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The British Blindspot In The Fawlty Towers Controversy? The Irish Orangutans

The decision by the BBC to remove an episode of the classic 1970s’ sitcom Fawlty Towers from the streaming service UKTV in response to the anti-racism protests sweeping the world has sparked a bitter war of words between supporters and opponents of the move in Britain. The controversy is focused on the well-known 1975 episode “The Germans”, principally the use of racist epithets by one of the ancillary characters rather than the slightly weak satire of anti-German sentiment for which this particular episode is more famous. According to Sky News:

John Cleese has criticised the removal an episode of Fawlty Towers from a streaming service over repeated use of racist language, calling the decision “stupid”.

The episode in question first aired in 1975, and shows character Major Gowen repeatedly using the N-word in reference to members of the West Indies cricket team, while also referring to Indians as “w***”.

Though some now fear that the removal of the decades-old episode will lead to a backlash in the UK, as part of a nascent American-style “culture war” in the country, many more have welcomed it as a sign of progress. However it’s interesting to see that there has been no fuss over another storyline from Fawlty Towers which features an explicitly racist caricature of the Irish, including a “cowboy” builder and his “hideous orangutan” assistant. The episode known as “The Builders”, and from the same season as the one now mired in trouble, has these comments on the figure of “O’Reilly”, comments that were in no way intended to highlight the failings of the character speaking them:

“Sybil: And the reason he’s cheap is because he’s no bloody good! (She stomps on Basil’s foot)

Basil: OOH, Sybil, you do exaggerate! I mean, he’s not brilliant…

Sybil: Not brilliant? He belongs in a zoo! (She kicks Basil in the shin)

Basil: Ow, Sybil, you never give anyone the benefit of the doubt!

Sybil: He’s shoddy, he doesn’t care, he’s a liar, he’s incompetent, he’s lazy and he’s nothing but a half-witted, thick Irish joke!

Sybil: O’Reilly, I have seen more intelligent creatures than you lying on their backs at the bottom of ponds! I’ve seen better organised creatures than you running round farmyards with their heads cut off! Now collect your things and get out! I never want to see your or any of your men in my hotel again!”

Given the two hundred year propensity of British popular culture to compare Irish men and women to apes and monkeys, sometimes representing them in the setting of a zoo or a menagerie, this particular episode of the BBC farce is filled with knowing comedic winks to its domestic audience. Winks that are apparently still acceptable even in the new age of awareness ushered in by the Black Lives Matter movement and others.

41 comments on “The British Blindspot In The Fawlty Towers Controversy? The Irish Orangutans

  1. Darn!! I just recently got access to shows like “Fawlty Towers”, “Black Adder” and some others. They were just so funny! I guess some episodes were automatically filtered.

    Hopefully Red Dwarf doesn’t have any unsavory episodes that could be considered just as bad!!

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    • I love Fawlty Towers to be honest but I haven’t watched the Irish episode in years. I did find it annoying. More so because an Irish actor actually played the Stage Irish character, the half-wit builder. Shamefully he had form on this.

      I can’t think of any problematic Red Dwarf episodes off hand. Aside from later seasons being not half as funny as the original ones 😉

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  2. I’m all for removing celebratory statues of imperialists and slavers in context where their brazen presence is a mark of shame. I also think the removal of comedy shows where much of the joke was on the bigoted representatives of the Imperial power (like fawlty towers) is a very bad move.

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    • I sort of agree. Where the comedic or satirical punches are delivered at themselves or upward rather than hand punching down.

      Unfortunately the Irish episode is very much punching down by satisfying British prejudices over the Irish.

      And the racial slurs in the German episode are not really done with much in the way of castigating the character using them. They’re just sort of thrown out there. If the target of the comedic punch is the Major himself the blow fails to land. In my view at least.

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  3. I think if you can take a joke against yourself or the group you belong to shows you are comfortable with your position in society. You don’t see the English getting to upset about Americans joking about the state of there teeth. Stereotypes are a symbolic of lazy thinking and group thinking. As you point out a lot of the Anti Irish prejudices can be traced back to the Cartoons in Punch Magazine. But Society has moved on in fact has anyone even heard a Paddy Irishman joke in about 3 decades no they died out with the comedians who used to tell them.

