Éire Ghaelach – Éire Shaor
I have resisted this for some time but the popularity of the website, and the frequent inquiries from readers, seems to have made it inevitable. So here is a hopefully not too pretentious “About Me” for those interested in such things. Apologies in advance. It is more difficult to write a personal description than you may think. At least I have avoided adopting a faux third person introduction…
Firstly, An Sionnach Fionn or “The White Fox” is both the name of this blog and of one of my distant ancestors, Tadhgh Ó Catharnaigh, a Medieval Irish king nicknamed an Sionnach “the Fox” from whom my family take their hereditary surname. Fionn of course is also the name of Fionn mac Cumhaill, where it means “Fair-haired One”. That Fionn is one of the great figures of Ireland’s indigenous literary and folkloric traditions, the Rífhéinní or “King-warrior-hunter” of the Fiannaíocht, the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology. His stories cover the entirety of the early Gaelic world, belonging to the peoples of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The word fionn, since it also means “white”, is frequently used to describe Otherworldly animals and creatures in Celtic literature. Hounds, deer, cattle, boars and horses all indicate their supernatural origins through the pale colour of their hair or fur. Where the white-bodied animal occurs in the old legends the Aos Sí, the Otherworld People, cannot be far behind. As both a Gaelic and Celtic nationalist this convergence of meanings seemed a fortuitous one and so was born the name of this blog. More prosaically the word Sionnach “Fox” or Sionnacháin “Foxy” is my own nickname.
In political terms I call myself a Fenian. My definition of that is a Progressive or Gaelic Republican. Progressive because I am a centre-left social-democrat who believes that the reunification of Ireland is the only way to achieve long-term peace, justice and prosperity for the peoples of this island nation (as well as ending the medieval anachronism that is Britain’s continued colonial administration in part of our country). Gaelic because I wish the reunification of our nation to take place under the aegis of a secular All-Ireland republic that is Irish (Gaelic) in language and culture while recognising and respecting the diversity of communities that call this island their home. This includes the need to acknowledge that long-term peace in Ireland may be best achieved by granting regional autonomy to the north-east of the nation with an administration based in Belfast that has limited powers of self-government. I can think of no other political description that sums up so aptly my own ideological beliefs.
Though an Irish Republican I am not affiliated to any political party or organisation. In the past I have voted for (in no particular order) Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, the Labour Party, the Green Party and various Independents and might well do so again (big-up for Proportional Representation).
I am supportive of the Celtic-speaking peoples of Europe, politically and culturally, and actively promote their struggles alongside those of the Irish-speaking communities of Ireland. The Pan-Celtic philosophy is one I adhere to and I find more in common with my fellow Celts of Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany than anyone else in Europe. To be in Edinburgh, Cardiff or Nantes is to be at home. However my commitment to native rights extends far beyond the Gaelic and Brythonic worlds. The suffering of the Native and First Nation Peoples of North America is never far from my mind. When playing Cowboys and Indians I always chose the latter. Now I know why.
In terms of faith I am a secular atheist, though I am respectful of the indigenous traditions of the Irish people and wish to see them given a greater place within our society. If one needs spirituality I find more in the Creidheamh Sí than any of the “desert religions” which seem wholly alien to me. On social issues that some Rightists prefer to whip up into divisiveness I am pro-choice when it comes to the medical provision of abortion services, supportive of adult citizens deciding their own gender or sexuality without interference or hindrance by the state, a believer in the right of all citizens to marry whom they wish and strongly in favour of publicly-funded secular schooling outside the control of any sectional interests. I am an environmentalist who regards current government policies in Ireland as a disaster in terms of our national and global well-being. Hell, you might as well throw in there that I believe in 50/50 gender-quotas for politics, the judiciary, private businesses and so on. So yep, a big old Scandinavian-style Leftie in Celtic dress.
My personal interests range from archaeology to architecture, literature to art, technology to science. I am never happier than when reading – probably on a tablet while sitting on a four-thousand year old burial mound in the middle of a forest with a sports car parked nearby. And yes, there are more than a few paradoxes in that. I love ancient trees. I love fast cars. Maybe I should buy a Tesla Roadster?
That is it for now, except to end with an English language poem by the author Robin Herne published in his 2012 collection Bard Song. The title Bona na Croin, or more correctly Ní Bóna Ná Coróin “Neither Crown nor Collar”, refers to many things. A rejection of oppression by the State (crown) or the Church (collar). A refusal to be seduced by riches, to lord it over others or to submit to slavery. It is – for me – an anti-establishment poem, and I have a good bit of affection for it. It sums me up in many ways. I think…
Bona na Croin
Neither your collar nor crown
Shall I wear, my nose not brown,
Nor I some clown in your court,
In chains brought, a wolf to town.
By no oath bound to your King,
To my Gods alone I sing,
Grey shadow hiding from sight
To keep the rite from waning.
In red gold you dress these slaves,
What throne can forget Nine Waves?
In deep caves our flame I shield,
Never to yield to such knaves.
Collars serve to rein dogs in,
Quell their nerve with shades and sin.
Wild wolf’s kin such bangles scorn,
Free-born I stay, son of Fionn.
My brothers hunted, slain, skinned.
Yet still my cries ride the wind,
Numbers thinned, but still we wait,
For your hate, we have not sinned.
Now the lone hunters take heed,
Upon the Great Stag we feed,
Blood for mead. His death our life,
Ends this strife, stirs this dried seed.
The old packs come together,
Ties that fear cannot sever,
Endeavour in pride to stand
In the Wolf Land, forever.
I remain the buzzing mosquito of Irish bloggers.