americans, do have a real sense of civic pride as they are quick to tell me that they can recite the Pledge of Allegiance perfectly, practicing it every morning in school before class starts.

I know to many of you reading this, the whole concept of American Exceptionalism is such a toxic concept. But, for me it’s one of the reasons I love going to the United States. This unapologetic sense that, we are an important country, with a unique way of life and we are going to put it up in lights. It is just such a sea change in many ways from Ireland.

Over the past few years with recessions, bailouts and austerity it is very easy to become jaded and cynical about the direction of the country. I know all too well myself, how this recession has forced close members of my family to seek work elsewhere and the lack of opportunities that exist across the island. It’s incredibly tempting to think that place is quite frankly a kip which is governed by a mix of the incorrigible and the incompetent.

However, if you find yourself thinking that just take a moment to step back and look around you. Ireland suffered one of the biggest economic collapses in Europe in 2008/9. Yet today figures were released that showed today that the country has the fastest growth in the European Union, with debt being repaid ahead of schedule and the national credit rating upgraded (again!). The general public have suffered emigration, austerity and change, and the overall response? They rolled up their sleeves and got on with the job.

You might think, big deal; Ireland came out of a recession. But I look around Europe, I see governments either unwilling or unable to take on the real task of reform and just getting on with it and the result is stagnation and massive civil unrest. I look back into history and see that Ireland in the late 1980’s performed the same miracle turnaround in its overall direction. This economic performance in my view can only be achieved through an exceptional workforce adapting to change and getting on the task at hand.

Then you have the opposite side of this coin, political apathy. Anything I have read about the British/Argentine IMF bailouts was a great sense of apathy in the immediate years that followed and this sense of failure plagued those countries for years. Yet, I looked at the scenes of thousands out yesterday in Dublin protesting about their governments policies on water charges and I cannot help but think that this country has not been broken at all by the EU/IMF bailout in 2010.

This exceptionalism knows no border too. As I write this in Belfast City Centre, I am reminded of our brutal conflict that claimed so many lives over the last 30 years, in the Linen Hall Library there are the front pages of the main newspapers illustrating the sheer horror that people in this country had to endure. Going back even further the dominating Harland and Wolff cranes reminded me of the Belfast Blitz in 1941 which saw parts of this city bombed to pieces by the German Air Force.

My city has suffered war, peace, boom and bust, yet today I see people out shopping and bars gradually filling up with Christmas parties. You wouldn’t think we are one of the least prosperous cities in the United Kingdom or that we are just 16 years out of a long period of Trouble, but that is what makes this country exceptional. This province of Ulster, the Six Counties, Northern Ireland or whatever your choice of name is has not been beaten by violence and is sure as hell not taking the recession lying down either. For me again, exceptional

We have our Unionist brethren, who contribute such an important part to our national discourse. I know some Unionists reading this hate the fact that I think they’re Irish, but an Irish nation without a Unionist identity is not, in my view a complete nation, nor would it be exceptional without them.

All of this is very political of course; I could list the variety of cultural and academic works we contribute to the world. I could list our contribution to some of major agreements in the European Union, but I have to end this post somewhere.

Ireland is an exceptional country for a multitude of reasons and we need to start saying it more. Not to use it as a way to shield us from difficult problems, but rather as a way to project ourselves to the world. Look around the world on St Patricks Day and see the amount of people who want to feel a part of this tiny island race. We sometimes forget that combined there are just over 6 million of us.

We pack a punch way beyond our size, which probably explains why as a nation we’ve never been knocked out. This is my country, an exceptional place to live, work and be born into. It is ok for us to recognise and act like it every once in a while.

, , ,

  • An unexceptional piece which seems confused between a personal Northern Irish experience and some sense of belonging to another country albeit on the same island. A thin grasp of economics which fails to note that ROI is out of recession but still sorely in debt and only recovering so fast because of its biggest trading partner (UK) is doing so well outside the Euro. Meanwhile in Greece… If there is a case for ‘Ireland’ being exceptional then this isn’t it.

  • Dan

    Dear me…

  • Bryan Magee

    I think “under the Germans” is the more correct. The Germans are happy that the capital is Brussels, so that makes it less obvious.

  • WD

    David you need to proofread your posts before you click submit. Lack of punctuation is astounding for an aspiring political correspondent. That being said, this piece isn’t as bad as some others.

