Sunday, 24 July 2011

A gallery of fake tapestries

Clerics have opined here and here that a lot of the problems in Ireland at the moment are certainly not helped by the calibre of their Bishops. There are many in this country, myself included, with considerable emotional attachements to Ireland who really grieve over what is happening and the unimaginable pain of many of the Irish priests who feel so scandalously scapegoated.

From the perspective of a lay person, I wish to add my voice to the discussion and say that I'm fairly convinced finger-pointing is just as much an Irish trait as an English one and that it is perhaps time to move away from all that and not blame the Bishops, the Vatican, the Irish government or even the laity (thought their silent complicity and two facedness is staggering). Everyone has some guilt in this, the penance needed is nation (and diaspora) wide.

So much of this, to me, boils down to concepts of nationhood. The Irish Republic is a mess because it still divides into the Pale and beyond the Pale. My folks were Dublin people, beyond the Pale was where you went for a holiday, romancing the poverty in your own little holiday bothy with no modern conveniences. Back in Dublin, you were cosmopolitan, you looked East, to the rest of Europe, you cultivated friendships with the Jesuits and the more "educated" of the clerical caste, you were proud many of your friends were drawn from Ireland's Jewish, Church of Ireland communities or claimed ancestry from Dublin's Hugenots. The rest of Ireland seemed ever so slightly phoney. I don't think the history of my people will be too different from the history of others from the upwardly mobile, nice suburbs of Dublin. It is a world away from so much of the rest of the country.

The Irish as a nation are a people of superlatives. I only have to think of the many Irish priests I have known; they are the kindest, most generous, the most zealous, the most firey, most lazy, most ignorant, most willfully truculant, most articulate, most charismatic, most will meet.

Perhaps the biggest national trait is an unwillingness to face the truth. Ireland's past is too painful, Ireland's present too messy, Ireland's future too uncertain. So everyone is colouring everyone else to weave a tapestry of half-truths and obfuscation, to conceal the collective guilt and collective trauma of a people desperate to forge their own identity and reinvent their history.

Apologies for this, I've been reading MacNeice again, and him a son of an Ulster clergyman, his poem Valediction says a lot about why my folks left Ireland and it articulates some of my feelings for the place.

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