March 17th, 2004

irish politics, bertie

myth busting

So, it's "Ethnic Stereotype Day". Or, as it appears to be known in some circles, St Patty's day. Patty? Where do these people get these things? I mean, PATTY? Jaysus. Anyway, my regular readers know how much I hate faux-Irishness of all kinds, so in honour of this "festival", which I have spent brainstorming about my book with my sort-of agent and helping my boyfriend make a film, rather than drinking or parading, let me bust a few myths.

1. Most Irish people do not have red hair. Nor do they have green eyes. In fact, I only know two natural redheads, and one of them has hair which is practically brown. Most Irish people are like me: very fair skin, brown hair and blue/grey eyes. Yes, we probably have more red-haired people than, say, Italy, but not that many.

2. Not all Irish people are drunks. Nor can they "hold their drink". There's unhealthy binge drinking, sure, and a lot of our social culture is based around pubs, but there's another country that's not so far away that's very very similar (so similar, in fact, that their government has introduced new measures to try and combat binge drinking). So the drinking is a small-wet-countries-filled-with-shy-repressed-people-who-can-only-release-their-inhibitions-when-drunk thing. And Ireland also has one of the highest percentage of teetotalers in Europe. Swings and roundabouts, people. Also, drunk Irish jokes? Not funny. Racist. Even if your grandmother was from Kerry. Do the good old "subsitute other race and other ethnic stereotype' trick and see just how funny it is. And don't tell us we can't take a joke. Because we'll kneecap you (oops! Another stereotype!).

3. Not all Irish people are Catholics either. And many of those that are tend to have a very cynical attitude to many of the church's teachings.

4. There is no such language as "Gaelic". It's called Irish. Get over it, fantasy writers and ljireland members. Agus na bi ag caint fuainn. Edited to add one from hfnuala: 4b. There's no such country as Eire unless you're speaking Irish.

5. If you think Irish accents are lovely and melodic, take a stroll round this neck of the woods and listen to the nasal whine of the upper-middle-class south Dublin teenager. And shudder. My own accent isn't exactly enchanting either (as those who heard my phone post will know).

6. Those farcical "irish" American bands with stupid names like Black 47 and the Young Dubs would get laughed off a stage if they ever came near actual Dublin. It doesn't matter if they have a few token Irish members, this is music madde for Americans. Actual Dublin bands all sound like God Speed You Black Emperor or Ladytron or Franz Ferdinand or Will Oldham. Proper trad experts (who are few and far between under the age of forty anyway) like proper old school trad bands, not crappy fake stuff (the Pogues don't count as fake, because they're really good). And if a band calls itself "celtic", I'd be surprised if it could find Ireland on a map. There's no such thing as "celtic" music, unless by that one means ancient music from Ireland, Scotland, Wales or Brittany. What people seem to mean by it these days is "traditional irish", and if so, that's what they should say.

7. Ireland is not some magical land of myth and legend. It's a modern, corrupt, dirty, bigoted shithole full of smug Thatcherites who refuse to make any long-term plans about the country. It's also full of very funny, smart people, some beautiful scenery, and to me, it's home. My family have lived here since at least the arrival of the Normans, I was born here, I was brought up here, and I've lived the vast majority of my 28 years here. But I refuse to sentimentalise it and pretend it's anything it's not.

Aaaaaah! That felt better. Now, go on and don't drink any green beer. Slan libh.
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infant art

After the last entry, I'll take off my ranty-pants and tell you about the nice thing that happened yesterday. I answered the door to find two of my smallest neighbours, Shereen and Sinead and their even tinier friend Christopher, bearing drawings they had done for me. Shereen had drawn a very colourful butterfly, and Sinead had made a St Patrick's Day card. They're both about five.

I love my small neighbours.