No Offence

I found this on the internet and liked it….Offence seems to be an obligation…a natural response to someone else. When we see things that we do not like, we feel we have no choice but to become upset and express it adamantly. Like most things, however, offence is really an issue of the self. It has nothing to do with the person who is offending you and everything to do with you.


122So what is my crime that has offended some on Twitter? Two posts ago, I wrote this: ‘Have we become Irish? I ask because there is such a hilariously contradictory mood around that it could be St Patrick’s Day.’ (In reference to Yes movement joy and SNP re-birth after referendum defeat).

This is taken to be anti-Irish by some readers and a stereotype. Seriously.

They claim it is anti-Irish to describe the mood and behaviour on St Pat’s as hilariously contradictory. What? Grown men in leprechaun hats? Presenting to the world an image of a modern European state as a demented, raucous, day-long party? With drink. Dancing in the streets, wearing cartoon green outfits and having a bloody good laugh? How would you describe that?


In my personal experience the Irish people enjoy mixing their identity as a go-ahead country with the ironic pastiche of Ould Ireland – Guinness, the Green and all – and love the idea of being party people…and, yes, of being (once a year) drunks. Who tells most Irish jokes…the Irish. Who makes a point of parodying the stereotype of the cantankerous peasant who turns out not to be as daft as he lets on and who constantly points out how the rules of life are more liberally applied in Ireland? That’s right, the Irish. It’s why we love them, isn’t it?


Of course it’s a stereotype. You can’t have a conversation, let alone write, without versions of stereotype. There is a current controversy about (Irish-connected) Celtic Football Club not paying the living wage. This is mostly a Celtic story because it has branded itself as a charity-minded organization, proud of helping those in need. (Which is true). That view of the club – ‘charity is in our DNA’ – is a stereotype accepted by all, which is why their policy against the living wage is news.

Scottish opinion about uncaring (evil) Tories is a stereotype – I know Tory voters who aren’t arrogant self-seekers (but not many).


You can only be anti-Irish if that’s your intention. And mine isn’t. On the contrary, I have no ‘West of Scotland bias’, no anti-Catholic nonsense, no wish to demean. All my experience of Ireland both the country and its representatives in Europe, has been totally positive and my time in the North is the most deeply moving experience of my professional life.

In fact, I took offence at the offended. Who do these self-selecting thought police think they are? Who and what do they imagine they are sticking up for? And if you do take umbrage, as I do at stuff I read, isn’t the first obligation to explain what it is that gives offence, because I am truly puzzled what I could have written differently while conveying the point – that party-going, foot-stomping, burgeoning Yes is having a ball against all expectations and has thrown off its inhibitions in wild abandon. It feels liked St Patrick’s Day.

Perhaps the arbitors of Irish pride would rather we didn’t mention her at all and leave it to them as the font of all knowledge. What a bloody awful party that would be…


(My favourite St Pat’s Day story is true. It has two stereotypes, one Irish and one Scottish. I went into my local in East Lothian which was decked with shamrocks, harps and shillelaghs with accordion music blaring and some folk in green outfits dancing. Pints of Guinness were being carried head-high through the crowd and at the bar I spotted Jock. I pushed through the merry throng as they sang the Fields of Athenry. He looked downcast amidst the singing, laughing mob and I asked why. He had to shout in my ear above the din. ‘I’m a bit low. My old dad died this morning…’ He shook his head sadly. But the thing is – it was only a pound a pint. A deal not to be missed by any Scotsman.



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17 thoughts on “No Offence

  1. I read your piece which has, apparently, caused offence. As a Scot, via Co Down, I could find nothing remotely worthy of criticism on the grounds of being anti-Irish. And, by the way, could you tell if it was Scots complaining on behalf of Irish people? If so they are silly.

  2. I’m afraid I misread your post, Derek. I interpreted your phrase, ‘hilariously contradictory’ only in terms of the funny paradox that is the exuberance of those who have lost the referendum. The Irish reference I took to relate to the festivities of St Patrick’s day.

