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Castle Catholics And Sham Irish – Journalism In Ireland

Dear Old Oirland Where The Oirish Doth Play

As regular readers of An Sionnach Fionn know (and it seems that there is quite a few of you) I have more than a little contempt for the media establishment in Ireland. Irish journalists, in the main, are every bit as culpable for the disastrous cronyism and corruption of the Irish political and social system over the last forty odd years as any of the main political parties. Point out to me the people in the Irish news media who challenged the hedonism and greed of the Celtic Tiger era. Who named and shamed the bankers and their political sockpuppets at the height of that venal decade? Few and far between, and some not without their own political agendas as infighting between the business mafias became proxy wars fought in the newspapers.

That is another thing about the Irish media elite. The faux nature of their supposed liberalism. In fact most are centre-right, free market capitalists, unreconstructed (and largely unapologetic) Celtic Tiger cubs who yearn for a return to the good old (bad old) days of coke and lattés. Few have any real sense of being Irish, of Ireland, instead they embrace a sham Anglo-American plastic Oirishness wrapped up in a contempt for all things indigenous to this island, anything that does not come to us via the mechanism of the English language and English culture. Celtic, Gaelic, Irish? No thanks. Give me the Big House, the Ascendancy and the fawning pride of being part of the Pax Britannica. There is an old term, “Castle Catholic”, pejorative though it is, that sums up much of the group-think in Ireland’s national media.

This article in the Irish Independent newspaper illustrates it rather nicely, as intrepid reporter Emily Hourican meets British author Jessica Douglas-Home, who discusses Lilah, youngest daughter of the 7th Viscount Powerscourt (meeting, discussing and thinking about the old Anglo-Irish aristos being something that sends the average Irish journo into paroxysms of orgasmic sycophancy):

…Jessica Douglas-Home asks: “I was warned that the Irish do not like the British Empire and all that we stood for then. Is that true?”

It’s an impossible question, particularly when asked by the great-granddaughter of Lord Powerscourt, while standing in the ballroom of Powerscourt House (it turns out that it’s pronounced ‘Prscrt’ by those in the know. Aristocrats seem to consider long vowel sounds much as we might consider rats).”

Hmm. I do believe I might have been able to supply a possible answer to that supposedly “impossible” question. Why Hourican’s inability to do so? Perhaps she’s come over all Irish R.M.? After all who could “like” the British Empire and all it stood for? Invasion, occupation, colonialism, servitude, exploitation, genocide? And what type of moron would ask the question in the first place? Especially of an Irish person. But then, I suppose, an assumed air of superiority is built into a certain type English robber-baron progeny.

“Jessica, an author, painter and theatre designer, has never visited the one-time family estate before. She was here to hang an exhibition of beautiful photos taken by her grandmother — Lilah Wingfield, youngest daughter of the seventh Viscount Powers-court, in India in 1911, a visual record of a remarkable trip.

…according to Jessica, the people of India still remember, with affection, the heyday of Empire.

“In Delhi they came to the exhibition of Lilah’s photographs in their hordes, with tears in their eyes. The people are grateful for the rule of law we established, the railways, the language, the education at the time was fantastic.”

Hence the question I cannot answer, about the reactions of Irish people to similar historic reminders. Jessica’s advance information, from friends living here, was not to expect a similar show of delight.”

Okay, so I’m not getting this. The British Empire was a VERY BAD THING? Yes? This is a given historical fact is it not? This is an Irish newspaper I’m reading not the British Daily Mail with its post-imperial fetish. Seriously, outside of some extreme right-wing British nationalist circles who on earth thinks that the British Empire was a good thing? Jessica Double-Barrell may well need to channel her inner Niall Ferguson but then she would (guilty conscience an’ all that). For anyone who isn’t British, for anyone whose people and nation suffered grotesque horrors and pain at the hands of a demonstrably evil empire to even hesitate over the question is… well, questionable.

But then, as I said, Castle Catholics.

