Decolonising Irish literature… from all Irish influence

The magic word “colonisation” is today being weaponised to beat whole nations into acknowledging how appallingly immoral their entire history is. On the air and in lecture theatres, the youth of the Western world’s future learns that every last one of their forebears was nothing but an irredeemable racist bigot.

This perhaps has a sliver of credibility for Americans and British. But for the Irish? How many colonies did they have? None! They were a colony themselves, of the British Empire, arguably their most longstanding and most oppressed one.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Ireland’s greatest ever poet, W.B. Yeats, winning his much-deserved Nobel Prize for Literature, but many contemporary Irish writers, sharing the same deracinated, globalist mindset of the likes of their current transnationalism-obsessed Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, now appear to dislike the suddenly "problematic" poet’s work immensely, as a point of purest principle.    

One of the ways the British Empire tried to deracinate the Irish people was by banning and then substituting their native Gaelic tongue with the English language instead. Accordingly, during the lead-up to eventual independence from Britain in 1922, many nationalistically minded Irish writers and artists co-opted the language of the colonisers itself to play its ironic part in fostering a coherent sense of Irish national self-consciousness prior to casting off all imperialist chains.

The key figure here was the above-mentioned great Anglo-Irish poet, playwright and mystic W.B. Yeats, who sought to forge an articulate and inspiring national literature for the Irish by patching together their history, myth, folklore and heroes into one great intelligible tapestry. Then, when asked what it meant to be Irish, his countrymen could respond by citing tales of mythological heroes like Cuchulain, real-life revolutionary heroes like Wolf Tone, ancient native goddesses like Brigid, or supernatural entities like the sidhe (Irish fairy-folk), as handy means to define themselves imaginatively against their English colonisers.

Considered in a certain sense, Yeats’ works were the poems that helped win Irish independence: that is certainly how they were taught in Irish schools up until very recently. But, in our current woke age, how much longer will this still remain the case? Is the anti-colonial W.B. Yeats now about to be cancelled… in the name of anti-colonialism?

She hates Yeats

Irish literature is supposedly undergoing a massive renaissance these days, with novels by leftish young Irishwomen winning plaudits, prizes and high sales figures across the English-speaking world. Yet, are these novels really Irish, in any meaningful sense of the term? Solipsistic, agonised, over-analytical tales of generic urban and sexual angst, this brand of millennial Mills & Boon could effectively be set anywhere across the technocratic post-Christian Western world, not necessarily in Dublin or Cork, if only you altered the characters’ surnames.

The prime example of this rarified species, of course, is Sally Rooney, a self-confessed Marxist whose book Normal People, about a pair of abnormally self-absorbed teenage lovers, seems to have won her fame for life. I can’t say I have absorbed any of Rooney’s texts myself (I prefer reading books), but they appear paradigms of the whole dismal genre. In 2017, during an interview with the Irish Independent prior to the release of Conversations With Friends, her debut non-novel about people talking to each other about themselves endlessly, as such people often do, miserable-faced Ms Rooney made headlines after detailing her dislike of W.B. Yeats thus:

“Sally Rooney is apoplectic. She squirms in her seat, hands flapping in disgust, and doesn’t mince her words. ‘I hate Yeats!’ she shrieks. ‘A lot of his poems are not very good but some are obviously okay. But how has he become this sort of emblem of literary Irishness when he was this horrible man? He was a huge fan of Mussolini, [so was Lenin] he was really into fascism, he believed deeply in the idea of a ‘noble class’ who are superior by birth to the plebs … He wasn’t just this harmless weirdo who wrote poetry. People misinterpret him in this country, and when we’re taught about him in school, it’s just hagiography.’”

And there you have it: the authentic voice of modern "literary" Ireland – or of non-literary non-Ireland, I should perhaps say. Doesn’t Sally Rooney herself, rather like liberal ruling-caste politicians such as Leo Varadkar and his ilk, think she belongs to a contemporary, non-aristocratic “noble class” who “are superior by birth to the plebs” too, though?

Normal people (must be ignored)

In a 2019 New Yorker interview, for instance, Rooney spoke superciliously of how, despite not even having a vote on the issue, when it came to the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum, “I was Remain, like any sensible person.” If moral snobs like Rooney had represented Ireland’s cultural elite back in the years leading up to 1922, I wonder if Ireland would ever have gained her independence from foreign rule at all.


