Waiting for Gavin

Greystones, October 2021.

By Francine Cunningham

Foxgloves, which used to grow wild in the shaded orchard behind my childhood home in County Tyrone, have always been a favourite flower. So, when we returned to Ireland after many years on the continent, I dreamed of a meadow-like garden full of native plants and humming with bees. It would be just what we needed to add character to our new build in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Recalling some of the wild and wonderful designs of Irish gardener, Diarmuid Gavin, seen at the Chelsea Flower Show over the years, we found his email address online at the start of the year and decided to send him a message. In a happy twist of fate, it turned out that he lives close by us in Co Wicklow. Within 24 hours he was sitting at our kitchen table.

We gave Diarmuid an admittedly vague idea of what we were looking for. Wild-looking but subtly managed; private, but with a view to the beach and surrounding hills; seasidy but no anchors. In just a couple of weeks he sent us a beautiful binder with a design that perfectly grasped what we were aiming for. Only better. He told us to look forward to sitting in our garden this summer. We couldn’t wait.

Then came another lockdown and this time even gardeners could not work outside. When construction was allowed to resume we made contact again to get a start date for the works on the garden. It would involve building wooden walkways and bringing in lorry loads of rich soil “full or earthworms” said DG enthusiastically.

Weeks and weeks went by. When I turned on the radio, I would hear DG answering questions from listeners with gardening dilemmas. When I turned on the TV, I would see him carrying out a wonderful project in Belfast, greening an alleyway between two rows of redbrick houses and making it into a social space. My sister spotted him in his buzzy, new pop-up store selling plants in Monkstown, south Dublin. But there we were, waiting for Gavin.

Getting desperate, I sent a text message to DG, asking when our project could finally begin. He sent me back a message almost immediately to explain that he was currently filming in the UK, but we would be his next top priority.

Late spring turned into summer. I opened my weekend newspaper to see our gardener on the cover, looking splendid in a flower-patterned suit. In September, we heard on the radio that he had was hosting a three-day garden festival in Kerry. And there we were, still waiting for Gavin.

When Ireland’s Indian summer turned to autumn, DG finally dropped in. Within two minutes all was forgiven. He could charm the birds out of the trees. If we only had some trees.

What we learned was when he arrives, he really arrives. Total and absolute vision, plant passion and commitment. It is now a Sunday morning in mid-October and DG is outside putting in the last of the plants. He calls this the “joyous” part of his job. (How many people can describe their work in that way?) Outside our kitchen is a riot of autumn colours: rich reds, dark leafy greens, mellow yellows and burnt orange. A wooden walkway meanders through a multi-levelled garden to immerse yourself in.

The garden is simply way beyond anything we could have possibly imagined. DG and his ‘plant man’ and wing man, Paul, even brought us a couple of chairs and lit up the firepit so that we could experience the full effect.  I never knew that a garden could make me so happy! It was well worth waiting for Gavin.

A Fairytale of Wicklow

Enniskerry, June 2021.

By Francine Cunningham

Many of us dreamed of giving our house a complete makeover during lockdown.  I don’t know whether they wished upon a star, but for a few of my neighbours in County Wicklow, this dream has just come true. In the village of Greystones just south of Dublin, which we moved to six months ago, one of the beautiful old arts and crafts style houses has been turned into a pink confection, complete with a round tower topped by a spire, trailing garlands of lilac and spectacular topiary. If a small girl drew a picture of a dream house using just pink and purple crayons, it would look like this.

In case you think those neighbours have lost the plot, they are in fact being put up in a five-star hotel while their transformed house is used as part of the set for the forthcoming Disney movie, Disenchanted. Filming is due to start in June on this sequel to the 2007 film “Enchanted,” which is the sort of fantasy romantic comedy that we probably all need after a rough year. The story picks up on the archetypal Disney princess, played by Amy Adams, some 15 years after she found her love interest in the form of Patrick Dempsey (Dr McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy) and moved to live in the suburbs.

