LAST Thursday, Kevin Myers poured more scorn on the pitiful Irish. For a country with a population the size of Greater Manchester, we haven't done too badly.
Couldn't the same be said about a lot of nations in terms of geniuses produced? People are much more aware of those who have contributed to arts and culture such as U2, Riverdance, Bob Geldof, Thin Lizzy (not describing any of them as geniuses), the Undertones and the poets like Joyce and Yeats and writers like Beckett.
We're not nearly so conscious of people who might be contributing hugely to finance or science and technology. Living in Britain, I'm racking my brains to think of geniuses living here today. Stephen Hawking? All of their musical geniuses look dated – Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who . . . perhaps that's the nature of genius – it is rare.
Daniel O'Connell, John Holland, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett . . . are all huge figures but there are several examples of people who have contributed much, without approaching the rank of genius.
Mr Myers does no harm in deflating our patriotic ego a bit, but he's not one for holding a balanced perspective.
I CONCEDE that from time to time we Irish tend to exaggerate our contribution to mankind. In most countries this is recognised as being patriotic; having a little pride in one’s community, respectful of past accomplishments individual or otherwise.
Mr Myers does his utmost to belittle Heaney and the massive contribution of the Irish to the English language from Swift, Joyce and Wilde. I think that collectively as a people we haven’t done too bad considering our history of penal laws, famines, mass emigration, wars and sectarianism. But I agree that it is important not to dwell on such things.
It is dangerous now more than ever to cynically dismiss any individual or collective accomplishments by this nation or its people – to kick a man when he is down. We are a small nation but I like to think that we a just slightly above average in many spheres.
KILLARNEY, CO KERRY