“A paper-thin fabrication built on a pack of lies?”

From _The Dubliner_ magazine, a rant on why foreigners are starting to think Irish suck, which overlooks our tendency to rant on why foreigners think we suck.

10 Great myths about the Irish

“Nowhere has our approach to the US been more craven than in the Iraq crisis. Through offering use of the facilities at Shannon airport to US warplanes, we sold out on any notion that neutrality meant anything. Irish complicity in US military actions has been justified on the basis that ‘we owe a lot to the US’ and ‘we don’t want to lose American investment’. So much for our ‘proud’ tradition of military neutrality and independence – so much for the political and legal doctrine. Like so many other facets of Irish society, our neutrality has revealed itself to be a sham. So what then does it mean to be Irish? It seems that we are not really the nice, friendly people everybody else thinks we are. In fact, we are deeply shallow. We say what we think people want us to say. We love the idea of a united Ireland but not the reality, the idea of speaking Irish even though we can’t really do it. We are European with the Europeans, and American with the Yanks, Catholic when we feel like it, and liberated and literary when we don’t. We are welcoming to foreigners except when we’re not, environmentally friendly unless it’s in our back yard, and neutral when it suits us. We stay up drinking all night because we want to be liked, not because we are genuinely fun-loving people. What an insincere, un-self-confident bunch we really are (although not a lot of people know this, we hide it so well). Perhaps this insincerity, this insecurity, this shallowness, has become the truest attribute of Irishness. Let’s face it: our one defining characteristic is that we are a nation of hypocrites.

“We” do self-hatred pretty well though, it seems.

15 thoughts on ““A paper-thin fabrication built on a pack of lies?””

  1. Fair point. The whole article was tedious beyond belief. Added written air quotes to make that clearer.


  2. thank you Ivana Bacik (Reid Professor of Crimonology, TCD) and Constantin Gurdgiev (TCD Economics Lecturer) for calling a spade a spade. As a person who lives in Ireland (rather than viewing it from far away shores) I’d have to agree with her. I don’t think there’s much hyperbole in that article nor do I think it’s a rant.

    It is merely a frank statement reflecting how many of us living here (rather than coming home to visit occassionally) actually feel. The rose tinted or john hinde tinted spectacles were removed from our eyes long ago!!

    The truth hurts sometimes, but they speak the truth very well.


  3. I guessed that (about your non-rose tinted view) from reading your blog. Which is why I was surprised at your dismissive attitude to that article. It was a very negative article, certainly, but a welcome antidote to the “aren’t we great, everyone loves us” belief firmly held by many people. I think a bit more humility, politeness, and tolerance would go a long way in Ireland. Not to mention more recycling, more interest in european languages, more standing up to parents and grandparents and saying “no, i won’t get married in a church that i haven’t set foot in for ten years” etc etc. But now I’m starting to rant. 🙂 And you don’t like rants!! 🙂


  4. I should clarify that I don’t disagree with much in the article. It covered the many small gripes about the place I felt during my recent extended visit. I do, I admit, find it tedious to give thought to all those gripes again, but when the editors sent me the link, I couldn’t resist reading it, like probing a sore tooth. (And now I’ve passed on the bad turn that made me grumpy for the morning–sorry!)

    But more than that, I find it tedious that the authors start a list of home truths by worrying what foreigners think, as if external approval were the most important barometer of cultural health. Which seems like part of the problem they’re diagnosing!


  5. It’d make a great Trinity entrance exam question. Better than the “a terrible beauty is born: discuss” one that I remember having to plough through (God help the poor examiner)

    There is a smugness about “being Irish” that is prevalent, but then I now live in a country (US) that constantly tells itself that its people are the hardest working, most decent in the world..its democracy is the finest thing since the invention of the wheel…its troops are the best fightin’ men….its society is the most whatever.. So, we’re not alone in our blinkers, and it’s always harsh to have the mirror speak back.


  6. Or possibly a stifling inferiority complex? Frank, OTOH, presents an accurate view of yanks, but then disputes its validity. Possibly confused? 😉


  7. The article’s definitely waaay over the top.

    For one thing — the puncturing of our neutrality for the War on Iraq, with
    the *pathetic* excuse of ‘it’ll hurt US investment if we don’t’, was
    a terrible thing — a case of selling our morals to the highest bidder.
    However, *I* certainly didn’t assent to it, nor did most of my friends
    and family — the right-wing FF/PD government did.

    ‘We reject all progressive European standards; standards of decent State-funded
    education, health and welfare systems, women’s rights, workers’ rights,
    secularism, a good public transport system… Instead, we have embraced the
    American model.’ Again, not us — the FF/PD government (especially
    the PDs with their crazy free-marketeering).

    As many USAians are saying nowadays — “I didn’t vote for them”. 😉

    (It’d be nice to get them out next time around though, but we’ll
    need to get a decent opposition together again, first.)


  8. I have to say that the 59 freshers that passed through my care this year are far from insecure or shallow. They chance their arms and box above their weights–which is the true stereotype I respect as Irish. But I drew that conclusion while growing up in an Irish-American community far from the auld sod.


  9. It seems, actually, that Irish papers are often full of self hatred, from what I read. In fact, Ireland’s ( generally leftist) elites keep attacking the country and having been singing from the same ole hymn sheet for years . One wonders, for instance , where the In Dubliners got their myths from. Most of these headlines are not actual “myths” : it’s hardly a “myth” that ireland was a Catholic country, and is becoming less so. The headlines are not “myths” but problems the writers have with Irish society which they tediously “debunk” ( and actually the debunking is just more criticism of the way Ireland is, rather than a debunking of the “myths” – some of which they actually confirm).

    Much of the nonsense is not even exclusively Irish. Take the “Drugs Myth”. Read this horrible claptrap, and weep:

    The Drugs Myth
    Like sex, we pretend that drugs don’t happen here.We operate a prohibitionist ideology, criminalising and locking up those who are caught buying, selling or simply possessing drugs like cannabis, ecstasy and heroin.(blah blah)

    Yes, we and pretty much everybody else in the free world. Where is the myth of a drug free ireland? How we we have laws against drugs if we “pretend that drugs don’t happen here”. We also incarerate far less people per capita than the US, but nobody would say the US has a drug “myth” – that drugs don’t happen there : quite the opposite.

    It is easy enough to debunk this crap: try find articles about the ten myths that actually cofirm the headline myths.

    To start you off I will write 2 articles which confirm these “myths” – which leave you with 8 to find via google:

    Sex In Ireland:

    There is no sex in Ireland. People reproduce by dividing.

    Drugs in Ireland.

    Nobody uses drugs in Ireland: not even Alcohol or coffee, or an asprin.

    So off you go..

    ( this can of argument is called Straw man, i think)


  10. Eoin, I think we’re going to have to get you a blog soon 🙂 Though, selfishly, I prefer to have you posting here.


  11. “We” do self-hatred pretty well though, it seems.

    Not half well enough if you ask me. ‘Self-hatred’ may be a bit too strong a word to use but I think a bit more self-analysis and introspection wouldn’t go astray.

    “We” (the dreaded “we” again) as a nation are remarkably incurious about our history, our identity, our society and culture, about our place in the world, about what makes us tick as a people. We rarely look beyond the stock answers.

    So while I agree that the article was poorly written (I read it with a similiar mind to you), using weak stereotypical examples (and replacing one set of stereotypes with another), I do think there is a lot to be said for the basic premise.

    “We” Irish as a nation have a seemingly endless capacity for self deception.


  12. This working lark is really cutting in on my ability to analyse for myself. 😦 These days I speed-read in the morning and ask you to do my thinking for me.

    Thanks, all, for doing such a good job.


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