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Irish ways and Irish laws

Modern Ireland's stifling political correctness betrays a peasant mindset that fears dissent.

Patrick West

Patrick West
Columnist

Topics Politics

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  • Violent, nasty, brutish?

According to an Irish government study, tourists are no longer flocking to the Emerald Isle. A survey of 767 tourism establishments found that 55 percent of hotel owners have experienced a drop in custom this year.

Many reasons have been put forward to explain this. Some say it’s because Americans are still weary of travelling after 9/11. Others argue that the adoption of the Euro has made it transparently clear how expensive the country is compared to other EU destinations. But I think the real reason is that Ireland is simply not as nice as it used to be.

What is telling is the letters pages of newspapers here. Both the Irish Independent and the Irish Times currently feature daily correspondence from ex-pats who have returned home, or from recently departed tourists, expressing alarm at how grubby and unfriendly Ireland has become.

Dublin is singled out in particular. ‘Having lived in London for several years myself and having returned home to Ireland three years ago, I have watched with sadness as this city has deteriorated rapidly’, writes one. ‘I no longer feel safe to go out in the city at the weekend because of the often menacing atmosphere that is sadly so prevalent, predominantly due to the abuse of alcohol’. Another agrees that the Irish capital has become a ‘violent, nasty and dirty place’.

It is unwise to equate the capital with the country as a whole. Beyond its confines one can still enjoy ‘a thousand welcomes’, but it is on the wane here too.

Traditionalists contend that this is the price of progress. Traditional societies are noted for their parochialism and poverty, but they are also characteristically more community-minded and more giving to strangers. In embracing modernity, Ireland has thrown the baby out with the bathwater, becoming enriched yet also more atomised and individuated.

It is quite a convincing thesis, though not watertight. Irish society remains quite conformist, not ‘pluralist’ at all. It is de rigueur to pronounce here one’s anti-republican, pro-EU, multicultural, anti-clerical, ‘pro-equality’ credentials. Dissenters are shouted down by the deeply offended brigade for being ‘right-wing’ or ‘racists’.

Ireland has the kind of coercive ‘equality’ laws that make England’s look like libertarian lunacy. The forthcoming ban on smoking in pubs, backed by 70 percent of the population, is indicative of this.

Ireland has actually become more unpleasant because it combines both the bad of the old and bad of the new. ‘Political correctness’ is not actually the symptom of a modern, liberal society, but betrays a peasant mindset that fears dissent. How ironic that the ban on smoking in bars will drive tourist numbers down even further. In a year’s time, the Irish tourist board will be looking back on these times as a halcyon era. They ain’t seen nothing yet.

  • Rockin’ with the Rovers

In keeping with the course of Irish history, this is partly the fault of the English. One of England’s exports is yobbishness. It’s not pure coincidence that the Irish variety suspiciously resembles the pioneering English version: the swagger, the tattoos, the ‘what you lookin’ at?’ scowl. And this is a recent development.

For instance, I went to see Shamrock Rovers versus Waterford on Friday. ‘Sheep shagging bastards/You’re only sheep shagging bastards’ chanted the Rovers fans. They sported crewcuts, earrings and made one-fingered gestures towards the Waterford fans, or merely spat obscenities at them. It was like being back in England in the 1980s. There was a heavy police presence, warranted, it would seem, as fans began exchanging punches at the bottom of the stand I was in. What’s more, the stadium, Richmond Park, is an archaic, dilapidated dump – like the old Den. The icing on the cake was seeing fans sporting that veritable totem of English soccer yobbery: the Burberry cap.

Mind you, I’m sure this is not representative. Rovers followers have a bit of a reputation as the hard fans of the Irish league, and I think I was standing with the hardcore. Most fans were perfectly amiable. But having seen a previous game at Tolka Park, I think I understand why soccer fans over here support the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Celtic, rather than their own soccer teams: to many it must seem that it is a slum sport for slum people played in slum stadiums.

  • Meltdown

I wish my return journey to England tomorrow will be trouble-free, but I know it will not. The train ride from Holyhead to Euston promises to be a long and troublesome one. And it is the fault of our ‘safety-first’ culture.

Thanks to Network Rail’s blanket speed restriction on the West Coast line, I can look forward to chugging home past Crewe at a leisurely 60mph. The fear is that if it goes any faster the melting tracks might cause a derailment.

Virgin Trains believe that a speed restriction of 60mph on many stretches of track is unnecessary. They say that it is borne of fear, that following the decision last month to charge six rail managers with manslaughter for the Hatfield Crash, infrastructure chiefs are terrified of being charged for manslaughter.

And who can blame them? The Hatfield verdict was ludicrous, but we all knew what its consequences would be. Meltdown. If the health’n’safety brigade had its way, it would abolish the railways altogether.

Oh well, at least the football season resumes on Saturday. Sweet relief. I can’t wait to watch Brentford. Away to Tranmere. In Cheshire. With Virgin. Through Crewe. In a sweaty, slow train, where for our ‘safety and comfort’ we won’t be allowed to smoke.

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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