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Constructing national identity… in another nation… May 11, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I was very struck by the pieces here in The Guardian asking people living in Northern Ireland about their identity. Neil Hannon makes a very thought-provoking point in the following:

I’m sort of a weird hybrid. My family was much more of the sort of old Anglo Irish residue of sort of huntin’ and shootin’ variety. But then there was my “BBCification”, and I feel like so many of my sort of cultural sort of touchstones are due to watching the Beeb. We didn’t get RTÉ until the early 80s and the first time we sat down to watch The Late Late Show it was a huge cultural watershed moment. It was like, “Oh, my God they exist and they have TV.”

The thing is though, that in much of the South, though not all of it, that experience would have been shared – with the BBC, and UTV and/or the Welsh equivalents, being available along the east coast and in Dublin and then as time went on further afield. For those of us living in Dublin in the 1970s while the curious lottery with regard to whether one could get Welsh versions was always odd, the reality was precisely the same cultural touchstones, along with those of RTÉ, inflected the broader culture. This made of a layering.

But what was the effect and impact of that on an Irish national identity? I’m dubious that it was negative – in some ways certain issues relating to the North were better aired in British media than on RTÉ et al, and there was much that was good on BBC and so on, but there had to be some effect.

And now what with the arrival of streaming and so forth where ‘national’ television stations have been pushed into a secondary or tertiary position, how does the construction of national identity through those means continue, if it does?

Comments»

1. roddy - May 11, 2021

Most of my favourite TV programmes were and still are from BBC,ITV,Channel 4 etc.My wanting an end to British rule is simply due to the fact that Britain is an imperialist country that plundered the world and still launches wars on 3rd world countries.I just don’t want to belong to a country that does that.However when British rule ends I will still watch their broadcasters ,follow some of their sports and pursue my lifelong interest in the British car industry of the 60s and 70s.Many politicians on the British left past and present would have been supported by me and I would love to see them in power as a friendly neighbour of a free Ireland.

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Gearóid Clár - May 11, 2021

Spot on.
There’s nothing worse than the lazy way Irish partitionists try to traduce republicanism or just the desire for a united Ireland by saying “Sher they all support the Premiership…”

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2. rockroots - May 11, 2021

I think Roddy mentioned elsewhere being unable to pick up RTE for a long time – was there a reason the signal worked in one direction but not the other?

In the midlands we could pick up the northern channels, weakly. I never really thought about the balance, but I think RTE for chat shows, news and the all-important farming weather, BBC for the da’s sports. Maybe 50/50 for everything else. My other half grew up in Kerry with just RTE and has what – to me – seem like massive gaps in cultural awareness. Like never having seen Only Fools and Horses until last year, for example (but loving it now). I’ll often mention something from childhood and get a blank look and asked ‘is that one of your English programs?’ So, I suppose pop culture does seep into the subconscious.

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3. roddy - May 11, 2021

We got RTE in the early 60s (watched on a portable TV powered by a car battery as we didnt get electricity until 68)However for some reason we were unable to recieve the signal for a good part of the 70s.And yes “fools and horses” will always be up there as a masterpiece of comedy which I watched continuously throughout its entire run and still watch as repeats decades later!

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benmadigan - May 11, 2021

As a child/youth I lived in 2 houses a couple of miles apart in North Belfast in the 60s and 70s. We didn’t get RTE in either house.
Some neighbours were said to receive it, whether due to house position, expensive aerials or more up to date models of the TV was never clear to me!
Our 2nd house was reported to receive RTE clearly. It never did – an aerial was needed, it was the wrong one, the right one didn’t work, the wind blew aerials down, a new TV was an extravagance when the old one was working perfectly, a tree or maybe a lamp-post blocked signal reception, it was raining too hard or even snowing –

The penny finally dropped – Dad was not keen on letting any of us see RTE and was determined it wouldn’t be broadcast in his house!

