From top: the old Irish passport, 1978; Dan Boyle
We are far from being the welcoming, inclusive Irish, we often pretend to be.
It’s a question of degrees.
Dan Boyle writes:
The proposal to allow Irish citizens, not residing here, to vote for our Head of State, is not the most pressing constitutional issue needing attention. It probably is being suggested to deflect from many more serious issues.
Nonetheless it should be considered as bringing about a necessary change, to allow for standards that are in practice in many other countries.
What I find worrying is the making of the proposal has brought out a reaction, that seems to go beyond an understandable disdain towards political cynicism.
It seems to reveal an attitude that a pecking order of Irishness exists; a pecking order defined as much by the how and where a person chooses to live, than by any genetic privileges earned.
At the top of this pyramid are those who live in this country, and have always lived in this country. Let’s call them The Famine Survivors. These are the people who have the right to say ‘My country right or wrong’. That they usually choose wrong, remains only their privilege.
Below them are The Returnees. Emigrants, with their children, who have come back to the ‘auld sod’. They were Irish there, but they are not thought fully Irish here, because of a disconnect they are made feel they have made.
Then we have Our Northern Brethren. De Valera’s constitutional conceit that there is the State and there is the Nation, has created a particularly Irish Limbo in Northern Ireland. We like to romantically believe them to be our compatriots, but we are reluctant to make any economic changes of ourselves to fulfil that romance.
To be fair to De Valera, the idea of lost countrymen in other territories wasn’t uniquely his. It was quite a popular idea in the 1930s.
A more recent category would be that of The Wilder Geese. These are our more recent emigrants. Economic reasons may have informed their leaving, although some have left out of choice! The temerity of seeking better lives outside of the motherland.
We have The Honorary Irish. The children of emigrant Irish, who however much soaked in their adopted culture, gain honourary status by being successful in their fields, usually in the entertainment industry. We are happy for them to be Irish out there. Less so here.
The same could be said for their parents, and of those who left in other eras, The Lost Generations. We mock their wistfulness as being twee. We condemn their vision of an Ireland that if it ever existed, certainly doesn’t exist now.
Last, and sadly for many least, we have The New Irish. A moniker born out of political correctness that has assumed Orwellian proportions. As in The New Irish are not considered Irish at all.
We fear their different ways. We fear their differentness. We are wary they will dilute our cultural purity. The thoughts of a samba infused nine hand reel blows our minds.
Maybe I am deflecting here. We are though far from being the welcoming, inclusive Irish, we often pretend to be.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.