In this case, the suburbs are set in the picturesque village of Enniskerry, in the foothills of the Wicklow mountains, accessible via a narrow country road that is colloquially (and accurately) known as “The Twenty-One Bends.”  This typical Wicklow village has been given the full Disney treatment too. Carpenters, painters and builders have turned the existing shop fronts into a fantasy town with brightly coloured shops named “Smee’s Cheese”, “Prince Ali’s Flying Carpets”, “Mary Popover’s Bakery” and “Potions, Notions and Lotions”. Even the old phone box that normally stands disused and neglected just off the village square, and was at risk of being demolished, has been painted mauve, topped with a turret and covered in blooms. Bunting and garlands of roses deck out the entire village square. If only life was always like this.

Yet you don’t have to suspend disbelief to understand why Walt Disney Pictures chose to film their escapist rom com in Wicklow, otherwise known as “the garden of Ireland”. Maybe the sun doesn’t always shine, the roses don’t climb nearly as high as on the film set and there is only one decent bakery in all of Greystones. Yet it is still a bit of a dream to live here.  

A tale of tweets, trolls and true courage

Aran Islands, August 2020.

By Francine Cunningham

When I read the press announcement last week about the decision by the Sunday Independent to terminate the contract of polemical columnist Eoghan Harris, due to his involvement in at least one fake Twitter account, I knew it was only a matter of time before “Lady Macbeth” would be blamed. True to form, the anonymous account @WhigNorthern posted this tweet last Friday: “Many journalists have Anon Twitter accounts. But Lady Macbeth was not likely to lose the chance to cancel Eoghan Harris. Surely more to this than we know of!” A number of high-profile journalists were tagged on the post.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, the stated purpose of @WhigNorthern is to track Sinn Fein’s “subversive influence on Irish media.” Over the last year it first targeted me directly by name: “Francine Cunningham has always been at the extreme end of radical nationalist politics” and claimed I was the ex-wife of someone I have never met who was also deemed to be suspect.

On another occasion, WhigNorthern wrote: “Francine Cunningham, from Strabane Co Tyrone, formerly of the Sunday Tribune, carried a lot of hard northern nationalist baggage into the ST, and is now depositing some of it in the Belfast Telegraph, Irish Indo and Sindo.” Yet I never wrote for the Sunday Tribune and in the early part of my career was an arts journalist for the Irish Times and Sunday Business Post. Two decades spent abroad and two law degrees later, I now work for an international law firm. At other points the anonymous Twitter account refers to the “new Francine Cunningham pro-SF line in INM [Independent News Media] titles.”

Perhaps fearing litigation, at one point the account changed from naming me directly to referring to  “Lady Macbeth from Tyrone” or simply “Lady Macbeth,” who it claimed was responsible for the “greening” of INM newspapers. Elsewhere in the account, Lady Macbeth is accused of casting a “witch’s spell” (bit of mixed metaphors here).

Over many months of offensive and false tweets from WhigNorthern, I did wonder who was the Barbara J. Pym who was liking those posts. Looking at her Twitter profile, she looked like a vivacious, middle-aged woman from Northern Ireland. I didn’t know then that instead of a woman from Northern Ireland like me, “she” was an older man who had never lived in Northern Ireland, along with assorted others who still refuse to put their name to their words.

So why did @WhigNorthern target me as “an Irish consort with a Northern agenda”? First of all because I have been married to the Belgian-Dutch publisher of INM, Peter Vandermeersch since 1999 when he was editor of a Belgian newspaper, De Standaard. This Twitter mob must have decided that it was easier to attack a woman than to attack the new publisher of INM directly.

