In my new life in Czech, the first St. Patrick’s Day would be very special. We had been looking forward to the weekend for weeks. We had the Ireland shirts, the silly hair ribbons, and the flashing dickie bow. And then…. the flu hit. Talk about a disaster, it was not the elated festive atmosphere in our flat, but a negative depressing black hole.
A few days before Paddy’s day (not Pattie’s day, that’s a girls name), we had the pleasure of a home cooked mexican feast in a local restaurant. It was beautiful and tasty, and the company was varied. We dined with English, Irish, American, and Czech. We were chatting about our common interests – living away from home. Of course this led to stories about our home towns, the good the bad and the ugly.
I am from North Dublin, the suburbs, neighboured by slightly rough areas. My accent is probably not typical of the area, but I think I would still be identified as a Dubliner (especially when pronouncing some words). During a conversation with a lovely American girl, I was told my accent was not very strong. This was not the first time, in Vancouver 4 years ago I was asked what part of Canada I was from.
I began to question what the projected image of Ireland was to our international friends. Looking back at Hollywood classics such as “The Quiet Man” and “Darby O’ Gill and the Little People” I began to see why. The lyrical begod’s and begarra’s rhythmically jumping through the script was hilarious to me before. It gave the impression that Irish people were folksy and quaint. I suppose in some ways, they are, or at last were. As nice as this fantastical image was, it also led people to believe that Irish people live in a third world country with leprechauns as neighbours.
On a trip to Boston in 1994, my brother and his friends stayed with local families for a couple of weeks. They were in a marching band. They were asked some very strange questions, like how long did the boat take (i.e. famine ships 1840’s, 6 week journey). A mother from one of the families “explained” what an orange was, and that you don’t eat the skin, the poor guy she was talking to, trying not to laugh and playing along (now a graduate of Trinity College). With being Irish, you have to expect some weird questions, such as do you hate the English, are you in the IRA? It’s quite bizzare. I think people forget that Ireland has now become a multi-cultural society in the modern age, whose economy was one of the strongest in the world for 10 years (thereabouts).
In modern film (the most available Irish export), the accent of the Irish describes a lovable rogue or a vicious criminal. Unfortunately these characteristics ring most true, particularly in cities. People in Ireland always love to get one up on their fellow man. This is most evidenced by the current economical woes. The best way to describe the modern Irish is “ah sure once I’m sorted, who cares”. This is rather disturbing, and it leaves holes in our society. Who can say that they look after their elder neighbours, especially in times of extreme cold, or loneliness like Christmas time. How many people do you see on a bus or train not give up their seat to a pregnant woman or someone on crutches (this actually happened to me, I was furious).
The previous image of generous Irish is slowly fading, and the true colours of selfish, avaricous philanderers is more visible. It is safe to say that I will never again live in Ireland, or buy a house there unless there is a change. This saddens me, as my homeland which I am very proud of has been turned into a dark pit of cynicism and vulgarity, something I don’t want my future children to grow up in.
As long as we force feed tourists the diddly-i-bejesus Ireland, visitor numbers will go up and up, obviously this is a good thing, but at what cost to real people?