Archive for the 'Ireland' Category

Introduction to Dublinese #1

June 20th, 2008

Just in case any readers from beyond the sea decide to visit Dublin some day, I thought I would present the following scene to help you become accustomed to the local language.

A young Dubliner, bumps into two friends in the street.

Kaiser: Story, lads? Did yiz go t’the pictures last night?

Eyelash: Hawaya, head. Yeah, we went t’see Rambo 9.

Kaiser: Was it any use?

Turkey: It was massive!

Eyelash: I thought it was brutal.

Kaiser: I don’t think I’ll bother m’hole then.

Turkey: C’mon we’ll go for a gargle, I’ve a terrible throat on me. <indicates a pub across the street>

Kaiser: Not to Mooney’s. That place is a kip.

Eyelash: Let’s get some bevvies and take them back t’your gaff. Then we can watch the match on the box.

Turkey: No, my aul fella’s home tonight and yiz know what he’s like when he’s watching the Gaa. He ate the head off me last time I brought the lads home during a match.

Kaiser: <Pointing down the street>Look at that bowsie over there!

Turkey: Who?

Kaiser: Anto’s brother.

Eyelash: Ah, he’s an awful gobshite.

Kaiser: Hard t’believe when Anto’s such a decent skin.

Turkey: I don’t think he’s as thick as people think. He’s a cute hoor.

Kaiser: Well, he’s only an aul bollix then.

Eyelash: How is Anto? I haven’t seen him in donkeys.

Kaiser: He got his mot up the pole. They have a chisler now, so he doesn’t get out much. He even got rid of his ronnie for her.

Eyelash: Hate tha’.

Turkey: Not that young wan, Jacinta?

Kaiser: No, not that scanger! Angela’s sister.

Eyelash: You’re coddin!

Kaiser: No, head, I’m deadly.

Eyelash: Jaysus.

Kaiser: Here, have yiz got any odds? I need to get some fags from the Chinese.

Turkey: Yeah, I have some shrapnel here.

Eyelash: Get us a single with sore finger while you’re there, head.

Turkey: And then we can borrow your brother’s banger and go for a spin.

Kaiser: Can’t. Some Apache took it and and when he got it back it was banjaxed.

Turkey: I thought Tooler fixed that.

Kaiser: He made a haymes of it. The whole things bollixed now. <Departs across the road>

Turkey: Well, feck it, then. I’m going home.

Eyelash: Don’t be such a dry shite!

Turkey: Well, I’m not traipsing around here all night!

Eyelash: C’mon, when Kaiser gets back we’ll go down t’Slattery’s and get stocious.

Turkey: Savage!

Eyelash: Gear!

Kaiser: <Returning>Rapid!

Here is the translation…

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Do as Bertie says, not as Bertie does

February 15th, 2008

I am not proud to be Irish.

I am pleased to be Irish, but I am not proud. It is an accident of my provenance that I am Irish. I didn’t go away and work or study to become Irish, I just am. So I have no right to be proud. It’s not something I achieved.

However, I often feel a sense of pride when I see my compatriots achieving something. I’m trying to think of an example… Oh, yes! Like our Taoiseach (Prime Minister) being the highest paid leader in Europe.

What a glow it brings to my heart! Those other gobshites… call themselves leaders? Look at Angela Merkel… Prime Minister of eighty million people… I bet she has to bum bus fare off Bertie at EU meetings. Our Bertie has managed €310,000 out of just four and quarter million people. And to think he only started off ten years ago with a salary of €112,000.

Now there’s a man with drive and a keen understanding of economics. Not many people out there could figure out a way to get €310,000 out of so few people. Genius!

Now all those mangy gits out there doing useless jobs like… I don’t know… nursing and policing and firefighting and ambulancing and crap like that… they all want a piece of Bertie’s well-earned pie.

Bertie says those people will just have to have realistic expectations.

Those gobshites clearly don’t get it… after paying Bertie, there’s fuck all left.

Do not pass Go

February 7th, 2008

There have been scandals about paedophilia among priests in the Catholic Church for some time now and I personally know people who were victims of such abuse.

Ireland has not escaped such scandals and there are on-going enquiries. The latest twist in the scandal is that Cardinal Desmond Connell is seeking to prevent the release of certain documents to the enquiry. On the face of it, his motives are fair enough. It seems he wants to maintain the privacy of victims and priests accused (but unconvicted) of abuse. Incidentally, Michael Nugent has an excellent post here which illustrates the magnitude of the issue in the Dublin Archdiocese alone.

