You’ve probably heard the line attributed to Freud about the Irish being the only race impervious to psychoanalysis. It’s fun to think he might have said it but the origin of the quotation has never been established.
So there is nothing to stop my attempt at analysing the national character in my new book, The Naked Irish: Portrait of a Nation Beyond the Clichés, published in September 2019 by Dublin-based Mentor Books under their imprint Red Stag.
A lot of clichés have crystallised about the Irish, many benign and patronising but some more negative. All of them cry out to be challenged. As always, the real story is much more complex and more interesting than the simplified messages fed to tourists and investors.
Are the Irish a nation of emigrants if we have the second highest foreign-born population in Europe? Are we Catholic if attendance at Mass is as low as two percent in some parishes? Do we really hate the English and want a united Ireland? Is the oppression of women in our DNA? Are the Irish really friendly or just faking it? And should we be proud of the Irish economy?
Every generation thinks they are the generation of change. And it’s true. I feel the particular change I’ve witnessed in my lifetime has been a process of freeing Irish minds. But, while we enjoy our new-found freedom, it is so important not to forget where we have come from.
I find the Irish story endlessly fascinating. The Naked Irish is a broad canvas, drawing on culture, history, politics and economics, as well as personal reportage and memoir, to interpret that change.
If you’re in a bookshop, check out the index. It’s all there, from the Penal Laws to the Magdalene Laundries to the Troika.
The Irish do not have the burden of thinking of themselves as a ‘great nation’ which means we have never had trouble acknowledging our faults. Until very recently, there was a fog of violence and dysfunction hanging over the state. This did not clear naturally but through great pains taken by brave individuals. Another thing we should remember.
The book introduces diverse voices, from the young priest to the African immigrant to the veteran campaigner for women’s rights. Take tea in Belfast with ordinary unionists, visit Transition Year in Ballyjamesduff, read a poem about identity by a second-generation Irishman in Britain.
For podcast fans, check out this in-depth interview on the Motherfoclóir podcast with Darach ó Séaghdha. An author and Irish language activist, Darach is a relaxed and skilful interviewer and the time flew by as we discussed everything from the dubious origins of our national stereotypes to language learning to Swiss referendum fatigue.
With so many books coming out every week, even in a small market like Ireland, The Naked Irish needs as much support as possible to get some momentum going. Online customer reviews are hugely important. If you do read the book and enjoy it, don’t forget to rate it somewhere and write a review, even if it’s just one line. You’ll find the book listed on these links on Goodreads and Amazon.