Monday, August 22, 2005

Gerry and the Peacemakers

Less heavy post today. I was just thinking of Ulster's great comedians and how Protestants and Catholics all manage to laugh at the same things (generally).

There's the "Hole in the Wall Gang", that cross-community band of laughsters which spawned Patrick Kielty (forgive the phrase, Patrick), there's Jimmy Young (for those of us old enough to remember), Frank Carson, Jimmy Cricket and a whole raft of others. What a talented bunch we can be. In fact, not taking ourselves too seriously is a much-needed safety valve, and we need more of it, not less.

Just as important is the tongue-in-cheek brigade. Like George Jones and Gerry Anderson. Gerry's a great guy because he can poke people in a cheeky-chappie sort of way, saying things that lesser mortals wouldn't get away with - especially in his newspaper columns. I remember one time last summer, when Orange parades were filling the TV with negative headlines, when Gerry made reference in his Belfast Telegraph column to "Irishmen and people who wish they were something else".

I remember this because it hit the nail of a very interesting bit of the Protestant psyche square on the head. Are we Irish? Or Ulster-Scots? And what on earth does it mean to be British? (Note to self: this warrants a post in its own right some time). But for now: most Protestants have come to feel less Irish than our Gaelic countrymen and some, unfortunately, feel quite OK with this. But Gerry's neatly phrased barb - aimed of course at Orangemen - gave me a feeling of comfort, namely that Ulster Protestants can be accepted as being fully Irish, even when some of their ethnic brethren are a bit less comfortable with it.

So, before I return to more serious mode, how about toning up our laughing muscles, locking our elected politicians up for a while, devolving power to Stormont and making Gerry Anderson and George Jones our "Joint First Ministers"?


At 2:56 p.m., Blogger Michael Shilliday said...

My answers to your questions

At 11:43 a.m., Anonymous beano said...

I've been debating this one myself lately.

I've always grown up as thinking of Irish things as those to do with the Republic. In other words there's Ireland and then there's Northern Ireland, 2 separate things. You're Irish or you're British/Northern Irish/"Ulster-ish".

It's only recently I've come to think: well, hang on a minute. There's Ireland. It's an island, encompassing the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Do we therefore have anything to fear from being 'Irish'? It doesn't have to make us any less British, does it?

I don't think Unionists should shoulder the blame for this identity crisis alone. Republicans (including the drafters of the Republic's 1937 constitution who deemed it OK to erroneously claim themselves to be 'Ireland') have done as much (if not more) to drive Unionists away from Irishness by defining it as something Gaelic and dare I say Catholic, despite attempts to hang onto it by some. In the 60s apparently members of the NI govt. wanted to rename NI 'Ulster' only to be beaten down by a PM who refused to surrender the term Ireland to the Republic.

The question is are we happy being driven away from all things Irish, including our pre-20th century history, or do we say enough is enough and begin to challenge the Sinn Fein/Irish republican definition of what it means to be Irish by saying "Unionists are Irish too, just not your kind of Irish" ?


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