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4. banjoagbeanjoe - May 11, 2021

My da was an CJ Haughey FF nationalist and Gaeilgeoir in suburban Dublin. He loved BBC current affairs programmes and British comedy programmes like Monty Python.
National identity is hard to pin down. I’m Irish, not British, but I love British comedy too and British professional football.

And we’re such close neighbours and so intertwined historically that we get them much more than we get the French or the Germans or anyone else. When I say them I mean the British on the island of Britain… the British on the island of Ireland, a lot of them, are impossible for us to get and they sure don’t get us.

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5. sonofstan - May 11, 2021

I spent my first few years in east Donegal, and, like Hannon, we couldn’t get RTE. We moved to Galway when I was 7 and then only had RTE. It was a bit traumatic….and probably did install a certain cultural anglophilia at an early age.

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6. JIm Monaghan - May 11, 2021

We got a TV in 1956/7. So it was BBC only. If someone had told us that there would be multiple TV stations and indeed streaming we would have though it was quite mad. How would you decide on what to watch?
National identity is very hard to define. I am very influenced by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagined_community. In many ways the identity we have is to a degree defined negatively, ie we are not English. We share a huge cultural stuff with the neighbouring nations. To a lesser degree with our European neighbours. The sheer cultural influence (soft power) of the USA is a huge factor.
Like many small countries we are probably a little sensitive about losing our national identity, why even the French worry far too much about franglish.
I think people nowadays are far more relaxed about culture and nationality. In the debate on a referendum, it should be about the creation of something newish, inclusive, outward looking, an Ireland of Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter and the new waves of migrants to our island, an evolving creation.

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7. Paul Culloty - May 11, 2021

As Rockroots alluded, Kerry was largely two-channel land until the late Nineties/early 2000s – indeed, we had to get a new aerial just to receive TV3 and TG4 when those channels launched! Soccer was the sport I was most exposed to in that era due to Charlton mania, so to that extent I had a more international mentality than might have been the case if I’d grown up just 10 years earlier.

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8. An Sionnach Fionn - May 11, 2021

I grew up on British television and movies, books and music, and in the internet age, a lot of British-based or focused websites. But equally, I grew up with US television and movies, even more so the latter, less so American books and music, and later US websites. To that was added a fair dollop of Canadian, Australian and New Zealand stuff. Then a sprinkle of Belgium/French, German, Spanish and latterly Scandinavian entertainment. Finally, some Japanese and Hong Kong/Chinese stuff.

And I’ve never felt anything less than Irish. And all those influences fed into my Irishness and helped me appreciate the best of it.

I just wish growing up we had even a tenth of the Irish television shows and movies that the British had. And still have. Not out of any nationalist feeling. Just to see ourselves through our own eyes and not the eyes of others.

Watching Remington Steele as a child and squirming at the Oirish episodes, and the same for other foreign dramas or dramedies with unrecognisable Irish accents and caricatures. It would have been nice to see some homegrown stuff instead of RTÉ’s meagre offerings or half-baked collaborations with Channel 4 or the BBC.

Liked by 1 person

9. Bobd - May 11, 2021

This may be why the protestations of “Britishness” that have become a recent unionist trope sound so strange. The Republic is culturally far more in tune with southern England than anywhere else on the planet. I don’t know anyone whose politics are influenced because of that. Partitionists are generally inward-looking or opportunistic rather than pro-british. Also, the Border counties had BBC and ITV long before RTE and much better reception than the east coast. I doubt if RTE was ever dominant anywhere from Louth to Donegal and it doesn’t seem to have colonised the locals

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10. rockroots - May 12, 2021

Hannon’s father, incidentally, collaborated with John Hume in an early documentary film history of Derry.
https://digitalfilmarchive.net/media/a-city-solitary-2121?collbackurl=/collection/terence-mcdonald-80

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11. Bagatelle's Unjumped Thuds - May 12, 2021

Yer a shower of feckin savages so ye are. Bastidges and fargin iceholes.

Not a one of ye has yet to tote the cultural seismic event that was Wanderly Wagon. Buncha Bosco Boys, no doubt.

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