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What is left to distinguish Irish culture from provincial British culture?


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Jun 9, 2007
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19,084
I raised this question before, and again today on another thread (and already received a hostile reply for raising it), but I think it is worthy of a thread discussion. There is, obviously, a process of de-Catholicization going on in Irish public life (actually a process of de-Christianization generally). This, in large part, has been the fault of the failings of institutional Christianity itself in recent decades - the cover-ups adnd abuses of the far too much power and influence acquired by the Catholic Church in Irish life since the mid-19th Century (Maynooth Catholicism) were always going to eventually lead to a deserved kicking and a reaction against that abuse.

But now, having recognized that very valid point about the self-inflicted nature of much of this process, I ask a question that might arouse hostility from a number of posters (particularly given that I am both English-born and a Catholic).

Now that the Christian heritage that has been intrinsically intertwined with Irish history and culture for over one and a half thousand years, from the monasticism of the 5th century and the 'island of saints and scholars' through to the penal laws and beyond, is being jettisoned, what precisely distinguishes Irish culture from English provincial culture? I can think of maybe the GAA, and the small remaining pockets where the Irish language is regularly spoken, but then what?

The older Irish people I knew grewing up in England, my own grandarents' generation too, they all seemed like a different species to the young-to-middle-aged people I encountered in my time living in Ireland. The older people were an identifiably different people to the host community I grew up among in England. But I look at Irish culture now and wonder what precisely distinguishes Irish people now, particularly after the process of de-Christianization, secularisation, and the advance of consumerist materialism. The old (particularly rural) decent Irish I knew as a young kid were a breed of people unlike any I knew anywhere else. Those people are dying out now. What is replacing them is not, to me, the same.

What precisely distinguishes the culture of Ireland from that of the Geordies or Scousers? Is the last vestige of significant and identifiable difference between being a different culture and little more than a pale imitation of a provincial British culture now being thrown out? You might think that an excellent thing, and that's fine. But, I ask, what makes Irish culture different now?
 
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Seanie Lemass

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Most Irish people unfortunately share a common culture of tabloids, televised soccer (I am not being anti soccer btw!!), celebrity TV, soap opera, dumbed down music etc, with most British people.

Most popular manifestations of our own cultural autonomy are GAA and to lesser extent traditonal music and the Irish language. Cultural islands also exist on a smaller scale (not necesscarily gaelicised) in theatre, writing, less popular forms of music and so.

It is not uniquely Irish problem as higher forms of culture are under assault everywhere.
 
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A misconception from lack of travelling Ireland, and Discovering Ireland, away from the Dublin 4 Forums. :)
I lived in Cork, I worked in Cork and Dublin, my family are in Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, I have travelled the entire country from top to bottom many, many times, and I probably know Ireland (as a whole) better than most people on this forum.
 

wilting

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Feb 22, 2008
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What is left to distinguish Leinster culture from Irish culture?

What is left to distinguish European culture from Western culture?

The question is redundant in my mind. You don't get to decide what it means for other people to be Irish. Society is made up of individuals with a wide variety of tastes and interests, a fuzzy notion of national identity does not have a monopoly on who or what I am. I see things in common with different people the world over for different things, rather than arbitrarily imposing false common identity on the basis of geography alone. That is part of who I am as an individual but it does not have a monopoly on it, it not limited to national level only and it is not automatic with someone I might otherwise have nothing in common with.
 
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Most Irish people unfortunately share a common culture of tabloids, televised soccer (I am not being anti soccer btw!!), celebrity TV, soap opera, dumbed down music etc, with most British people.

Most popular manifestations of our own cultural autonomy are GAA and to lesser extent traditonal music and the Irish language. Cultural islands also exist on a smaller scale (not necesscarily gaelicised) in theatre, writing, less popular forms of music and so.

It is not uniquely Irish problem as higher forms of culture are under assault everywhere.
In relation to trad music - I knew more people by far who hated it than (like me) loved it. Theatres, writing, etc. - definitely small minority pursuits insofar as they are specifically Irish.

My point is that the ordinary working Irish people of old that I once knew were different (and that their religion played a large part, like it or not, in that). They weren't particularly associated with 'high culture' either, yet they were identifiably different culturally to the provincial English. That is just not the case now.
 

Reck-less

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Jun 4, 2012
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These are the ones that immediately spring to mind

Accents
Cooking
History
Language
Music
Outlook
Sports
TG4​
 

Deep Blue

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I'd say there's very few distinguishing characteristics between the two cultures nowadays.
Rural Ireland especially has undergone enormous change in 20 years.
Discover Ireland TV campaigns breach the Trade Descriptions Act.
Imagine a stranger visiting rural Ireland today...
He will be hard put to find a village shop, Post Office or Garda Station, the countryside is full of empty houses (permanently or owners commuting); no friendly old farmer always on the road to give directions anymore, he's been mugged twice and doesn't venture out now...

