IF there are two things about Ireland that continue to rankle, even after all these years, one is a lazy prejudice and the other is the denial of the second and third generation Irish experience.
The second generation experience I have written about a lot and will continue to do so.
It is that prejudice that I want to write about today, though, and it is an Irish trait that is not far off being pathetic.
My grandmother often told the story of going out for messages when she was a child and wandering in to a Black and Tan round up.
She recalled spending a few shaking moments being lined up against a wall by men she thought were drunk.
She recalls thinking she was going to be shot. As she told it another British officer came along and everyone was released.
She sang, for sure, ‘but the boys who beat the Black and Tans were the boys from the County Cork’ with a special gusto, but I don’t think she was particularly anti-British.
Certainly she came to see us often in England and she never seemed to feel alienated by our accents or make us feel that we were in any way less Irish or less her grandchildren.
Yet, I have heard anti-British prejudice from people who could not have experienced any direct British hostility.
From primetime radio presenters bemoaning English accents during live broadcasts, to an Irish man in an Irish bar wearing a Manchester United top.
So reading the Irish Times recently wasn’t the first time I’d come across this but it remained just as pathetic and just as wrong.
Denis Staunton, is the London Editor, of The Irish Times. He is a senior journalist. Recently he wrote a column that touched upon Meghan Markle, British values and Uber drivers.
He also wrote about getting in to a taxi in London and hearing the driver address him as ‘mate’.
‘It’s not the insolence or the cheerless familiarity of it. It’s the sound of getting taken down a peg or two, of home truths being delivered, it’s the bouncer on the door, the hooligan on the terrace, it’s a pint glass smashing in the street at midnight. It’s the Black and Tans burning down Cork.’
All because an Englishman called him ‘mate.’
Now there is a withering snobbery in his response, in his considering a taxi driver ‘insolent’ for calling him ‘mate’ as if he, Denis Staunton, should be addressed as sir, or m’lord, perhaps.
His equating of the use of ‘mate’ with bouncers, or smashed pint glasses or football hooligans shows that if England, by some miracle, ever runs out of haughty snobs Ireland can send a few over.
That though, to be perfectly honest, has a tone that would not be out of place in the Irish Times.
It is worth pointing out that if working class English people are thought of in such a superior way is the incoherent anger of Brexit any wonder?
The jewel in the crown, though, of Denis Staunton’s lazy prejudice, is his reference to the Black and Tans.
That was so pathetic, so ludicrous, that I actually laughed out loud.
A taxi driver in London calling an Irishman ‘mate’ brings out echoes of the Black and Tans burning Cork in a man who certainly never had any direct experience of the burning of Cork.
That is pathetic. It is bigotry.
What would you think, after all, if an Englishman now were to express hostility to Germans by saying hearing their voices reminded him of the Blitz, even though he certainly had not lived through that? Would you think, perhaps, he should get over himself?
Would you think he was manufacturing outrage in a way that was clearly psychologically false?
This is not about one Irish Times journalist, I don’t know Mr Staunton from Adam, but this Irish trait of ‘hating’ the Brits because history allows you to, and it certainly does, is tiresome.
It’s childish. It’s dishonest. It’s pathetic.
It is, in many cases, bigotry and old-fashioned snobbery.
As my grandmother would have said, Denis, mate, get out of your own way.