Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Importance Of Being Nicky Larkin.

The anti-Israel hysteria that has lately entrenched itself in Ireland - which may be waning at last, but which last year the bold Jesuit sociologist Micheál MacGréil demonstrated to be directly linked to an alarming rise in grotesque and unadulterated antisemitism - is the subject of an important essay in Sunday's Irish Independent by the Irish artist and film-maker Nicky Larkin.

I have an essay on the subject with some useful background context just now posted over at the Propagandist. Do please read it.

There are a number of reasons why I find all of this especially disturbing. It's a family thing, for starters. My mother has a deeply personal stake in this sort of thing and my late father would have his particular reasons for being pleased with Larkin's bravery and pluck; dad having been an Irish republican of distinctly anti-fascist tendency whose youthful underground mischief involved mainly bringing as much calamity upon the Blueshirts as he could manage.

Dad took great pride in pointing out that the Liberator Daniel O'Connell saw to it that Judaism was included in the Catholic emancipation law of the 1850s, in the final repeal of the Penal Laws. In family memory there were Jewish merchants fondly recollected for their selfless kindnesses during the famine time. There was great shame in the knowledge that Sinn Fein founder Arthur Griffith was an unapologetic antisemite, but pride in the Land Leaguer Michael Davitt who was ever alert to the poisons of antisemitism and was an historian and authority on the persecution of Russia's Jews.

To be a Cork republican back in the day was to claim entitlement to boast that the small Lithuanian Jewish settlement that fled the "Limerick pogrom" in the first years of the 20th century was welcomed with open arms and taken into the homes of Cork people. The Limerick incidents were whipped up by a creepy Redemptorist demagogue who was always banging on about Freemasons as well.

Most everyone regarded the affair as shameful and scandalous; the vexatious windbag of a priest was banished from Ireland and one of the Limerick children (Gerry Goldberg) was eventually elected mayor of Cork. Until the Limerick incident the Irish could (and did) claim that Ireland was the only country in Europe without a history of antisemitic violence.

The Irish Jews are a small but ancient minority that did fairly well for themselves without raising armies and stealing people's land and outlawing the locals' religion like a certain other shall we say immigrant community I could mention (can we keep a sense of humour please?). The people of Youghal in Rebel Cork were electing Jewish mayors (from a community that had fled pogroms in Portugal) in the 1500s. And the Briscoes of Dublin, father and son, were mayors of that city. There's a story that Briscoe Senior was sometimes asked by his supporters: Been meaning to ask, are ye a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew? I suspect it's made up but I get a laugh out of it anyway.

Here's a fine little story.


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