Monday 18 December 2017

It's time to learn to love our 'Britishness'

Brand Ireland would not have much oomph without Anglo-Irish creativity, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

So last weekend I was at the ninth Kinsale Arts Festival for a gig which involved watching a movie and talking about it. The weather was glorious, the hospitality was wonderful and my hosts and their guests great company. It didn't feel like work.

"How do you want to be identified?" asked Mareta Doyle – the cultural whirlwind who is the festival's founder and prime mover – before she introduced our panel. "London-Irish," said Paddy Cooney, director of The Raj in the Rain, "Hiberno-English," said the historian and businessman Patrick Guinness, and "British-Irish" said I, which by any reckoning is a fair few identities for three people. And then together and with the audience, we had some free and frank discussion of Paddy's film about what he called the "Anglo-Irish", aka "The Ascendancy".

Identity terminology is a minefield. My late friend Brian Inglis wrote an autobiography called West Briton, for although he felt intensely Irish, he was never accepted as such by most of his compatriots because of his English accent. I was born and educated in Dublin and my accent is still Irish, but after publishing a biography of Patrick Pearse that wasn't hagiographical, I became almost overnight a "West Brit".

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