Secondly, because I grew up in Strabane, a small border town in West Tyrone which had the distinction during The Troubles of having the highest unemployment rate in the industrial world and being the most bombed town in Europe in proportion to its size.  The Troubles provided the backdrop to my childhood in Strabane, but I was thankfully spared the pain and grief that many other families suffered during the darkest days of the Seventies. Nevertheless, my family and my teenage self were held hostage at one point by the IRA when they hoped to rob the sub-Post Office run by my father. A group of three IRA men in masks simply walked into the house via the back door which of course was always unlocked.

I vividly remember my mother, who was a petite five-foot nothing, scolding a big IRA man: “Youse never worked a day in your life and you dare to come into the home of decent hardworking people…” He threatened to shoot her if she didn’t “shut up”. Now that is real courage. Not anonymous people who hide behind fake online accounts shovelling slurs.

Dryrobes and bikinis at the Irish Coast

Greystones, February 2021.

By Peter Vandermeersch

Why would anyone swim in the sea in the middle of winter? In most parts of the world people would think you’re not completely sane if you went to the beach in January, put on your swimsuit and ran happily into the ice-cold water. Not so in Greystones, the small Wicklow town south of the Irish capital Dublin, where I moved to live in December of last year. This place must be the only town in the whole world where you have to explain over and over again that you love to live there, but are not going to go swimming in the Irish Sea, while most people huddle inside around a fire and drink hot tea to survive the bloody cold Irish winter.
Greystones is indeed a great place to live. When you enter the town, a signpost proudly declares that in 2008 this place was named the “World’s Most Liveable Community”. Though the town has changed in recent years, Greystones is still one of the most liveable communities, maybe not on earth, but definitely in Ireland (or at least along its east coast…). Behind my house sit the Wicklow Mountains, just in front lies the Irish Sea and in between there is a community of about 20,000 people. Most of the time, these Greystonians look like Normal People. Until you realise that hundreds of them think it’s absolutely normal to go and swim every single day in “their” sea.
I have to admit, though, it’s a wonderful spectacle. When the sun rises above the Irish Sea, people start to flock from everywhere to one of the Greystones beaches. Most of these people are middle aged, middle class and dressed in “dry robes” a piece of cloth I didn’t know anything about before I moved here. It’s basically a cross between an oversized towel and a winter coat with a hood, which keeps you nice and warm before and after the swim. Without much hesitation they change into their swimming gear and step into the freezing sea with the same enthusiasm that I step into my hot morning shower.
Now that I have been living here for a couple of months, I noticed that there are different kinds of winter swimmers. On one beach you have the ones who love to swim in a group as the sun rises. They make an open fire on the beach, chatting and babbling away. The swimming only seems to be an excuse to have a great get together. On another beach, you have the individual swimmers. While some members of the “social” group only go into the water for one or two minutes, the individual swimmers seem more committed. There are other differences too. You have the swimmers-who-look-professional (wetsuit, hot flask, gloves and rubber shoes) and the swimmers-who-think-it’s-summer (bikini or trunks). You have the show-offs (look at my shoulders and my tattoos) and the I-don’t-cares. You have the ones who like to talk and the silent ones.
Yet they all have a couple of things in common: they are friendly (“Of course you can take my picture”), they look great (“I’m 83 and swim twice a week”), they clearly enjoy what they are doing (“You really feel alive”) and they don’t understand why you are standing there with three layers of clothes (“You really should try it… you’ll get addicted”). 
All winter long I have been taking photographs of this strange but friendly bunch and observing their rituals. Some day I’ll publish these pictures, as a mark of understanding and respect for my fellow Greystonians. And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll try… to get into the sea. Since it’s a shame to live in the world’s most liveable community and not to be crazy enough to swim in the ice-cold Irish Sea.

[Dog] Shit Doesn’t Just Happen

Greystones, January 2021

By Francine Cunningham

It might be called the perfect storm: an upsurge in people buying dogs to keep them company at a time of social distancing, combined with more people out walking and travel restrictions keeping them confined to built-up areas. A perfect shit storm.

Walks around the pretty seaside town of Greystones, County Wicklow, require regular zig zagging to dodge dog poo on the pavements. Parents are obliged to wheel their prams and children drive their scooters across the soiled boardwalk. And when a child inevitably puts their foot in it, you will hear the distressed cry, “Mum, get it off me!”

The result is that dog poo has become the subject of fierce and passionate exchanges in our residents’ social media group. Efforts to improve the situation have included installing a poo bag dispenser and disposal bin along the main boardwalk, as well as a regular recorded announcement inviting people to enjoy their walk but take any litter away with them and clean up after their dogs.  While these targeted efforts have resulted in some improvement, the main offenders continue to offend. Indeed, some dog owners even bag the poo, only to throw it into a hedge or tree branches a few metres further. (There is surely a special place in the doghouse for these feckless pet owners).

Some point the finger at owners distracted on their mobile phones, who drag their poor pooches down the street leaving a trail behind them. Others say that it must be the night walkers, claiming that owners simply don’t see what their dogs are up to after dark.

Yet when someone on the group chat suggested that there should be a rule that dogs are kept on leads in built up areas, she was almost run out of town. There were protests of “Don’t punish the good pets for the sins of a few”. Such are the emotions that rage around dog poo.

Another exasperated person in our local group chat asked if this lack of responsibility on the part of some dog owners is peculiarly Irish? The answer is a resounding “no”.

In Brussels, where I have worked for 20 years, the pavements are just as soiled. In fact, the political editor of Euronews recently took to Twitter to ask: “Is Brussels the most uncivilised city in Europe?”, declaring that “every pavement is seemingly covered in dog shit”. So much so that the Brussels district of Etterbeek last month started an “awareness-raising” action, with a brigade of eco-citizens spraying all dog poop in orange paint.

Judging by our local group chat in Greystones, most of the population is already “woke” to the issue. In fact, if we started spraying the mutt mess we’d have to change the name of the place.

As a dog lover and someone who aspires to have my own pooch someday (who will be from a dog pound and in need of a new human caretaker) I have just one message to all that persistent, inconsiderate minority of dog owners: shit doesn’t just happen.

Separated at birth? A St Patrick’s Day nod to our continental cousins

Dublin, February 2021.

By Francine Cunningham

On 17th March every year,  it seems like everyone in the world can find some trace of Irish ancestry, at least enough to raise a glass or two in honour of St Patrick. Yet if the roles were reversed, which nationality would Irish people identify with the most?  Could it be the Italians with their papal pageantry and matriarchal families, the Russians with their love of poetry and hard liquor, or the Viking blood of the independent-minded Norwegians?

In fact, I would argue that it is none of the above. The people that the Irish have most in common with are… the Belgians.

It’s a theory that first came to me when I was in Bruges, standing in front of a painting by the Flemish expressionist, Constant Permeke. There was something about the images of those farm labourers with their flat caps and big, brutally honest hands that resonated with me. They could have been figures from my childhood visits to Donegal.

Go back a few generations and both Ireland and Belgium were largely composed of a rural peasantry. Both are small countries with a history of being colonised by larger European nations.  Significantly, both countries continue to carry complexes from that time, sometimes unnecessarily lacking in confidence and too often overly concerned about what others think of them.

Both countries are steeped in Catholic traditions. In Ireland, the “wake” is a grand party to celebrate the life of the person who has just deceased, while in Belgium funerals are an equally important occasion. So much so that the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte was heard to remark that Belgian funerals are better than Dutch weddings.

Maybe it’s buried somewhere deep in the (post-)Catholic psyche that the citizens of both countries feel the need to turn to figures of authority to intervene on their behalf. In Ireland, politicians (TDs) hold constituency “clinics” where local people can come and ask for intervention to solve a particular problem, while in Belgium politicians offer a similar local service called “politiek dienstbetoon”.

Another fortunate characteristic of both countries is that widespread sinning can be followed by confessing.