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  4. gendjinn

    Manuel? Aren’t you missing the herd of elephants in the mini here?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, that is the most obvious one of all. But lefty Brits only see colour in the current outrage-athon. Xenophobia doesn’t feature that high. Or at all. The discussion should encompass all aspects of prejudice. Including class prejudice.

      And as is often stated, satire should punch up or even sideways. Not down.

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      • gendjinn

        Punching down satire is cringeworthy bullying, you are right about that The racism that crops in Monty Python seems to crop up when they are short of material and fallback on stock gags and routines. The Chairman Mao eyes and accent bit for example. The Fawlty Towers examples though, whoah boy the entirety is riddled. I had thought Cleese was parodying the people with these views, that Fawlty was an untrustworthy narrator and we were seeing everything through his eyes – remember whenever Manuel is not around Fawlty and with other people he is calm, has many talents and friends.

        In my far from monolithic experience Liberal Brits think the Irish are all part of the British Isles family and sure aren’t we all allowed to joke around with each other. These were the group (apart from the right of course) that embraced the dog whistle acrobym PIIGS with glee and relish. Whereas, Left/Socialist Brits/English/Welsh/Scottish especially of the Republican Socialist variety see through the blarney of imperialist nostalgia. Up to speed on intersectionality – I think there’s a bit of Bell Hooks in every counter-imperialist revolutionary.

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        • “… Liberal Brits think the Irish are all part of the British Isles family and sure aren’t we all allowed to joke around with each other.“ This is very true.

          There is another strain of English person (that somewhat ironically are usually from the lower end of the intellectual scale) who believe that, by definition/birthright, they are more intelligent than any Irish person they happen to meet. I must say, there is great pleasure to be had in standing patiently and passively by while being lectured by a semi-articulate oaf on a subject that he/she knows little or fuck all about, and then suddenly interjecting to demolish everything they have said – preferably in front of an audience. The look in the oaf’s eyes is something to behold: “It wasn’t supposed to be like this”.

          To be clear, in my experience this applies only to a tiny minority of English people (best represented, I suppose, by the types that were parading in London yesterday). The vast majority of those I have worked with, or had other dealings with, have been as decent and upstanding as any other peoples I have met.

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          • gendjinn

            Tamam,

            I have found that is true of all peoples that labour under the yoke of what we label civilization.

            You study Native Peoples and they lack so many sicknesses of the mind that we have. Like greed. Not to get all Rousseau on it, they are human after all. But so much we consider an innate aspect of humanity is really a maladaptive response to civilization. There was a paper a few weeks back showing several selective sweeps through the human genome in the last 13,000 years purging genes related to ADHD from humanity. Domestication events purging certain personality types and traits from 2 million years of being human.

            Civilization ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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            • gendjinn
              You say: “But so much we consider an innate aspect of humanity is really a maladaptive response to civilization.”
              And this: “Civilization ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

              Now we’re on the same page. I couldn’t agree with you more. “Civilisation” – in the supposed positive, but actually highly judgemental, sense that term is bandied about – is, to my mind, at best a thin veneer. Have we, as a species, regressed or progressed is the bottom line question. And I’m not talking about putting people on the moon/electricity/WiFi etc.

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              • gendjinn

                You might like this book by James C. Scott I’m forever recommending.The wiki page gives a good precis.

                If you do you should throw your eye over the Y-Chromosome bottleneck 7.5kya to 5kya which eliminated 18 out of 19 Y chromosomes points to civilization being the kickoff for slavery, genocide, war and hierarchical oppression. The Green Sahara hypothesis ties into this. And Sex At Dawn by Ryan & Jethá.

                I did genetics for undergrad and even then 30 years ago the bulk of the above was known. It has been interesting watch it seep out into the general consciousness the last few years.

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              • That is a very interesting link. And the fact that Barry Cunliffe recommends the book puts it on my purchase list. Thank you for that!!!

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              • Many thanks for the recommendations, gendjinn. Much appreciated. I will indeed read them and get back to you.

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              • gendjinn

                Tamam, more than welcome. If you find yourself falling deeper into this well I can point you towards a lot more.

                ASF, I missed the Cunliffe rec. I recently got my hands on his Celtic from the West books, he’s catching flack from the archaeological community for putting “too much stock” in the DNA evidence.

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            • Those theories are at best unprovable. A lot of “native people” are in reality refugees from civilizations that collapsed due to drought, disease, invasions, borders changing, and more.

              Civilization in some form is likely older than currently believed.

              One classic example involved the Yanomamo people of the Brazilian Amazon. Some anthropologists studied these folks and because they were extremely violent concluded that human nature is extremely violent.

              Later another group of anthropologists started arguing that the first group had encouraged the Yanomamo to be violent, then others argued that the violence was at the door of the local Jesuits. The Jesuit people said “No. Without us these people would either be totally displaced or killed. Men would become grunt laborers, the women prostitutes and the children beggars.”

              A little more digging revealed that the Yanomamo were NOT just these people living in harmony with the Amazon. Rather they had come from a civilization about the size and sophistication of Early Republican Rome. Their civilization had been destroyed by wave after wave of smallpox, measles, influenza, and secondary cases of crop destruction and endemic diseases becoming epidemic due to disruption. They fled from their homeland in Southern Argentina to the Amazon to escape more smallpox, hunger, and violence from other people’s who were fleeing the Spaniards. They had only been in the Amazon since the 18th century. The Amazon itself is partly man made.

              ADHD would be a problem in any society. The idea that it wouldn’t be in some other culture is a joke. I was once told my balance disorder was a gift and might be adaptive. Luckily I didn’t listen to those fools and found a treatment that worked. So much for genetic determinism.

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              • gendjinn

                Have you read the works of JBS Haldane, RA Fisher and Motoo Kimura?

                As an evolutionary biologist (lapsed) the truth is that unless one has read these (and more), and mastered them. Then one does not understand evolution because what one receives via documentaries and society is overwhelmingly dominated by Darwin. Which is big and flashy, granted. But the herculean task of 97% of evolution is not Dawinian.

                Of course humanity has the capacity for violence. Violence is required to hunt and defend from animals. But that violence is categorically different from the violence of the state wielded by sociopaths to service greed. Conflating the two is a logical error.

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      • Which strikes me as weird for a country that has a history of sectarian issues -namely sectarian issues filled with beheadings- of its own. I always saw Britain as a country where religious prejudice was always relatively high relative to the degree of color based prejudices.

        Also didn’t know that the were into demeaning Spaniards. Thought that treatment was mostly for the French.

        Not sure making fun of Spaniards is “punching down”, since Spain is a pretty influential country in the EU, no.

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  5. I am pretty sure I never saw the Irish builder episode but in the 1970s, when the war was getting fierce, the Comedians TV series was full of racist jokes, most of them anti-Irish. I have heard a “comedian” only begin “There were these two Paddies on a building site ….” and the English audience was already laughing!

    The much-dimissed Terry Wogan objected publicly to an anti-irish racist joke on a talent contest, for which he won a little place in my heart. Angus Dayton, host of Have I Got News for You cracked a racist joke about the Irish and pigs under their arms to which Paul Merton mildly objected, remarking that his mother was irish but then returned with the sharper comment that he had never witnessed the scene referred to by Dayton but had heard of “Plenty of pigs in the West Midlands with Irish under their arms” (a reference to the terrorising of the irish community in that part of England and the torture and framing of the Birmingham Six.”

    I really liked most of Fawlty Towers and thought the Germans episode was fine, should not be removed but the Irish one should. The Irish in Britain Representation Group campaigned against rife anti-Irish ‘humour’ among other things, including an “Irish mug” with the handle on the inside.

    I remember also the great David Kelly demeaning himself by playing the simple Irish one-armed dishwasher in the short TV series, with sadly, Irish diaspora actor Richard O’Sullivan playing the male lead. Two of the leading British soaps introduced Irish characters later (like black people, remarkably absent earlier) and both were very negative portrayals. Cracker had a member of the police detective team who was a rapist and murderer — of course he was the only Irish in the team.

    I can’t remember her name but I recall reading about a researcher who looked at English novels and listed the negative Irish characters in them. Even children’s classic “Black Beauty” had nasty Irish tinkers trying to steal and hurt the horse. Punch is well-known for its anti-Irish animal-like representation of Irish people but it was late on the scene; the Normans-become-English in 1366 in the Statutes of Kilkenny criticised the Normans-becoming-Irish for being “degenerate English” who had “become more irish than the Irish themselves” and tried to forbid them dressing in the Irish fashion, playing Irish games, speaking Irish ….. Nor did the cultural racist assault end with Punch for Jak in the Evening Standard and others, notably in the Daily Mail, carried it on through the 1970s, 1980s.

    At the same time, the Irish in Britain, the ethnic minority longest on the island and the largest ethnic minority at the time of the BBC series on migrant communities, went unrepresented in the series. Nor was it a because of focus on colour, for they did include the Greek Cypriot community (miniscule by comparison). In Britain there was no Irish Studies course at degree level (probably still is not) and if one wanted to study it, as did I, one had to attend one of the few universities that provided it in a Combined Studies program, i.e one had to combine it with another subject. Olympic Champion Mary Peters was represented as British and Nobel Literature laureate Seamus Heaney as English. When ethnic categories were first introduced into the UK Census, the Irish, despite intensive representations, were excluded and a fierce campaign led by the IBRG resulted finally in their admission for the next Census a decade later. At the time the Irish community in Britain had the highest morbidity, mortality, and mental illness profile of any on that island. Their profile in housing, employment and sentencing to prison was only a little worse than that of the much more recently-arrived Afro-Caribbean community.

    The English may or may not take their being mocked in the USA well. But they are also highly respected in many circles their, particularly in the higher ones. In any case, they are not an oppressed and racialised community in the USA, nor is their country occupied and partitioned by the USA. And I know for a fact they did not respond well to Aussie humour lampooning the “whinging Poms” or the joke where at the Last Supper, all the Apostles and Jesus have Aussie accents but Judas is a Cockney.

    Of course we can laugh at ourselves but that’s among our ourselves, not like slaves laughing at a joke against them cracked by the overseer. Or even worse, the most cringe-worthy of all, by one of the slaves in the presence of the overseer. Besides, one has to look at the FUNCTION of racist “humour”, which is to mock the oppressed and/ or resisting invasion and occupation and relegate their complaints to the bin. How is that for decades the framing and jailing of two score of the Irish community in the 1970s in five separate cases in England were justified as correct due process? Or that that the modern massacres by the British Army in Ireland were dismissed as battles, that murders were accepted as “killed in a crossfire”, that collusion with Loyalist murder-gangs was dismissed as paranoia or “terrorist” disinformation, that the bombing of Dublin and Monaghan was denied as organised by British Intelligence while their State refused to disclose secret papers?

    How healthily do we think that children grow up in a society where their history is not taught or is instead falsified, where their culture is ignored or mocked, where they or certainly their parents are considered lesser, or monsters, or violent drunkards? Where their parents may advise them not to speak of their culture outside the home? Talk to me of learning to laugh at ourselves!

    Yes, true, one does not hear much anti-Irish “humour” at the moment, though there were reports that invective resurfaced during the Brexit flood tide. But a study of our historic relationship and our representation in English cultural expression makes it clear to all (except the willfully blind or just ignorant) that anti-irish racism is endemic in the dominant British culture and only lies quiet in dormant times, waiting only for disturbance to expose the lightly-buried toxic waste.

    We remain “beyond the Pale” and the “wilde irish” until at least the occupation is ended.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Must say, you sound like a real bundle of laughs yourself. Sitting taking notes during every comedy show for the last 4 or 5 decades. Bursting with righteous indignation. 😂

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    • As Mary Peters represented the United Kingdom in the Olympics, it looks like she’s British. Born in Lancashire, too.
      Where was Seamus Heaney said to be English? The name isn’t redolent of the Home Counties. He famously boasted that “My passport’s green.”, but it turned out that the first passport he ever got was British, which complicated things.

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      • You’re right of course about Mary Peters’ birthplace, but even if she had wanted to represent Ireland (which I doubt, to be honest) it was prior to the Good Friday Agreement so she couldn’t have. Same applies to Heaney. He would have got his first passport prior to the GFA, and at that time a British one was all he could legally hold. If he made the “my passport’s green” remark before the GFA, it was to make a rhetorical point.

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        • People born in NI could get an Irish passport throughout its history. In Heaney’s case, it was for a school or university trip abroad and a British passport was easier to get quickly. And probably cost less – that’s why someone I knew in the 1960s chose to be British.

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          • You’re right, Jim. I honestly didn’t know that. Thought it only came into being as part of the GFA.

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            • The number of UUP and DUP pols who travelled on Irish passports before the GFA was a running joke for years. More recently there is the famous pic of Ian Óg with his Irish passport. Yes, that Paisley scion.

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              • Okay, ASF.
                So Wee Jim is saying that before the GFA Seamus Heaney and presumably lots of other Northern nationalists, such as Wee Jim’s mate, probably opted for British passports simply because of the convenience and the price.
                While you’re saying that “before the GFA” it “was a running joke for years” that lots of unionist pols opted for Irish passports.

                These two claims are well nigh incompatible.

                I tend to go Wee Jim’s claim for three reasons: 1) It makes perfect sense 2) I never once heard (or heard of) this running joke about unionist pols having Irish passports 3) What logical reason would they ever have for claiming Irish passports?

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              • For practical reasons it was often more difficult to apply for Irish passports instead of UK ones for most non-border nationalist communities. And UK passports carried certain visa advantages in Australia, the US and other places. But essentially Irish citizenship was island wide as far as the Irish State was concerned, de facto if not explicitly de jure in several decades of fudge.

                While unionist pols played up their Britishness it was flexible enough for Irishness when required. Paisley Senior and his infamous argument that Ulster farmers were British but their cows were Irish.

                Then you had loyalists travelling on Irish passports too, especially during some of the gunrunning shenanigans.

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              • gendjinn

                Well known, and not a one of them ever had a lick of embarrassment or shame using them – and good on them too!

                Paisley once said (he said it multiple times, to multiple people TBF) to my uncle in an EEC meeting in the 80s “Sure aren’t we all Irish over here!” a prelude to the chuckle brothers routine. Paisley as MEP was a great ally to Ireland. He saw Ireland as one entity, granted he believed it should be in the UK, but he believed in pulling together with the papists of the south when it came to bread and butter issues. A very weird and contradictory man.

                Whenever this topic comes up, it can be fun to gently suggest that Unionists who are serious about their loyalty to the UK should avail themselves of the free service Ireland provides to renounce your birthright citizenship. There never seems to be much interest in it. Which always makes me optimistic about the post-UI situation. Unionists will kick up a fuss, but settle down pretty quickly once they lose. Just like in the 26 in the 20s.

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              • Paisley never made any bones about being Irish or about working with Irish reps on common issues. But it’s a big leap from that to claiming he had an Irish passport. This sounds like (Southern) tittle-tattle/wishful thinking/putting two and two together and making five. There was never a word of it in the North, and how long do you think that sort of thing would have remained secret? There was absolutely no reason for Paisley or any other unionist pol to have an Irish passport, and lots of electoral never mind principled (for them) reasons not to. Total bullshit.

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              • I’ll look for the references. Tim Pat Coogan has something on Irish passports being used well before the GFA and maybe Ed Moloney too, though I could be wrong on the latter case. Bit more than Southern tittle-tattle.

                In any case, not uncommon now. From Paisley Óg to Jackie McDonald.

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              • gendjinn

                Tamam,

                that was not to help you accept Paisley sr had an Irish passport. That was to further flesh out the view the man had of himself as an Irishman.

                To the point that without rancour, political horsemanship, pettiness, bluster or insult would regularly work hand in glove with Irish civil servants and politicians whom he would simultaneously denounce in sulfurous tones from the pulpit and hustings.

                Paisley had an Irish passport, you can accept that we know something you don’t and you just learned it. Or you can continue as you are. Which approach makes more sense to you?

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              • Yes, nothing is ever black and white where human interactions are concerned. And not least here in the North.

                My own background is even more convoluted than your own, stretching near and far, involving 2 continents, at least 4 nationalities and a couple of ethnicities. And I’m delighted with that – wouldn’t have it any other way. To badly misquote Hanns Johst (who Himmler et al stole it from): “When I hear a claim to purity of background, I reach for my gun”.

                Liked by 1 person

              • “Either way, a Unionist holding an Irish passport wasn’t the toxic problem you imagine it to be.”

                gendjinn

                Are you kidding? We’re talking about during the Troubles here. In people’s minds in NI there was no such thing as neutral ground, everyone was deemed to be on one side or the other. Holding an Irish passport would have been more than enough to get a person killed.
                In Paisley’s case, given the positions he adopted and his rhetoric, he would have been destroyed politically if it had come out that he carried an Irish passport. So many people would have had to have known about it and Paisley had so many enemies (quite rightly in my view, as he was a total bastard) it would have been bound to have come out. Either that or everyone ranging from civil servants, staff and security personnel at various airports, the SDLP, SF, other unionists, police officers, security spooks, and the media all decided to keep quiet about it.
                Again, I ask, even ignoring the downsides, of what benefit would it have been to Paisley to hold an Irish passport?

                I fully realise the pre-1919 situation, but this was a world of death and destruction away from what had pertained then.

                Your uncle was probably pulling your leg.

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              • gendjinn

                Tamam,

                every single thing else he ever told us has subsequently come to light in the public domain and verified. And some haven’t come out yet. Like who is actually responsible for the deaths of Garda and Army at the Tidey rescue. “The army had a record of every bullet issued, to whom and what was fired. All accounted for. The Gardaí behaved like the Wild West out there!” Ask yourself why no inquest has ever released the calibre of rounds that killed the Irish security force personnel.

                Look, I know something you don’t. As ASF has said, TPC and Ed Moloney have also written about it. I have a faint memory he may even have discussed it when Rhonda Paisley interviewed him on RTÉ for a couple of hours. You are going to have to reevaluate what you believe you know, and your worldview to accommodate these new piece of information. Or you can continue as you are, telling us we are wrong and remaining unaltered. Which approach seems the more reasonable and logical to you?

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              • “Look, I know something you don’t. As ASF has said, TPC and Ed Moloney have also written about it.”

                Actually, ASF didn’t say that. Check the replies. He said they possibly could have, he wasn’t sure and, and then again, Moloney probably didn’t. I’m still waiting for a pointer to any author, journo, or historian that claimed Ian Paisley Snr. carried an Irish passport. ASF also claimed that he was referring to Ian Paisley Jnr. re the Irish passport.

                “You are going to have to reevaluate what you believe you know, and your worldview to accommodate these new piece of information. Or you can continue as you are, telling us we are wrong and remaining unaltered. Which approach seems the more reasonable and logical to you?”

                Ffs, what new information? You’ve claimed something outlandish without pointing to a single media or other reference, never mind a single shred of evidence, to back it up and you expect me to take it at face value. The closest you’ve come is ASF claiming it was “a running joke for years” and you saying your uncle told you about it. Do you really think accepting that as solid proof is reasonable and logical?

                Give it up, gendjinn. You’re making a fool of yourself.

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            • gendjinn

              I have not the slightest difficulty in accepting Paisley Sr. had an Irish passport, if it’s true. I really couldn’t care less if he had one. But neither you nor ASF have given the slightest indication of how you know this to be true. You both just stated it to be true. Simply tell me how you know he had an Irish passport. At least give me a link to a reputable publication that reported this. As for his working with Irish officials and pols – this was always common knowledge, but hardly proves that he carried an Irish passport.

              Now let me tell you why I believe your claim to be made-up nonsense:
              1) There was not the slightest advantage to him having an Irish passport
              2) The electoral risks, especially during the Troubles, would have been enormous
              3) It would have been impossible for him to hide the fact that he had an Irish passport. He often travelled to Europe, going through all sorts of security and passport controls in Belfast, London, Brussels etc; staff in Dublin would have had to put together and issue the passport: yet no-one, out of the scores of people who would have had firsthand knowledge ever alerted the media that this most ostensibly anti-Irish (and widely despised) person had an Irish passport.
              4) If this was common knowledge, how come the SDLP and SF, never mind other unionists, ever raised it
              4) If it was so widely known, as you claim, the media in the North would have known about it and had a field day, but there was never a whimper of this until ASF claimed it and you backed him up.

              Admit it, it’s bullshit. 😂

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              • Eh, just for the record, I was referring to Paisley Junior, pictured in the tweet, not Senior. The older Paisley made quite a fuss in the 1970s about Irish passports for northern nationalists, especially in the HofC in relation to the SDLP, so I don’t think he had one. But Irish passports were certainly in circulation among UUP pols and later some DUP ones.

                Likewise, some SF figures found it easier or more practical to use UK passports for visits to the US or Australia. Or the IRA volunteers using Irish and UK passports.

                Or for that matter, northern journos using both passports too, as suited. Flying to the US? Get your UK passport holder visa. Flying to Egypt? Better to have an Irish passport in case things go pearshape.

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              • Apologies ASF, I was a bit curt in my replies.
                But I just can’t see the reasoning behind unionist pols opting for Irish passports pre-GFA. No advantage to them and political suicide if it came out, which it surely would have. It simply defies all sorts of logic. At that time it was an either/or situation, not like now when you can have both passports.

                Lots of unionists have Irish as well as British passports nowadays, including political reps. Paisley Jr even publicly advised his constituents to take a second (ie Irish) passport if they are entitled to one. Fair play to the ordinary unionist, it’s an obvious move. But some of the pols who were to the forefront in advocating Brexit were also to the front of the queue in applying for an Irish passport for themselves. The bare-faced hypocrisy is astounding. Rees-Mogg is another one, advising clients of his company to move their money to Dublin pre-Brexit.

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              • No probs at all.

                Martin Mansergh, the former FF TD and backroom figure, is very good on the hypocrisies, or grey areas, or hybridisation of the north, and north-south relations. RUC men with Irish passports because it was convenient to have them at certain times or circumstances or Provos going on holidays with the kids and getting a UK passport because better visa options and/or consular services. Like, nothing in the north was entirely black or white or entirely binary, even at the worse of times. Which is as it should be. I partly hail from Protestant and Unionist stock in Fermanagh via my paternal granny’s family and my Dublin-born Catholic-reared father remembered watching Orange parades in Enniskillen with my grandfather who was ex-Irish Army and a dark green Fianna Fáiler. And a physio for the Ireland soccer team at the time 🙂

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              • gendjinn

                Tamam,

                I know Paisley Sr had a passport because I was told so by my uncle in the civil service. Now he could be wrong of course, but given his position to know and his lack of a motive to lie I’m going to believe him. I understand that may hold little or no value for you.

                Either way, a Unionist holding an Irish passport wasn’t the toxic problem you imagine it to be. ASF makes many salient points. I would just add that Unionism saw themselves as Irish in the UK before 1919 and wanted the entire 32 counties to remain. Yes there is antipathy to the passport and accepting Irish citizenship in sections of NI today. But it is not as pervasive or universal as you think it is.

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  6. “Unionists will kick up a fuss, but settle down pretty quickly once they lose. Just like in the 26 in the 20s.”

    The sectarian murder campaign against Protestants in the 26 in the 20s and the driving of them out of the country. Is that the sort of “settle down” you have in mind?

    Like

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