    I now realise that I have to be outraged at your temerity in suggesting that Irish people may ironically celebrate a festival by playing to the caricatures of themselves.

    After all it is not as if we sober, rational Scots would ever try to imitate such joyous confidence in our own identity on January 25th, November 30th, December 31st, or at various sporting events throughout the year.

  3. Another true story. I used to be a regular attendee at the Irish Harp Festival in Termonfeckan, Co. Louth. Recently I bumped into an Irish girl in Spain, and told her about this. She giggled. “We call it Feckantermon” she said.

  4. Where do these stereotypes originate and propagate? It’s easier to subjugate and ultimately kill off a people if they themselves are constantly ridiculed and made to feel less than, it’s the imperialist way. So I’m with the complainants. Hang on a second while I consult Twitter. Someone must resign! 🙂

  5. Having been born into an Irish family we have all ways enjoyed a bit of banter and not to take life too seriously .By the same token my father once said to me ( if you want to find a daft Irishman in Ireland
    you had better take one in with you .

  6. ronald alexander mcdonald

    Well said Derek.

    One of my grandmothers was Irish. On 19th september I seriously thought about claiming Irish nationality. Such was my embarrassment and disgust.

  7. Dear Derek,

    I’m Irish born and raised and I am bristling with unbridled indignation here in front of my screen. It is not your previous post that has caused my hackles to rise like the spines of a hedgehog but this one.

    What has driven this normally placid Irish woman to her keyboard instead of the usual lurking?

    St. Patty’s Day!!

    Yes, that photograph that is obviously from the land of those and such as those that can’t tell the difference between a burger and a pint of the black stuff. You have driven me further into the arms of the demon drink.

    I hope you are satisfied.

    Yours affectionately

    Gobnait O’Lúnasa

  8. This Irish born Scot was not offended, and neither would one of my favourite comedians Dave Alan be either!

    • One of my favourite comedians too, thanks for the reminder David 🙂

    • Dave Allen – who might well have been only half as sucessfull were it not for his favourite subject and most regular target, the Irish Catholic Church, which took far less offence at Dave than Dave took at the Church.
      I’m sure the Westminster Political Establishment have taken note of the pasting the Irish Church has taken over the vile practices of child abuse at the hands of some religious and clergy, and, wishing to avoid the same attention over the Westminster paedophilia network, are currently working very hard indeed to make the matter very difficult to investigate if not to disappear completely.
      Just like the VOWS. There’s irony for you.

    • Dave Allen also gave us the best collective noun ever: a mass of priests.

  9. Another remark I heard from an Irishman – ” Why did God invent the demon drink? To stop the Irish taking over the world!”

  10. Apologies for going O/T, but people need to see this.

    Words fail.

  11. #smithdecommission

  12. “it was only a pound a pint” hahahaha.As a Guinness swilling,Celtic supporting-of Irish ancestry of course-Scotsman I understand that guy well.I’m sure his dad wouldnt have wanted him to miss out on such a great deal.Seriously,far too much is made of offence in our unfortunately touchy culture.Yes,there are serious matters of offence but all too often this term is used as an excuse for illiberal laws and generalised demonising of those the authorities currently dislike.Offensive behaviour at football?(you knew I would mention it)ohh boy.Footie is,after all,an agonistic occasion.What should we do?Sit around chanting “we dont like you but we hope you dont mind and,if you do,we apologise”?Interestingly,most of the complaints of “offence” brought against fans because of this Law are by…………….the Police.Quelle surprise!More power to your elbow Derek and if anyone really wants to get offended there is always the Smith Commission.

  13. Sad to see a victhim moaning about the OBAF law. maybe if you and your Glasgow twin stopped with the racism and terrorist supporting chants, smashing up seats,attacking stewards and throwing coins at ball-boys then you’ll deserve to be treated like humans.

    Until then rot in prison where you belong.

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