Posts tagged ‘Ireland’

24/11/2011

Let us turn our minds to living in Ireland.

In the gathering darkness of November it is perhaps timely to consider what it means to live in Ireland.

This green and soggy land. This depressed and depressing isle. A place where you’ll never be short an excuse to wear your waterproofs, or carry your umbrella. Where you can mark the passing of the days, by counting the cars gently floating off the quays, and into the Liffey.

This nation clothed by Dunnes, Roches and Primark. A citizenry for whom the height of fashion is to wander the town, pushing a buggy, while wearing your pajamas. A nation where the wearing of fabric boots is a patriotic act, after all how else can we clean up after the floods?

This nation which puts the fear of god into pigs everywhere. A land where if we don’t have cabbage, sure we’ll boil a head of lettuce instead. A culinary tradition best summed up by the great Denis Leary, “Boil it ’til it’s grey, then suck it up with a straw.”

A small dot on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, where we have thousands on housing lists, and empty houses by the truck load. Nothing says “A vibrant economy is based here.” like more houses than are needed, but never ever spreading the wealth with those in need.

A wonderous state where all the political parties are completely different in make up, ideology and ideals. Unless their names are the Greens, Labour, Fianna Gael, Fianna Fail. This country where even a retired terrorist with gallons of red sticky stuff on his hands, (but not blood for heaven’s sake, it was strawberry cordial), can grow up and aspire to get his ass handed to him in the presidential elections.

This land of equality, where in the same election a Gay man can get hauled over the coals like all the other candidates. But better still he can be sure of having preferential treatment, when they also shove some of those coals up his ass for being an uppity queer. “Honestly the cheek, doesn’t he realise he’s supposed to stay in bus, and train station toilets like all the other bent fuckers? How dare he demand the same rights as real people!”

And what of the cities? Those shining jewels. Where the streets glisten each morning with the urine of last nights drunks. And on every street corner a work of street art, cunningly created from regurgitated doner kebabs, cheap beer, and unbridled patriotism.

Those marvelous places filled with caring citizens, always ready to lend a hand or a boot to anyone on the ground. Where any man or woman regardless of age or infirmity, can be certain of absolutely no help what-so-ever should he or indeed she trip and hurt themselves.

And the countryside. Nothing but rolling hills, small towns, sparkling rivers, and historic ruins as far as the eye can see, between the bypasses, motorways and empty luxury hotels. Best if you don’t try to go into those historic ruins by the way, they’re often used as cattle sheds, and so the ancient flagstone floors are usually sunken beneath many inches of bovine delight.

Yes it’s a great country to visit, and to live in. Just don’t look too closely at the details.

Advertisements
05/07/2011

Shagging away those recession blues.

Yes it’s official, apparently Ireland has the fastest population growth in Europe.  And apparently, this flies in the face of common practice in the times of recession.

Supposedly the things  people are actually meant to do during a recession are:

a) wander aimlessly shouting “Gi’s a job!”, while their sanity is slowly unspooling.  

b) stand for unending hours outside the dole office, looking sad and depressed.

c) sell off everything you own to pay off the loan-shark, who has an appointment with you tomorrow.  Said appointment to also be attended by Mister Brick and Mister Lumphammer.

However, apparently what people in a debt riddled, recession haunted country are not supposed to do is, shag each other senseless, thus creating a baby boom.  Woops, sorry statisticians of the world.  We didn’t mean to.

You see what happened was we were walking across the bedroom.  You know, going to bed, like you do, when we both (sometimes we three/four/five/half the county) slipped on banana peels and wouldn’t you know it, Tab A got accidentally inserted into Slot B.  Then after I screamed and slapped him hard somewhere painful, he extracted Tab A from Slot B, washed it and reinserted it into Slot A.

Nine months later our bouncing baby boys, Ian Montgomery Francis and Eugene Uistean, were born.

Okay, no, being serious for a moment, why the hell is this surprising?  I may be just a poor lil transgirl from Cork, but even I can see why this is happening.  Ireland is in the grip of its, Great Depression.  Our national finances are shot to hell and all we have to show for the good times are Bertie Ahern’s Erection

Is it not a glorious erection? (image via e-architect.co.uk)

and a tram that seems to be permanently filled to the rafters with skangers, drug users and drug pushers.  And often all three are in fact the same person.

So why the hell wouldn’t people be having lots of sex, after all endorphins and orgasms make for happier people, and then be more than happy to hold a little, breathing, pooping piece of a possibly better future?

Next time in the news, Scientists are stunned to discover that in Ireland it rains water from the sky and amazingly, the water is wet.

