The death of Hollywood Ireland

by Jasper Hutson 

In the days following my arrival in Ireland from America, I’ve learned a few things; driving on the left side of the road is terrifying, food tastes better when you’re on holiday, and I don’t love the rain as much as I thought I did.

But mostly, I’ve learned that the image of Ireland that Americans conjure does not exist, and may never have. Things have changed since the filming of The Quiet Man, but that might not have been real even then.

There are two conflicting portraits of Ireland that are painted by the Hollywood-influenced consciousness; the peaceful and idyllic country full of simple villages, and the war-torn ‘old country’. My entire vision of the country was colored by these contradictory portrayals. While it was not surprising to find that one of these versions was wrong, actually it was expected, but I found that both were completely wrong.

On the first matter, the country has modernized considerably. In the words of Irish author John McGahern: “Ireland is a peculiar society, in the sense that it was a nineteenth century society to about 1970 and then it almost bypassed the twentieth century.” So, while the Hollywood portrayal of Ireland as a country stuck in the past may at one time have been accurate, it certainly no longer is.

However, there are several family farms. But the fact that there are still farming communities merely indicates a lack of corporatization of agriculture and not an absence of technological advancement.


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There is also a substantial influx of foreign influence and investment. GE is building a biomedical plant near Cork, a move estimated to make over 500 new jobs. Chinese and other investors are pouring in, buying stakes in companies and property. There are vast amounts of immigrants from all over the EU and beyond. All of the interest has evolved Ireland into something of a small melting pot, especially larger cities like Dublin and Limerick.

All of these factors and many more have changed Ireland from a quaint and homogeneous little island nation into a rapidly changing organism.

On the other hand, though, there is the other side of paradoxical coin. Hollywood tells us that Ireland is at constant civil war, fighting itself to death. Does this Hyde live while the Jekyll dies?

First, a bit of history. Until the Good Friday Accords in 1998, Ireland was constantly being destabilized by a war between partisan groups. One of those groups, the IRA, demanded that Ireland and Northern Ireland (which was and is under British rule) be united into a single island state. The North, however, is populated mostly by Protestants, who feel more of a cultural tie with Britain than Ireland. So some Protestants took it upon themselves to defend the United Kingdom.

Needless to say, things stayed pretty intense between these various parties. Car bombings, shootings, and other acts of violence became common place, particularly in the contested areas of the North. This era became known as ‘The Troubles’. *

Meanwhile, Americans became enamored with the idea of a fight just on the other side of the Atlantic. As people are wont to do, they romanticized the conflict, ignoring the horrors.

Some believe the struggle to continue. They imagine a country filled with resentment to the other side and constant suspicion.

However, that mostly ended with the aforementioned accords and a slow disarmament. While the tension has not disappeared, it has lessened drastically. In fact, free movement between the North and the Republic is now possible, to the point where I have lost track which country I’m in; an advertisement with a £ instead of a Û being my only hint.

Of course, nothing is every truly over. There are still many people who hope to see a united Ireland. However, most of these are now organized into political groups instead of paramilitary ones. Granted, those still exist, but they are much smaller now and mainly operate in Belfast and Dublin.

So that’s it. The fantasy is cleared, showing a modern, cosmopolitan and complex country in place of the hazy outline that existed before. Of course, I’ve only been here a couple of weeks, so my view will continue to change and grow. Maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe The Quiet Man was practically a documentary? But I don’t think so.

*Please note that this is just a quick summary of the basic players in the conflict. It is not to be taken as a complete sequence of events. There are several historical reasons for the conflict, going back to the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 1100s. Any attempt to understand modern Ireland should take into account all the major events in the island’s history, which could not be provided in this short article.

Honest ramblings on the Republic of Ireland

by Lois Linkens 

When you cross the border from Northern Ireland into the Republic, it’s surprisingly clear that you are in a separate country. Road signs look different, each paired with its own Gaelic translation, just to remind you that you are in fact in Ireland, despite the fact that nobody speaks Gaelic anymore. The accents are stronger, the houses are fancier and a trip to Ireland is not complete without mistakenly using your Great British pounds instead of the Euro.

Nevertheless, the countryside is breathtakingly beautiful. I took a trip to County Kerry, which is situated in the South West of Ireland. There were twelve of us on the trip, so we stayed in a big country house which had everything you might need – except enough towels for everyone and a working toaster – but it did overlook miles (sorry, kilometres) of fields, mountains and farmland. I quickly became accustomed to the friendly wake up call from the cows in the neighbouring field.

The closest town was Killarney, which has always been a popular tourist destination as the start of the Ring of Kerry, a scenic drive of 179 kilometres along the coast. However, since December 2015, it has become particularly well frequented with Star Wars fans, as the final scene in the new film, The Force Awakens, was filmed on Skellig Michael Island, which can be seen clearly from the Ring of Kerry.

Killarney is also home to a magnificent National Park, which was the first ever created in Ireland. Here visitors can get a boat trip across the Lakes of Killarney, stopping off at a small island called Innisfallen, where there are ruins of a monastery from the early Middle Ages.

There are also jaunting carts, or horse-driven carts, which take visitors on a tour of the park. Our driver had a particularly strong accent and spoke incredibly fast. Myself and my very English mother and sister had a little trouble understanding what he was saying at times. His response to this was: ‘if I’m talking to fast, listen quicker.’ He also commented that he was ‘looking for a wife,’ and ‘any man’s wife will do.’ Delightful.

However, the tour was very interesting and gave us the opportunity to see some brilliant views, although we probably could have seen these same views on foot if only we weren’t so lazy.

The National Park is also home to the Torc Waterfall, which you can reach by climbing an almost unnecessarily steep flight of steps. Needless to say, I was glad to reach the top, but was the view worth the sweaty red face, painful cramp and aching limbs? That’s for you to decide.

There are also some very beautiful beaches in County Kerry. Inch Beach (I know, who thinks of these names?) was my personal favourite. Swimming in the sea is truly magical, as you are surrounded by the mountains, dotted with cottages. It’s so far from the city, from the noise of the traffic that it’s quite surreal to swim there. Honestly, it’s reassuring to know that these places still exist, and not everywhere has been overtaken by housing developments or motorways.

Another stunning beach was Rossbeigh, which would definitely be a great beach for families with children, as the sand dunes are perfect for sliding down on a body board (you know, if you’re into that.)

All in all, Ireland is truly beautiful. If you know where you’re going, it’s totally worth a visit. If you don’t know where you’re going, go anyway.