Welcome to Pantisocracy. Before you all go off and Google that, yes it is a real word. It means a society in which all members are created equal. That is one of the subjects I am interested in speaking to my guests today, and all my guests are the kind of people you’d like to invite to the perfect dinner party. They are bright people doing interesting things.
One of the things that I want to talk to the guests here today is one of the things I’ve always been interested in, is about expanding the definition of Irishness. And I think all of our guests can see that because they’re all well travelled. And if you travel you get to look back at Ireland and you get a different view of Ireland and Irishness.Because you see when I was a teenager, I always felt that my Irishness was somehow suspect. I didn’t tick all of the boxes you were meant to tick to be an Irish boy. I didn’t like football. I didn’t really get U2. You know the idea of ‘the trip to Tipp’ was absolutely terrifying to me.And on top of that then, I did tick a lot of boxes that seemed somehow incompatible with Irishness at the time. I was gay, I really liked Michael Jackson and Farrah Fosset, and on top of that of course I had this weird accent.
I didn’t even sound like an Irish boy was suppose to sound.I was always asked accusingly ‘Where are you from?’ and then when I would say I was from Mayo I’d get the kind of look you usually only get from a suspicious immigration officer. And even actually my Middle-Classness was somehow vaguely unIrish. Irishness was somehow working class always. Irishness was stone-picking farmers or hod-carrying labourers or tenement Dubliners. Not the son of a vet. Middle-classness was in a way vaguely Protestant. And I always felt an odd kinship with Irish Protestants who’s Irishness was always also continuously suspect. I felt as if my Irishness was always being called into question.
It seemed to be that ‘Irishness’ had a very strict, narrow definition. And that definition wasn’t elastic enough to include people like me.And although that wasn’t the only reason, it was certainly a good part of the reason why I ran out of Ireland at the first opportunity. Because I wasn’t sure at the time that there would ever really be a place for me here in Ireland. And it was only later when Ireland began to change, that I started to think ‘You know, maybe there would be a place for me here?’
But even then I definitely thought I would have to make that place. And in some ways I would say that actually that, more than anything else, is what I have been about for the last twenty years or so.“Trying to make the concept of Irishness elastic enough to stretch around people like me. And I think over the last twenty years or so, the boundaries of Irishness have expanded to stretch around someone like me, people who were previously outside. Certainly, I no longer feel that my Irishness is suspect. Now that may perhaps be partly down to the fact that I’m older. I’m more confident in my own self and my own Irishness. But I do think that Irishness has become more flexible or more malleable. It has sort of squeezed up on the pew and made room for a few more…
Listen to the full episode of Pantisocracy: A Window on Change by clicking on the image above or tune into Radio One, 10pm Tuesday.