  • Jon Hope

    Your real mistake here, David, was in attempting to inject a little optimism and perspective into an article aimed at an audience with a predisposition towards misery and begrudgery.

    It’s a valiant effort. Now batten down the hatches for inevitable onslaught.

  • Neil

    The state to be rolled back, we’re on the Road to Wigan Pier, 1.5 tn in debt and feeling pretty good about. I’d start crowing about Britain’s economic state when the outlook becomes a bit less apocalyptic. We’re cutting like mad and it hasn’t started working yet, the light at the end of the tunnel at this point doesn’t exist. Let’s hope Gideon’s plans work out or we could be in real trouble.

  • Zeno1

    . “Yet today figures were released that showed today that the country has the fastest growth in the European Union, with debt being repaid ahead of schedule and the national credit rating upgraded (again!).”

    That sounds very positive, though I seem to remember that they weren’t due to start repaying the bail out loans until 2015 and it would make no sense at all in the current climate to start paying back early.

  • Mister_Joe

    I think that most people believe that the place where they were born and grew up is special.

  • Turgon

    I think Mr. Joe has it right. Many / most people think the place they grew up in (or sometimes their adopted country) is special. In a way all places are special as all are different but actually the similarities in terms of people are much greater than any differences. The other problem is differentiating special from superior. The reality is that we are all much the same the world over even more so within Western Europe. There are in actual fact no significant differences between the peoples of the British Isles: certainly not in genetic terms and very largely not in cultural terms.

    The above hymn to “Ireland” being “special” is I am afraid utter nonsense. Yes the RoI has pulled itself out of recession but David McCann does not point to the “special” status of the RoI when it was proclaimed the richest country in the world or similar nonsense on the basis of an enormous property bubble. Did that make the RoI special? Mr. McCann or do you not want to comment on that. Actually the property bubble made the RoI no more special than anywhere else: No more than the Tulip bubble made the Netherlands special.

    The idea that the H+W cranes remind one of the blitz is particularly laughable and contrived since they were built in 1969 and 1974 respectively (by Krupps the German company). The suggestion of Belfast being busy despite being fairly deprived is equally daft. There will be Christmas parties etc. going on in Hull and Middlesbrough despite them being socially deprived.

    All this cant is largely harmless except in that it perpetuates a notion that we are actually special and need special treatment. The reality is people are much the same all over the world and specialness can very easily become pretended superiority which is well on the road to racism.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Typos are the scourge of any blogger, but I have to say lack of punctuation and so on suggests not enough thought has gone into the piece in the first place.

    That applies here. Turgon, Mr Joe and The Dissenter among others have explained why.

  • Ian James Parsley

    I wouldn’t quite share those economic views, but the straightforward national one is important.

    It is factual, not political, to point out that the two parts of Ireland have been economically, legally and socially distinct for nearly a century. That means experiences growing up in one do not apply to the other. Indeed, the piece even mentions the War – the War one part fought in and the other one didn’t!

    Therefore the two parts of Ireland are, frankly, not one “country” – special or otherwise.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Asterix, Poirot, Mannequin Pis.

    Belgium is almost as made up as Narnia! But boy can they cook…

  • Ian James Parsley

    Very well put.

    I’m just back from Germany, which is every bit as special.

  • Ian James Parsley

    This piece is just bizarre. It refers chiefly to Northern Ireland, for a start. And how, precisely, does a country get “knocked out”?!

  • David McCann


    The H&W Crane reference reminded me of the Blitz at that was one of the targets of the Lufwaffe, not for the first time on this site you’ve twisted my words.

    You will find from my commeting records that I rarely comment on this site and will take 99% of criticism on the chin.

