Monday, January 30, 2006

Sure we're a grand little country!

Many of our own Irish writers can be critical of Ireland and our relationship with the outside World. I often do see where they are coming from. But like the cliche of the glass being half empty and half full I usually like to dwell on the positives.

Our neutrality for example is frequently criticised. I know it was rather odd during WW2 for us to be neutral. Britain and later the USA effectively protected us. We still saw Britain as the old enemy and didn't see beyond them in fighting what seemed to be their war. So we locked up both the British and the German militia in the Curragh if they landed. If Hitler had annexed Britain we would have been toasted next! I read somewhere years ago that a secret document had been uncovered whereby Hitler thought Ireland was interesting agriculturally but it's people unnecessary. His idea was apparently to have us all exterminated. I can't exactly verify how true this was. However 3 million Irish at the time was probably a minor challenge to him compared to the 6+ million Jews he had killed.

Nevertheless, all we can do now is look at neutrality in 2006 terms. It's much better overall for a nation our size to team up in the UN concept to help others and ourselves. This is constructive use of neutrality. Now the UN itself has flaws but that's another story. I do think we play the international relations game in a beautifully balanced way. We are the cutest feckers in the World! Keep everyone liking us. We didn't like the Bush/Blair policy on Iraq as it went against the UN and we spoke out on it. We were right. But we still kept the British and Americans firmly on our sides.

As a nation we've never invaded other countries, we have little or no baggage internationally, pissed nobody off.

[Aside: only thing I vaguely recall from my history lessons was that back in 12th century one of the High Kings (Ruari O'Connor maybe) had been thinking of invading the Isle of Man. Only thinking of it mind you! Then like many Irish after him our wonderful laid-back attitude kicked in..."ah, feck it, I won't bother my arse!"]

I believe Ireland falls into the "kill them with kindness" category of international relations, which I think is good. Even the awkward French like us..once they realise we are not British. When it comes to providing aid abroad we are in a class of our own. We are much more generous per capita than almost any nation in the World. There are so many Irish abroad giving their time to all sorts of charities and re-building programs.

Yes, the British empire suppressed us and also divided us - particularly with the plantation of Ulster. But let's be honest, the British did us a lot of good as well, albeit unintentionally. Apart from considerable infrastructural improvements we had been given the most useful language in the World. If Irish was spoken as only language by the vast majority we would be an isolated and remote little country indeed with little foreign investment. With each generation we have been getting more and more comfortable in our relationship with Britain. It even looks likely we will have the Queen over this year. Also, although still a very important neighbour, Britain is not as crucial to us as before. Our economic wings have spread in all directions and we even embraced the Euro currency without Britain.

We Irish are liked for our warmth, humour and enjoyment of people's company. We love to chat to people. It also shows in the massive amount of phoning and texting we do. And I actually don't think we are particularly racist. We object to people of all types sponging off the state..including our own. It's still a bit new too us having large numbers of people actually wanting to come here to live and there are undoubtedly small sections who still get bitter. But I believe in general we've always had respect for the working Chinese, Indians, Africans and others in our community. It's not racist to object to big numbers of people coming in illegally and not pulling their weight here. I object just as much to the Irish doing the same illegally in USA and elsewhere.

In 2006 Ireland are considered a well educated and wealthy country with good confidence in our dealings with the international community. I was only 8 years old when President Kennedy came here in 1963 but I still recall the unbelievable euphoria. As a nation we were so humble, poor and introverted and a US president amongst us was as if God had descended from Heaven. There were pictures of Kennedy in households alongside the Sacred Heart for a decade or more after the event! Contrast that to a US president coming today - it hardly raises an eyebrow and we have strong opinions and protestors out in mass.

Let's stop beating ourselves up so much. Ireland today is a great nation, punching well above it's weight in business, foreign aid, sport and other areas. We have managed our independence, economic growth and our alliances quite well and have spread ourselves in all parts of the World. For sure we have made some errors in the past and we are still adapting as a nation to many changes. However I do believe our future looks brighter and brighter.


shanemaxx said...

Eh yeah we did invade other countries. Scotland had a large Irish contingent that eventually produced the first King of Scotland, Kenneth Mc Alpine. Argylle is translated as Western Gael and there was a colony in Wales,around the 7th century..the Welsh fucked us out after a period of time (might be decades we're talking about here) and of course my favorite an Irish Fenian army invaded Canada sometime after the American Civil War.

John of Dublin said...

Thanks Shane, yes if you go back far enough we did skirmish a bit into Britain. And actually we did invade the Isle of Man long before the 12th Century. I wasn't aware of the Fenian thing in Canada - intersting.

Anyway, I'm sure you see the spirit of what I'm say though. We never invaded in a major colonising way which produced issues today in the same way as the the French British. Spanish, Portugese etc.

Paul Moore said...

Interesting post John, about being Irish in the modern world today.

I believe it was Neil Kinnock (ex leader of the British Labour party) who said that if Ireland handn't been invaded by Britain in the 12th century, we would have had roughly the same population as Holland, and probably have had the same level of industrialisation, level of infrastructure, etc. We would also presumably have acquired the same level of foreign language skills that you find in that country, and indeed in all other economically-advanced minority-language parts of the world, such as Dutch-speaking Belgium, Scandinavia, Iceland, etc.


PS (No flames please!) Although you won't read this in any Irish history book, the English were initially invited to Ireland at the behest of a warring chieftain, who wanted to gain advantage over a local rival. Thus began 800 years of conquest and misery.

John of Dublin said...

Good points, Paul. Yes, you are right about the Irish Chieftain inviting the English over for help, I do recall reading that somewhere.

that girl said...

As a nation we've never invaded other countries, we have little or no baggage internationally, pissed nobody off.

What about the invasion of third world countries by Irish Catholic religious orders? I reckon that counts..

John of Dublin said...

Good point, that girl. But at least it was a kind of trading process of sorts. Missionaries were providing food, shelter, teaching reading and writing and providing other skills and education. Sure, it was ultimately about promoting Catholic doctrine. But nobody was being murdered or put out of their lands and homes. I'm not aware of the Irish missionaries traumatising to the extent that the Irish nation were seen as enemies. Usually quite the opposite.