Emerald Isle

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, here is Michael Burleigh, writing in Sacred Causes : Religion And Politics From The European Dictators To Al Qaeda (2006):

Then there is ‘the culture’, which should not be confused with the occasional minor Irish poet winning the Nobel Prize for literature. Various provincial cliques and coteries, whether eccentrically Anglo-Irish, or just plain Irish, are inflated out of all proportion to their actual significance by their admiring fellows in the metropolitan British media. It is also depressing that the only celebrated visual art is the political graffiti – known as Muriels in Belfast – that adorns the ends of terraced housing. Hollywood contributes its quotient of surreal movies about nobly moody Irish terrorists allegedly facing agonising moral dilemmas, rather than the reality of intimidating drunks cutting (Republican Catholic) people’s throats in Belfast bars for such grave offences as spilling their drink, a practice that assumed global notoriety after the slaying of Robert McCartney (1971-2005). It can depict Irish-American cops as crooked or psychopathic in such movies as LA Confidential or Internal Affairs, but realism departs once the movies are about the emerald isle. Drink plays a large role in what is a deeply unattractive fusion of sentimentality and violence, where people are quick to take offence as Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine discovered (senior Belfast IRA figures stabbed and battered McCartney to death in Magennis’s bar after Devine had made an observation about one of the females in their company). Speaking of bars, dingy Irish theme pubs are ubiquitous in Europe, with their fake swirling Celtic tat and Guinness, and giant monitors for football and rugby, Gaelic or otherwise, which only partially drowns out the relentless, mindless gabbling known as ‘craic’. Some evenings these places are given over to interminable fiddle and jiggy music, or to tear-jerking rebel songs, although a truly weird cultural format, consisting of boys and girls hopping up and down with their arms rigid at their sides, has even made it on to the West End stage in London.

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