  • Robin Keogh

    One of the things I love about my country Ireland (and i mean all 32 counties) is when someone like David comes along with something positive to say and he gets torn apart for it. For some I understand that it burns their ears to hear anything good said about this nation and for others I understand that it hurts them simply because of their built in begrudgery. I doubt David ignores the serious challenges that face this Island in the years ahead but, I celebrate with him in our combined achievements. North, South, East and West have been an economic wilderness for years, and while the South, East and West are now steadily moving out of it, the North I hope can look forward to prosperity also as long as our political leaders sign on the dotted line pretty soon. I have travelled extensively as a cabin crew member for 14 years with Aer Lingus and Japan Airlines, I have travelled as a backpacker and now as a student and I am always amazed at the welcome us Irish get abroad, the fondness in which we are held and the great esteem the international community hold us in. I admire the way our sporting fans can occupy any town or city for the night with rarely a bad word passing. Sometime I wonder how our tiny Island has managed to produce such superstars of the Arts; Joyce, Beckett, U2, Sinead O Connor, Gary Mitchell, Liam Neeson, Grace Kelly…the list is endless. Internationally we punch above our weight politically and we always attract the best in sentiment from the international community. Even when it comes to immigration, cities and towns across Ireland have welcomed their new brothers and sisters with only the sharp end of Unionism spoiling the fun. This is a great country and it is made great by the people living in it; Billy in Ballymena, Paddy in Port Laoise, Conor in Cork, Daithi in Donegal, Macej from Moscow, Nuram from Nairobi and Romana from Romania. I am proud that 99.99999% of us have, against all the odds and despite all the begrudgery brought this great Nation back from the edge of catastrophe to the edge of Glory. Mo Thir, Mo Baile, Go raibh maith le Dia.

  • Robin Keogh

    Dublin was also bombed by the Germans and tens of thousands of Irishmen fought in WW2 despite the Republics official neutrality.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think actually he is referring to whole country not just the 6 counties

  • Robin Keogh

    Shut up; or find, something’ interesting… to,,say!!

  • Turgon

    Twisted your words? No I think not: rather exposed the idiocy of what you wrote. This claim to “exceptionalism” or “specialness” is actually remarkably close to racism. That me pointing that out annoys you is your problem.

    Trying to use H+W to bring in the blitz was a very weak way of trying to appropriate an icon largely admired by unionists for “Irishness”. I wonder if you think of the blitz when you see the Houses of Parliament or Buckingham Palace or any of hundreds of buildings across Europe damaged during the war. That you point to two cranes built by a German company decades after the war simply exposes the laughably contrived nature of the link. The idea of Christmas parties despite deprivation is just as daft.

    Your claim to take criticism on the chin is given the lie by what you have written now which is, I am afraid, a somewhat petulant response. All bloggers and most commenters get vast amounts of criticism. You get less than many.

    This was a poor article and people from all political sides and none have pointed that out. It is not the end of the world we all do poor articles: being so sore about it does not help: when in a hole stop digging and all that sort of thing. I am sure your next article will be better.

  • I think IJP’s point is that participation in two world wars is part of the NI national identity. That’s not the case in the south.

    Indeed, Irish war veterans were vilified in their home country.

  • Sharpie

    I like Ireland because it epitomises yin and yang.

    For everyone trying to be positive there is a begrudger to match them. Without the extremes there is no centre, without the madly positive and the depressingly begrudging there is no happy medium.

    Ireland is cool, Ireland is crap – both true. Northern Ireland is cool, Northern Ireland is crap – both true.

    If you want to spend your life in a funk of negativity – knock yourself out – its needed to act as a comparator, equally of you want to spend your life being naievly dewy eyed – likewise – just be happy in yourself.

  • delphindelphin

    In our hype sodden world one needs to dip deep into the barrel of superlatives to even appear average. Amazing, awesome, exceptional, stunning, unbelievable etc. are bandied about with out any thought given to their meaning. This comes from advertising/marketing practice originating in the’home of the brave – land of the free’ the good old US of A.

    So, seeing every country is exceptional, saying Ireland isn’t is plainly wrong.

    The Republic should be truly proud of the way it has handled the recession, and NI isn’t as bad as it used to be – I suppose.

    Were Ireland is genuinely exceptional is in her contribution to the world of literature.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Actually, Robin, rather more Irishmen from the old Free State (Republic=1948) fought in the British army against Hitler than there where volunteers from the wee six. This used to be a major topic of conversation among those locals, from both traditions, who had actually fought, and back in the nineteen fifties I used to have “important” people pointed out to me who were very, very fulsome about a NI war effort in which they themselves had avoided participating.

    So the extension by GB of elective “neutrality” to NI to avoid the problems conscription might have brought up was a welcome boon to those who were all too willing to affirm their staunch Britishness when it suited them, but were unwilling to risk their skins to support their “mother” country in its hour of need.

    A delightful case of all Irish unity in wartime from the most unexpected quarters that shows the true measure of those affirmations of “Britishness” so many of our fellow citizens now claim. “What did our family do in the war, daddy?”

