May 18, 2011

On Being Irish

I thought I'd take a break from my usual writing topics and today talk about being Irish. More specifically, what I feel it means to be Irish following our first state visit from a British monarch since the Republic of Ireland became a free state.

Here's the thing. A lot of the famous Irish writers wrote about Ireland. Being Irish, living in Ireland, the struggles of the different classes before, during and after the Irish War of Independence. A lot of the books, plays and movies about Ireland have relatively straightforward plots and characters, the creative focus being on the distinct Irish charm.

I'm not that kind of writer. I know where my strengths lie, and they don't lie in harnessing solid Irish wit and attitude.

But I do know that to me, being Irish means having a long and proud artistic heritage. We have some of the most imaginative and creative people in the world, a wealth of talent which is all too often left untapped. So many talented people let self-doubt or cynicism stop make them give up without a fair shot. It's sad to see, because I think the majority of Irish people are wonderful, caring individuals who could do amazing things for themselves, their loved ones, even the world, if they could set aside the unfortunate Irish attitude that there are better people for a particular role than us, or that some things are beyond them or deserved more by someone else.

Then we have the ignorant minorities who would turn a solemn, historic moment like this:

And this:

Into this:

The two top pictures are of Queen Elizabeth paying her respects yesterday at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, a memorial to those who died fighting for Irish freedom, standing alongside our own president, Mary McAleese. I don't believe it can be stressed enough how significant this is.

The bottom picture is from violence which broke out during what should have been a peaceful protest to the Queen's visit.

I fully respect the right to protest. What I have no time for are ignorant thugs who just want to start a fight. They are not protestors, and their actions darken not only the reputations of those who went to protest in a peaceful manner, but those of every Irish person, everywhere. It's sad to see a momentous occassion like this marred by the actions of these few.


  1. I don't like having my grandchildren grow up in the world the way it is today. So much violence. So much disrespect.

    I love the poet William Butler Yeats. And my second husband has an Irish line (he was christened Thoams McCann Barr, the McCann being the Irish). Beautiful country and people; it's the others who dominate the news.

    How is YOUR book moving along?
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

  2. My new WIP is moving slowly, I'm afraid. I need to stop letting being ill get in the way of writing, and just get the thing done so I at least have a first draft.

    As for Locked Within, my editor and I have started discussing the editing process, in particular trying to come up with the perfect title.

  3. Paul, this is such a poignant post on several levels. The symbolism of the Queen coming to visit and that photo of her and your President. I wish we could find a way to solve problems without violence. But the part that struck me the most was about how Irish people allow self-doubt to stop them from allowing their creativity out. That, my dear friend, is not just Irish people, I'm afraid.

  4. Karen, that's true. I've just known so many people who have talent and ideas that they want to use, but they never did.