Last month saw the publication of Michael Burleigh’s book Sacred Causes. Dealing with role of religion in European politics since WWI it seemed to receive generally positive reviews, in the Observer and the Times.
One country where his book may go down poorly, however,is Ireland. If the Sunday (Irish) Independent is to be believed one chapter of Sacred Causes appears to be devoted to a lengthy swipe at Ireland and the Irish.
Acording to the Sunday Independent report Burleigh says: "England has undergone the reverse cultural colonisation of the erstwhile oppressed. As fluent talkers, the Irish have colonised entire areas of British television, with the benignly unctuous Terry Wogan succeeded by the vulgarly queer Graham Norton, whose sexually obsessive innuendo even managed to fall below the (very) low standards of British television comedy,".
Apparently he belittles the "minor poets" (does he mean Seamus Heaney and WB Yeats, two Irish poets who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature? who have won the Nobel Prize for literature and adds: "Various provincial cliques and coteries, whether eccentrically Anglo-Irish, or just plain Irish, are inflated out of all proportion to their actual significance by their admiring fellows in the metropolitan British media".
Apparently "Any cook or pop star can become a celebrity seer nowadays in a culture where other forms of authority have withered. Superannuated rock musicians have boarded this bandwagon, with saint-cum-sir Bob Geldof in the van of vulgarly formulated attempts to strong-arm governments seeking the youth vote into giving away more money that by and large finds its way into the Swiss bank accounts of African kleptocrats… it is startling to watch British politicians lapping up abuse from this mouthy sloven, until one notes that knowledge of pop music is nowadays a crucial part of obtaining high office. “
Irish businessmen are apparently described: "Some of Ireland's most prominent businessmen have a, doubtless ill-deserved, reputation for ruthlesness. Fans regard such figures as genially piratical; others think they are greedy and mean-spirited, a description that might also apply to large swathes of the Irish in the English building trades, although competently reliable young Poles are displacing this horde of bodgers and shysters."
While he acknowledges that Ireland has now become "much richer" than neighbouring Britain, Burliegh has put this down to "its affluent diaspora and the European Union" while Northern Ireland "is kept afloat by an inflated public sector providing outdoor relief to its middle class".
I must read this book.I am not sure what relevance they have to a book dealing with the role of religion in European politics but if he has indeed couched his criticisms of ireland in such terms then he is less an eminent historian than an arsehole. I look forward to standing corrected, however.