  • Tochais Siorai

    Vilified. No. Ignored would be closer to the mark although there has been much debate recently about the rights and wrongs of barring British army veterans who had deserted from the Irish army from state employment.
    As for a NI national identity. Good luck with that. Collective experience maybe?

  • No actually vilified is pretty correct. It’s pretty well documented.

    And regarding NI identity, I’m in the fortunate position of being very well acquainted with people from both sides of the divide. Amongst those that I know, even those who are more nationalist in their views clearly feel themselves to be different from people down south. Sorry but that’s just how it is.

  • puffen

    Territorial Regiments in the wee six were not thrown into the mix, as they were a standing Army.Royal Artillery Battalions,Royal Engineers and of course the Rifles, Given the population difference per head, there was greater participation in the North, though of course they all deserve our gratitude for their sacrifice, More people lost their lives in the Belfast Blitz than Coventry, I think 18 Died in Dublin Strand

  • Thomas Girvan

    Why drag Sinead O’Connor into it?

  • Thomas Girvan

    1st July 1916.
    We shall remember them.

  • Thomas Girvan

    Vilified is the appropriate term.
    It is time for a bit of historical revisionism.

  • Robin Keogh

    Because Drag is cool

  • Thomas Girvan

    I think she has been sleeping with her head in the freezer!

  • Robin Keogh

    No i think the freezer is in her head

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    David’s reference to the reminder of the city being bombed to pieces by just witnessing the cranes is understandable for a number of reasons:

    1/ Ignorance – A significant number of people may not
    be aware that the cranes were built after the war.
    If that is the case then it is not too demanding to envision that people may imagine those silhouettes standing out while Harry Hun did his worst.

    2/ Symbolism – for those in the know and well aware of
    the destruction wrought on the city it is hard to forget that one of the reasons for the death and destruction was the military significance of such a mighty industrial giant.
    This giant is symbolised by the two cranes.

    3/ Memory hooks – Cranes = H&W = Shipyards = Targets = Nazi bombs. The train of thought doesn’t have to be completely linear for it to arrive at a conclusion.

    As for your property bubble gripe the reason for its
    omission may perhaps be down to the fact that the republic and most of its citizenry acknowledge where they went wrong in terms of the property bubble. As well the fact that it has been mentioned ad nauseum over the past 6 years…

    What is not so well acknowledged is that Northern
    Ireland’s property big wigs also jumped on board said bandwagon, much to the detriment of Northern Ireland’s Victorian architectural heritage.

    It’s also unfair to say that David is trying to appropriate Samson & Goliath for ‘Irishness’.
    Yes, they’re not ‘Oirishness’ but they are part of the fabric of a particular vein of Irish heritage.

    I understand that neither Messrs Harland nor Wolff were Irish but they were keenly aware that they didn’t build a shipbuilding empire in Azerbaijan, they built it in Ireland (and Clydeside).

    They built it in Ireland and employed mainly Irish Protestant workers (such were the demographics of the region).

    If Samson and Goliath can’t be described as an aspect
    of ‘Irishness’ surely the same applies to the Giant’s Causeway, I’m sure the Ulster Scots agency would love to claim Finn MacCool (as long as he doesn’t
    speak Gaelic…)

  • WD

    Not to forget the Limerick boycott led by Irish Catholics where Jews were made to flee to North America (where they thrived). Or the xenophobia that remains in many parts of Ireland, North and South against anyone from GB. There will always be a minority of people who are xenophobic or racist, simply through genetic and environmental factors. Saying that only Unionists have been racist in modern times defies logic and is simply untrue.

  • Bryan Magee

    Wasn’t it a bit crap to have had such a property bubble?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Puffin, I’ve been through all the arguements about proprtions, etc, before with Son of Strongbow, etc. The core issue is that, while I was growing up, I was very aware that those officers who visited my home were utterly contemptious of the politicians and the broader population here who would claim “loyalty” but showed in their actions (or inactions) that this was just words. They contrasted those couragious committed men and women from the South who sacrificed much to fight. The real issue is that all classes of society in the north ducked out of “doing their bit” and this was noticed by those men who had gone through the first war and were incandesent at what they saw as the cynical “conditionality” of the “Unionism” of those around them. Long standing friendships were broken, and I had the “hypocrites” pointed out to me on armistice day through the 1950s every time they were fulsome about our glorious dead from public platforms. Fact.

    My grandfather (RA) was commanding the Ack Ack units in parts of north Down the night of the Belfast Blitz. He and the “professionals” had been warning those at Stormont that pressure had to be put on UK politicians to organise proper anti-aircraft protection for Belfast as German planes were easily capable of reaching it. The same lazyness we see today was at play, and you know the results. This completely seperate issue of the bombing of innocent civilians in no way mitigates the record of non-enlistment, and I’m seriously confused as to what sort of arguement you believe it makes here.

  • ted hagan

    Unionists see themselves as being Northern Irish. It’s simply a different brand of Irishness from Southern Irishness in that unionists favour the link with the UK. It’s fairly simple really. One lot is not more Irish than the other because of that.

  • In God’s Country

    To you, of course, because you are a British unionist. To others (that is to say, most of Ireland), Ireland is one country composed of one people, in all their diversity, albeit divided by a wholly artificial border.

    I can assure you that someone growing up in Strabane playing GAA, learning Irish, holding an Irish passport (as per their constitutional entitlement) and participating fully in Ireland’s cultural life is just as proud of his country and attached to it as any Unionist from North Down, who is a sometime deckhand on HMS Tory, is attached to Britain.

  • In God’s Country

    You rather admirably demonstrate the truth of the old saying: “an Ulsterman is a dour, grim f°°°°r indeed”.

  • Ian James Parsley

    The Free State did not institute the black out, did not have the same rationing and did not break ties with Germany.

    Its experience if “the Emergency” was utterly different.

  • In God’s Country

    I don’t think that’s true at all. Most people feel that other lands are more interesting and, if one must, “special” than where they hail from.

    To be fair though, almost every foreigner I have ever met has lauded Ireland as a “special” place. If only for her literature alone, particularly the beauty and creativity of ancient Irish myth and legend (written in Western Europe’s oldest recorded vernacular outwith Latin and Greek), Ireland is a country that stands out on the world stage.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Sort of. But it is more that the experience of the War in the two countries was utterly different.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Yes, vilified is correct. It’s a matter of historical record for which the current Irish Government apologised.

  • Ian James Parsley

    He may have wanted to, but the references weren’t.

    That’s my point. The experiences and responses of people in the two jurisdictions to almost everything – from Great Depression to Great Recession – have been different.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Watch, it you!

  • Ian James Parsley

    The fact you resort to fanciful labelling rather than addressing the actual point demonstrates the obvious emptiness of your case.

    (That is to leave aside your wanting to tie us to a country whose “austerity” measures have been much broader and hard hitting than anything introduced anywhere in the UK by anyone!)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah, Tom Girvan, as I mentioned elsewere on Slugger, my grandfather was the “out in the field” officer with the 107th Trench mortars at Theipval on 1/7/16. While I am all for remembering those who fought, and in my ecxperience their descendants usually do this, I’m more concerned at the descendants of those who did not actually fight appropriating the sacrifice of “the men who really did the job” as some sort of collective accolade for the community of the post partition “statelet” of NI. When I was making films, if someone claimed a film credit for something they had not worked on we tended to be very leery of trusting their CV. I’ve had exchanges some months back about who, amongst current polirticians who will be celebrating (rather than commemorating!) 1st July 1916 in 2016, those who are now supporting the union, may actually have had an ancestor in the Great War. And I’d be interested to discover if any of those thought of as “the other side” may have had someone who was actually fighting in the war. A bit of cold water over the sentimentality and mawkish self praise that attends current politician’s perceptions of something that properly belongs to those who really participated.

  • In God’s Country

    Ian, you posted a missive riddled with logical and emotional fallacies, apparently in the expectation that you would not be pulled up on it. Tant pis.

    You fail to understand that not everyone in “Northern Ireland” shares your cosy, conservative North Down outlook on life, nor does everyone in “Northern Ireland” hold a British-centric identity. Very many people are proud of their country, their culture, and their heritage. And that country is Ireland, all 32 counties of it.

  • In God’s Country

    How would other countries have acted in 1945 had soldiers deserted from their army to join a foreign one, particularly one which not 20 years before had been engaged in brutal oppression and murder in the said country? How would Britain, or any other country for that matter, have reacted?

    The treatment of the deserters was mild by the standards of the time. And indeed, according to military law they had to be punished. The sentence meted out was seen as the best available compromise as it meant the men could return to Ireland without fear of prosecution.