Both countries struggle to accommodate the different senses of identity that exist within their borders, although Belgium’s community tensions between the Flemish and the francophones have thankfully not led to a major escalation of violence.

Both Ireland and Belgium are intensely introspective and self-critical, but at the same outward-looking, with well-travelled citizens. These citizens are also welcomed in most places since they are free from much of the baggage and bravado of larger lands.

It goes without saying that both Ireland and Belgium are known for their dismal and soggy climate. Maybe that is why my fellow countrymen need to warm up with Irish stew, while the Belgians have their slow-cooked “stoofvlees”. Of course, Ireland is the country of the potato and Belgium is the land of “frites”.

Both nationalities also share a great capacity for hard work and an equally impressive capacity for brown ale, whether stout or Trappist beer, either downed in a pub or a ‘brown café’.

Irish sporting hero and Tour de France star, Sam Bennett, who was actually born in Menen in deepest Flanders to Irish parents, famously took to the internet last year to protest when the Tour organisers put a Belgian flag against his number. He commented: “Ammm, did I miss something? I was fully sure I was Irish.”

Just maybe he protested too much.

Isn’t it time for the Irish to recognise their closest continental cousins? After all, there is more than one way to wear a green jersey.

Sunday papers and windscreen wipers

Greystones, January 2021

By Francine Cunningham

There is a strange Irish phenomenon that has only intensified in corona times. For some reason, Irish people like to drive to the coast, find a parking space just in front of the sea and…. sit in their cars.

No, they don’t drive there to have a walk at the seaside. They don’t drive there to join the cultish groups of “wild” swimmers with their full-length dry robes and flip flops. They definitely don’t join the “woo woo” crowd who like mediate on the beach at sunrise and break into the odd somersault out of an abundance of energy and vegan food. Nor do they show any evidence of having a dog that needs to be exercised.

Instead, they bring with them takeaway coffees and Sunday newspapers. Then they sit inside their vehicles, with the windows up,  looking up between sups and supplements to see the waves breaking on the shore. Sometimes their car radio is on and the windscreen wipers are still going.

It’s a practice that I’ve observed in the past, but it seems to happen even more frequently these days. Is it because the sea offers a sense of space and a feeling of calm that we all yearn for at the moment? Or is it because the winter weather puts off all but the most hardy from venturing out along the blustery Irish Sea?

Yet a recent report by a European Parliament think tank on “How coronavirus infected sport” noted that while the pandemic led to the almost total shutdown of competitions at all levels, the restrictions have only increased the appeal of outdoor activities. Moreover, with teleworking and social distancing a daily necessity, the act of walking from the bus, train or car to the office has turned into a distant memory.   It has therefore become essential for many people to find new ways of remaining physical active.

Nevertheless, this weekend will once again bring with it the sight of dozens of people lined up in parking spaces along the Irish coast, sitting in their cars. Is this not a great, lost opportunity? Even when the weather is wild, wet and windy, there is something uniquely energising about the sea air. So, maybe it’s time to wrap up, venture out of those SUVs or hatchbacks, and enjoy a bracing walk by the sea. You will certainly get a bit cold and damp, but you’ll head back to your car with wind-whipped cheeks and hair curling from excessive moisture, feeling alive.

