“Puppy farms and squeaky fid­dles” Why Pad­dy­bash­ing is back in vogue

Re­la­tions be­tween Eng­land and Ire­land have cooled over Brexit and — in­creas­ingly — Ir­ish peo­ple have been the tar­gets of crit­i­cism and in­sults, writes KIM BIELENBERG

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - ‘THE WEAK­EST KID’ QUARRELSOME AND UP­PITY

Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Dis­raeli de­scribed the Ir­ish race as “wild, reck­less, in­do­lent, un­cer­tain and su­per­sti­tious… an un­bro­ken cir­cle of big­otry and blood.”

Now, Hibernopho­bia seems to be com­ing back into vogue.

In the febrile pre-Brexit at­mos­phere, barely a day goes by now without an anti-Ir­ish barb. The UK edi­tion of The Sun re­cently la­belled Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar a “Brexit Buf­foon” when he was in­so­lent enough to ques­tion the Bri­tish ap­proach to quit­ting the EU.

The pa­per of­fered its con­sid­ered opin­ion on the Bor­der ques­tion — our elected leader should “shut his gob on Brexit and grow up”.

Ger­ard Bat­ten MEP, cur­rent leader of UKIP, said:“Ire­land is like the weak­est kid in the play­ground suck­ing up to the EU bul­lies.”

It is per­haps a sign of na­tional self-con­fi­dence that rather than take of­fence at th­ese un­savoury at­tacks, we have rather come to rel­ish them.

I have to con­fess that I had never come across Coun­try Squire mag­a­zine un­til it re­cently joined in the orgy of Pad­dy­bash­ing over our ap­proach to Brexit.

The mag­a­zine de­scribed this scep­tred isle as “a land of puppy farms, rain-soaked hol­i­days, dingy bars, drugs mule celebs, ver­bal di­ar­rhea and squeaky fid­dles…”

With semi-lit­er­ate zeal, the mag­a­zine con­tin­ued: “Eire’s his­tory is ba­si­cally Bri­tish — be­fore that it was a bunch of war­ring fam­i­lies and a cor­rupt church in­volved in an in­ces­sant spi­ral of gob­shite­ing and slay­ing — cer­tainly not a na­tion.”

One was re­minded of the Hibernopho­bic rants of the colum­nist Julie Burchill, who once took ex­cep­tion to money be­ing lav­ished on a St Pa­trick’s Day pa­rade through Lon­don.

She said the pa­rade “cel­e­brates al­most com­pul­sory child mo­lesta­tion by the na­tional church, to­tal dis­crim­i­na­tion against women who wish to be priests, aid­ing and abet­ting Hitler in his hour of need and out­law­ing abor­tion and di­vorce.”

The colum­nist went on to de­scribe Ire­land’s flag as “the Hitler-lick­ing, al­tar boy mo­lest­ing, abor­tion ban­ning Ir­ish Tri­colour.”

The spu­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tion of al­le­giance to Hitler has come up dur­ing Brexit dis­cus­sions.

It was a theme raised by Rees-Mogg him­self re­cently when he took ex­cep­tion to re­marks by the Taoiseach. Varad­kar had ex­pressed re­gret that Bri­tain was leav­ing the EU, and said he was con­scious of “Bri­tish vet­er­ans, very brave peo­ple, who fought on the beaches of France not just for Bri­tain but also for Euro­pean democ­racy and for Euro­pean val­ues.”

Rees-Mogg took a swipe at Ire­land’s record dur­ing World War II.

“Mr Varad­kar for­gets that Ire­land was neu­tral dur­ing the war, which im­plies it had no in­ter­est in Europe, and Éa­mon de Valera signed a book of con­do­lence at the Ger­man Em­bassy in Dublin on the death of Hitler.

“Per­haps if Mr Varad­kar knew his own coun­try’s undis­tin­guished wartime his­tory bet­ter, his views on our his­tory would be more in­formed.”

For much of our his­tory of in­de­pen­dence, some Bri­tish politi­cians have treated Ire­land as a quarrelsome and up­pity prov­ince that should fall into line.

Af­ter the end of the First World War Win­ston Churchill saw “the dreary steeples of Fer­managh and Ty­rone emerg­ing once again”.

He added: “The in­tegrity of their quar­rel is one of the few in­sti­tu­tions that have been un­al­tered in the cat­a­clysm which has swept the world.”

And to one Bri­tish cab­i­net min­is­ter of the 1930s, Éa­mon de Valera was “the Span­ish onion in the Ir­ish stew”.

In the tense pre-Brexit at­mos­phere there will be no end of far-fetched sug­ges­tions about what might hap­pen to the Bor­der.

The Labour MP Kate Hoey sparked out­rage when she said that if a hard Bor­der was put up be­tween North and South, the Ir­ish would have to pay for it. It was a plan wor­thy of Don­ald Trump.

We can ex­pect a lot more lively barbs com­ing our way, as we come closer to the dead­line in ne­go­ti­a­tions, and the Ir­ish are seen to block the path to Brexit nir­vana.

Per­haps, we are be­ing too sen­si­tive. As the Sky News pre­sen­ter Adam Boulton put it in a Tweet: “Some of you Ir­ish need to get over your­selves.”

For Rees-Mogg we have been an awk­ward shower for the best part of a mil­len­nium

Brit­tle re­la­tion­ship: TV pre­sen­ter Robert Preston said Ire­land had ‘un­der­mined’ Bri­tish gov­ern­ments ‘go­ing back well over 100 years’ in an in­ter­view with arch-brex­i­teer Ja­cob Rees-Mogg (above right)

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