St Patrick’s day, again

Benbulben-Sligo-Ireland
Sligo

The Knife is about 75% Irish by blood: Sligo, Roscommon and Cavan. So not the funnest parts of the place. Whenever I’ve been there though, I feel as English as I always have, try as I might to find my inner Plastic Paddy.

When I was a lad this was the day we all wore a green ribbon with a plastic harp on it at primary school, which was never really explained to us. My schoolmates with Irish parents – as opposed to grandparents and further back – had the added benefit of hanging out at the local Shamrock Club at weekends, which was generally a bit of a riot.

However, I’m proud of the Irish heritage and I have to admit, they are a unique people. The most spontaneously funny person I’ve ever known was Norn Irish, and some of the baddest , most ruthless characters in living memory have been too – try Kevin Myers’ astounding memoir, Watching The Door.

The Simpsons got it right with this perfect juxtaposition (which is mainly Irish, as you’ll see)

The sex life of governments

As a general rule, my view of government is the less legislation the better,  the less interference – governmental or judicial – in our lives, the better. A libertarian sounding view perhaps, but without the wilder fringes of that movement.

Hence my position on gay marriage or whatever you want to call it, is the same as my position on abortion – this is a matter of personal behaviour/morals/beliefs, and ideally not a matter for government. The difference between marriage and the established and practical civil partnership is a semantic one, and to dress it up as something different is pushing credibility. In any event, I recognise that if something was illegal there is a necessity to formalise any change, but it comes at a price.

In the case of legalising abortion in the UK and the US the battle lines have been drawn for years, the difference between the two countries is that as you can see in various states, the US might actually reduce abortions by legislation. That won’t happen in the UK. In the case of gay marriage it seems to me that while the  legislative outcome might well be activists’ ultimate goal, but there seems to be almost an equal incentive in the irresistible opportunity it creates to vilify opponents. The terms of the debate in Ireland have been particularly ugly and virulent, and mostly from the victorious ‘Yes’ side.

Where they lose though, is in the quality of the argument. By some distance the best writing and polemicism in the build up and the aftermath of the Irish referendum has been on the ‘No’ side, and it’s by no means been confined to orthodox Catholics. Strangely enough it was also true of the ‘No’ camp in the Scottish indyref, where most of the Nats stuff was dreary ad hominem attacks or pie in the sky economics. Quality was missing.

I don’t intend to rehearse the detail of the arguments, but in a roll call of honour I give you Tim Stanley, Melanie McDonagh, Brendan O’Neill (twice), Bruvver Eccles of course, and a seriously good piece on Slugger O’Toole.

O’Neill highlights the irony in just how intolerant and shrill the Yes camp became (and will remain that way), and McDonagh coins a phrase that neatly summarises so much of the social order since, lemme guess, 1997: “a creepily imitative quality to the liberal consensus”.

She recognises that here in the UK the robust press, despite Hugh Grant, Leveson et al, ensures that multiple views get aired, but:

…in Ireland, the groupthink has a totalitarian aspect to it. I remember meeting one young Irish girl at Oxford a few years ago who declared bathetically that she had given up on the Catholic Church in favour of the Guardian; in a way, the whole country feels as if it has gone the same way. There’s a creepily imitative quality to the liberal consensus – as though the colonial mindset has morphed through clericalism to a self-congratulatory adolescence, perpetually in revolt against the vanished authority of the church. The Irish Times declared in its editorial that this vote represented the country Ireland had become. Yes it does, and not wholly in a good way.

If there is room left for a little bit more of ad hominem in all this, I’d just like to point out that the enduringly revolting Gerry Adams was a Yes man

Land of my forefathers etc
Land of my forefathers etc