    Of course, Unionist propagandists don’t hesitate to use it as a tool to beat the RoI with. Unsurprisingly, their ire does not extend to Switzerland, Sweden and all the other small countries that acted as the RoI did.

    As for “NI national identity”. Ha Ha. One has to smile at the insidious “we are the people” mindset. They never learn.

  • sk

    Deserters were punished for their desertion, as would happen in any army.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I think. IG’sC, Ian’s problem is that while he has perhaps read his Herslinga he has not gone on to read the academic critiques of this work. I may be wrong in this, he may have read them and simply not understood them.

    “It is factual, not political, to point out that the two parts of Ireland have been economically, legally and socially distinct for nearly a century. That means experiences growing up in one do not apply to the other.” While on the surface a statement of simple fact, this is actually what postmodernists call a “power discourse” a process of legitimating Ian’s authority in the discourse through the construction of what he is claiming are definitive and unquestionable truths, implying a particular power relationship where the opinions of the other party can simply be dismissed as of no value. The entire complexity of the empathic relationships current across Ireland and Irish culture over the past 100 years for some of us are simply dismissed with an appeal to “unquestioned” differences that have been carefully selected by Ian. The fact that his reductionist interpretation affirms British rule is not even questioned by him.

    Every part of Ireland can offer complex differences as to how we all articulate our Irishness, there is little homogeniety, unlike more regimented cultures. Reading Ian again I just cannot avoid this picture of him angerly standing with a clip board and a sheet of tick boxes trying to define an exact Irishness that qualifies a person for inclusion or exclusion, a “Final Solution” to the Irishness/Britishnes problem.

    But Irishness and Britishness and their effect on our communities are open to a multiplicity of possible interpretations. I’d ask Ian to research the issues again looking at what he does not believe and factoring such insights as these may offer him into his conclusions. If we are to actually get anywhere beyond the current stalemate, that is.

  • delphindelphin

    Just being positive -they got themselves into it, but knuckled down and are now one of the better performing western economies – just ready for SF to come in and screw it up.

  • In God’s Country

    There are two problems here.

    The first is that whilst it is correct to state that the ”two parts of Ireland have been economically, legally and socially distinct for nearly a century”, this statement, though appearing to state much, tells us very little. In reality, it is ideological Unionism masquerading as disinterested fact.

    Scotland, to take one example, has been distinct in all these ways for hundreds of years. This does not prevent Scots from being British or identifying with Britain. The same is true for the Welsh.

    Connacht has been economically and socially distinct from the rest of Ireland for many generations. In Dublin, there are hardly any Irish-speaking communities; in Connact there are many. In Dublin, farming is relatively unimportant as an employer, it Connacht the opposite is the case.

    Someone raised in a Nationalist community in Tyrone will have a very different education, culture and mental outlook to someone raised in North Down. Just as a Scot from the Highlands will be very different from a Londoner, despite the fact they hold the same passport.

    The second problem is that IJP appears to employ country as a synonym for sovereign state. But of course if this is so, neither Wales nor Scotland nor indeed England are “countries”.

    Country has a much broader meaning than “state” and Irish people from whatever part of Ireland are fully justified in claiming Ireland, all of it, as their country – and a special one too.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Very precisely argued with a good range of examples, IG’sC! Where I’d made the general point that Ian’s slam dunk statements were actually a power discourse masquerading as plain fact, you have unpacked the issue of similarity and difference carefully to critique him Thank you!

    I’m rather concerned that Ian seems to be employing the arguements long developed by political interests from Heslingua’s “The Irish Border as a Cultural Divide” as some kind of given fact. Recent work has deconstructed much of Heslingus’s work, for example:,175415,en.pdf

    The problem with the use of academic work by political interests is often is that the kind of complexities that were usually ignored in the past as counterproductive to clear research have now begun to take centre stage in our assessment of the ground level reality we actually function within. Ian seems to be slow in catching up with this trend against broad generalisations.

    And thaks again for your most clear piece above.

  • Mister_Joe

    I disagree. I think that people visit other lands simply because they are different and want to experience that. At least that’s why I do it and I try to visit one other land every year.

  • puffen

    I suspect your granda was a territorial , better to leave the band of brothers in piece, it does us no credit, to latch on to their heroism for our own party political ends.

