Saturday 8 March 2008

ILUG 08 a guide to Irish Idiom for our non-irish guests Part 6 (A Serious Post)

Gentle readers,
now in this series of posts I am going to be serious for a while because we move away from Dublin and up to the north. The home of the Giant's Causeway, Bushmills Whiskey, Antrim Glens Poitín a land of mists and legends and up until about 10 years ago "the troubles".

"The troubles" is a topic that is best avoided in normal conversation. The wounds are still a bit raw and it is a big, century spanning topic where blame is equally spread around all concerned.
On the other hand ignoring things in the hope they go away is not a good thing to do... OK.. a quick spin thru my view of the 600 year history of Ireland.

Lots of Irish people were Roman Catholic while lots of English people were Protestant.This was fine when the Irish sea kept them apart. Then Queen Lizzie the first felt that there were far to many Catholics in Ireland and that was a bit risky so she sent loads of Protestants over to Ireland to balance things a bit (this was called "the plantation"). Several other Kings chose Ireland as a good spot to play out some dynastic squabbling. Most notable was William of Orange (a Protestant) who gave King James (a Catholic) a good thumping at several big battles in Ireland in the 1690's.

Now the native Irish Catholics and the Planted Protestants didn't really like each other. This dislike was inflamed by the fact that they were told that the other side had horns, where the forces of the anti-Christ and ate babies. Not forgetting the old saw that "you are poor and downtrodden cos of them" finger pointing. Oddly the people doing the pointing an finger waving were mainly either the people with the £'s or it was coming from their priests and pastors. These prejudices became ingrained as "truth" as they were passed down the generations.

They starting doing some bad stuff to each other and oddly this led to more bad stuff. The people with the £'s and the people in the churches sat back and let them get on with doing the bad stuff, which was fine unless it stopped the £'s rolling in or the congregations didn't tow the line. Things where made worse because government after government did some very stupid things, but then no-one was really surprised about that.

There were several big famines which the people with the £'s did nothing about, so large numbers of the poor irish (from both sides) either died or buggered off to the new world (taking their prejudices with them) ... and back home in Ireland the bad stuff kept on happening.

Then someone had the idea of an Irish republic, Ireland run by the Irish! Lots of Irish Catholics thought this was a good idea, the Protestants up north didn't. So the Protestants in the 6 northern counties were allowed to stay British whilst the rest of the island became the Irish Republic. This didn't really help cos not everyone was happy with the border. So the bad stuff continued to happen and started to increase in intensity. A whole new school of non-critical thinking evolved called "whataboutery", when a spokesperson was asked about a particular atrocity their side perpetrated the reply would start "well what about...." followed by examples of some of the other side's atrocities. So "my atrocities aren't as bad as your atrocities, so therefore mine are excusable QED" became a sort of acceptable form of reasoning. This sort of sloppy thinking was the reason it has taken around 600 years for the majority to discover that bad stuff stops when you start both talking and most importantly listening to the other side

The bad stuff has, near as damn it, stopped. There is still finger waggling and name calling on occasions and there are people who will just never get on with one another but there is a general consensus that at long last we are learning the lessons of the past and that we are stopping the sacrifice of our children to feed the worn-out dreams of yesterday.
I applaud all concerned :)


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