17/05/2011

Our closest neighbour and also our closest ally.

Today, the Queen of England arrives on the shores of the Republic of Ireland for the first time.  For most people, there is no difference between her visit and that of President Obama later this month.  It is simply the arrival of a foreign head of state, on a goodwill visit.  However, for a vocal minority, her arrival is seen in almost the same light, as the arrival of the anti-christ is seen by some Christian sects.

There is no denying that the United Kingdom and Republic of  Ireland have to say the least, a sordid past.  Ireland having been occupied by Great Britain for centuries.  While appreciable parts of Britain have been blown apart by Irish terrorists.  But, that is the past.  True it is a recent past, but it is still the past.

I am a proud citizen.  I am proud of, and believe in, my country.  I am also extremely loyal to my country.

However I also welcome the arrival of the Queen, to our small island.

“How can this be?”  I’m sure some of you are wondering.

Well last year the U.K. government gave our Republic genuine aid.  How quickly we forget, that when we as a nation were on our knees, our old adversaries, now our closest allies, gave us a loan of 7 billion euros.  Yes it will have to be paid back, but in the wording of the loan there is a noticeable lack of punishing interest rates and no veiled attempt to reformat the Irish Republic as Europe’s equivalent to Puerto Rico.  A mere protectorate, with neither voice nor hope of a voice.

That act.  That 7 billion Euros worth of genuine aid, was hardly the act of a sworn enemy.

“So what?”  Some of you are thinking, “they’re still the descendants of our colonial overlords.”

Some of them, a tiny few, are.  But many of them are descendants of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of Irish men and women, who have at one time or another called mainland Britain their home.  The loudmouth minority in Ireland are always so fast to forget that there was a time, not so long ago in fact, when Shepard’s Bush in the greater London area was essentially an Irish colony.  The blowhards are so quick to ignore that a large number of Irish men and women, men and women who love their birth nation no less than anyone else, never came back.  But instead made lives, raised families and helped in their own way, to soften the harsher attitudes that had existed between our two nations.

“But what about the absentee landlords?”

What about them indeed?

These landlords who often treated their tenants in the U.K. mainland just as badly, sometimes even worse, than how they treated their Irish tenants.  Let’s not even get into the treatment of the native populations of India, Scotland, North America, the Far Eastern colonies and possibly the worst treated of them all, the Australian Aborigines.  Yes there were harsh landlords, who made their fortunes off of the backs of the poor. There always has been, there probably always will be for that matter.  Human nature is often cruel.  But there were also numberous examples of British landlords, who created reasons to employ the starving, the destitute of Ireland, in the hopes of helping them.  That is how many of the architectural follies that dot the Irish countryside were built.

The truth is I could spend eternity answering the questions of the hate-filled minority.  But that minority will never be satisfied for the pain and suffering which Ireland endured at the hands of Britain.

But we are fools, all of us, if we willfully ignore the pain and suffering our own countrymen have caused in Great Britain.  Through acts of terrorism Irishmen and women, self-styled citizen soldiers, have caused immeasurable pain across the narrow Irish Sea.

And yet, the Queen, head of state of our nearest neighbour, a neighbour who extended a helping hand in our hour of need, a neighbour who lived in fear of Republican bombs, is still coming here.

In Ireland there is an attitude, that we’re closer to Berlin than New York.  That our support, and our future lies with Europe.  The last few months have surely disabused us of that idea.  The truth is that we as a nation, are closer to London than anywhere.   Bound by painful history and the blood ties of scattered families.  Bound further, by the plague on both of our houses which Northern Ireland has become.  Bound and bound again, despite our own sons and daughters, waging a horrific war of terror on their own shores.

Yes I welcome the Queen of England to our shores.  She represents a nation, which is our closest neighbour and our closest ally in these harsh times.  Which has again and again given home too our young, when we have nothing left to give them ourselves.

Long may she reign, may her family be happy and healthy, and may her nation ever prosper.  But most of all may the vocal hate-filled or hate scarred members of both our nations, never tear asunder the ties that bind us together, and may we, in some future time of difficulties, come to their aid as they not so long ago came to ours.

The past is dead, and it need not be prologue.

22/03/2011

What as non-Americans, we can and perhaps should learn from the American spirit.

Last week in my Saint Patrick’s Day posts I was pretty hard on Americans.  Let me say right now that those words were purely my dislike of the American habit of perpetuating mythical tweeness about Ireland, the Irish and our nations history.  To say that particular habit annoys me is a massive understatement of simply biblical proportions.  But all that said there are infinitely more things about America and Americans that I not only like, but admire.

