Monday, 9 February 2009

Depressing attitudes

A depressing little story appeared in the Sunday Tribune yesterday illustrating that whilst attitudes may be changing as regards recognising the heritage which we share on these islands, there remains in Ireland, north and south, a deep vein of hatred towards anything which might be associated with the ‘other side’.

Students at St Mac Dara’s community college in Dublin have been persuaded to alter a mural depicting historical events of 1916. A parent complained in an anonymous letter that one half of the painting, which portrayed Irish involvement in the First World War, included a ‘loyalist symbol’. The offending item was of course a poppy.

No matter that the other half of the mural was dedicated to the Easter Rising which also occurred during that year. No matter that the poppies were painted as part of a wider view of Flanders’ fields. This lone, spineless bigot was determined that no image which he associated with the British tradition would grace a mural at his child’s school.

Of course he got his way, drawing a desperately confused remark from the college’s vice principal,

“It is absolutely no way a loyalist painting. There was some concern because at the bottom of the mural they portray the Flanders fields and there were poppies in them; not the poppies in terms of English history."


What this garbled nonsense is supposed to impart is anyone’s guess. The poppy is a symbol of remembrance precisely because it evokes Flanders. It is not specifically an English symbol and what ‘poppies in terms of English history’ might be, well, I am personally at a loss.

It is hard to see how removing a symbol of respect, loss and remembrance because of the anonymous objections of one bigot teaches children involved a lesson of any merit. Still less that requiring them to reconsider the mural’s contents indicates ‘a level of maturity’.

The pertinent point, as Paul Kingston at least acknowledges, is that almost a quarter of a million Irishmen took part in WW1, many of them sacrificing their lives. If remembering them is still equated with loyalism, even in the minds of a few, there is still a great deal of work to be done on pernicious attitudes which exist on this island.

27 comments:

Ignited said...

Glad you pointed that out. It's a shame that they allowed that one anon complaint to spoil it all.

Chekov said...

It would have been a much more valuable lesson for the kids to carry on and ignore the prick.

Scottish Unionist said...

Are you aware of any studies conducted in the Republic of Ireland into attitudes towards the United Kingdom and/or British? Or indeed the English, often a target for those nationalists who see Britain in bizarre colonial terms as some kind of "greater England".

One of the arguments of Scottish nationalists is that the supposedly intractable resentment which they perceive to exist between Scots and English can only be dealt with by a "new", "mature", "equal" relationship - words which they use to characterise separation. Inane rhetoric of course, and they merely betray their own hang-ups with such language, but it's plausible to the unwary and difficult to refute without any empirical evidence.

Kloot said...

Are you aware of any studies conducted in the Republic of Ireland into attitudes towards the United Kingdom and/or British?

Are you aware of the need for any such studies ?

Are their similar studies in the UK as to attitudes towards people from the ROI?

Kloot said...

Regarding the person who made the complaint about the poppy, there are of course a small minority with that sort of small mindedness.

Its beyond a joke that all it took was one anonymous complaint for the mural to be changed.

Scottish Unionist said...

Kloot

A curiously defensive reply.

I am aware of numerous studies within Britain - for example on anti-Englishness in Scotland or English attitudes towards Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolution - but not of any research on attitudes to the Republic of Ireland.

Anyway, it was only an idle query. The SNP claims that breaking up the UK would result in better understanding and relations between the people of its constituent nations. Quite how political and cultural separation can bring people closer is never fully explained!

Kloot said...

Anyway, it was only an idle query.

Fair Nuff.. I just took you up the wrong way. Apologies.

Ive done a bit of goggling and I cant find any studies of the sort you mentioned. Which is interesting in itself. And I suppose what I was suggesting was, that its probable that the lack of any studies is due to a feeling that they are not required.

English tourism and immigration figures to Ireland from the UK, where thousands of English people continue to migrate here every year, would both seem to indicate a lack of any problem.

Quite how political and cultural separation can bring people closer is never fully explained!

I think that its simply a matter of pride.

Relations between the ROI and the UK have never at a better point in our long shared history, both at a political and social level.

A large element of that is the Irish getting rid of the inferiority complex developed as a result of centuries of "English" rule.

Self pride and confidence, gained through the last 80 years of independence, through our successes and failures, have meant that Irish people no longer need to automatically blame the old "enemy" for all our ills.

A mutual respect has developed over the years between Irish and English people, helped on by the passage of time, and the healing of old wounds.

While joined in union with the UK, it was never really possible for this sort of reconciliation to take place. The UK was seen as a protestant parliament, with historical antipathy to Irish Catholic interests, and with a leaning towards protest interest in Ireland. We wouldnt get a fair hearing basically. That is of course a very dumbed down interpretation of it all.