  • kensei

    Yes! I absolutely and with a passion hate the whole “Our wee country” nonsense that Unionists espouse; it is completely alien to the Ireland I know. When I was growing up, the “All Ireland” seemed like this giant thing. The various people in Irish history seemed like giants – not just the classical Nationalist figures like O’Connell (basically invented the mass political rallies as a force) or Collins (studied by Mao as he conquered China) but Wilde and Swift and Yeats et al. The struggles were fundamental and epic – about religious and political freedom, about large scale suffering and injustice, about how Ireland fit strategically into European politics and the wider world. Ireland had a disproportionate influence on the world, mostly by exporting its people, unfortunately, but it meant that I felt connected to communities in Britain and the Americas and Australia and that’s before you find out about how say an Irishman was the first Admiral of the British navy. The connection that many people generations removed still feel to this place is exceptional on its own.

    That’s before you start thinking about how it’s all said a pretty nice and a nicely pretty place to live, despite all the problems.

  • Mister_Joe

    Totally wrong. Most “unionists” see themselves as “British” and there’s nothing wrong with that. Telling them that they’re “really” Irish is insulting.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I entirely agree Puffin, no one should use any of this for party political ends. For myself, I’m very much my own person, no ones dog in the fight altgough I feel deeply grateful for every aspect of the Irish culture I’ve inherited from my family and all those generations who went before me! I find all politicians here pretty much on a parr for insincerity. I’m writing for the benefit of any decent person, who, seeing another claim credit for something that their history, or their families history gives the lie to, sees exactly whats wrong with our entire political culture. Big politically motivated gestures that cost the politicians little or nothing, while ordinary, decent people have to carry on the real work of maintaining a functioning society and a rich culture (especially the Irish language) that feeds our core humanity. These unsung, unknowns are the real people who have created what is truly “exceptional” about the place we live in.

    For the record, my grandfather was a regular. Royal Artillery, no harm whatever to the territorials. My father was navy, while uncle and mother both joined the RAF. All met and admired their fellow Irish from all of Ireland during their service. One of those interesting things so few seem to know is that the songs most sung in any army mess then tended to be “Rebel” songs.

  • Tochais Siorai

    No, it isn’t. The government apologised for its treatment of a specific group of WW2 veterans i.e. those who had deserted the Irish Army and these constituted a small minority of veterans form the Republic.

  • Bryan Magee

    While I think you make some great points, do you have to preface it with such an explicit statement of “hate ” (you actually use that word!) for what you see as a unionist perspective? (Though really what you disparage it’s no so much a unionist as a NI pride perspective)

  • Bryan Magee

    Fair enough, I think Dublin has done a pretty good job of things in dealing with the crisis, surprised the FG Labour govt does not get more credit, after all the economy is now growing better than the other EZ countries.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Um, what was all that about?

    My statement of simple truth is not only, well, a statement of simple truth, but also one confirmed in referendums in each jurisdiction in 1998.

    Herslinga’s work has its place, but actually has nothing to do with it.

  • Ian James Parsley

    True. Thereby accepting that they were on the right side – something not previously accepted and which led to vilification.

    I would know, as I grew up in the same street as two “Free Staters” who fought in the war and then moved North afterwards.

  • Robin Keogh

    If u think the experiences of people growing up in east donegal are that different to those in west derry or any similar comparison, then ur barking mate.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah, Ian, 1998 did you say? My problem is not with what people may have thought sixteen years ago, or about the existence of separate political jurisdictions for a century (“simple truth”) but in what you suggest may been made permanent by this. All culture grows and changes and sometimes this happens very fast, as in the period between 1915 and 1919 in Ireland. A week is a long time, even in politics and things are often changed radically by “events, dear boy”.

    As I’d suggested elsewhere to another poster suffering from unwarranted certainty, perhaps you should attempt the rather stressful exercise of trying to argue the opposite case to your own in your imagination, and find what you may discover in this. It plays havoc with all those macho certainties but suggests points of contact with those of other views. The very fact that you can make the claim that you are the source of “simple truth” in this matter while presenting very broad generalisations just underlines how far away you are from this all too necessary necessary self-criticism. You could start by thinking about how little difference partition has actually made in the arts or to anything genuinely cultural.

