It’s awards season, the time of year when distinguished Irish passport holders become honorary Brits just for the time it takes between their nomination and holding the little gold statue.
It keeps happening year after year, too. An Irish person gets nominated for a top award and hey presto, through some arcane diplomatic channel known only to London, they will find themselves listed as British alongside UK talent by the British media.
That’s what happened this week when Sky News reporter Richard Suchet called Saoirse Ronan “one of our own” when she received a BAFTA nomination for her performance in Brooklyn.
Suchet’s absurd claim led to howls of protest on Twitter, which saw him sourly respond: “She’s from the British Isles & whether you like it or not, Brits will be willing her to win. Glad you got an article out of it tho.”
She’s not, in fact from the British Isles, whether you like it or not. She was born in the Bronx and raised in County Carlow. Both of her parents are Irish. Work it out in your own time.
Read more: Irish miss out at Golden Globe as Leonardo DiCaprio is big winner
Suchet was nonplussed: “Many Brits will still see her as one of their own. It’s a consequence of geography. A compliment I’d say,” he tweeted.
What an insulting thing to write. Being stripped of your nationality is now a compliment? Are we supposed to applaud that her Irish (and US) citizenship have been overlooked so she can avail of the magical moniker British?
Clearly Suchet doesn’t grasp quite what an entitled oaf he’s just been. In fact he just underlined what’s really happening with this national bait and switch ploy - you’re British if you win, otherwise you’re Irish.
It’s worth noting that Saoirse is the Irish word for freedom. Historically it has often been used in a context that implies freedom from British interference in Irish affairs. Irony much, Mr. Suchet?
On Saoirse, I apologise. It came out wrong. I know the UK can't claim her, of course. But the British would love to see her win for Ireland.— Richard Suchet (@SkySuchet) January 10, 2016
For his further information, no one in Ireland has used the term ‘British Isles’ since the era of jodhpurs and Mahatma Gandhi. Mr. Suchet really might want to attend a refresher course on jingoism.
It’s not just the Irish actors, by the way. Irish sports stars, pop stars, artists and writers have all found themselves being purloined by the you’re British if you win crowd. One of our Nobel Laureates, Seamus Heaney, famously lampooned his “complimentary” inclusion in The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry in "An Open Letter" like this:
Be advised my passport's green.
No glass of ours was ever raised to toast the Queen.
In December the London Film Critics Circle (LFCC) nominated Ronan, Michael Fassbender and Colin Farrell (among others) in their “British” categories. After the instant protests the LFCC reluctantly relabeled those categories as “British and Irish.” That needs to happen here too.
Meanwhile "Brooklyn," Ronan’s critically acclaimed new film, has received six nominations from Bafta. If she and Irish people deservedly win some awards on the night it’s to be hoped that organizers will have learned by then where they’re actually from.
Read more: Saoirse Ronan on her shining role in “Brooklyn” and new role on Broadway (VIDEOS)