Im not sure that that same set of problems can be said of Scottish people. However, im sure that national pride is an element of it. Im sure Scotland would like to be seen as a self sufficient country ( as much as any country can in these times ) and that it is felt that to do this requires control over fiscal policy, which doesnt seem possible while being part of a union with England, Wales and NI.

Scottish Unionist said...

We're clearly poles apart, Kloot, and I'm short of time today. But a few questions spring to mind.

Firstly, why the focus on England? You mention English tourism, "English" rule and the mutual respect which you think has "developed over the years between Irish and English people".

On that score, why the outcry last month at a possible visit to Ireland of Queen Elizabeth? and linking with my first question, why - in Ireland - is she widely referred to in anachronistic terms as the "Queen of England"? Could it be that irrespective of somewhat improved relations since 1997 the cultural and historical divergence continues apace? How could it be otherwise?

Kloot said...

Firstly, why the focus on England?

Scottish Unionist: 9/feb/16:37

Are you aware of any studies conducted in the Republic of Ireland into attitudes towards the United Kingdom and/or British? Or indeed the English,

You asked the question about studies on attitudes in the ROI towards the UK and/or British or indeed the English. So you drew the focus there.


On that score, why the outcry last month at a possible visit to Ireland of Queen Elizabeth?


Eh, what outcry. Seriously. I must have missed that one. Ive not heard a single mention of a visit from a British monarch to the ROI since last year. Outcry you say !

Let me assure you that if there had of been an outcry in the ROI about a visit of the British Monarch it would have been reported quite quickly on any number of Unionist sites. As it stands I cant see a mention of it on this site, nor ATW, nor slugger, nor A pint of unionist lite. Can you provide a link to this outcry you speak of.

Very the record, the British royal family sells ridiculous amounts of copy in the ROI. Most people would have no problem with a visit by a British monarch, however, you would get the expect protests from extreme republican groups. Thats what they do, ya know.

why - in Ireland - is she widely referred to in anachronistic terms as the "Queen of England"?

Is she ? where pray tell have you gathered this.... strangely enough, you yourself just a paragraph back referred to her as the "Queen of England". Why did you choose to address her as such ? You may get extreme republicans addressing her as such, but thats because they would traditionally blame the "English" for Irelands ills. Other than that, sorry to disappoint you, but most people in the Media will refer to her as the British monarch, and ordinary joes on the street as Queen Elizabeth or the British Queen... im sure some do describe her as the "Queen of England" but for those that do, I would think the majority dont do so in an antagonist terms

Could it be that irrespective of somewhat improved relations since 1997 the cultural and historical divergence continues apace? How could it be otherwise?

somewhat improved. Your joking right ? Im shocked that you think that the improvement in relations between the peoples of the ROI and the UK are only somewhat improved.

I should ask, do you actually take an interest at all in Irish politics or history ?

Pray tell, what evidence do you see of a continued divergence in cultural and historical terms between the ROI and the UK ?

Kloot said...

I should ask, do you actually take an interest at all in Irish politics or history ?

The reason I ask, I should add, is because that "somewhat" is so far off the ball.

Chekov said...

I'm not aware of any such studies SU, but I'm sure they exist. I'll check more thoroughly next week.

Fascinating discussion guys. I'll read it more carefully when I have more time.

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of the story a few years ago, were, I think memory serving me right, one parent in the ROI made a complete to the childs school and the Irish Givernment minister responsible about the geographical descriptor British Isles on a geography book. She also complained to the relevant book publisher who then changed this geographical descriptor. Its sad. And Kloot was talking about "getting rid of the inferiority complex".

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the numerous typos in my piece, I'm in a hurry.

Kloot said...

And Kloot was talking about "getting rid of the inferiority complex".

Unfortunately such sentiments will always be expressed by some elements.

Anyone remember a certain Unionist councillor complaining about the colour of the flowers in one of the flower beds in his town looking too similar to the colours of the Irish tricolour.. same problem, different manifestation

Scottish Unionist said...

Kloot:

Actually, the incorrect reference to "poppies in terms of English history" is in the quote by the college vice principal.

Hence my spinoff into wondering why the misnomer "Queen of England" is still in use in Ireland.

I was recently taken aback, on a trip to Ireland, to hear someone using the phrase “kicking out the f****** colonial English”. All very subjective, of course - in the absence of academic studies into anti-Englishness in Ireland (other than in the North).

Irish Independent:
Ireland not ready for Queen's visit


Indymedia: Republicans throughout Ireland are strongly opposed...