Meanwhile Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times, supposed media liberal doyen, fluffs his feathers in outrage all the while failing to see the irony in his crowing:

“SOMETIMES, YOU forget how tenuous and fragile a thing is the Irish State, how little it means to so many of its citizens. By the State, I don’t mean the nation, the flag, pride in being Irish – all that visceral emotion. I mean, rather, two rational things, one tangible, the other abstract.

The State is a set of institutions – the Government, the Oireachtas, the Civil Service, public services, the law, the courts. It is also a broad but crucial sense of mutual dependence – the idea that there’s a collective self that goes beyond the narrow realms of family and locality.

And then, every so often, there’s a moment when those assumptions crumble. The idea that the vast majority of people are loyal to the State is suddenly exposed for what it is: a useful fiction. What happens is that very large numbers of people who would never think of themselves as criminals or subversives reveal the truth that they don’t really have much time for key State institutions such as the law and the courts and that they simply don’t believe that there is an over-arching common good that means anything when you set it against more potent local loyalties.

Nor do these decent, respectable people believe that there is a common good that operates at the level of the State and that could possibly outweigh an almost feudal loyalty to a local hero. The State, for them, is a vague, hazy and distant thing – too nebulous to command any real fidelity. The idea that encouraging the Quinns’ to siphon off €455 million of public assets might harm their fellow citizens has no meaning for them because, deep down, they don’t actually believe that there are such creatures as fellow citizens. There are good GAA people, good Cavan people, good Fermanagh people – those are the “imagined communities” that command respect and allegiance. A larger citizenship signifies nothing. The people who might be harmed by the Quinns’ actions are not Us but Them.”

Of course it might have helped to maintain the loyalty of these citizens if the State had not abandoned them at the end of the War of Independence, if it did not sacrifice their democratic rights and freedom to secure the return to power of the Quisling regime of conservative, right-wing politicians, businessmen and church elders after a bloody revolution had temporarily pushed them to one side. The self-same people who then grew fat on the rich pickings of the personal fiefdoms in the state they engendered. And who have now sold us out to a new set of masters.

But then, we are back to the Castle Catholics again.

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7 comments on “Castle Catholics And Sham Irish – Journalism In Ireland

  1. If you think being ‘Irish’ is advocating the form of fascism you appear to advocate above – setting Irishman against fellow Irish man with terms such as ‘Castle Catholic’ and ‘Sham Oirish’, you’re wrong. I’m no apologist for the media in Ireland which has questions to answer surely but your notions are xenophobic at best and as close to Nazism as I’ve seen at the other end of the spectrum. What hope is there of bringing about a United Ireland, a republic of Catholics, Protestants and Dissenters, with mad notions like yours being given any credibility?

    • With all due respect, Concubhar, if you wish to discuss claims of setting Irishman against Irishman perhaps you might be better doing so in relation to the newspapers of the Independent News & Media corporation? Newspapers you have written for on a number of occasions. I for one would find it uncomfortable to say the least to be sharing the same media space with unapologetic anglophone supremacists who have regularly penned discriminatory, hate-filled pieces aimed at the Irish-speaking citizens and communities of this island or those who identify with our indigenous Irish language or culture. Or what of the partitionist ideology that argues that the Irish nation stops at a British imposed border in our country and that all those born or living north of it are “foreigners”?

      I find that a strange type of xenophobia – one driven by hatred not of the “other” but of those here in Ireland who some label not really Irish because of the language they speak or where they were born. They only “fascism” I see is the one that advocates that Irish nationality equals a southern, anglicised one and all else is alien. The only form of Nazism I see is that of a pseudo-liberal right wing media elite who exist hand in glove with a corrupt political establishment and do all that they can to protect the the competing sectional interests of the “deep state” establishment.

      For someone who claims to be no apologist for the media in Ireland you surely make a strong, and if I may say grossly disproportionate and falsely framed defence of it.

      Perhaps you need to reread my article? Or perhaps it is that you simply agree with leaving the arrogantly posed questions of English aristocrats and former colonial adventurers in our nation unanswered?

      Anyone who has read An Sionnach Fionn will know my politics from my positions here: centre-left, liberal and progressive social-democracy. Irish and indeed Gaelic Republicanism and Celtic Nationalism. I written articles strongly supporting aboriginal rights, democracy and self-determination, gay rights, women’s rights, pro-choice rights, linguistic and cultural diversity, environmentalism. I have expressed opposition to unregulated free-market capitalism, corruption, nepotism, poverty, unemployment and the exploitation of workers. I have a dozen pieces posted here highlighting the history and dangers of Neo-Nazi and fascist groups in Ireland, Europe and North America – from the BNP to the KKK.

      One person with a blog is hardly a threat to the almighty incestuous media cartels in Ireland so I don’t think you need worry.

      Perhaps in future you might direct your ire towards the next nakedly racist and anti-Irish editorial or commentary to appear in the Sunday Independent, where it might do some good, rather than tilting at illusionary dragons here.

  2. Ah yes, the old INM argument, what a trite cliché that is. Shooting the messenger is an old tactic. This is the same INM that prints and distributes Foinse without any state aid? How anti Irish that is! You still don’t address how your cul de sac attitude is going to bring about a United Ireland of Catholics, Protestants and Dissenters?
    If you don’t see that your arguments are fascist by nature and only deepen partition in Ireland, then you need to open your eyes.

    • Shooting the messenger may be an old tactic but it is the one that you began your Comments with, and the one you continue to employ. Look to the mote in thine own eye before challenging others.

      The Foinse defence is a poor one. Week in, week out, the Irish Independent and other propaganda sheets in the INM group carry pieces attacking the Irish-speaking population of Ireland and their associated civil rights, whether they are under the Constitution or through legislative acts. Many of these articles are couched in avowedly racist and discriminatory language. Some amount to little more than hate-speech. As a journalist, former newspaper editor, community activist and board member of TG4 you are certainly aware of this.

      There is an Anglophone, Anglophile core to the media establishment in Ireland that is aggressively anti-Irish in culture and practice. Or rather aggressively opposed to any form of Irish national identity that does not conform to an anglicised Irish form. A form that is more, in historic terms, British and specifically “West British” than Irish. I’m hardly stating something new here. The argument is well-trodden, the claim well established, including by those from within the journalistic fold. Academic post-colonial theory as applied to the case of Ireland is beyond cliché.

      What has the reunification of Ireland to do with the post? When other Republicans were stating as a fact that Unionists were simply misguided Irishmen fooled or beguiled by Imperial Britain I was arguing the contrary (and at times to my own cost). I have always regarded the British minority in Ireland as distinct entho-national community with unalienable linguistic, cultural and religious rights that must be enshrined in the laws of this state (or any future one). When Republicans were urging a single unified 32 County Republic I was pleading for a devolved regional assembly in the north-east to accommodate the fears and aspirations of the British minority under the aegis of a unitary state.

      I want a united Irish-speaking Ireland. But not at the expense of an ethnic minority with its own distinct identity, language and culture. Yes, I would be the Irish equivalent of the Québécois nationalists in terms of language and culture. But just as they have respected the rights of minorities, aboriginal and others, so I respect the rights of those who would wish to express their “Britishness” or “Scots-Irish” identity in a united and free Ireland.

      What I will not do is suppress and denigrate my own identity to facilitate the prejudices of others. Nor will I kowtow to a small unrepresentative minority of English-speaking anglicised-Irish bigots and racists who believe that an Irish Ireland is something to be denigrated and ridiculed. Or worse, simply destroyed. They pursue their dream of an English Ireland with every weapon in their arsenal. And you worry about the likes of me?

      Turn your belching guns upon a more fitting target and apply them with as much vigour as you do with me and you might actually achieve something.

  3. irish newspaper reporter all but genuflects to english aristo-trash auteur and leaves unchallenged her supercilious questions and anti-historical claims and someone objects to having that nailed for the arrogant nonsense that it is? a fluff piece with attitudes belonging to 19th century ireland not 21st. an irish ireland is a threat to no one but palesmen and women. an irish ireland is emancipation for our language culture identity. it is the culmination of all we struggled for as a people. it is a fight worth fighting.

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