Thank God for The Happy Pear

Greystones, January 2021

By Peter Vandermeersch

Every Saturday and Sunday for the last two months, this is my weekend prayer. The Happy Pear? Dutch and Belgian readers of this blog are already wondering what kind of religious sect I decided to join here in Ireland.  Irish readers probably think that I’ve turned vegan. They obviously know the twin brothers, David and Stephen Flynn, famous founders of The Happy Pear, which an appealing fresh food and vegetable store in Greystones, just outside Dublin. The hyperactive twins are the authors of multiple vegan cookbooks, owners of one of Ireland’s most followed social media accounts on Instagram. In fact they are adored high priests in the church of healthy food (“eat more fibre, buy less processed food”) and cheerful providers of crucial advice (“four tips to optimise your diet and libido”). Now that the Catholic church has lost its grip on this country, The Happy Pear doctrine seems to be almost a religion for many Irish people.
I didn’t know The Happy Pear until last month, when I moved from the centre of Dublin to Greystones, a picturesque seaside town in County Wicklow. Everybody here seems to be affluent, hearty and healthy. According to some locals, you shouldn’t be allowed to own a house here unless, at least three times a week, you take a plunge into the bloody cold Irish sea. (I mean: in winter three times a week, but in summer every day, of course). 
So I became a Happy Customer of The Happy Pear. Yet here’s the thing: I did not become a regular of The Happy Pear for their great tomatoes, sweet potatoes or organic onions. What I thank God every Saturday and Sunday for is…the bread.  The happy twins, I discovered, are the best bakers in this town. Every morning, they bake fresh baguettes and excellent sourdough. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is rare in this country.
I love bread. One of the great advantages of living in Paris in the first half of the Nineties was the number of boulangeries in the French capital. However, one doesn’t have to live in Paris to enjoy good bread. When I was living in Tervuren, a small town of about 25,000 people, 15 kilometres outside Brussels, I could walk to three wonderful bakeries with plenty of choice. Moving from Tervuren to Amsterdam in The Netherlands, I had less options. Dutch people buy their bread (or what they think is bread) in industrial supermarkets, not in local bakeries. 
Moving from Amsterdam to Dublin didn’t improve my bread menu at all. Irish people also appear to buy their bread in supermarkets, or in filling stations. Real fresh, daily bakers are a rarity. So when I decided to move from Dublin to Greystones, with about 20,000 inhabitants, I expected the worst. Until, that is, I discovered The Happy Pear.
I have my own peculiar bread theory: the better the bread, the more interesting the culture. France and Belgium score high on my list. The Netherlands and Ireland have a problem. Greystones was almost a wasteland. Until I discovered the little bakery in The Happy Pear store.
By the way: The Happy Pear is also the kind of shop where they will ask immediately where your accent comes from and if you liked the sourdough loaf you bought last week. Real bread and authentic Irishness. Thank God!

She talked to Rainbows

Phoenix Park, 2020.By

By Francine Cunningham

She was simply the prettiest and wittiest creature I had ever seen. With her blonde ponytail, tutu skirt and Doc Martens. It was Dublin in the late Eighties, and it was the first time that I met Barbara. If I was quiet and bookish, she was vivacious and out-going. Where I would give a wry smile, she would bring the house down with raucous laughter. If I was shy, she was a party animal. Or at least seemed to be back then.

Maybe if we had met decades later, we would have found little in common. But at that moment in time our paths crossed. We became friends for life. 

Shortly after meeting we would share a house together with our late, creative and kooky friend Louise. Our soundtrack showed the diversity of our interests – from Leonard Cohen to Dolly Parton, and from Irish bands The Stunning and The Dixons to The Golden Horde. A constant stream of ‘musos’ would pass through our doors. As our landlady, who sat at the top of the stairs on patrol, would remark: “Some had no hair and some had hair down to their backsides.”

Our lives evolved in different directions. Barbara settled down happily with one of those long-haired musos in Dublin and revealed another side of herself. She became a wife and doting mother, perfecting her recipes for healthy, homecooked meals, growing her own vegetables and loving cosy evenings at home with her boys.

Meanwhile, I followed a career in journalism, public affairs and law to Paris, New York and Brussels.  Yet, as the decades flew past, whenever I came back to Dublin, I would catch up with Barbara for “dins” or a cup of tay and “a natter”. While she may have looked like the quintessential dizzy blonde, Barbara could be thoughtful and insightful. She had a kind of common sense that is quite uncommon.  

Then there was that razor-sharp Dublin humour I missed so much when I was abroad. It only took one well-turned phrase or pithy put-down and I was projected right back home. 

