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Frank Coughlan: 'Myth is good for drama but lousy history'

 

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Harrowing tale: Simone Kirby (left) stars in new RTÉ drama ‘Resistance’, and is at the centre
of a forced adoption storyline

Harrowing tale: Simone Kirby (left) stars in new RTÉ drama ‘Resistance’, and is at the centre of a forced adoption storyline

Harrowing tale: Simone Kirby (left) stars in new RTÉ drama ‘Resistance’, and is at the centre of a forced adoption storyline

We love our myths. Every nation does. They are the things we cling on to when the more practical and mundane can't offer the sort of succour that the human spirit needs.

The study of history, though far from perfect and with its own built-in prejudices depending on who is writing it, has the unnerving habit of debunking them. Where we came from and who we are seldom tallies with the stories that we tell ourselves and people are rarely receptive when this reality is pointed out to them.

But only historians read history, while most of the rest of us are content with the self-serving yarns.

National identity is shaped far more by what we like to tell ourselves happened rather than what actually did.

The great thing about these stories is that they can be remoulded to suit a society's view of itself at any moment in time.

A generation ago, Catholicism was central to a dominant sort of Irishness and identity. They were one and the same, in fact.

Now, conveniently, the same Church is seen as the cancer within and nothing will do but to root it out.

Standing up against the bishop's authority not so long ago would possibly have cost you your place and position in society.

Giving credit to the utterance of a prelate today could have you struck off the dinner party list or - at the very least - turn you into a figure of social ridicule.

RTÉ's war of Independence drama 'Resistance', by clumsy sleight of hand, encapsulates this volte-face.

In an effort to add a touch of dramatic tension to a series that is otherwise flat and lethargic, a plot has been stitched in which sees a child, under the care of nuns, about to be shipped off to America and new adoptive parents.

The sisters in the orphanage, of course, are wicked and the subliminal message is that the Church is as oppressive as the despised British empire.

Truth is, however, the bulk of those fighting for Independence were rosary bead revolutionaries and Catholic identity was as central to this Ireland's fight for self-determination as the soil itself.

When Unionists declared that Home Rule was Rome Rule they were speaking a doctrine that would have been difficult to argue with.

We have shed that mono-cultural obsessiveness now and are self-consciously inclusive and secular, but to disown Catholicism as if simply an unfortunate cultural aberration or phase is a convenient fiction.

That myth might make for passable drama, but it is lousy history.

Good and bad look the same in garden jungle

Nobody could accuse me of having green fingers. The finer horticultural niceties have always been a mystery to me. But that's not to say I don't enjoy messing about in the muck and putting order where there was chaos.

I have sometimes, however, been accused of butchering the beautiful and mistaking blossoming plants for weeds in my explorations.

Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between the good and the bad guys. Life ain't fair.

Normally it is March or even April before I begin to hack though the wild like some commie guerilla trailing south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

But this January has been so extraordinarily mild I've already weeded, raked and hoed the garden to within an inch of its existence.

It wasn't just me either. I even heard the hum of lawnmowers a few times.

We will pay a mighty price for this gentlest of winters. The Irish weather doesn't like being taken for a fool.

So be it. It will be just a matter of digging in.

Irish Independent