Family ties

For several months I’ve been wracking my brains on how to contribute to Going-Postal, but the breadth and research that goes into the lead articles left me wondering what on earth I could add that hadn’t already been said, and Bob’s call to arms for a November Post just exacerbated this dilemma. However, a recent and unexpected phone call changed my mind: perhaps I do have something to say.

I was sitting comfortably watching football, when my missus handed me the phone.

“Hello John, it’s your uncle Mickey”

And who else could it be? Although we haven’t spoken for six months or more, that broad, cheerful accent was unmistakable, Northern Irish and rural, not the more familiar harsh staccato of Belfast, but lyrical and warm.

So I paused the TV and we chatted away. Coming so close to the Armistice Centenary our talk drifted to the war and my namesake, a family favourite who had joined the Inniskillings to fight the Bosch and, like so many of those young men, he never returned.

WorkingClassPost, Going Postal
Soldiers of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917

I should point out that we, like many of ye olde Irish families, have a long and chequered history of fighting, both for and against the English. We often fought with remarkable success, but the end was always in front of us, and the days of warrior clans fighting each other, as much as the enemy, were surely numbered. The inevitable conclusion came as professional armies with organisational discipline and eye-watering revenues, planned and executed their campaigns with ruthless efficiency. This culminated in Cromwell’s new model army, and a mutual history of two island nations, joined in conflict and cooperation which stretched back past the Crusades, was over.

Anyway, we exchanged pleasantries reminisced a little and, promising to keep in touch, we hung up. But my mind was working now, and soon afterwards I was left with a dramatic realisation:- The English are the new Irish.

How so, you may ask, and I’ll get to that shortly, but here’s some background.

For a while now I’ve noticed the spasmodic, barbed and often gratuitous anti-Irish commenting here. It bothers me not, and I kinda understand it, having been born and bred in this island, I know how little is taught and thought about Ireland and the Irish, and to be fair, I’m starting to slide in that direction too, for, by trying so hard to be good Europeans the modern Irish seem to have lost their way and whatever charm they once had.

In England too, the Irish that I knew, are now a disappearing race. Where most every pub once had it’s share of expat paddies and every building site rang loud with the Irish brogue, today what was the rule is now the exception, and when passing such construction sites, one is more likely to hear an unintelligible Eastern European gaggle these days – I’ve worked with many of these guys, and they’re generally good workers, but they’re not Irish and we have nothing much in common to converse about.

England’s become a lonely place for a Plastic Paddy, so, in an occasional effort to keep up with news of life over there, I naturally looked online, and Slugger O’Tool seemed the place to go, but I found their parochial self-importance annoying, and their high handed responses to my commenting was little short of ludicrous, as, in true Puffin fashion, I’m not one to take myself (or them) too seriously.

Others here have tried talking to them with similarly little success, but along came the mid-terms, and one last peek to see what they were making of the really big news, and…nothing, but worse than nothing, they are now obsessed with all things Brexit.

Where just a few months ago they were complaining of the British ‘Brexit derangement’ they are now so EU dependent on what to think and what attitudes to have, that all the talk is about how Leo and the boys will stir things up on the border, they also appear to have been instructed to show a little empathy with the Northern Protestants, but that display is as shallow as it is false, and I closed the tab without proffering even a token troll. So that phone call from county Tyrone came at a most opportune time, and what was previously a vague impression has become a firm conviction.

It started with the Free Speech rallies, and then the Free Tommy events, where the nearby pubs were full of lively conversations, irreverent and rebellious, strangers talking about what really matters to each and all of us, and me, connecting to my ‘English side’ after a lifetime on the periphery.

These were also the type of conversations that I grew up with. When the English considered it bad manners to talk politics or religion in pubs, the Irish had few such reservations. Of course the ‘Troubles’ left some topics taboo, but in general the principle remained to speak freely and upset whoever wanted to be upset – but beware the consequences, and if it ended in a brawl, then don’t be a-whinging if you came off worse.

But now it’s different, there’s an urgency about these conversations, a realisation that if we don’t speak now, we may never get the chance again, and worse, that our children and theirs may never even guess at what such freedoms were.

So how was I able connect so quickly in a way that had been impossible for most of my life?

Well, to put it bluntly, the English are starting to understand what it’s like to be Irish.

They/you, are beginning to know how it feels to have a large and exploitative neighbour infiltrate your country, what it feels like when your politicians and leaders think more about their standing with foreigners, than with those who vote for them and pay their wages.

It is not the king’s shilling that corrupts your leaders today, but a Euro Prosperity, promised to all but delivered only to the few prepared to betray their own people.

You are finding that truth and justice are seen as expediencies when they do nothing to promote your neighbour’s agenda, and that your laws and their enforcement can be bent and twisted to suit an alien requirement for subservience. And for the English who voted Brexit from beyond the Pale of already compromised urban centres, you should know that Plantation is being prepared for you with a people whose ‘culture’ and religion denies and decries your very existence.

You may soon also be learning what happens when your young men are recruited to join an other’s army, where they will be required to fight, not in your defence, but for their new commanders.

It’s often quoted that failure to learn from one’s mistakes means that they are bound to be repeated, but some mistakes may never be undone; too late the lesson learned when lives and freedoms are at stake.

The true art is in learning, not just from your own, but more importantly, from other’s mistakes.

How far down the road we are, towards the EU’s version of the Acts of Union (when the Irish ‘parliament’ voted itself out of existence) is difficult to know, but if Brexit is not delivered, Britain is finished. May has capitulated and cowered to a nasty bunch of bureaucrats, and if she doesn’t get us out we may all soon have to relearn what happens when a larger neighbour’s fear turns to contempt.

Anyway, that’s me done and I hope you have some insight into what it feels like to be Irish, so good luck and welcome to the club, or perhaps that should be Cead Mille Failte.


© WorkingClassPost 2018

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