April 14, 2016 · 9:49 am
I watched the second part of the Christy Moore Journey documentary tonight, having watched the first part at the weekend. I’ve always liked Christy and his music: he is a man who clearly cares about a lot of people, but I wish he were not so selective in his caring.
A teenage girl who dies giving birth in a grotto will have a song written about her; names of the Birmingham Six and the victims of Bloody Sunday will be recited in songs. That is right and proper. But teenage girls killed by the IRA in Birmingham and children killed by the IRA in Warrington will not have a song written about them. Their names will not be recited. They are of the wrong tribe for compassion or for outrage. Neither will members of the ‘right’ tribe have their names recited if they were killed by the same tribe. Mary Travers, a 22-year-old Catholic teacher, was murdered by the IRA as she left a church. Christy won’t be writing a song about her.
Christy cares about injustices in Latin America, and that’s good. In our own situation, though, his songs show that he cares only about Irish nationalist victims – not about the victims of Irish nationalism. This is tribalism.
If you want to be a tribalist, that’s fine. Just don’t pretend to be something else altogether – a humanitarian, for example.
March 19, 2016 · 2:20 pm
I admire the bravery of the rebels. I think things would probably have turned out the same (partition and an independent 26-county state) without the Easter Rising, except that there would have been less bloodshed in Ireland over the following seven years, and the new state would have benefited from the contribution of the likes of Connolly, MacDonagh, Plunkett and Collins, and might have taken a road that would have offered better lives to its citizens.
I don’t like to see history simplified and reduced to black/white, good/bad, them/us. I don’t like tribalism or wallowing in victimhood, or a belief that the Irish are somehow special. Perhaps the two most important words in any language are ‘Yes, but …’ We should question orthodoxies, including the orthodoxy of Easter 1916, in my opinion. We should challenge the idea that nobody was ever an Irish patriot unless they shot someone or blew someone up. Continue reading →
March 23, 2015 · 11:15 pm
That was an incredible rugby weekend, with the nerve-shredding rollercoaster of the Six Nations finale on Saturday followed by Ireland’s women lifting their own Six Nations trophy on Sunday after a display of great verve and skill.
I find big rugby occasions like these very emotional now, as does Pauline. Tears, at times, are not far away. We think of Sean – a huge rugby fan – and how he would have loved to share these moments: and how, on some level, he may still be sharing them. He would have been so proud of Ireland.
Sport matters. On some levels it doesn’t matter at all (I have written before of how we operate on different levels); on others it matters a great deal. It can be an arena of moral and physical courage, excitement and skill; the identification it engenders can be uplifting and life-enhancing. At is best, it makes tribalism and/or nationalism joyful and sublime.
People who don’t ‘get’ sport are missing out, in my opinion. It doesn’t matter, yet it can matter so much.
March 5, 2014 · 6:36 pm
[I first posted this piece on another blogsite a few years ago]
Moving Hearts were an Irish rock band of the early 1980s that grew out of the revival of traditional music in the previous couple of decades. They made some great music on drums, guitars, bouzouki, sax and uileann pipes, but never quite captured their live brilliance on vinyl. I went to see them many times in Dublin pub venues.
They used to do one song that I didn’t like then and don’t like now, partly because of its dirge-like sound but especially on account of the lyrics. The song is ‘Irish Ways and Irish Laws’ (I WAIL (!)), by a man named John Gibbs.
It is a saga of victimhood: the sort of thing that certain anti-Irish bigots like to claim that all Irish people indulge in all the time. (In fact there was an advanced and sophisticated system of Irish law that pre-dated the Norman invasion and carried on in parallel with the Norman/English system for centuries, but that is not the point.) Continue reading →
June 7, 2010 · 12:17 pm
I wrote this piece ten years ago, before the Euro 2000 football tournament.
In 1970, when I was nine years old and living in a small town in Ireland, I started to fill an album with football cards featuring players in that year’s World Cup. Pictured on the cover was the smiling Bobby Moore of 1966, being chaired by his team-mates and holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft. The England players wore jerseys of a glorious cherry red that reminded me of the taste of some rich cordial, with the ‘three lions’ crest that the FA shares, for some reason, with the O’Briens.
The small trophy had an understated beauty, and the players had a sort of grandeur: I was disappointed to find that they usually wore white. But when England played Brazil and West Germany that summer, somehow I already knew instinctively who to cheer for. And when I watch England’s matches in Euro 2000, nothing much will have changed. I’ve often felt somewhat furtive and guilty about hoping that England will lose, especially since I’ve known many very fine English people. But it’s not to do with them: it’s to do with St George and the dragon. I’ll now try to explain why I always cheer for the dragon. Continue reading →