Archives for posts with tag: Ireland

So I reread A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man a couple of months ago and was struck by several things – mainly that having read it a couple of times over the last thirty years, I’d never read it very carefully.  The other is that Portrait is easily as brilliant as any of Joyce’s other work – I have tended to rate it rather lower than Ulysses (which I reread last year and also found to be far deeper and wider and taller than I had in the past).

A look at Stephen’s alienation in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Through the course of A Portrait, James Joyce builds a compelling argument for Stephen’s flight from Dublin. At every turn of his upbringing, city, family, or the church conspire against Stephen’s artistic freedom. One might argue that these elements conspire against his soul.

Prefects, professors, and deans all exercise the will of the church over Stephen in such away that he desires to pull out from under its authority. At one end, we have the church, in the form of Father Dolan and his swishing soutane and pandybat (chapter I), physically punishing Stephen for no other reason than sadism. This unreasoned sadism reflects that of the other boys at Clongowes Wood College, the Jesuit boarding school he is sent to at the age of about six. At the other end, we have an English dean of studies, a convert to Catholicism, who argues the words funnel and tundish with Stephen. The first is an offense against Stephen’s person, and perhaps against his self-mastery. The latter is an offense against his linguistic mastery, which is already a point of pride, ‘The little word seemed to have turned a rapier point of his sensitiveness against this courteous and vigilant foe’. (Chapter V)

jj-psSomewhere in between these two events, Father Tate, leading an English class, calls Stephen out for blasphemy in a sequence that evokes in the reader a sense of the secret mysteries of the church (chapter II). The teacher cites merely a fragment of a sentence, ‘”Without a possibility of ever approaching nearer.” That’s heresy.’ Stephen backs down, saying, ‘I meant ‘Without a possibility of ever reaching.’ The teacher accepts this, ‘O. That’s another story.’

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The Guardian’s Northern Ireland page has nearly a dozen articles right now related to Lyra McKee, the journalist shot dead by the so-called New IRA on Holy Thursday. (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) I’ve got several different kinds of grief over this murder that I’m not sure what to do with.

I think credit goes to Belfast TelegraphMany are expressing hope that in the wake of her death, some collaboration might occur between the various groups in NI and that perhaps the political parties will see through their differences and get something done. Talks between the DUP (the party that’s also propping up Mrs May in Westminster) and Sinn Fein broke down almost two and a half years ago and the province has been without a government ever since. (Though it seems talks may yet happen. Link at the bottom.)

I’ve been jabbering in support of Irish unity for decades, generally without enough of a grasp of the history or of human nature to make more than an emotional dent in the matter. Today, however, I say that the New IRA, the Provisional IRA, the straight-up old-fashioned IRA and any other group using terrorist measures to achieve their goals have got to go.

First: These measures don’t work. All through the Troubles and even in the 21 years since the Good Friday Agreement, these organizations (with the help of Unionist groups, don’t get me wrong – ain’t no love lost between me and the folks who foist Marching Season on us every year) have only succeeded in keeping much of NI from seeing any kind of dividend from all the years of fighting. (Note my earlier comment about my grasp of all the history surrounding this being weak. I can analyze the bejesus out of James Joyce, but I’m honestly buggered if I can makes sense of the last 200 years in Ireland.)

Second: I know that the immediate (hypothetical) disappearance of these groups will do nothing to heal literally hundreds of years of pain associated with the occupation of Ireland. Occupation. Complicated word, that. Civil War? Police Action? This is too short a rant to address what the situation should be called. I’m pretty sure that dissertations have been written on just that.

What has to go is mealy-mouthed bull like that coming from New IRA. The statement quoted by the Guardian reads:

“On Thursday night, following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage. We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy, and put in place measures to help ensure this.

“In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces. The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death.”

This won’t do. It simply won’t do. ‘Our volunteers’ killed indiscriminately. ‘Our volunteers’ went heavily armed into a riot zone and started firing, but couldn’t figure out how to hit the ones wearing the uniform of their enemy. And fired enough rounds that recordings show someone picking up shell casings.

This won’t do. Peace at this late date doesn’t come through the cowardice evidenced by this statement.

And what else won’t do? In the event the goals of the various IRAs are actually met, I’d like to believe that the government of Dublin would do its own utmost to make sure these folks hold no position and that the ones who lead these volunteers will see justice.

I probably hope beyond hope.

I composed the text above a few hours ago and now see (also in the Guardian – honest, I do read other news sources) that a deal has been reached for further power-sharing talks. As I say, hope springs eternal.

I know that everything I write about below is much more complicated than I present. Please keep this in mind.

ETA: The population of Northern Ireland is complicated. I use the phrase ‘majority English’ below, but the colonisation of NI includes a lot of Scots (known as Ulster Scots) who were granted lands confiscated from fleeing Gaelic nobility in the early 17th Century. My English brother-in-law indicates that refusal to grant the Ulster Scots language equal footing with Irish Gaelic is a sticking point in the peace process.

The situation in Ireland with regards to the backstop and one part of the island belonging to the UK while the rest of the island is its own republic exists because of history, that nightmare from which it is increasingly difficult for any of us to awake. At the time of Irish independence, earned by a full-on uprising before and after WW1 (and put on hold so the Great War could actually be won) , the six counties in the north (two thirds of the province of Ulster) voted to stay in the UK based on the fact that they had majority English population. This is a remnant of 250-plus years of English colonization of the island.

Oliver Cromwell went over in the 1600s to subdue the Catholics. Cromwell wasn’t just a protestant of the high church Henry VIII C of E variety – Catholic in all but name, but a Puritan. He’d shown his animus towards Catholics by engineering the beheading of England’s Catholic monarch, Charles I. (Dante might have placed Cromwell in the ninth circle of Hell, reserved for traitors.) So from sometime in the 17th century through the 19th, Charles Stewart Parnell notwithstanding, the English had been subduing a different nation – the same as they’d done with Scotland. (The Acts of Union with Scotland were enacted in 1707 and are also a really complicated matter. The Acts of Union with Ireland were enacted in 1800.)

All of that said, there was apparently enough fear or some such witlessness in what became Northern Ireland, that the peace deal included leaving six of Ireland’s 32 counties in the UK. The engineered Irish Famine of the 1840s and 50s also had something to do with the population imbalance. Engineered? Yes. The majority Catholic population were barred for two centuries from owning or leasing land and only in 1829 could they sit in their own parliament. The landowners exported the food that could have fed the native population during Black ’47 and the years that followed. You can read up yourselves on the mass evictions of Irish tenants by English landowners at the time. Is it any wonder a million emigrated and another million died?

So after the partition and the independence of what became the Irish Free State and later the Republic of Ireland in 1921, there are still factions wanting to unify the entire Island as the Republic of Ireland. The IRA is part of that. Sinn Fein is another (and often referred to as the civilian arm of the IRA). Yes, terrorists, we know. We’ve seen the movies. Friends and family of mine lived through some of the attacks on English soil in the 1980s. It’s not as though the Irish didn’t/don’t have a grievance though. I always point to the beastliness of Marching Season – that period of each year when when the Orange orders – protestants – in Scotland and Northern Ireland march through Catholic neighbourhoods to commemorate William of Orange’s victory in the Battle of the Boyne in 16 effing 90.

This is an obvious extension of the cry one hears these days that “we” won World War II, we can survive Brexit. ‘”We” were victorious over the Catholics 330 years ago, so we get to shove it down their throats now.’

If some merry band of undereducated nationalist shits did that in my back yard each year, I’d feel like terrorising them back as well. So now we have this situation where 20 years after an agreement was worked out to bring some measure of peace to the island, there’s a very good chance of it all falling apart. Just as America has the very small Mitch McConnell blocking legislative progress, this situation has the very small Arlene Foster, whose Northern Ireland DUP is propping up Mrs. May’s government, blocking the possibility of moving forward with a relatively peaceful solution. (She has help, of course, from May, and Corbyn, and a large number of people who will get very rich once the UK is out from under the EU’s regulatory heel.)

Yeah. The Democratic Unionist Party. Founded by Ian Paisley, a man who made his name by opposing Catholic civil rights in Northern Ireland, and in fact opposing any kind of peace process (including the Good Friday accords) and who refused to share power with the Catholics for nine years after the accords were signed. The DUP is also involved in the creation of two paramilitary units to oppose the peace process. Not really folks who have the best interests of the peace-loving members of the Northern Irish populace at heart.

The peace established by the Good Friday Agreement was earned in part by softening the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Possible because the sides are (for a few more weeks at least) both members of the European Union. The border, which as a few have pointed out, runs down the middle of streets and in some cases through people’s houses, is porous enough that people from each side go to work on the other – without border checks, which of course were common in the years before due to there being terrorist factions.

Make some kind of peace with the group at war, and many of those problems go away. Take the peace away – by exiting without actual plans from the organization that brokered and helped to maintain it – and the problems come back, especially when nothing has been done to redirect the energy of all that Marching Season implies.

Do I need to mention the idiocy of the BBC’s John Humpreys asking Ireland’s Europe Minister Helen McEntee why the Republic doesn’t rejoin the UK?

I met a woman from Dublin last week who is of the opinion that she *might* see a unified Ireland in her lifetime. That’s been my hope, as an amateur Celtophile, for decades. There are those for whom the hope of a united Ireland has been the hope of centuries.

England’s colonies, of which Ireland was obviously one, are former for several good reasons. None of those reasons include England leaving because staying was wrong. England has always outstayed her welcome and with the betrayal that is Brexit, she has outstayed her welcome on the last bit of the Emerald Isle she yet holds.

Links:

Donald Tusk: ‘special place in hell’ for those who backed Brexit without plan
Brexit: May’s pledge on Irish border threatens to reopen Tory rift
Ireland dismisses suggestion it should quit EU and join UK
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Boyne
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_Union_1707
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_Union_1800