Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"..whatever you say, you say nothing"

Sometimes it’s hard to be an Englishman in Norn Iron. Poor Jamie has not been brought up to suss people out the way us locals have learned to. Take the other evening. He was out enjoying the ‘craic’ with the neighbour and the talk came round to families. Jamie said he was from a small family. The neighbour said he came from a large family. It’s a cultural stereotype and Jamie knows it but he says anyway,

Oh that’s because you’re Irish!

Oooh- er! His neighbour turns out to be ‘Not Irish’. What Jamie doesn’t realise, being from England, that there are parts of Ballymena, most of Ballymoney and many other places in Norn Iron where ‘Not Irishness’ abounds.

Now as most people know I don’t really go in for politics on this blog. Politics makes me dizzy and if I get dizzy I might fall off the fence. I’m OK with people being ‘Not Irish’ but the situation that Jamie found himself in bothers me a lot. What’s the problem? Don’t be Irish if you don’t want to be. But why jump down someone’s throat or take offence if someone thinks that just because you live in Northern Ireland that you might be Irish God Forbid!

Whilst in England in the 1970s I was frequently ‘accused’ of coming from Scotland. I explained that I was actually from Northern Ireland and I did not take offence at the assumption. I do realise that cultural identity is important to many people living in this place but there is no need to get surly just because someone doesn’t get the Ulster, Northern Ireland, and British thing. Being a bit more easy going about it might help to allay that other cultural stereotype which is - Ulster Protestant = dour and humourless.

And if anyone wants to know I consider myself to be from County Antrim and I’m Irish, Northern Irish and British. If I have to pick one, say for administrative purposes, I’ll say British. That is until some government, somewhere, someday decides that I’m not.


Caroline said...

I think the problem with a lot of the 'Non Irish' people who live here is that they have become so politically overwhelmed that they forget they do in fact live in Ireland. It's a great shame that the additional benefit of British citizenship has robbed so many of their national identity... if only in their thick heads. I would consider anyone born in Ireland to be Irish whether they like it or not!

Nelly said...

You'd be a brave one to tell that to the boys in the Moat Bar! They're famous for their thick heads.

Zoe said...

I recall being on a bus in London on which there was a drunk, rude Northern Irish (sorry, British) man. He was annoying some woman, who in retaliation had a go at him for being a useless 'Irish' drunk.

Naturally, he took offence at being called Irish and proceeded to slabber on about how he was British and proud of it.

At that point I felt incredibly embarrassed to come from Northern Ireland.

hootchinhannah said...

There have been many points where I have been embarassed to come from where I do. Poor Jamie just doesn't know who he can talk to now. Some people hate the British and some people hate Catholics and he is both.

Caroline said...

Aye 'thickheads' the lot of them...

I wasn't volunteering to tell them... I'm not that brave :)

Nelly said...

'Thick' can also be used to mean stubborn and immovable. My father used to say this when he meant someone was particularly stubborn and intractable, "He's as thick as boar dung!"