Plastic Paddies

You're not Irish, you'll never be Irish. The idea stings some of us in the diaspora, but for me, I respect the assertion of native rights by Ireland-born people. I wish only the assertion was made in Irish, and not so often by Irish people that don't know the first thing about our common heritage, but that's the post-colonial condition. Nativism is sometimes healthy among smaller populations, otherwise the rights of self-determination and institutional freedom from more numerous and powerful foreign exploitators, or from unfair demographic shift, has no basis.

TG4.tv produces documentaries like Plastic Paddies that educate, entertain and deepen our collective identity as inheritors of ancestral traditions, heritage and that common story of our similar experiences. If you want to be "more" Irish, TG4 is the place to grapple with the issues involved.

Plastic Paddies on TG4 (in the Faisnéise Cartlann/archive) is a short half hour story about the children and grandchildren of the Irish who left Ireland for Britain, and raised them in Irish communities like those found in Manchester, Liverpool and London. According to some surveys, more than 25% of those living in Britain can claim an Irish passport, as I have done and many like me through our parents' nativity. It's a right placed in the Búnreacht so to recognize the truth of the Irish condition, which is diasporic.

Plastic Paddy is also a pejorative term used to distance native Irish from the hyphenated Irish- in the diaspora, but it's also used by the more assimilated diasporic Irish who are trying to distance themselves from Irish working class neighborhoods in places like Boston, Birmingham or New York, where Irishness often takes tentative form in green plastic products, such as are bestrewn across this city every March.

In some ways, native Irish can be more Plastic Paddy than the Plastic Paddys ourselves. TG4 might consider doing a documentary about the mid-Atlantic accent, and the sometimes cringe-worthy American pop product that Irish people often think more sophisticated than what is produced among their own inward-looking Irish culturistas. Provincialism is being a province of the Anglophonic world.

The shame of Plastic Paddyism is rooted in shame Irish people often seem to feel about our traditions and their place in the world. It's why the language is hated by some of the natives. It's why the music is mocked by some of the natives. And if it were not for the diaspora, it's unclear what the natives would have done with our common Irish dúchais.

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