Mark Lawson wonders if English people tend to be jealous of other cultures, such as claiming people to be English when in fact they were Irish.
The English have long suffered from propriety towards the Irish. From either colonial nostalgia – or jealousy of the literary instinct and social ease which seems to run in Dublin water – we have always tended towards a bit of patriotic shoplifting when an Emerald celebrity appears in the window.
Most of us will remember English lessons – and numerous mentions in the press – in which Oscar Wilde became an “English wit” and Samuel Beckett “Anglo-French”. Seamus Heaney, born in Northern Ireland but naturalised to the south, has observed that he curiously became a “British poet” at the moment he won the Nobel Prize.
You can go further and observe that the English establishment, though nominally Protestant, has tended to have more cultural affinity with the citizens of Catholic Ireland than with those of Ulster. Those articles which have described Wilde, Beckett, Heaney and Geldof as “British” are not just misprints but Freudian slips.