Irish Times poll: Should Queen Elizabeth visit Ireland?

Yes: 55%
No: 45%

Selection of comments:

"What use would it do to have ol' queenie vist us? Rouse the rabble and remind us just how better she is than us lowly folks. Keep her out or try her for Bloody Sunday!!!"

"She has a full right to come to ireland as a person. But as a symbol of England and the empire it is very unwise if there is still harsh feelings of 700 years of oppression and domination by the monarchy of England..."

"While Britain holds one square centimetre of the territory of the Island of Ireland she should not be welcome."

"Cowering beneath cloaks of sham neutrality while feeding off the spoils of illegal war and torture sits real well with pulling the forelocks and tipping the caps and giving rousing Huzzah's to unapologetic representatives of historically despotic monarchies alright."

Plenty more where those came from; a clear example of the political cultural divergence which you deny.

Scottish Unionist said...

Typo in last line: "...political cultural AND divergence which you deny."

More here:

"The entire Brit royal family, as in from Liz to the grandkids, should board a Chinook bound for Ireland but take a trip around the Mull of Kintyre in the fog first."

"Quite frankly, NO. Until the country is completely reunified and the british presence is gone from the island completely."

"Let her visit. We can hold her for a ransom of, say 2 Billion Euro. Consider it reparations."

"Nope, she should not visit any part of Ireland north or south until our relationship with England is resolved and they no longer occupy any part this country."

"I also believe the continuing partition of the country is enough to prevent a visit."

Scottish Unionist said...

Erm, "political AND cultural divergence which you deny". Good grief! :-)

One more:

Sinn Féin says Queen not welcome in Ireland

7% of first preference votes in 2007, wasn't it?

Kloot said...

Scottish Unionist.

Interesting Reply

First off, my question on whether you had an interest in Irish politics or history was for a purpose.

Someone with that knowledge would know that the target of Irish ire over the centuries has primarily always been the English, and not the Scots or Welch. Im going to go into a big explanation of that here, there are plenty of books and articles Im sure you can read if you have an interest.

Therefore, when republicans are wish to express their ire the target will often be identified by their Englishness, more often than their Britishness, possibly in an attempt to show that the Scots and Welch are not their targets. Now that explanation of course is a massive simplification of it all.

So an element of people in Irish society, with an axe to grind, will target the English with their ire.

I was recently taken aback, on a trip to Ireland, to hear someone using the phrase “kicking out the f****** colonial English”.

No doubt that was in the queue for the bank was it, or the post office maybe or was it in the middle of HMV grafton st, or in a nice cafe off O'Connell st. Was it just the one person ?

What im getting at above with the heavily laden sarcasm is, the fact that you will get that sort of person in any society across with world, not just in Ireland. Theres no shock there. The person who said this, would you consider them someone fairly representative of Irish society ?

Would you honestly expect there to be not a single person in ireland holding negative views to English people ? I would assume not. Where it becomes a concern is if a significant minority held such views. And they dont. Not in the least.


Regarding the Queens visit. I thought you might have had your dates wrong alright.

Firstly, you used the word "outcry", so I want to address the links you provided with that term in mind.

The first link is a debate piece from the Irish Independent. And not a bad one at that. Did you read it through ? If you had, you must have missed the context in which he used the descriptive term "Queen of England".

The important quote is:

The main political beneficiaries would be Sinn Féin, who could point the finger at Fianna Fáil Ministers oiling up to the queen of England in support of their claim to be the sole true heirs of the republican tradition.

What he is trying to explain here is what ive tried to explain at the top. He is saying that "Sinn Fein" would "point the finger at Fianna Fáil Ministers oiling up to the queen of England". This comes back to my explanation of republicans use of this term. Ie, England is the target and hence the selective identification of Queen Elizabeth as being the "Queen of England".

Of course, point of fact, Queen Elizabeth is, as part of her role, both the "British Queen" while also being the "Queen of England". The "Queen of England" is a term used quite a lot by Americans and american media, from my experiences. So, in general use I do not believe it correct to assume its a pejorative term. One would need to be pretty insecure to assume that.

The second link is a letter sent to the editor of the Irish Independant by a single person, with an obvious axe to grind. Try googling his name and address and I think you will find that this person is an active letter writer against many similar Irish-British engagements. So a poor example Im afraid. But im not surprised that people with his narrow views exist. Id be surprised if they didnt.

Sorry, but im not even going to bother to address the indymedia. Shower of left wing muppets that lot. Not a media outlet that is reflective of the generally held views of Irish people.

