Re: RARA-AVIS: Scottish, not Irish

From: Sandra Ruttan (
Date: 19 Aug 2010

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    I suppose you could debate this question endlessly, but in general, the UK has always struck me as having a rather proper image. A deep history with conventions that are entrenched, a monarchy that's often seen as nothing more than powerless figureheads who cut ribbons. Why pay the millions to keep them around? It's history, it's tradition, it's the deep fear that it's part of what defines us and without these conventions we'll lose a sense of who we are. I mean, why does a country like Canada maintain the ties? The US is a bigger trading partner than the UK, we're closer in culture to Americans than Brits on a lot of things but we still follow the parent on so many things.

    Irish history is a history of oppression. Conquered and occupied by Brits. A country split in half, ultimately. Poets and teachers dying for their beliefs and for their culture. When has the UK been threatened with losing its government, with losing its monarchy, with having its people scattered to the four corners of the globe because they're starving?

    When you talk about Ireland, you're talking about people who only a few short years ago were willing to take up arms and fight for their independence, for reunification, for political freedom. Not just fight for it, but kill for it.

    People who've come up that way are more willing to step outside the conventional system. They're more willing to distrust "proper" channels when they've had to fight so hard to oust their enemies from ruling their lives. They aren't that far removed from their ancestors who had to break laws to protect their freedoms. If the police is seen as an arm of a government who's oppressing them, then why trust it?

    Now, some of my ancestors are Irish. My grandmother Irish Catholic, my grandfather an Orangeman (and my father too). And yet I didn't really, fully grasp the different way of thinking, the true realities of Ireland, until I spent time living there. And reading books like The Troubles. I went from growing up with my black-and-white mentality, thinking the IRA was all evil, to beginning to understand what could drive people to such desperate measures.

    I was naive enough at 18 to think I was safer in the Republic of Ireland than in the north. I had no idea until the June day in 1990 when I set foot on Irish soil. I had already been through the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Iron Curtain and crossed borders into East Germany, and I'd been in a town in the south of Spain when Basque terrorists had tried to blow up Semana Santa processions, but nothing compared to the experience of Ireland. Seeing train stations in Dublin empty within a few minutes. I'm standing there, waiting for my ride, and end up interrogated by police because I'm hanging around a train station. And it was a chore to find a garbage can. The freedoms I, as a Canadian, took for granted? They were lacking. And then we drove to the north, past the snipers set up along the border, and in Belfast ended up beside a military vehicle that kept a gun pointed on us the whole time.

    It was a different world from anything I'd ever experienced, and that's going to give birth to a different mentality. The image of the PI rebel, the lone wolf, the anti-establishment justice seeker... I can see how that can resonate with Ireland. Not just with the realities of how Irish see the world, but with how the world has at times viewed Ireland, as this scrappy disobedient little mutt that's going to pull on your dress pants until you finally kick it off and stop trying to teach it to sit on command.

    But all that said, for all my experience, I still view Ireland through a Canadian's lens. Our esteemed Irish colleagues may completely disagree with me - it's just my gut-level reaction to the question.

    Cheers, Sandra

    > > To:
    > > From:
    > > Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2010 15:20:25 +0300
    > > Subject: RARA-AVIS: Scottish, not Irish
    > >
    > > Darn me! Of course Russel McLean is Scottish! What was I thinking..? I hope
    > > you won't see my post.
    > >
    > > Okay, guys, thanks for the tips. Why are there more private eye writers in
    > > Ireland than in England? Especially when Ken Bruen is so popular?
    > >
    > > Juri

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