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After all, a "Brexit" vote back then would have meant exit from the globalist British Empire, not Brussels, and as such, a vote to Remain may have been widely interpreted as a repudiation of the incipient sense of national identity then being conjured up by the likes of "fascistic" Mr Yeats.

Evidently hating the traditions of her ancestors wholesale, Rooney is also cited in The New Yorker enthusing that:

I was born in 1991, the same year a Virgin Megastore in Dublin was raided [by police] for selling condoms without a pharmacist present. Two years before the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Four years before the legalisation of divorce. Twenty-seven years … before the repeal of [anti-abortion laws] … When the referendum [legalising abortion] passed, I felt like the official institutions of the state were catching up to the country I had grown up in.”

Yes, how backward the Ireland of 1991 once was, when it was illegal to sell contraception in a random music store. How much more advanced the nation now is that someone like Conor McGregor, the Irish mixed martial arts fighter who recently got into hot water with Irish police after publicly tweeting against Leo Varadkar’s incredibly over-generous asylum policies following November 23’s anti-immigrant Dublin riots which broke out in the wake of some schoolchildren being stabbed by an Algerian, can be threatened with prosecution for publicly objecting to the insane and socially ruinous policies of his own government instead. Sally Rooney – like Leo Varadkar and all the rest of them – seems to me a classic contemporary elitist oikophobe: one who hates her own people, just as Elon Musk recently implied in a controversial tweet.

No man is an Ireland

In Conversations with Friends, Rooney has one of her characters discuss a disappointing sexual encounter with a man she met on Tinder. She knew the liaison was doomed from the start when she discovered he liked W.B. Yeats: “I practically had to stop him reciting The Lake Isle of Innisfree in the bar.” What could Ms Rooney possibly have against arguably Yeats’ most famous poem, a harmless paean to a picturesque uninhabited island in Lough Gill which Yeats fell in love with as a child, and fantasised about living on like a cosy castaway?

Well, the poem – lines from which feature on Irish passports, at least until they are replaced by stanzas from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – was written by Yeats when homesick whilst living in London in 1888. As such, the tiny Lake Isle stands in as a miniature microcosm of his beloved homeland of Ireland itself, whose sacred native soil he holds in contrast to the unnatural paved abstractions of the globalist imperial capital of London, and which seems to run deep within the very blood of his heart, as a key part of that now forbidden (for whites, anyway) thing, his ancestral cultural identity. Here is the poem’s final verse:

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Such disgustingly bigoted, nationalistic and xenophobic sentiments as those could never be allowed to take root within Irish literature today! Blood and Soil – Mr Yeats really must have been a fascist after all: or so the likes of Sally Rooney would have you believe.

Ironically, it seems the loudest decolonialists in Ireland today – the Rooneys, Lynches, Varadkars and self-denouncing ‘white privileged’ Irish MPs of this world – are actually just engaging in precisely the same kind of tactics of cultural colonisation against the Irish people that their former English oppressors once did.

In their blind rage against Cecil Rhodes and Robert E. Lee, they have forgotten, if they ever knew, about Ireland’s centuries-long past as a British colony. Do they even know about Drogheda? Wexford? The 300,000 Irish sent as slaves to the Caribbean? Cromwell’s ethnic cleansing? The Famine? Do none of these ring a bell?

Forgive and forget is an admirable piece of advice, especially about the distant past. But just forget?

As I have argued elsewhere before, the ultimate self-defeating project of these appalling, self-haloed people appears to be nothing less than that of colonising themselves in the name of unassimilable outsiders who could one day devour them. What would Yeats himself have had to say about all this, I wonder?

Irish literary elites of today might never know, because they apparently never now bother to read him – other than to condemn him as being ‘excessively Irish’, that is. I somehow doubt that, 100 years after his Nobel Prize, a figure like Mr Yeats would ever receive such a prestigious award today: certainly not if Sally Rooney or Leo Varadkar happened to be on the judging panel.

Steven Tucker is a UK-based writer with over ten books to his name. His next, Hitler’s & Stalin’s Misuse of Science, comparing the woke pseudoscience of today to the totalitarian pseudoscience of the past, will be published in summer 2023.

Image: Pexels


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