Friday, February 8, 2013

Stupid Article in the Irish Independent...

...predicting "ugly, craven muttering" against hurling star Donal Og Cusack as his inter-county career comes to an end. The writer, Vincent Hogan, makes this prediction because Donal Og Cusack was an outspoken fellow in many ways, and also because he was the first big GAA star to come out as a homosexual.

I know next to nothing about Donal Og Cusack. I don't follow GAA games, though I believe they are a wonderful institution and the very backbone of Irish society, especially the little local clubs.

But I'm tired of this constant presumption of racism, sexism, homophobia, Traveller-phobia and goodness knows what else in Ireland.

A few nights ago, I heard a black GAA player being interviewed on the Off the Ball radio programme on Newstalk. The interviewer kept trying to make heavy weather of the racism issue, while the player kept making light of it (it appears there had been racist abuse at juvenile level, but he emphasized that nobody treated him any differently at senior level).

I think whatever racism is present in Irish society is minimal. Some might say I don't have any right to that opinion, being white and ethnically Irish. But I have two eyes and two ears, and I think that qualifies me.

I can think of two occasions in my life where I heard an adult making a racially insulting remark. One was in Cineworld, Parnell Street. The other was in a newsagent's in the Omni centre in Santry.

Yes, there is racist taunting amongst Irish children. I have cousins who have a Filipino mother and, when playing together as kids, I witnessed a bit of it. But won't kids use any pretext to taunt and mock? Goodness knows I received plenty of it myself. Who didn't?

When it comes to homophobia, of course, the very term is loaded. I would take it to mean hostility towards a person because that person was gay. Some would broaden the definition to mean any refusal to accept homosexual acts as licit. On the first definition, which is the only definition that seems to make sense to me, I think there is a negligible amount of homophobia in Ireland. Does anyone attack David Norris or Derek Mooney for being gay? Have you ever heard such a thing even in private conversation amongst adults?

As for sexism, this a whole other and vast issue. In a sense I would say everybody is sexist. What man is fair to women? What woman is fair to men? Would we want perfect understanding between the sexes, really? Where would that leave the mystery? Isn't it better for the sexes to idealize each other, exasperate each other, mystify each other, and constantly surprise each other? I think so.

There are surely lots of male chauvinist pigs in Ireland, and plenty of man-hating women (many of them lecture in social science departments). But on the whole I don't think there is any kind of ingrained sexism.

Once again, of course, it is a matter of definition. There are plenty of people who would dismiss all opponents of abortion as sexist. Even an idealistic view of motherhood would make a person sexist in some eyes.

But I don't think there is any evidence or reason to believe that Ireland is an especially prejudiced place. And I'm tired of the unchallenged assumption that it is.


  1. I haven't lived in Ireland for a long time so don't feel qualified to comment.

    In my youth, the foreign group that I remember being the subject of the greatest contempt were Americans, which always really bugged me. People would sing laments about emigration and all the rest of it, but when the descendants of those emigrants made the effort to return and show an interest in the old country, a lot of us seemed to look down our noses at them, while taking the money, of course.

  2. I couldn't agree more. Reasonable people say derogatory things about Americans that they would never say about another group or nationality. Even before I had an American fianceé I noticed this. And it's especially bad amongst liberal, left-wing people.

  3. I had no idea Derek Mooney was gay! I just thought he was especially excitable and a bit of a dote. Ah well, I'll put my blinders back on now. :-D

  4. My blog is nothing if not educational. To avoid being sued for defamation, I had a look on the internet before posting it, to make sure. I just couldn't think of any other famous gay Irish person at that moment.