Thursday, 27 March 2014

Ireland, the land of contrasts....

A lot of my mouthin' sessions are based on perception as in why something, regardless of how trivial or seemingly inoffensive it may appear can actually carry great weight in the currency of 'getting it up themuns'.

What happens if you remove the 'know' from this perception and stumble across some of Ireland's historical 'tiffs' with sheer naked ignorance?
Well, to the blissfully happy tourist Ireland appears as crazy as they have been led to believe.

A few examples spring to mind:

The (Anglo & Cambro & Hiberno) Normans
A bunch of Scandinavian derived chaps with the goal of carving out estates, wealth and power with the aid of their fighting skills. Known to have 'went native' very quickly and soon became troublesome to their own political masters.

Verdict in the eyes of the Irish:
Normans: Bastards

Foreign invaders responsible for centuries of woe and oppression (even though the were only in Ireland for 40 years before they rebelled against 'Britain'. The Anglo/Hiberno-Norman habit of rebelling popped up time and time again; they were instrumental in the wars against Henry VIII and his heiress Elizabeth I)


The Vikings

A bunch of Scandinavian chaps with a goal of carving out estates, wealth and power (not to mention a fair whack of rape, pillage and slave-taking) with the aid of their fighting skills.
Known to have went native very quickly.
 Established slave ports in Ireland that were some of Europe's largest.
Their power was crushed by the aforementioned Normans.
Or if you believe the common version they were defeated by Brian Boru.
Incidentally, half of the 'Viking' army that he fought against were Irishmen...

Verdict in the eyes of the Irish?
The Vikings: A great bunch of lads
Celebrated every year in Dublin by dressing up in helmets with horns on them as well as building a big Viking longship

To the outsider both influenced Ireland greatly, sometimes for the worse (war, rape and pillage for the vikings and war with the Normans) and sometimes for the better: Art, overseas trade and in the case of the Normans, well, if you're a devout Catholic you can't deny they 'Romanised' Ireland a bit.

To make the whole Norman/Gael thing all the more confusing check this out (it confuses the Dickens out of me so if you've noticed any mistakes please let me know):

The Battle of Connor, Co Antrim

On one side we have the Bruces (or De Brus), the Scottish Royal family at the time.
French speaking nobles with Gaelic heritage who ruled over Gaels and Anglos alike.
They were teamed up with their Irish allies (also French speaking nobles and Gaels).


'The English', lead by Richard Og De Burgh, an Irish-Norman noble who ruled over north coast Gaels and Anglos.
He was also the father in law of Robert the Bruce.
Because he was a Norman.
They were all part of the same big league.
Being a French speaking noble mattered more than being a Scot, an Irishman or an Englishman.
There were greater forces at play back then.

So one group of Gaelic-Normans leads a group of Gaels to do battle with another group of Gaelic-Normans and their Gaels and what is our summary of said battle?

That the 'Scottish' beat the 'English' in a battle in Ireland.

Fast forward a few months and 'the English' defeat 'the Scottish' near Newry.

Perfect summary if you're Mel Gibson, not if you're committed to destroying corruptible mythology

Nothing is ever that simple.

"Scottish on the left, English on the right, no, hang on, I mean...."


Ulster Flag/Banner
A fleg

A mixture of Irish and Norman influences (bar the star and the crown).

The St George's Cross is said to be of Norman-Crusader origin, one version has it that a Crusader found a white shield with a bloody cross upon it and adopted it.

Ulster Provincial Flag:

Themuns' fleg

A mixture of Irish and Norman influences (it comes from the De Burgh family crest, they settled in the north and bequeathed Ireland with the surname Burke)

The De Burgh Cross is said to be of Norman-Crusader origin, one version has it that a crusader found a golden shield with a bloody cross upon it and adopted it...

Irish reaction to either flag:

Both sides resent the other flag on account of it being used by 'themuns'. Ho hum...

Gaelic culture

A bizarre state of affairs:
The extreme end of one side over-eggs the pudding in its pursuit of de-anglicisation refuting all 'British' influences (in an era of Anglo-American cultural dominance).
Gaelic culture is seen as the year zero before foreign invaders arrived and eradicated it (despite the enthusiasm that many invaders showed with regards to 'going Gaelic' e.g. the Vikings and the Normans. Even many Ascendancy types got involved).

The extreme of the other side deniy their Gaelic heritage despite sharing a common (or similar) ancestry with 'themuns'.

For a quick example, let's play a game called 'unionist or IRA man':

Donaldson vs Donaldson, McGuinness vs Magennis, Adams vs Adams, Kelly vs Kelly, McIntyre vs McIntyre.... You get the picture...

The unionist side goes to extreme lengths to smother all Gaelic symptoms.
 Despite the enthusiasm for some of their number to embrace their Ulster-Scots heritage (more Scots than Ulster it would appear) one can't help but chortle at the notion of the word 'Scot' being a Latin word for Gael e.g. Brian Boru was proclaimed 'Emperor of the Irish' or in Latin 'Imperator SCOTtorum'.

Brian Boru:
King of the Scots. I mean Irish.
I mean Scots. Hang on....

But of course, the northern Protestants can't be Gaels, not even our confused Frenchman could deny this with the evidence at hand...

Some Ulster-Scots herald back to an age when parts of Scotland and Ulster were united as one in the Kingdom of Dalriada.
 The horrible inconvenience of this being Gaelic was the language of both parts.
Something that the over zealous Ulster-Scots glaze over.

Ulster-Scots are Gaelic too?!!!!

Likewise, the eradication of the native language (a form of high Welsh or 'British' if you will) of northern Alba (Britain) at the hands of the Dalriadan Scots/Irish is never mentioned by Irish nationalists, apparently invading and eradicating native culture is a one way street with the Irish always on the receiving end.

Picts/Northern British Celts:
Invaded, language wiped out but NOT oppressed?

But of course, unlike our unsuspecting Frenchman, we do have perspective in that we know why we hate the things that in reality are part of us.

 Some dickhead from 'the other side' has ruined it for us.

From flags, to language, to songs, to symbols, all have been misappropriated to the point that there is seemingly little middle-ground between people who are standing cheek-by-jowl.

Unfortunately not 'shoulder-to-shoulder', what a day that would be.


  1. Would it be possible to email you about this whole area for the purposes of a college dissertation project?

  2. Yes Barry

    All queries and hatemail should be directed to

  3. Culture is always political, and hijacking of a culture is not something unique to any one people or time. The united Irishmen of the late 18th century denuded many of the Gaelic songs of their Jacobite dimensions to help coalesce an Irish nation. Similarly the Irish nationalist tradition hi-jacked the memory of grattan and the volunteers for their own purposes.

    If you are unhappy with the way culture is being used, then you need to politicise it in the direction you want. I myself like the idea of BRIRISHNESS as espoused by the Simon Partridge. Why not have a BRIRISH bonfire and parade, mixing the cultures that we have here. A bonfire could be used to burn the elements of sectarianism, such as gunmen, graffiti. The parade could include people in GAA jerseys could carry the union flag and people wearing, orange, black and purple collarettes could carry the tricolour. The musical traditions could be mixed more with the instruments of all coming together, (something you mentioned in a previous post). We could have people chanting slogans, in Ulster Scots, Irish Gaelic, Yola, Hiberno English, etc.

    The only questions would be, how to get people to go? where and when it should be placed? How to prevent people infiltrating it and turning it into something else?
    A common cultural sphere or cultural overlap is missing, which could help reduce conflict in N. Ireland.