We let everything we had that was good, go too easily, without ever putting up a fight....
 

WilliamLee

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Jan 17, 2012
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Toothless simpletons and people with eyebrows on their cheeks?
 

julieandrews

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Ireland is still more rural based than the UK is. You have events like the ploughing championships and the recent tractor show which will be in the national media. Irish pubs are still different - no gambling machines or games or anything like that. Irish people are more willing to put up with poor standards and that culture certainly hasn't changed.

As for the swearing - I agree with Dadaist on that. I live in London too and of course people swear - but the difference is with Ireland is that it's the type of person who swears who is more surprising. I've been puiblic transport within Ireland many times where a guy who has already loudly described himself as university educated and in a white collar job and is having a conversation with complete strangers but still peppers his conversation with serious expletives. I was unfortunate enough to be sat beside and having a conversation with one of these guys once and asked him to stop swearing and he was gobsmacked - I don't think he even realised he had been doing it, it was just such second nature for him to speak like that.
 

sauntersplash

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Feb 3, 2009
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I suppose language and access to communication networks are the only barrier to a universal "culture" now. I'm sure most youngish Irish people have in much in common with Australian and North American " culture" as they do with British.

Not necessarily a bad thing I'd say.
 

Protestant/Catholic=Irish

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Sep 24, 2011
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1,642
We have our history, our folklore, our music, our hospitality, our community spirit and kinship, our pub culture, our language, our frequent festivals, our sport, our art, our literature, our customs and our traditions.

Ireland has been anglicised (something which could be curbed through the restoration of our national language), but so has the rest of the world. It is an inevitable part of globalisation, but to suggest our culture is obsolete is very misleading.

Also, and on a heartening note, it is very possible for a revival in all the aspects I mentioned, it just takes efficient government planning and spending; perhaps something which will have to wait for some amount of time before we have the funds to undertake such a task. But it is highly possible, thankfully.
 

LamportsEdge

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Jan 10, 2012
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21,894
here is, obviously, a process of de-Catholicization going on in Irish public life (actually a process of de-Christianization generally). This, in large part, has been the fault of the failings of institutional Christianity itself in recent decades - the cover-ups adnd abuses of the far too much power and influence acquired by the Catholic Church in Irish life since the mid-19th Century (Maynooth Catholicism) were always going to eventually lead to a deserved kicking and a reaction against that abuse.

But now, having recognized that very valid point about the self-inflicted nature of much of this process, I ask a question that might arouse hostility from a number of posters (particularly given that I am both English-born and a Catholic).

Now that the Christian heritage that has been intrinsically intertwined with Irish history and culture for over one and a half thousand years, from the monasticism of the 5th century and the 'island of saints and scholars' through to the penal laws and beyond, is being jettisoned, what precisely distinguishes Irish culture from English provincial culture?
I'm just going to point this out to you fairly succinctly. 'Catholicism' is not 'Irish'. Whatever your emotional investment in it it is a foreign cult imported from the Middle East and is about as Irish as Tony Cascarino and to be quite frank about it Cascarino was much better in the air.

If Scientology were to become ubiquitous in Ireland would someone like you in a thousand years be bewailing the deterioration of the traditional Irish culture of Tom Cruise?
 
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I'm just going to point this out to you fairly succinctly. 'Catholicism' is not 'Irish'. Whatever your emotional investment in it it is a foreign cult imported from the Middle East and is about as Irish as Tony Cascarino and to be quite frank about it Cascarino was much better in the air.

If Scientology were to become ubiquitous in Ireland would someone like you in a thousand years be bewailing the deterioration of the traditional Irish culture of Tom Cruise?
Didn't say that the two were synonymous - I said that the two were intertwined for 1,500 years. And then asked what made us recognisably different now we are getting rid of it.

Was it really that difficult?
 

Deep Blue

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I lived in Cork, I worked in Cork and Dublin, my family are in Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, I have travelled the entire country from top to bottom many, many times, and I probably know Ireland (as a whole) better than most people on this forum.
I think I sort of know what you mean.
Older Irish people had a sort of easy 'way' with them, a warmth or 'Nature', they would've called it.
An easy way with conversing with strangers, in awkward social situations, informal and uninhibited in a way other cultures were not.

English people can be self-consciously awkward, I experienced it in the UK when English friends attended funerals, for example...
English village life would be completely different to the Irish equivalent too--much more reserved, we are becoming more that way...
 
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