Very Well, We Contain Multitudes

The Irish Times has a leader article on ‘Our diverse population‘ today.  It notes:

The Government’s task is to ensure that those who have made Ireland their home have the opportunity to realise their potential, while averting the sort of nativist backlash that other European countries have seen.

I wonder. When was the last time you read a report or opinion piece in the Irish Times or the Irish Independent where the ‘we’ appeared to automatically include both Irish people and immigrants? Not as in ‘both of us’, which treats Irish people and immigrants as two distinct groups, but as in ‘we ourselves’, so to speak.

Another way of writing the above sentence would be:

The Government’s task is to ensure that those of us who have made Ireland our home have the opportunity to realise their potential, while averting the sort of nativist backlash that other European countries have seen.

See the difference?

My own impression is that Irish newspapers are written based on an assumption that the person reading is not an immigrant, even though 10% or so of the population is immigrant. For example, when Brian Cowen was appointed Taoiseach, there was much made of the fact that he was from Offaly, but there was no explanation as to why this fact mattered. The assumption was that everyone already knew the meaning of being from Offaly. Well they don’t. In the Irish Times, there is a long-running feature called ‘An Irishman’s Diary’. But why not just ‘Diary’ like some other newspapers? Is there something particularly interesting about the point of view of ‘an Irishman’? I think not.

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8 Responses to “Very Well, We Contain Multitudes”


  1. 1 David July 1, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    You’ve just explained my previously confusing disappointment on reading the Irishman’s Diary – I was always expecting it to reveal a keen insight into the ‘Irishman’ (and feared it would undermine my own Irishness if I couldn’t identify with it), and was always saddened to find it revealed no more about ‘Irishness’ than the TV3 weather.

  2. 2 John July 2, 2008 at 8:35 am

    So you would have the Irish Times painstakingly explain what “being from Offaly” means? It’s up to the immigrants to learn about these things (if they even care — and i don’t see why they should!)

  3. 3 Hugh Green July 2, 2008 at 9:23 am

    No, I wouldn’t. The point is that a lot of what passes for news is directed at a particular community, based on the assumption that others are not interested or need not be informed. You can say that ‘it’s up to the immigrants’ to make the effort to find out about these things, and that’s certainly true, but real integration is a two-way street.

  4. 4 Bock the Robber July 2, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    You might also look into the reasons why RTE thinks it’s broadcasting exclusively to Dublin.

  5. 5 Hugh Green July 2, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I’d imagine they’re pretty much the same reasons.

  6. 6 Hugh Green July 2, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    By the way, you might be delighted to know that your site, unlike 99.99% of blogs, is blocked at my place of work.

  7. 7 copernicus July 4, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Well, that’s a piece of software that knows what it’s doing.


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