  • Tochais Siorai

    But you’re still suggesting there was some widespread vilification of WW2 veterans in the south. Where is the evidence of this? Your two neighbours could have moved North for a myriad of reasons. There were thousands who returned home & lived normal lives throughout Ireland.
    Well, maybe apart from Northern Ireland’s only Victoria Cross recipient who didn’t get any official recognition from his native city because he was a Catholic. Or even a job which forced him to move to England.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Anecdotally, a great number of those who volunteered and fought from the north came home to similar difficulties in finding work. Unemployment was a serious problem after the end of war work and both Catholics and protestants found it problematic, because those who had not volunteered were now successfully employed and would hardly be laid off to make room for the “mugs” who had fought. another reason the claim that NI somehow shared collectively in the credit of those who actually fought is so very offensive.

    As you say Tochais Siorai, the men Ian mentions could have come north for any number of reasons. For a start, much more employment had been lost in the Free State during the emergency, and in some fields it may have been easier to find work even in the constrained conditions in the north. Unless Ian has some proof, possibly in the form of discussions with these men, he may be attributing the wrong motives to their move.

  • kalista63

    Back in the 80’s we had that awful expression, be yourself, no one else is better at being you. Back in the boom years I was going out with a girl from Laois and spent a lot of time there and in Dublin. Her Dublin crowd were a mix of classical musicians, a couple of bankers and a couple of journos and man, did they think they (the Irish) were the dogs danglies. They seemed to want to be, simultaneously, Londoners, Parisians, Scandanavians and unlike Americans, none too proud of their nation’s revolutionar past.

    One guy, a banker, had a lovely house somewhere between Connolly station and Croke Park and was obsessed with how much the value of his gaff had gone up. Houl on, says me to me, I’ve heard this conversation before, I heard it in London prior to the previous collapse. Of course, when I said this I was dismissed as a black Nordie.

    I hoped that the crash would have the positive effect of resetting ireland back to its old self but judging by Irish sites, a certain coterie has learned absolutely zilch. Ireland should be ireland because (as anyone who’s been in an Irish themed pub of in NY on St. Patrick’s Day knows) no one is better at being Ireland than you

  • kalista63

    Don’t know about them but my IPad has become possessed since that last update. Just a possible reason.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Indeed, Seaan lots of men had difficulties finding work postwar but I’m sure the NI powers that be could have found something for a qualified tradesman who had won the VC if they wanted to.

  • Zeno1

    “My nephews who are all Americans, do have a real sense of civic pride as they are quick to tell me that they can recite the Pledge of Allegiance perfectly, practicing it every morning in school before class starts.”

    That’s not something to be proud of. It’s simple brain washing. Indoctrinating school kids should be illegal.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I suppose, Tochais Siorai, that point I’m trying to make is that Jimmie Magennis was far from unique in this treatment, although the VC marks him out as a particularly deserving case for anyone who even cared slightly. My grandfather was personally involved in finding work for many others among those who were demobbed and then simply laughed at when they looked for work post war. The “you could have stayed out of it with the rest of us” effect. While growing up in the 1950s, I was told that the attitude of the powers that then were to all of them, from whatever background, was pretty contemptious. I doubt that any conscience amongst our masters of those days itched even slightly over the fate of any one of the men who had fought for them.

    I note that James Magennis VC has a gable end of his own at some flats on the Tullycarnet estate off King’s Road. Have you seen it?

  • Tochais Siorai

    Only on t’internet. Must go sometime, I’d say they’d love me around there!

  • tmitch57

    I am a proud American, but I’m very leery of the concept of American exceptionalism. I think it means that somehow the economic laws and historical laws that govern the rest of the world don’t apply to the United States, which is a disaterous

    way of thinking and we will eventually reap the price of it. I think Ireland (ROI) has already reaped the price of Irish exceptionalism in the Great Recession of 2008.

    As far as Ireland’s great literature, I think it pales in comparison with Russian literature from the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    TS. “Must go sometime, I’d say they’d love me around there!”

    They’d love me too. Use a car with quick acceleration……

  • Mister_Joe

    Isn’t it analogous to the main war mongers from the USA in waging the war against Iraq that most of them were draft dodgers during the Vietnam war.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Mister_Joe, my wife always says “The 60s generation is now firmly in power.” While Obama is a bit younger, I do notice just what delight he appears to take in “nice sanitised warfare” using drones.

    It’s the sheer hypocrisy of the all those Unionist politicians representing something their immediate elders slyly ducked out of that sets my teeth on edge. But Bill Clinton did much the same thing, and when I was watching him and Blair, Trimble and Mallon at the Odyssey from six rows back in 2000, I kept thinking which of these four men on the platform would you trust with your life at the end of a rope? Ho Hummmm…..