The thing that struck me as odd is that Cardinal Connell is reported to be willing to go to prison to protect the people named in those documents. Surely the ones going to prison should be the guilty, paedophile, rapist priests and anyone in the Church who sought to cover up their crimes by simply transferring them to other parishes instead of reporting them to the police?

It’s a topsy-turvy world where the people who spend so much of their time preaching to everyone else about sexual morality are embroiled not just in a sexual scandal, but in a criminal one of the vilest nature.

Luke 17:2
It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

What is racism?

February 6th, 2008

I have been pondering this question ever since that dreadful piece of voyeuristic garbage Big Brother raised the Jade Goody / Danielle Lloyd / Shilpa Shetti controversy in 2007.

The Cambridge Dictionary definition of racism is the following: “The belief that people’s qualities are influenced by their race and that the members of other races are not as good as the members of your own, or the resulting unfair treatment of members of other races.”

The Merriam Webster definition is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

Personally, I prefer the Cambridge definition because it addresses behaviour and not just belief. To my mind, it’s not enough to have racist beliefs to truly be a racist, one has to act accordingly. In a sense, one could argue that a person who harbours racist beliefs but who refuses to put them into action is to be admired.

So what kind of action or behaviour consitutes racism?

I feel it’s all too easy to confuse bullying and racism. I don’t believe it’s racist to call someone names based on their ethnicity or the colour of their skin. Sure enough, racists are often bullies, but not all bullies are racists. I am fully entitled to this opinion, being half Caucasian and half Asian. As a child, I lived in rural Ireland where anyone darker than the background to this web page really stood out. I was called everything… blackie, nigger, nig nog, Chink (bizarrely). Oddly enough, I don’t ever remember being called “wog”, which my very dark father would say stands for “Worthy Oriental Gentleman”.

But that wasn’t racism. I was just being picked out by bullies because I stood out in some way. I was being isolated. The same would have happened if I had been white but with green hair.

Spanish sports fans have been known to hurl abuse at athletes on the basis of their ethnic origins. Making ape-like gestures and wearing black make-up are some examples. However, many in Spain regard this behaviour simply as tasteless and abhorrent, but not actually racist. I agree. I don’t see why there should be a distinction between abuse and racial abuse. It’s not that I think racial abuse isn’t that bad (remember, I put up with it for a long time… strangely until learned to fight). I think abuse is bad… full stop. I think shouting “Bastard!” at someone is just as bad as shouting “Black/White/Pikey/Paki/Fenian bastard!” Though not all at once, I imagine (not meaning to ignore anyone out there who is part black, white, traveller, Pakistani and Irish). Hmmm… if I went to Glasgow and met a black Rangers fan, he might call me a “Honky, Wog, Fenian bastard!”

Is it racist to label an entire ethnic group in a particular way? I suspect many would be tempted to say that it is.

But what if I label an entire ethnic group as follows? “Those XXX are very hardworking and capable.”

Is that any different from saying about another ethnic group “Those YYY are lazy and unreliable” ?

I would argue that it isn’t if both are the result of real-world observation and experience. This isn’t simply an academic exercise. These days in Ireland there are people of many ethnic groups living and working. Some have developed a reputation for hard work while others have developed a reputation for laziness. Is it racist to observe that members of a certain group tend to be lazy? No, it’s human nature.

For me, it is racist when you harm someone because of their ethnicity, or you deny them equal rights because of their ethnicity. I am reminded of an anecdote from years ago when a conference on racism was being held in one of the Dublin 4 hotels; a representative of the Traveller community was denied entry by the doorman. Ironic racism, the very best kind!

I also remember an incident when a friend of mine, who was a school teacher (but is now a stuntman – go figure that one out), and I were walking up O’Connell Street and we came across a student of his who happened to be from Africa. The lad was distraught because some guy had been giving him abuse further up the street. We accompanied him to investigate and the gentleman in question proceeded to attack the boy with a six foot iron bar. Now that’s racism. Be at ease, dear ballogees, my friend and I disarmed the miscreant and handed him over to the Guards. No children were harmed in the making of this anecdote.