Now, coming to the Irish times poll. Firstly, did you notice the title, "Should Queen Elizabeth visit Ireland", reflecting my comments from yesterday about how she is generally addressed.

Seems that there was a 55% result in favour of the Queens visit. Ive no idea how many voted, but there are probably only about 80 comments if at all there. You did find some choice comments arlight. Mind if I pick a few:

Tom Cooper thinks that the Queen is in politics. Read my lips Tom. The queen is the head of state of the U.K. of Gt. Britain and Northern Ireland. Our President went to take tea at Buckingham palace in London. Good manners and neighbourliness demand that she should come over next door and have a glass of sheddy in the Arus. C'mon over my house, Aunty Betty. Cead mile Failte.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It'd be a fantastic symbol of both traditions in Ireland moving on from the past and embracing our diversity - and our history, with all its complexities.

llowing a loud - but *ahem* disarmed - group of Republicans to thwart the visit of the British head of state to Ireland - is akin to taking the BNP seriously and doing as it says. Why bother ?

After reading the rest of the comments I noticed something which may explain the closeness of the result, that is, the vote is not policed. You can vote as many times as you want. That puts the result in question in my view, but without proof I must accept the result as shown.

There are some shockingly narrow minded views in those comments, and those would views would not be the norm.

Plenty more where those came from; a clear example of the political cultural divergence which you deny.

Yeah, you know, I do believe that I need to retract my earlier apology in my "09 February 2009 17:55" comment. You wondered why my defensive reply to your first comment, and I apologised as I thought I had mistaken your tone, but I think my first judgements were right. You question was not an idle one.

a clear example of the political cultural divergence which you deny.

The many connections both political and cultural between the ROI and the UK do not begin and end at the British Monarchy.

Culturally the ROI and the UK share much in common, whether we talk about Music, TV, Sport, literature, the arts and son on. I can continue this list for ages if needs be.

Every evening people across the British isles sit down to watch coronation st, emerdale, eastenders, etc etc.. so on and endless list.. same for magazines and to a lesser extend radio stations.

Walk around any irish town and you will likely see a mixture of premiership jerseys being worn.

Politically, Irish and British affairs have never been as good, and continue to improve. Tony Blair addressed the Irish Dail to massive applause a number of years back. The British Irish council is in full swing, at an EU level Irish and British representatives regularly work together, so often is our shared concerns. I really could go on and on.

But for some reason, you miss all this. You cant see it at all. Weird. In fact, you see the opposite. You see the ROI and the UK drawing further apart, when the evidence clearly goes against you. Why ?

Kirk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kloot said...

Sinn Féin says Queen not welcome in Ireland

Sinn Fein are a political party with a corner stone policy of opposing British Rule in Ireland!

Sinn Fein are also a party with left leaning socialist politics, and this aspect appeals to a minority in the ROI.

Niall said...

I am a student in St Mac Dras and just want to let everyone know that the planned murial to 1916 was never painted, all we have is the sectarian Poppy one.

E.A.Blair said...

There was a survey published about 5 years ago, by the British Council in Ireland - Through Irish Eyes I think it was called - which examined Irish views to the UK. If I remember correctly it showed that they had differing views of each of the constituent parts of the UK, but showed that attitudes had been changing for some time. Not sure if it's available anywhere on t'internet.

Scottish Unionist said...

Brilliant; thanks! The report is online: here. It paints a very mixed picture: some encouraging data interspersed with bizarre and unsettling aspects, notably comments like these:

“I think the Irish always think the Scottish and the Welsh are against the English, it is like we all join hands.”

“Actually I think most people in Liverpool are hated by the English.”

“When I was in America...I lived with two separate English rugby teams in the same compound and I have never hated rugby or English more. They are horrible.”

In terms of improving relations at a governmental level, 22% thought there had been no change over the decade to 2004, 38% thought there had been only a little progress and 39% saw it like Kloot.

Kloot said...

Brilliant; thanks! The report is online: here.

Cheers for that link.

Ive had a quick look down. Its a pretty comprehensive piece of work and would require some time to digest it. As you say it is spotted with some inconsistencies, especially in terms of some of the quoted comments, but on the whole it paints an extremely positive view of Irish peoples impressions of the UK.

Scottish Unionist said...

Extremely positive?! Surely you can't be serious!

The report's conclusion section opens thus:

“Attitudes towards the UK among the successor generation are often contradictory, usually where mythmaking about the British and real life experience collide. On the one hand, respondents retain an image of ‘old England’ populated by arrogant colonialists with an inflated sense of their own importance. On the other, the UK is a country of football hooligans, despised by the rest of the world – or alternatively a welcoming place that provides a home for many different cultures.”

