Playing The Race Card In Ireland
Poor old Kevin Myers is at it again: propagating his “race theory” of Irish politics (and society) thanks to the platform provided to him by his acolytes in the Independent group of newspapers. His latest attempt to whip up some “ethnic tensions” centres on an old and cherished theme of his: that Fine Gael, Ireland’s centre right conservative party, is made up of people ethnically different from those of other political parties. In Myers’ peculiar world view the “right sort of folk” are those in Ireland he believes to be descended from British settlers, in particular the medieval Norman-British who came here in the 12th and 13th centuries. These men and women he argues can be identified through their surnames, even after several hundred years of their ancestors living here, and are quiet distinct in temperament and intelligence from the native Gaels.
By Gaels Myers of course means the Native Irish but he cannot bring himself to use those two words together (and horror of horrors – capitalized!). He believes that “Gael” is not the same as “Irish” (no matter what the history books or dictionaries may say). No. Gaels are another thing altogether. A separate people, race, lingering on in Ireland and quiet distinct from the broad swath of people who call themselves “Irish” today. They, the monolingual English speaking, reading, writing (thinking) men and women of the island of Ireland are now the true Irish (including those like yourself born and raised in England, hey, Kevin, me ol’ darlin’?). The Gaels on the other hand are those who speak the Gaelic language (a dead language that no one speaks, dontcha know), and who adhere to Gaelic culture and a Gaelic identity. They are the people of the GAA, of Celtic myth, of nationalist violence, of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Óglaigh na hÉireann, of 1916 and 1919. They are a poisonous vein in the body politic, an unwelcome reminder of Ireland’s primitive pre-English, pre-British past. Or so he likes to think.
Thus Squadron Major Myers can write stuff like this in the Irish Independent and be lauded for it by those who follow a similar crooked path:
“Fine Gael really doesn’t know what it is, or what it wants. It largely accepts the gospel as written by Fianna Fail, that party of bamboozling boozers, frauds and terrorist-appeasers, which declares that Fine Gael is not authentically Irish. Which is pretty good, considering that Fianna Fail was founded by one man whose ancestors were (allegedly) from Spain… Actually, the only authentically “Irish” person left is probably some naked wet Hobbit huddling under a stone in Inishmaan.”
“Authentically Irish”? “Naked wet Hobbit”? Is this considered intelligent writing amongst the Anglophone establishment? And “Insihmann”? Is that what the rest of Irealnd (and the world) calls Inis Meáin? Wow. He can’t even bring himself to write in Irish. Oooops! Sorry. I meant of course, Gaelic.
And so on to his next big ball of crazy.
“Firstly, Fine Gael should start by slowly renaming itself.
…ditch the ridiculous name, Fine Gael the Republican Party. Firstly, all those Lucinda, Simons, Marks and Garrets are as much family of the Gael as they are the family of Dayaks. The best way for the party to rename itself is… by appending a slogan to the party name, which in time takes over the whole. Thus, Fine Gael: the Constitutional & Democratic Party can, by careful mutation, become The Constitutional Democrats.
The CDs will not do a tribal war dance at Bael na mBlath or Bodenstown. They will not “celebrate” the Rising. They will stand four-square behind the rule of law. Their children will learn politeness, punctuality, the piano and Chinese.”
Ah, and it’s off to the races – the racial kind anyway. No Gaels here, please. All those lovely “British” names, not an ugly Gaelic one in sight. We are definitely nothing to do with those people. Y’know. The others. The (whisper) “natives”. We vote Christian Democrat! Our kids speak English and learn Chinese, and trace their ancestors to good honest English folk. The seed of Britannia!
I know. It’s utterly risible. The ravings of a madman. But a madman who is given a prominent place of comment and opinion in our national press, and who is a regular guest on our news and current affairs shows. Which raises the question: where the hell does our media come from? A born-again Pale?
“…the nature of Fine Gael. It is defined by self-doubt and equivocation. With all its Lucindas, its Simons, its Garrets, its Olwyns and its Richards, its silly name notwithstanding, it is not a family of Gaels. It is a perpetual minority, largely of non-Gaelic, Anglo-Norman Catholics in ethnic origin: strong farmers, smalltown merchants and lawyers.”
