Friday, 26th May 2017
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Being Irish

White, male, straight, middle-class and catholic. That definition of Irishness has long been the dominant model of what being Irish has meant in all walks of life here in Ireland. It might not have always expressed itself so assertively but if you were a member of this tribe then you rarely had to question anything about the status quo in the country because in effect you were the status quo and almost everything was skewed in your favour. It was such an accepted way of being and thinking about the way things were done in Ireland that it when questioned was met with little more than incredulity.

The paradoxical thing about this way of viewing Irishness is that it in the end did nobody any favours, whether you were a member of this tribe or any other of the many different groups that all go to make up an Ireland we know today. If anything all it led to was a toxic inertia and a way of looking at the world that was horribly outmoded. Now that is changing.

As much as we like to think that we are an outward looking nation, young and progressive change has been a long time coming. We have had the equal marriage referendum, a recognition that Travellers should be accepted as a separate ethnic grouping within the country and it is beginning to look as if the Repeal the 8th campaign is beginning to gain a huge amount of support in the country.

There have been other campaigns and other cultural changes. The 'Waking the Feminists' group has started a cultural discussion about the place and role of women in the arts and the level of immigration to this country now means that we really are one of the most diverse countries on earth.

But there are also many other pivotal areas, primarily economic where the old powers still hold sway. Business and commerce is still, at the top levels, the preserve of men as is the political world where in national politics it still seems to be a boy's only club. There are women in the Dail but you get the impression that there are far more women in the service sector there than are allowed to enter the Dail chamber.

St. Patrick's Day is usually a time to kick back and celebrate what is great and positive about being Irish. For many though this barely gets beyond shamrocks, leprechauns and traditional music before the fog of drink descends. That has it's place. But it should also be a time, however fleeting, to think about what sort of country you want your Ireland to be. One only giving lip service to the future or one that embraces and promotes all of it's children equally, where 'being Irish' is not just the preserve of the lucky and the entitled?

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