The conclusion also says:

“While the UK is becoming more tangential to Ireland from an economic and political standpoint, the two countries continue to share cultural experiences on every level – from Big Brother to memories of Ireland’s past as part of the UK itself. Views on this betray extremely mixed feelings; while the successor generation is an avid consumer of UK media, pop music, fashion and sport, it often finds itself in the position of ‘loving to hate’ British culture.”

Kloot said...

Yep. Extremely positive. If I get time Monday I'll put up the results of the polls which pretty much all showed a positive attitude towards the UK.

For now I'm off to see Ireland A hopefully beat Scotland A

Kloot said...

From the introduction to the report "Through Irish Eyes":

If, as the results of Through Irish Eyes
suggest, there has been a significant re-calibration
in the relationship between the UK and Ireland


Through Irish Eyes confirms our hunch that levels
of familiarity between Ireland and the UK are
unprecedented in the context of bi-lateral relations
between the UK and other overseas countries.


But to those poll results:

Question: tell me how favourable or
unfavourable your overall opinion or impression of each country is. Take into
account any of the things that you think are important. Remember it is your overall
opinion or impression that we are interested in

Result: 16%: Very Favourable, 60% mainly favourable


Question Does the UK punch above its weight on the
international stage

Result: 76% Agree


Question Does the UK contribute positively to international
peace keeping efforts

Result: 59% Agree

Question Does the The UK act as a responsible member of the
UN security council

Result: 44% Agree with 28% undecided

Question: Perceived relationship between the UK & Irish governments

Result: 3% Excellent, 31% Very Good, 47% good, 15% fair


Question: Perceived change in relations over past 10 years

Result39% Improved a lot, 38% improved a little

There are many other similar results.

Of course, some of the comments, as ive already acknowledged are bizarre.


Taking the two comments from the conclusion that you have highlighted.

the UK is a country of football hooligans, despised by the rest of the world – or alternatively a welcoming place that provides a home for many different cultures.”

The notion that the UK has a problem with football hooliganism exists for a number of reasons. The fact that up until relatively recent English soccer fans attracted a fringe element who caused quite a lot of embarrassment for the UK on the international football stage. A heavy crackdown on this problem over the last 5 to 10 years has seen this problem dissipate quite a bit. However, and this leads on to my second point and a point raised in the comments in the report, that UK media, of which Irish audiences have full exposure to, have played up this problem quite a bit for the last 15 years, whether it is through reporting or through the many films focusing on football hooliganism in the UK.

The comment in question was trying to show the contrast in opinions, as the latter part of it shows, when it says on the contrary or alternatively a welcoming place that provides a home for many different cultures.

A couple of times the report has mentioned a love hate relationship between the Irish and English on in some areas. I question some of their findings there, especially the comment that "other evidence suggests that UK sport is something that Irish people love to hate". I have a real problem with this finding. The evidence is clear as you walk down any town in Ireland, in that you can see any number of English premiership jerseys being worn by Irish people. There is a hell of a lot of copy sold in both magazine format and newspaper format in reporting on Scottish and English football. I think there is however a different attitude when it comes to the English football or rugby team, where there is a definite perceived arrogance to be held by the English team, that however, is an impression held across these islands, which explains in part non English teams like nothing better than to beat an English side. The Scots, Welch and Irish (Green or Orange) all share this common trait. There is a lot of harmlessness in this as well, in that it always makes for a great game.

The last comment you highlighted:

Views on this betray extremely mixed feelings; while the successor generation is an avid consumer of UK media, pop music, fashion and sport, it often finds itself in the position of ‘loving to hate’ British culture.

This one I find strange as well. What do they mean by 'loving to hate' British culture. Are they talking about music and arts ? Because that is clearly not the case considering how well British bands fare in Ireland, or indeed British authors, painters etc. British celebrities are equal celebrities in Ireland. British tv is intertwined inseparably with Irish tv.

The report actually contradicts itself in parts, for instance earlier in the report it states:

Nevertheless, it is clear that the majority of the successor generation sample is broadly
favourable in its attitude towards the UK.


Or when they say:

Other media in the UK are also extremely popular in Ireland, notably pop music, film, and
fashion. However, there is a sense that while many of the group consider UK ‘high’ art forms
to be of good quality, there is little or no consumption of these kinds of cultural expression:


I believe that sometimes the generalised conclusions in the report are not fair on some of the specific data collected.

Overall, I stand by my assertion that it is an extremely positive report in the main. One I believe has a number of contradictions in it, but still a positive one.