Sunday 18 August 2019

Brendan O'Connor: Us? Make stuff up? Never!

Brendan O'Connor
Brendan O'Connor
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

The worlds of tourism, archaeology, history, construction and Celtic mysticism have been rocked by the revelation that Newgrange may be a fraud.

It gives a whole new meaning to the most overused Leonard Cohen lyric of our time, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in".

And if it doesn't, says you, then just slightly raise the crack a bit.

Archaeologist Michael Gibbons has claimed in a new paper that the so-called roof box that captures the rising sun at Newgrange, Co Meath, during the winter solstice was actually built only in the 1960s.

So, basically, when they were "reconstructing" Newgrange, they sexed it up a little. They basically got the 1960s archaeological equivalent of Dermot Bannon in and he decided to let in some more light.

One consolation is that at least it didn't happen during the boom. Or they would have filled the place with Crema Marfil tiles, stuck a huge glass box on to the back of it and put some tasteful decking around the entrance. Indeed, the more you think about it, the whole thing was clearly organised by an estate agent.

"This is a bijou property full of character, but I really think you could release more value by adding a roof box that will give you a real suntrap here, even during the winter months. We'll keep all the period features, of course."

The notion that Newgrange may not be the real deal but merely a tourist trap is obviously causing people to doubt a lot of other things about our so-called history and our so-called heritage.

One American tourist we spoke to yesterday was shocked and disillusioned by it all. "What next?' he asked. "Will we discover now that the Wild Atlantic Way was just made up by marketing men? Was the Ancient East even called that back in Viking times?

"Are the Celtic-rock stylings of Enya and others just made up as well? Was the Giant's Causeway built by giants at all? Are those cliffs actually made of mohair? Do they store Guinness in the Guinness Storehouse? Is the English Market even in England?"

There is even a suspicion now that the alleged monastic settlement on Skellig Michael was built by opportunistic boatmen.

But then, let's face it, are any of us here really surprised at all this? We've been making up our history to suit ourselves as long as anyone can remember.

We can barely agree on the veracity of anything that happened this year. Enda Kenny won an election by losing it. Fianna Fail won an election by losing it. Donald Trump won an election by losing it. Donald Trump disgusts us all but we will queue up to kiss his ass when he comes here.

Brexit is going to be simultaneously the biggest catastrophe ever to befall Ireland and our greatest opportunity, too.

The economy is recovering but none of us are, and gardai are either being paid less than a shelf stacker in Tesco or €100,000 a year. God help the archaeologists of the future who have to try and make sense of Ireland 2016.

Sunday Independent

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