Tuesday 6 December 2016

We do not have to be anti-British to be Irish

We need to face up to our own ambivalence towards Northern Ireland and Britain, writes Emer O'Kelly

Published 16/10/2011 | 05:00

IT'S a good many years since a member of a group chatting over coffee in the RTE canteen spat a remark at me. I had mentioned that I had a cousin who was fairly senior in the RAF. S/he sprang to his/her feet, veins standing out on his/her forehead, and hissed with almost terrifying venom, "I always guessed you were a f***ing West Brit bitch, and now I know it for sure."

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I am certain that this person would emphatically deny having made the remark if challenged today, as he/she is now very prominently identified with "the peace process".

It was clear that "West Brit" was the worst insult the person could think of to throw at another Irish person who didn't actively loathe England, Britain at large, and all its inhabitants. Such people define being Irish with not being English, and usually with a seething hatred of England and the English very close to the surface. They are the same whether they live north or south of the border, and their whole lives are a process of negativity. Being Irish for them is what we aren't, not what we are.

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