Barbara was always late to our get togethers. Very late. I was so used to it that I often gave her an appointment time half an hour earlier than I intended to be there. Even then I would have to wait. She joked that she would be late for her own funeral. But she wasn’t. She was much too early. Decades early.

When life finally brought me back to Ireland earlier this year, we got little time to spend together. Barbara was going through months of chemo (in the middle of lockdown), with her usual positivity, but went down quickly and died just before Christmas.

Covid restrictions robbed her of the big send-off she so richly deserved. Instead a small group of old friends and family gathered together in a windswept Dublin cemetery to remember “Babs”.  Friends and neighbours spoke beautifully and made us laugh and cry. Members of our old circle, some of whom I had not seen for decades, were present. They were older, with salt ‘n’ pepper hair and a few laughter lines, but recognisably themselves. Only more so. 

Her funeral service ended fittingly with “She Talks to Rainbows” from The Ramones. We promised that a year from now we’ll have a party to celebrate Barbara. The only person I know who could wear glitter with grace and a feather boa with aplomb. A flamingo among pigeons.

Time to lighten up about Oirish accents

Dublin, November 2020.

By Francine Cunningham

C’mere till I tell ye. If there’s one thing that the Irish like more than giving out about the British claiming any of their own who becomes a star (note to all UK eds:  Saorise Ronan is not English), it’s getting all indignant about actors putting on phoney Oirish accents.

So, everyone in Ireland is absolutely gagging to see the film premiere of “Wild Mountain Thyme” by American director John Patrick Shanley. A romance of star-crossed farmers set in rural Ireland, it stars British actress Emily Blunt, complete with red wig, shawl and hobnail boots. If the trailer is anything to go by, she’s no Maureen O’Hara in “The Quiet Man”. In fact, she’s a tad less convincing than the veteran American actor, Christopher Walken, who plays the aul’ fella who won’t give up his farm to his lovelorn son, played by Northern Irish (“Fifty Shades”) actor, Jamie Dornan.

But before you can say, “I’ll fight ya for it,” there is an illustrious group of actors vying for the Paddywackery prize for worst Irish accent. Notable contestants include Tom Cruise as a bare-knuckle fighter in “Far and Away”, Julia Roberts as the local love interest in “Michael Collins” and Sean Connery as the Irish copper in the otherwise glorious, “The Untouchables”.

A special “Go way outta that!” award must go to Connery’s fellow Scott, Gerard Butler, for his portrayal as a hunky culchie in “P.S. I Love You”. Maybe it’s the closeness of the Irish and Scottish accents that leads to such a hilarious mash up.

Aw, sure look it. There are a couple of notable exceptions. While Brad Pitt may have played an impossibly pretty IRA man on the run in “The Devil’s Own”, you couldn’t shake a stick at his accent. What’s more, his star turn as an Irish traveller in Snatch was the best accent we’ve heard in donkeys’ years.

In real life, I’ve also had the strange experience of people doubting my Irish credentials as soon as I open my mouth. No doubt my Nordie accent has been diluted during my twenty years spent abroad in France, Belgium and the U.S. Yet I am always taken aback when Irish people, after hearing my accent, suggest that I’m not really Irish, or imply that I must have “notions” about myself.

Does having something less than a 100 per cent mainstream Irish accent really merit this level of suspicion? Is questioning someone’s nationality on the basis of their accent merely a more socially acceptable form of profiling? If so, I’m definitely failing the Oirish test these days.

Maybe that’s why I, for one, will be wearing the green for the premiere of “Wild Mountain Thyme”. I’m looking forward to being as appalled and enthralled as the French over the Netflix series, “Emily in Paris,” which depicted Parisians as rude, lazy, chain-smokers with baguettes under their arms.

Isn’t it time that we all lightened up a bit about accents? Shouldn’t we, in any case, suspend disbelief the moment we turn on the silver screens? To be sure, it’ll be fine entertainment. Specially with the dose that’s goin’ round.

%d bloggers like this: