Home and away

An English-Irishman in Dublin observes the antics of other tourists.

Patrick West

Patrick West

Topics Politics
  • Tired of tourists

One of the reasons that we need to build more airport runways, we are told, is that Britain’s tourism will suffer if we do not. Already, tourists are off-put by Britain’s overcrowded airports, which simply cannot accommodate the millions of foreigners who want to visit our country each year. The fear is that they might go somewhere else. But does anyone actually like tourists?

Dublin – from where I write these words – is, like Edinburgh, teeming with American identity tourists searching for their ‘heritage’, being swindled into buying bogus genealogical plaques and keyrings in the process. ‘Are you Irish?’ asked one Corkman to an American at the Shelbourne bar last night. ‘No I’m American!’ he bellowed, before laughing pointlessly. ‘Well, I’m Irish a few generations back.’

‘No you’re not’, I almost said. ‘Even if you are, you’re probably Polish, Swedish, Russian, German or even English as well, a few generations back’, I continued to think to myself. ‘Like all of America’s famous 40million Irishmen, you’ve just chosen one ethnic ancestry in favour of all the rest because this one is a) trendy, b) gives you the right to be a victim, c) an ethnic minority yet simultaneously white, d) gives off the impression that you’re a loveable leaping leprechaun who loikes de craic’, I concluded.

American tourists, it must be said, are always very polite and friendly, if a little colourless and wary of drinking too much. On the other hand, English tourists in Dublin are utterly charmless, speak even louder than Americans, strut around as if they’ve got landmines stuck between their legs, wear t-shirts in all weathers and get drunk in the wrong way – ie, a drinking session that concludes with a fight, shaving someone’s genitals and tying them to the lamp post, or jumping in the Liffey. ‘Who are you to complain?’, you may say. I am of course not a tourist; I am an anthropologist, writer and cultural observer doing fieldwork. I’m Irish a few generations back too – one generation.

Not that I spurn my Englishness (I told you I was a cultural theorist; I’m boring you all with tortured, narcissistic witterings about my hyphenated identity), it’s just there’s something about the English when they leave England that turns them into detestable boors.

The Irish certainly aren’t keen on the groups of English lads that come over. Bars and hotels in Temple Bar actually banned them from their establishments a few years back, so fed up were they of the English breaking the furniture and generally causing mayhem. But even the well-behaved tourists are ruining the city’s flavour. What’s the point in coming to Ireland if seemingly half the people there are tourists too? Edinburgh, London and Dublin are more or less identical in these months, in that in most places the accents you hear are American.

Yes, yes, it creates jobs. But throwing rubbish on the ground means more street cleaners too. Breaking people’s legs also creates jobs for nurses. Is it really worth it? Tourist chiefs in Ireland are worried about the decline of visitors to the Emerald Isle since 11 September. This is not necessarily bad news. Ireland for the Irish, I say. I want there to be no tourists so when I come over people will be amazed by my unusual accent and say ‘You sound just like someone from EastEnders‘, as I break unwittingly into my bogus Cockney patois.

  • Radio reality

Not wishing to be outdone by Channel 4’s Big Brother, Radio Kerry has launched auditions for its new reality radio programme (1). Hundreds of hopefuls have applied to take part in a show in which four people will be locked in a three-door hatchback for a month.

All their sounds will be monitored and transmitted, and listeners will be asked to vote one out every 10 days, leaving a triumphant winner who will take home that very car. It is not quite as gruelling as it sounds – contestants will be allowed a five minute break every two hours to stretch and use the toilet and there will be a 15-minute shower break at lunchtime. Still hideous, though. Perhaps Chris Morris is behind it.

  • Refreshing radio

Irish radio is generally terrible. Bar a few Gaelic-speaking stations which do nothing for the Anglophone, they are all pop music stations interspersed with phone-ins every couple of hours that deal with political scandals – which are boring enough at home when you know who they’re actually talking about.

But high praise should be accorded to Ireland’s classical music station, Lyric FM, which mixes popular classics with programmes that perform and explain more difficult and obscure matter. Not once, take note Radio 3, have I been subjected to a dissonant cacophony as composed by a demented Scandinavian. Not once, take note Classic FM, have I been exhorted to ‘relax’ or ‘chill out’ to the most srumdidileeumptous tunes.

Patrick West is the author of Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes it Really is Cruel to be Kind, Civitas, 2004. Buy this book from Amazon (UK).

(1) Sunday Times, Dublin edition, July 28

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Topics Politics


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