Sunday 25 September 2016

Makes you proud to be Irish?

Published 01/08/2014 | 02:30

Princess Charlene. Pic: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Princess Charlene. Pic: Julien Behal/PA Wire

If there's one thing the Irish love, it's being loved by others.

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In fact, you could say that, as a people, we're the equivalent of the needy, passive-aggressive girl who demands adoration and affirmation from everybody else, whether it's deserved or not.

Obviously, a large part of this is down to our relative geographic remoteness - we are, after all, a small and comparatively insignificant rock in the water on the far edge of Europe. That remoteness, coupled with an entire Burdock's worth of chips on our shoulder (which have provided so many bad Irish writers with plenty of material) has resulted in a strange and fragile mindset. This mindset seems to be a bizarre combination of massive ego and tiny self-esteem. In other words, we want, no, we demand that everybody loves us, but deep down, don't feel we deserve it.

This sense of Irish exceptionalism is invariably used as cheap fodder by cynical politicians, but also extends into the population at large. This is why, for example, we go completely bonkers any time an Irish sport star or actor or musician is erroneously described as 'British'.

The fury and ridiculously disproportionate rage so many of us feel at the casual British appropriation of 'one of our own' would be amusing in its own right. But it's made even more ridiculous by the fact that, of all countries, the Irish have a knack for seizing even the most tenuous link between someone famous and Ireland, and then claiming them as somehow 'ours.'

This was understandable in the more insular world that existed before cheap air travel and improved communications. But now that we have a more travelled, more cosmopolitan population than ever before, you might think that we had moved far beyond the desperate desire to be acknowledged and praised by our foreign elders, and better.

And, in truth, many of us look at such farcical paddy-whackery with the appropriate levels of scorn and contempt. But it would appear that nobody bothered to tell our Government that they're making eejits of themselves, and us, by their actions...

The latest news, which should have us all face-palming in weary disbelief, comes with the announcement that Princess Charlene of Monaco has been awarded with one of those 'Certificates of Irish Heritage'.

These ludicrous documents, which manage to confer as much Irishness as having a tea towel with Irish mammy jokes in your kitchen, really came to our attention a few years ago, when Tom Cruise was the first high-profile figure to be awarded one of them.

Cruise smiled in that aw-gee-shucks way of his, and whatever about the man's batty private beliefs, he is enough of a pro, and a gentleman, to pretend that it actually meant something to him, proving for once and for all that he actually can act.

That, you might have assumed, was that. The political equivalent of dad-dancing, it was an embarrassing stunt that managed only to provoke snorts of derision and, one suspects, some much-needed lining for Cruise's budgie cage.

But showing that some of our political classes have about as much shame as they have common sense, they have persisted with telling people that they are Irish. Whether they like it or not.

I have no idea whether Princess Charlene was delighted, dumbfounded or left stricken with terminal apathy at the document, which was given to her by Rory Montgomery, the Irish ambassador to France. But regardless of her own response (and most people will simply says 'thanks', and then go on about their day as if nothing had happened), there is something remarkably unbecoming about one of our most senior and respected diplomats effectively door-stepping a minor royal from a minor royal family, and behaving as if he was Cilla Black or Davina McCall giving someone the surprise of their life.

Princess Charlene is only the latest in a long line of people who have been told, usually to their own bemusement, that they are indeed Irish.

Apart from the likes of Tom Cruise and, lest we forget, the national abasement that greeted Obama's visit here, we have also appropriated people such as Chuck Norris, Steve Buscemi and Quentin Tarantino.

But here's the thing - if you check back far enough into many people's genealogy, then there is a good chance that there will be some Irish blood, no matter how remote.

There's nothing particularly unique or special about the fact that a large percentage of Americans can claim some Irish ancestry. But, what we tend to forget is that most of those folks could also claim German, British or some other ethnically European link.

How would we respond, for example, if Alex Sammond decided to celebrate Scottish independence by fluting around the world, handing out spurious 'Certificates of Scottish Heritage'?

Well, the chances are that we would laugh at such a desperate attempt to gain recognition for his country. Similarly, you don't see the Welsh assembly trotting around like lap dogs trying to confer taffiness on unsuspecting slebs.

The uncomfortable fact is that the vast majority of people of Irish extraction don't really care that much.

Also, and this is something the cheerleaders for these ridiculous and overtly cynical pieces of tat never seem to ask themselves, does anyone ever stop to think that maybe the ancestors who left here actually left for a very good reason, and never wanted to darken our shores again?

This presumption that somehow handing someone a piece of paper, that could be knocked up by anybody with a lap top and half-decent printer, will make them feel more Irish simply smacks of desperation and our age-old curse of chronic national insecurity.

There's no excuse for such arrant stupidity - unless, of course, Princess Charlene is a rather nifty footballer who can bring something to our national women's football team. Then we can talk.

Irish Independent

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