Settler politics, hey? No Gaels in Fine Gael, just non-Gaelic (non-Irish!) Norman-British ethnos: an embattled minority surrounded by a sea of hostile, recalcitrant natives. What do Fine Gael members and voters actually think of this stuff? It’s the loonier fringes of British Nationalist and Unionist blogging. What next, descent from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel? Or have the British ethnic minority in the north-east of the country got that one all sowed up?
“Fianna Fail, with its eighty years of being in the driving seat — with the Simons being occasionally permitted to take over whenever Cuchulainn got tired at the wheel — still gets the obedient Soloheadbeg vote. But with so much political power for so long, it has colonised the old unionist boroughs of Pembroke and Kingstown, and the salubrious postal districts of Dublin 4 and 6. It has created a mandarin class whose accents and manners are identical to those of Fine Gael. Fianna Fail children go to Clongowes and Gonzaga, and their social camouflage is completed by their gloriously Protestant names: the Emmas, the Jessicas and the Jennies whose great grandfathers (or so the family legend maintains) were in the GPO.
The daughters of these Fianna Fail mandarins might speak Californianised Kingstown — omigod, no way Lucinda! — but the pike lies in the spiritual thatch still. Take them to a social gathering of Sinn Fein/IRA, Fine Gael, Unionists, and they’ll join the Shinner table. Their suits might shimmer with expensive threads, but they embody still the weird morality of Fianna Fail, in which clan and conspiracy, cronyism and ancestral cordite define loyalty.”
Whey! Religious and racial intolerance in two easily digestible paragraphs. Why be a racist bigot when you can be a sectarian one too?! You show ‘em, Caoimhín. Imagine. Bah to Cú Chulainn! Ooops, sorry. There I go again. I mean, Cuchulainn. The horror of it all. Where is Cœur de Lion when you need him? Or Henry VIII? Or (tremble) the great Winston C? Oh, for the elysian fields of Eton. Sugary tea and wrinkled-up sandwiches, warm beer and the beat of leather on willow. Dieu et mon droit!
Of course, Squire Meyers being Squire Myers, it could be far worse. In fact, earlier this year, it was:
“A comparable survey at Trinity College Dublin showed that Fine Gael TDs are disproportionately more likely to have Anglo-Norman surnames — again, this comes as no major surprise. Our ancient origins can leave a far greater imprint on us than we usually care to admit, and the social residues might remain in our conduct, just as herds of sheep continue to leap over the part of the field where there once stood a now-levelled hedge.
The social hierarchy that exists in England is vaguely similar to that in Ireland; both bear the imprint of a Norman Conquest. Of course, other conquests followed here, in which the Anglo-Norman classes lost most of their old privileges, especially if they remained true to the Old Church. But even then, they remained self-consciously aloof within the mass of Catholic Ireland. Edmund Burke was a Norman; so too was Nano Nagle, the founder of the Presentation Sisters. Garret FitzGerald is clearly Anglo-Norman, no matter the absurd Gaelic confection that he occasionally translates his name into.
Indeed, the name Fitzgerald gives us a useful barium meal into social immobility over the centuries. Some 52 men of this largely Anglo-Norman Irish name were killed with the British army during the Second World War. Ten (20pc) were officers.
Of soldiers with the Anglo-Norman Irish name of Burke, 7pc were officers. But the proportion is strikingly less for men with Irish Gaelic surnames.
Of the 62 men named O’Reilly or Reilly, only one (1.6pc) was an officer. Of the more than 200 soldiers called Murphy, less than 4pc were officers. The 44 Nolans had one officer — as did the 41 Maguires — roughly 2.2pc.
No doubt the now extinct and largely unfeline Celtic Tiger raised the social status of many people of aboriginal Gaelic stock…”
“Aboriginal Gaelic stock”? What a sort of lunatic, mid 20th century Untermenschen talk is this? And “Irish”? Where is that? Oh yes, with the Anglo-Irish. The real Irish in the eyes of Kevin Myers and the rest of his “ethnicity” on this poor bloody isle of ours. It lies with the schizophrenic madness of folk who claim Irishness as their own while also embracing another identity of another nation. We are Irish! We are British! We are Anglo-Irish! We are we don’t know what…!
Welcome to the world of Kevin Myers. Angloland!
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