Thursday, April 11, 2013

Multicultural Ulster - introduction

Left: Detail from the Census of Ireland form, 1911.

What if everything you know is wrong? What if the stereotype of 'two tribes' in a state of constant antagonism in Ulster/Ireland is not true? What if it is in fact a relatively recent invention - and what if the actual story of Ulster / Ireland is of a truly multicultural place with thousands of years of comings and goings of different peoples and influences?

It has been said that there is no such thing as Irish history, just Irish mythology. The Census form here shows that 100 years ago efforts were made to avoid 'vague' terminology. Sadly this wisdom has not applied for the past few generations. People have been told that there are just two groups and that they belong to one or the other and never the twain shall meet or have met. But how would this place change for the better if everyone who has been fed that stereotype throughout their lives - and who as a result is boxed in to one of those 'two tribes' - had grown up understanding a bigger, broader and more accurate story?

Maybe rushing back to a selective interpretation of the 17th century, seeking justification to hate your neighbour, (as so many people ultimately seem to do) is a very unhealthy pastime and a very bad idea.

Over a series of posts to follow I am going to attempt to map out a complex, hopefully interesting, Alternative Ulster. The next post will begin with a family trip we made to Newgrange in the Boyne Valley in 2009 - a 5000 year old structure which is older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids...