Being Irish | Cassandra Voices

Being Irish


This Ireland exists. And should one travel there and not find it, then they have not looked closely enough..
Hugo Hamilton: The Island of Talking – In the footsteps of Heinrich Boll

#IrelandisFull: the migration of this phrase from the far-right into the mainstream is an awful feature of our woe-begotten times. It begs the question: what does it mean to be Irish? Ireland is of course full at one level; full of gaslighting and bullshit, not least from people who subscribe to these views, and those who have created the conditions for them to flourish.

One is not more Irish because your grandfather was in the GPO. That your name is Lenehan, Murphy, Barrington, Finlay, Kelly, Doyle, or conversely, Langwallner, Smith, Varadkar, Naidoo, Bacik should make no difference to your claim. It is not where you come from, or your name, it is about who you are, what you do and why you do it.

It should make no difference whether it was an immigrant who assaulted a child, given many Irish thugs are wont to do the same. And recall it was a Brazilian delivery driver that rescued her. Thuggish criminals come from all breeds and nationalities. And those who riot and attack people with baseball bats are simply thugs, as are those who spread hatred against Johnny Foreigner from whatever vector in whatever country.

Consider the words of Kipling, often considered a jingoistic nationalist:

Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ’Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din

Wealth inequality in the United States increased from 1989 to 2013.

Under Neoliberalism

Under a rampant neoliberalism, we now see overt far-right fascism, but also a structural form underpinning the centre-right, which is overseeing the impoverishment of all but the super-rich, while maintaining a veneer of inclusivity.

Now, with an economic and environmental meltdown on the horizon, it is time to assert universal Enlightenment values, and fairly allocate the resources of the Earth, and of Ireland, while leaving room for diversity and even eccentricity. It is the time for those, such as the legendary mixed race writer Albert Camus, to assert the values of moderation against all forms of extremism.

The phrase keep ‘Ireland for the Irish’ is one I have heard in family law proceedings. Sadly, it speaks of a widespread, generally unacknowledged, intolerance.

In recent times we have become a nation of bean counters. Between 1996 and 2012 the number of qualified accountants in the state grew by a staggering eight-three percent to number 27,112.[i]

Ireland has always been run by a privileged elite, a comprador class of money men and lawyers that facilitate exploitation. The Four Courts still operates with vestiges of primogeniture. So resentment should be targeted against the elites who perpetuate inequality, not the poor huddled masses from Ukraine seeking refuge, which of course was offered to Irish emigrants in the recent past.

Racism, tribalism, and irredentism are worrying signs of fascism, which seems to be the way things are heading. A fascist corporate authoritarian state is on the horizon. The extreme economic doctrine of neoliberalism is breeding autarkic extremism.

One’s nationality, whether Irish, Russian or American, is not an indication of exceptionalism. That you are Irish does not give you an entitlement to despise outsiders. It cannot justify thuggery. Irish lives matter is an empty phrase. The far-right at its most extreme propounds truly crazy fictions. Thus. anyone daring to disagree is labelled a paedo, destroying family values. Jesus wept.

Of course this is linked to the dark money of the evangelical Christian Right. Perceptively, Noam Chomsky once described the U.S. Republican Party as the most dangerous organisation in human history.

David Langwallner receiving the prize from Miriam O’Callaghan for Pro Bono & Public Interest Team/Lawyer of the Year at the AIB Private Banking Irish Law Awards 2015.

Nein Danke Herr Langwallner

As a speckled person myself, like Hugo Hamilton, half-Irish, half Austrian, I was confronted in my school days with comments like “go back to Austria Adolf”. Moreover, during a debate in that crucible of Irish corporate narrow-mindedness which is UCD, I was greeted with the rebuke on an unanswerable point of information: Nein Danke Herr Langwallner.

Much laughter flowed from the thuggish mobocracy. That body included at least one present judge, along with a managing partner of a leading law firm. Thugs and or criminals thus come in all shapes and hues in fact. Many are to be found among our corporate and legal so-called professional classes.

Now what is pure Irish blood? Garrett Fitzgerald, the reformist Blueshirt, was a contradiction in terms. He once described the intellectually superior Charles J. Haughey as having a flawed pedigree. Haughey had his faults but note the class snobbery, and arguably racism, of the comment.

The blue blood Tories of Fine Gael are sustained by a sense of dynastic entitlement, evident with judicial appointments, where a kind of rabbit disease like myxomatosis seems to have created an overwhelming mediocrity.

The name Fitzgerald of course comes from the Vikings who raped and pillaged Celtic Ireland – plus ca change. The only difference is the violations are now financial, which is spawning far right-wing fascism.

One of the heroes of the Irish Revolution, Countess Markievicz was actually born in England and married a Polish-Ukrainian count. Even the long-shadowed Éamon de Valera had a Cuban father and was born in New York. If only he had stayed. The bloodline of pure Irishness has thus always been corrupted. Garret FitzGerald should have understood that being Irish is not akin to a dog breeding competition.

In more recent times, if we are supposed to hate immigrants based on their skin colour or ethnicity, are we to hate the greatest Irish football player of all time, the Black Pearl of Inchicore, Paul McGrath or Phillip Lynott the lead singer of Thin Lizzy similarly?

Are we to add Irish Protestants and Jews to the hate list? Samuel Beckett was a Protestant and so was Justice Kingsmill Moore. A few more Protestant judges might have been beneficial over the history of the state.

Or consider those to whom we have given welcome: the great Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein – one of the most significant minds of the twentieth century – is honoured by a plaque in the Ashling Hotel. The great German writer Heinreich Boll lived in Ireland and was favourably disposed, while the Rolling Stones have had a shadowy presence among the Guinness family. In short, emigres, non-nationals, or “half-castes” enrich our public discourse and provide diversity.

And if we hate the English, should we hate Shane McGowan or John Lennon, both of Irish extraction or if we hate the Yanks, what about Eugene O Neill or F. Scott Fitzgerald, two of the greatest writers who have ever lived, who were of Irish lineage. It might be said that the former’s posthumously published play A Long Day’s Journey into Night captures perfectly at one level what it is to be Irish: alcoholism, mental illness and abuse are the central characteristics of our national polity and governing classes.

Irish and proud..

Who are these people and why are they terrorising poor immigrants? The Fianna Fáil councillors who seek to condone must understand they are spreading the seeds of fascism. To hate the other because he or she is different is a disgrace, and you have forfeited your legitimacy to remain in public office.

Yes, there is a need for a more nuanced immigration system. But proportionately we do not attract as many as elsewhere. Let us not forget that many of these people have experienced horrific scenes we can only imagine. But I fear that Ukrainian refugees on slender social support have gone from the frying pan into the fire.

To fail to understand how much diversity adds to any society is to demonise and exclude. The shocking truth, however, is that exclusion is to be found at the highest reaches of the Irish establishment, who display classic attributes of colonialism as Fritz Fannon describes this phenomenon. Exclusion from the good life enjoyed by a few extends to many native sons.

And if we are to dislike other nationalities let us avoid making it global or universal. I love the Italian film director Fellini but hate Meloni because she is a proto-fascist. I adore the writer Dostoevsky, but cannot approve of Putin. I love the African writer Achebe but not the African dictator Mugabe. Nor should one hate the Irish.

Sinn Fein have been brave in sticking to a non-racist stance, particularly as many of its constituents misguidedly move elsewhere, and if they are to be a party of government they should ignore the electoral consequences and stick to their principles.

Featured image by David Kernan (Creative Commons Licence).

[i] Tony Farmar, The History of Irish Book Publishing, Stroud, The History Press, 2018, p.12


About Author

David Langwallner is a human rights lawyer and founder of the Innocence Project in Ireland. He was previously Dean of Law at Griffith College. He was made Pro Bono & Public Interest Team/Lawyer of the Year at the AIB Private Banking Irish Law Awards 2015.

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