The United States of America is a peculiar entity.  Each of its fifty states is more like a semi-independent nation, but each of those nations has banded voluntarily under a single flag for mutual support and strength.  I’m sure most people reading this will have met Americans from different states.  They are a people who will have vastly different views on everything from food to wars to today’s weather.  So some American citizens, at least to the outsider, can seem to be a little schizophrenic.  With two national identities each, one for their state and one for their nation, you then of course have to add an often fierce pride in their town, county and other less easily defined loyalties.

This compares well to Irish attitudes, where very often our people have personal loyalties to town, parish, county, province and nation.  But, unfortunately where in the U.S. those loyalties seem to mostly start with nation and then state, county, town, etc.  We here in Ireland, to our own detriment, seem to lay out our loyalties in reverse.  Parochialism and the parish pump coming first, even before national pride.  This is definitely one area where I think as a nation we have a lot to learn from the States.  Our pride in our townland while important, should always be a distant second to our pride in and our loyalty to, our nation as a whole.

Another huge difference which I’ve noticed,  is in what we seem to prefer to celebrate.  The Americans celebrate their nations victories while they seem to openly acknowledge their failures, but without undue lamentation.  We Irish seem to wallow in our defeats, while we pass off our victories as nothing more than mere flukes.  This is incomprehensible to me.  We so quickly remind ourselves of all our failed rebellions against colonial rule.  Yet how many Irish people know, that when Europe was in the grip of the darkest age of pre-industrial mankind, it was Irish Christian monks who went into Europe and brought back a more stable light of  civilisation to the mainland?  Or what about Irish pride in our history as a provider of peacekeeping forces in the modern world?  No instead we lionize, the undoubtedly brave and patriotic men and women, who rebelled and frankly got their asses handed to them again and again and again.  Or worse, we endorse with hero-worship, people who held the idea that might makes right and that anyone, who didn’t stand behind them were theirs and thus Ireland’s enemies.

Those two examples though are not precisely what I wish to speak to in this post.  They serve more to mark some of the differences that split our nations characters, as profoundly as the Atlantic splits us geographically.  What I want to talk about is what Ireland, and far too many of the smaller European countries seem to lack.  The spirit of adventure.  Adventure is seen, wrongly, as some kind of foolish luxury which should only be afforded to the young, be they young people or nations.  We often laugh at what more “mature” societies see as American silliness.  Perhaps though, what we mistake for silliness is actually better defined as a, free-spirited approach to life and the world.

After all, I’m certain that some Americans do see Ireland as a nation of flat cap farmers, merry girls dancing in the streets, leprechaun’s, myths and saints.  But those same people, from that peculiar nation sent men to the moon.  Were instrumental in breaking German military expansionism, not once but twice.  They split the atom, though admittedly with a lot of Europeans helping.  Best of all they even gave us rock and roll.

What to outsiders is seen as silliness and a overweaned sense of optimism, in the U.S. is seen as frontier spirit.  Which itself, appears to be viewed as the soil in which their American Dream was first grown.  We Europeans though, don’t seem to have much of either the spirit or dream these days.

Ireland right now, is in the grips of its own equivalent of the great depression.  Depression in every sense of the word.  Our economy is, if not in tatters, then at the very least rather threadbare and in need of some serious tender, love and care.  As a people, a society we have once more seen the spectre of emigration, rising rates of suicide amongst every age group and marked drops in living standards visit us again.  This when so recently, we had reason to hope that we had finally seen the end of our nations darker past.  So a sense of depression which is both emotional as well as tangible has swept over us.  For myself this manifests as  I worry about who of those I love will be next to leave.  Will they find security and happiness?  Will I ever see them again if they go?

We have depression and fear aplenty in this country right now.  What we don’t seem to have a lot of is adventure and fight.  We lack spirit.  We lack a dream to make reality.  Some of us foolishly wish for the return of the mythical Celtic Tiger.  Foolishly I say, because just as the first tiger was in reality a well disguised nightmare, another tiger would almost certainly become just as dangerous to us in the future.  Unsustainable growth is not actually a good thing.  But if we could borrow just a little of the American spirit of adventure and with it maybe just a touch of what is usually called the American dream, perhaps we can create that Holy Grail of any nation.  Long term sustainable growth combined with stability and security for all our citizens.

08/02/2011

Why the Irish shouldn’t riot.

 

Not the actions of real citizens who deserve the title.

An ongoing theme which I have seen on the internet as well as print media is the seemingly vexing question of why the Irish haven’t rioted in response to the betrayal they have suffered at the hands of their government. After all the Greeks rioted so why haven’t the Irish?

First of all do the people asking this question know what a riot is?  A riot is not a group of angry protesters screaming defiance at an injustice.  It is not an orderly procession of hundreds of people, peacefully and legally showing their dissatisfaction in a unified and legal manner.

No, a riot is chaos itself given flesh, wearing boots and taking a stroll through a formerly peaceful city’s streets.  A riot is typically a large group, or multiple smaller groups of people clashing violently with the police and sometimes even the army.  A riot is fear and anger unleashed.  Literally unleashed, as in all restraint removed.  Or to put it another way people rarely die in a protest, people often do die in a riot.  Riots have other very dangerous attributes, they don’t have a knowledge of geography so they tend to spread.  Rioters usually stop caring about other peoples property.  The end result being smashed windows, torched cars even physical assaults on the uninvolved.  As I said chaos given flesh.

Well now we’ve explained what a riot is without using legal jargon  let’s look at this from four angles legality, social, economics and political shall we?  Oh and more importantly show why we Irish must not riot.

While Irish men and women absolutely do have the right to protest they do not have the right to riot.  Rioting is by it’s nature a violent action and violence off the G.A.A. or rugby pitch is not allowed in Ireland.  I mean for goodness sake strictly speaking it’s considered assault to spank your lover here.

Socially a riot would lead to fear stalking the Irish streets in a way it hasn’t in decades.  That much violence let slip in one place in one day would quite simply make some of the citizens of Dublin too scared to leave their homes for days, maybe even weeks.  Yes I did say weeks.  Riots as shown many times in other countries can have a lifespan far in excess of what anyone might have expected them to have.

The fear given flesh by the actions of rioters would keep people from going about their lives.  That means that people may well stop shopping for anything beyond the absolute essentials.  Nights out on the town would be skipped for as long as the violence runs through the streets.  Tourists and business people seeing on their local news what’s happening on Dublin’s streets would cancel trips and rightly so, visitors to our shores should be greeted warmly, not with raised fists and voices.  In short  a riot would tear at the heart of what  remains of Dublin’s day to day commerce.

Of course that does not even touch on the cost of the post-riot clean up.  The cost in insurance.  Health care for those injured.  Danger pay for police and army personnel.

And what good would all the anger and violence do politically?  Have you ever heard the phrase “not a sausage”?

When it’s all over the politicians will tut and scold the county in the news bulletins shown in every country in Europe, and more than a few beyond that.  Our vampire banks will still suck us dry.  The IMF will still be here with the cash the country needs to pay it’s bills, though they won’t be quite as willing to believe anything we say ever again.  The E.U. will be polite and use what happened as even more leverage to force even more concessions we can ill afford from our nation.

But worse than all that is that as a nation we’ll be a laughing stock worldwide. Right now our political elite is rightly derided internationally.  The same goes with our bankers and all the others who dragged us all into penury.  But so far the ordinary Irishman on the street can only be viewed as the picture of restraint, the good citizen and admittedly in some corners I’m certain as mere sheep being shorn.

Well anyone who looks at Irish history, or even anyone who walks through Dublin City at closing time will see the one thing we’re not is a herd of placid sheep.  Give the Irish a reason to act with violence and we will.  Like any nation violence is always just beneath the surface of our civilised veneer.  But the painful truth is that we as a nation are acting responsibly.

For the sake of everyone be a good citizen and use your vote.

Yes I said responsibly.

Even as I have never been more ashamed of our country’s leaders I have never been more proud of our ordinary citizens.  I have never been more proud to be Irish than right now.  As a nation we could have gone Greek and lashed out violently against those who have stolen our futures from us.  But we haven’t instead we have as a nation waited with patience to have our say.  And on Friday the 25th of February we will overthrow our government legally, peacefully and in the only way that responsible citizens of a functioning democratic republic ever should.  At the polling booth.

So in the end putting aside the legal, social, economic and political reasons not to riot the main reason is this.  By being responsible for these many horrifying months we have shown the world how a civilised nation acts in times of trouble.  And by voting and thus legally overthrowing the government which has let us down we show the world how democracy must work.

So why haven’t the Irish rioted?  I’d like to think it’s because somewhere deep inside our cultural subconscious we Irishmen and woman have decided to set an example to the rest of the world.  Not bad for a nation that’s really only 80-odd years old.

For an alternatice take on this subject check out this article over on Consider the Tea Cosy

%d bloggers like this: