Mixed legacy and cultural appropriation

[3/22/17 Edit to add audio from soundcloud]

On Friday I had a half-hearted attempt to explain to our 8-year old why I wouldn’t wear green, and why I could NOT celebrate St Patrick’s Day. It’s really quite staggering the level of cultural appropriation St Patrick’s Day has achieved. A celebration of the worst caricatures of the Irish, drunk, leprechauns, and four leaf clovers

Then today, on reporting the death of Martin McGuinness, former deputy first minister, and A former Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader. I was listening to BBC Radio, and among the people to be quoted was former British Prime Minister John Major. I never held Major in great esteem but what he had to say, for the most part summed up my feelings.

I do think that is unforgivable and will neither be forgotten nor forgiven when one looks back on the legacy of Martin McGuinness, and I don’t excuse any of that. I cannot find any redeeming quality in what he did over those years.

But I do recognize what he subsequently attempted to do and the part that he subsequently played in building a peace process.

Go 3-generations back and you’ll find Protestant Irish blood, my grandfather’s parents were from Northern Ireland, but that’s not it. Ireland was a non-issue when I was growing up, it was rarely mentioned. sure, we knew what was going on. Events like Bloody Sunday and “the Troubles” had been constantly in the news since 1969.

What followed was years of activity in England and London, throughout my formative years. Starting in 1972 with the Aldershot barracks bombing, and stretching through the Old Bailey Bombing, I was first working at the Rupert St market in London in 1974 on Saturdays. That year was the worst year for IRA bombs, they killed over 50-people, and injured more than 1,000. This included throwing bombs in two London night clubs. Bombs were behind and inside Post boxes, in publish rubbish/trash containers

Through the remainder of the 1970’s it’s hard to explain the content I had for the Irish people. In the summer of 1980, I took my first business trip to Dublin, and during that trip was spat at, and had lighted cigarettes flicked at me while walking down the street, because of my accent. And so it was, that the Irish were just Persona non grata.

We spent most of the 1980’s in the USA, specifically in New York. At that time, fundraising for the IRA in New York and Boston was a big thing. The likes of Adams and McGuinness were often on TV News giving very one sided views of their campaign against the British Government, and the British people.

Having returned to the UK and joined IBM, the random bombings carried out by the IRA continued, while often focussed on military targets, they were not always. Two IRA bombers blew themselves up in our town center while trying to set and detonate a bomb. I was working at the London computer center for the TSB Bank, on an upgrade to their software early morning in London on April 24th 1993, when at 10:27 am, the Bishopsgate bombing occurred. Their office off St Dunstans Hill was just half a mile from the bomb site, we heard and felt the blast. It followed another massive City of London blast in 1992 at the Baltic Exchange(now the site of The Gherkin).

So, no I was never in a bombing, as far as I’m aware none of my family were impacted by a bombing, but somehow it seems like asking a New Yorker to celebrate Al-Qaeda day on September 11th, to expect me to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

As I said to the 8-year old, I’m happy you are having a fun day, I’m glad there is peace now in Northern Island but I can’t really dress up.

NTD or National Taliban Day?

I enjoy a pint of Guinness as much as the next “man”, but I continue to find St Patricks day  troubling. I wonder if in 100 years time the youth of tomorrow will be celebrating national Taliban day?

Really, for the most part of the last 100 years St Patricks day has been a major fund raiser for the Irish Republican Army and the Provisional IRA. Until as recently as 5-years ago they used the money to support people who indiscriminately bomb, killed, maimed both innocent civilians, and the families of people who supported the British Government. They also planted and carried out attacks on Soldiers of the British Government, who for the most part didn’t want to be in Northern Island, didn’t care who owned/governed Northern Island, provided people were not being killed daily the were just following orders. Me too.

One of my friends was injured in a train station bombing, for most of my adult life there were no trash cans in London, precisely because they were a great place to leave bombs and were regularly used as such.

Yep, the British Government played it’s part, it was far from perfect, yep, completely agree. Bloody Sunday was a massacre carried out by soldiers. Remember, the potato famine in Ireland was right around the time the Ameican forefathers were introducing Smallpox and other killer diseases to the native tribes in America. If you think Britain should give Northern Island back to the Irish, then I assume you also think America should be returned to the native Americans?

I’m happy that St Patricks day has turned into an excuse for a drinking binge, but context is everything. If you went forward 50-years and found the youth of the future celebrating Taliban day, how would you feel? It’s not that different…