I don’t envy the employer in Ireland who is faced with two candidates, one from a generally perceived hard-working ethnic group and one from a generally perceived lazy group. That would test the integrity of the most inclusive of minds.

I feel an interviewer should be blind to a person’s ethnicity during the recruitment process, regardless of what the generally held opinion is. If the candidate is hired and turns out to be lazy as an individual, then steps should be taken to fire that person.

However, I am pretty certain that many people in Ireland would tolerate a lazy worker from an ethnic minority for fear of being labelled racist. But not firing a useless worker because of their ethnicity is, perversely, racism in another form.

I’m keen to hear what Rowan Manahan has to say about that.

I’ll finish with an odd twist. I know a fellow in Dublin who is a skilled tradesman. Recently he went about finding himself a new piece of work and saw a sign on one site that stated: “No Irish” (I am hoping to obtain a photo of that particular sign). Prejudice against the Irish in Ireland. Where else would that happen? It raises an interesting question: In multi-cultural Ireland, are the Irish perceived as lazy?

I’m also keen to hear what Irish bloggers Michael Nugent and Twenty Major have to say on the subject.

Some related, external articles:

Anger at ‘lazy’ Roma remarks

Black Africans most likely to suffer racism in Ireland


Poles in Ireland don’t want to be slaves

Smells and tastes I remember from my childhood

November 19th, 2007

In no particular order and not an exhaustive list:

  • My father’s fishing tackle box
  • Jackfruit
  • The Boston Bakery on Dorset Street
  • Shoe polish
  • A turf fire
  • Honey
  • My mother’s curry
  • The Atlantic Ocean blowing on the wind in Connemara
  • Pink medicine
  • Gripe water
  • Kittens
  • Puppies
  • Toffee apples
  • The inside of a Halloween mask
  • Bladder wrack
  • Freshly caught fish
  • My brother’s paisley print pyjamas burning on the two-bar electric fire in my Nanna’s house*
  • Roast chicken
  • My Nanna’s paraffin heater
  • Sparklers
  • Barm brack

* No, he wasn’t wearing them at the time.

Irish primate to become cardinal

October 18th, 2007

Irish primate to become cardinal

Speaks for itself really.

Do y’not think, uh – we’re a little white for that sort of thing?

October 8th, 2007

In 1986 I was on a train from London heading towards Holyhead in Wales so I could catch the ferry to Dublin. This was an old-style train with six-seat compartments and a corridor running down the side of the carriage. Each compartment had blinds, so what typically happened was the people inside a compartment would pull down the blinds so that passers-by would not see that there were seats free. That’s human nature, isn’t it? We all want our own space and we are reluctant to share it.

On this particular occasion I found all the blinds were down in the compartments and I got tired of knocking on doors asking if there was room (and I didn’t even have a pregnant wife and a donkey), so I gave up and resigned myself to standing in the corridor for the duration of the journey. Little did I know that I had decided to stand right outside a compartment that only had three people in it. They knew I was standing there, because one of them peeked out and saw me. Anyway, I was saved by the conductor, who ushered me in when he saw that there were seats inside .

Now here’s the bit where human nature really kicked in. Once I was inside, I didn’t suggest we raise the blinds. There was nobody sitting opposite me and I liked the leg room. Raising the blinds might reveal the free space in my compartment. That’s right… my compartment. My luxury didn’t last, however, as a short while later the conductor opened the door again and ushered in another passenger. I confess, to my shame, I felt a modicum of resentment.

So why do I bring this up twenty-one years later. Well, firstly, because blogs didn’t exist in 1986 and secondly because the memory was triggered by something I saw on TV this morning.

I am on a business trip to the USA at the moment and there was a report on the TV about Mexican immigrants (both legal and illegal) and how many Americans resent their presence and resent their speaking Spanish when the official language of the USA is English. Well, it may be the de facto language but it is not yet the official language. Many of the people interviewed were talking about introducing legal reforms to oblige immigrants to speak English. The irony for me watching that programme is that all of those English-speakers are immigrants themselves. What would be a good analogy here? I don’t know, perhaps kind of like how the people of the Sioux nation might have resented all those pesky Europeans who just refused to learn to speak any dialect of the Sioux language. Those English speakers are just people who were once in the corridor and are now inside the compartment. Indeed, the ancestors of those interviewed took California, New Mexico and Texas from Mexico by force of arms.

Texas is a great example. Spain stole it from the indigenous tribes. The Mexicans stole it from the Spanish when they kicked them out. The Mexicans then allowed some US immigrants to settle there. Instead thousands of US families swarmed illegally into Texas and decided they now owned it. Hmmm… perhaps Mexico is planning to turn the tables. Every country has a mere veneer of legality. Every country was stolen at some point from someone.

I’m not having a pop at the Americans. The same is true in Ireland. The Irish are a mongrel breed (I myself am Irish only on my mother’s side). Everyone likes to think of themselves as Celts, but in the mix you’ll find Viking Norman, English, Welsh and Scottish at the very least. There is also a smattering of Italian here and there. Even Ireland’s mythology is full of stories of one people being conquered and replaced by another. Nowadays, if you walk down the streets of Dublin you’ll hear all sorts of languages being spoken. I believe some of the newspapers in Ireland even have supplements in Eastern European languages. Of course, just as in the USA, some people bemoan the influx of foreigners who don’t speak our language. Irony layered upon irony, I love it!

Firstly, it’s not our language. It’s the language of our English conquerers.

Secondly, everyone in Ireland is descended from immigrants.

Thirdly, if the economy didn’t need those immigrants, they wouldn’t be there.

It’s the same in the UK and in Spain the descendents of Moorish invaders bemoan the arrival of Moroccan immigrants. And if we all think it’s bad now, just wait until global warming melts all the glaciers and 40% of the world’s population starts migrating away from endless drought.

The world is divided into two groups of people: those in the corridor trying to find a compartment and those in the compartments trying to keep them out. Just remember that everyone inside the compartment was once in the corridor too.

Bonus points if you can tell me what film the title of this post comes from.

Perception and Prejudice

August 31st, 2007

It amazes me how even educated, rational people can be governed by their perceptions and prejudices.

I have an Irish accent. Granted I don’t sound like Colin Farrell or Liam Neeson (if you have ever heard their native accents), but that’s because there are lots of regional accents in Ireland. In Dublin, you only have to travel a few miles to hear a different accent.

So I have this colleague. He is a lovely fellow and both intelligent and educated. We get along very well and I respect his work. Yesterday he said asked me: “How come you don’t have an Irish accent?”

I was a bit perplexed. I replied that I do have an Irish accent. Then came the bit that surprised me. He insisted that I don’t.

I tried to point out that in trying to identify my accent as “Irish”, all he could do was compare it to his preconception of an Irish accent, which is probably based on whatever Irish accents (real and fake) he has heard on TV and in the cinema.

My colleague is from Africa, so I am one of the few Irish people he has actually met. Instead of adding my accent to his “database” of Irish accents, he insisted that I didn’t have an Irish accent.

I repeated that he simply hasn’t heard my Irish accent before.

He continues to insist. I continue to be amazed at how the human mind can choose to stick to its preconceptions in the face of contrary empirical evidence.

Hail Ragnar! And hail Ragnar’s beard!

August 15th, 2007

The replica Viking ship “Stallion of the Sea” sailed into Dublin yesterday after a six-week voyage.

The Danish culture minister, Brian Mikkelsen, was in Dublin to watch the arrival and he chose the occasion to apologise to the people of Ireland for the Viking invasions:

“In Denmark we are certainly proud of this ship, but we are not proud of the damages to the people of Ireland that followed in the footsteps of the Vikings.”

I’ve been living outside of Ireland for the past nine years, so this must be something that happened during that period. Let me just check…

… Nope. The Viking invasions took place a thousand years ago.

What the feck???

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Racism in Ireland

November 7th, 2006

Despite my mixed parentage (Irish/Sri Lankan) and English birth, I consider myself 100% Irish and growing up in Ireland I saw the racist face of some of the Irish at an early age. The Irish have always been considered hospitable and eager to welcome foreigners. However, I’ve long been of the opinion that this would be true as long as they were tourists, not staying and not plentiful.

Now, it seems, I was right. According to recent research, 35% of foreign nationals have been racially harassed on the streets of Ireland. Black people in particular have suffered racial insults.

In response, I would mention two names to any Irish people who participate in such behaviour: Phil Lynott and Paul McGrath.

Here’s a further thought for you: there isn’t a single person living on the island of Ireland who is not descended from immigrants.

Dublin, 986 AD

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