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.

Published by irelandbyaccident

An incoming foreigner and a returning expat share their notes on Ireland

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