Brits behaving nicely

Tourists to Dublin have stopped vomiting into the Liffey.

Patrick West
Columnist

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  • Brits behaving nicely

Returning to Dublin can often be a depressing affair. What with it teeming with talentless street performers and American and English heritage tourists, it suspiciously resembles Edinburgh. The litter problem has got worse, and judging by newspaper reports violence has increased. But there is one reason to be cheerful.

A common gripe about Dublin is that its flavour is diminished by the hordes of drunken, badly behaved British (but mostly English) tourists on stag-night celebrations. I have made the very same complaint in these pages. Now they really have cleaned up their act.

Travelling on the train to Holyhead, I was accompanied by a group of 20 drunken Scousers. They were the kind of Liverpudlians I have never met but always been led to believe existed – friendly, harmless and very funny. They were a far cry from the kind of aggressive, self-pitying and not very amusing variety I have encountered on previous occasions. They were happy drunks. Also on the train and boat was a Welsh foursome who spent their time not complaining of ‘funny money’ or vomiting overboard, but reading the Guardian and conversing with Irish people.

I presumed that this was a blip, but having subsequently been to Temple Bar – Mecca of the swaggering ‘No surrender to the IRA’ brigade – I witnessed a group of Scottish lasses not shrieking drunkenly at the top of their voices, but laughing and smiling with Irish policemen. In a pub not far away I came across a group of Mancunians and Londoners who were watching a hurling match on the television. Yet they were not pointing at it with incredulity or complaining with a snarl ‘What’s this bloody rubbish? PUT THE F***ING FOOTBALL ON’. Rather, they were possessed of an admirable, almost childlike, curiosity.

‘How many points do you get for a goal?’, one asked the barman tentatively. ‘Are Offaly or Tipperary the favourites?’ enquired another. They continued much in this vein all afternoon, which did not conclude with one of them getting tied naked to a lamppost or his compatriot getting dumped in the Liffey.

It has all been a heartening affair. We are always told by the media that, unlike the Scottish or Irish, the English don’t know how to behave themselves after a few pints. As someone who travels with Brentford to away games, I know this is not true. We always have a few drinks, songs and a general laugh without getting involved in hooliganism. Englishmen abroad in Dublin seem to be capable of doing the same. What noble ambassadors they are.

  • The Britishness of Big Brother

Much has been written in recent years about the decline of Britishness, what with the Empire having fallen and institutions such as the National Health Service (NHS) and the Royal Family no longer commanding popular respect. Yet Britishness is now articulated in another avenue: in Big Brother in particular, and in TV in general. This even extends to the Irish Republic, home of England shirt-wearing Ray.

It should not surprise us that a Scotsman triumphed in the recently concluded Big Brother, or that an Irishman came second. Big Brother is a microcosm of the British nation, with black, white and Asian people from England, Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland and southern Ireland seen discussing common interests. It is popular throughout these isles because viewers subconsciously appreciate this.

The contestant’s ethnic or national background are never an issue for contestants nor viewers, because they don’t see it. The programme is a focus that illustrates our commonality. It would be difficult to imagine having a French man or a German woman on it. When an African came on the show for two weeks he was rendered exactly thus: an African.

Television itself has become a central conduit through which Britishness is articulated and recognised. Many of us watch and discuss EastEnders and Coronation Street, follow the same football teams on Sky and discuss together the foibles of Jeffrey Archer or Angus Deayton as seen on TV.

  • Sinn Fein’s offensive

Poor old Gerry Adams. He really is a sensitive soul. The Sinn Fein leader is very upset about accusations that his party is endorsing terrorism by offering IRA lapel badges or €15 t-shirts bearing the logo ‘IRA: Undefeated Army’ and ‘Sniper at Work’ on its website.

‘Sinn Fein is not part of any process of offending anyone’, said Adams last Thursday. He went on: ‘For those who were victims of the IRA, the very name is a matter of offence…. For others I can tell you there is no intention to cause offence.’ He concludes: ‘We have to see all of this as being relative and not just in the context of those who may have been offended.’

It seems that the Sinn Fein president can only comprehend this matter through the prism of the language of ‘offence’. This is quite common in Ireland. One hears the phrase ‘I find that deeply offensive’ spoken so often in the 26 plus 6 counties. As some commentators on spiked have argued, this is a mischievous phrase. It is a way of closing down debate through emotive pleading. It is a form of censorship – the logical product of a society that places feeling over reason and is slave to the emotions of the ‘victim’.

Ostensibly, it should surprise us that an organisation that represents a paramilitary army should be so attuned to the passive language of victimhood. Yet this has always been Sinn Fein’s forte. Its members are past masters at playing the role of wounded victim, the proverbial Irish Diana to the metaphorical British James Hewitt.

Ahhhh.… Gerry Adams is worried about being offensive. Lie down. Have a glass of water. There, there, mummy kiss it better.

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).

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