The Irish: a nation of many identities

In the build-up to St Patrick’s Day on Monday we take a look at how Irish people come in all shapes and sizes

When people think of Ireland they think red hair, freckles and pasty white skin – disregard the face, it’s the legs that never lie. Phil Lynott and Paul McGrath aside, an Irish person will usually have one of the above, and if they haven't, you can bet your bottom dollar their ancestors were a bit too welcoming to a member of the Spanish Armanda or one of Cromwell’s soldiers.

Despite their looks, the Irish have always been a confident, talkative bunch. The number one topic of conversation for centuries has been and always will be the weather. Every known conversation between two Irish people has begun with a quick chat about it: when it’s raining (this happens a lot), it’s ‘too bleedin' wet’; and when the sun has the audacity to show its face, then ‘it’s too bleedin' hot’. 

With the weather out of the way, it’s on to their next national pastime, storytelling. This has always ranked high in Irish culture, and for a foreigner trying to decipher the truth in a tale – usually the more far-fetched the story the better it goes down – the following formula can be used: reverse the story, chop it in half, add a pinch of salt, and then, and only then, believe 50 percent of it. Easy.

Obviously drink also plays no small part in the Irish make-up. Used to celebrate any occasion possible (deaths, births, marriages, divorces, new jobs, new houses, new shoes), it is deemed by some as the lubricant that keeps the country ticking over, and by others as the ‘curse of the nation’. The former does its best to shun the latter.

But while they may have many common bonds, there are also some very distinct characteristics that make each place in Ireland unique.

Read on to find out…


The Northside

Poster boy: Bono

Lingo: Wha ar u lukin at? (What are you looking at?)

The tough side of Dublin, for many years it has fought against the reputation of unemployment, violence and glue sniffing, and David Hogersen from the Irish Rover, was a keen participant in all three. Armed with a sovereign ring, a sharp wit and a Kappa tracksuit, Dave is a poster boy for the area, which he claims 'took a knock when we found out the people of Ethiopia were holding a rock concert on our behalf’. Northsiders are honest, hard working people with a sense of community and a legendary sense of humour. In Dublin you can always find one on Hill 16 at Croke Park supporting the ‘Bois in bluu’, swigging from flagons on any patch of green, and if you want to catch a glimpse of a real one here, drop by the Rover and chat to (bring your dictionary though) David.







The Southside

Poster boy: Colin Farrell

Lingo (to Northsider): ‘Hey skanger, get that syringe out of my face’

Considerably better looking than their Northside counterparts, Southsiders strut around with an arrogance that would make the Romans looks humble. Hailing from areas like Blackrock, Donnybrook or Tallaght, their mecca is Lansdowne Road, their ale of choice is Heineken. The men dress in loafers, brown cords and customary scarf, while the women provoke extreme irritability – think  Robbie Savage and Denis Wise’s lovechild. Not content with having the best schools at their disposal they feel the need to live off dad’s money while contributing little worthwhile to society themselves. Big Phil of the Globe Irish bar, himself a proud Southsider, sets the record straight when he insists he comes from  the ‘good side’ of Dublin, where we ‘don't wear shiny tracksuits and go around mugging grannies’. A few ‘Heinos’ later he goes on to confide in me that his proudest moment was getting a Brian O'Driscoll tattoo on his back.  







Poster boy: Roy Keane

Lingo: Yu langer yu (You're a Penis)

Sports mad: tick. Beautiful countryside: tick. Bitter and twisted: tick. Capital: no, and it never will be, no matter how much Corkonains moan about being the ‘real’ capital, the government will always sit in Dublin and not even an army of Michael Collinses will be able to change this. A lot of residents in the ‘people’s republic of Cork’ consider themselves to be from Cork first and Ireland second, taking pride in their knack of producing great hurlers, Gaelic footballers, rugby players and of course Mr Bitter himself, Roy Keane. If you want to catch a genuine Cork man (because there are a few floating about these parts) you should try and catch the evergreen Coogan cursing, drinking and arguing his way around the pitch for the Copenhagen Celtic veterans team. But be sure to bring some beer though as he won't enter into conversation unless his lips are wet.







Poster boy: Mick Galway (Irish rugby captain – confusingly from Kerry)

Lingo: "Tog E Go Bog E" (take it easy)

Galway has always been a hive of activity; it has more craic agus ceoil (fun and music) than you can shake a stick at.  If you want to get away from the city you can travel to the stunning Connemara which is steeped in culture and where many of the locals still use Irish as their native tongue.  Ken Rushe, a performer in Irish plays and a well known character around the Irish bars in Copenhagen, typifies the Galway spirit. He has a strong love of all things Irish (he has the Irish soccer shirt, rugby shirt, cricket shirt and has even been spotted running around the city lakes in a Sonia O'Sullivan replicate singlet). He informs me that ‘there are two types of people in the world: Galwegians and those who would like to be Galwegians, and if they'd really like to be Galwegians they are very welcome to be just so!’


Poster boy: John F. Kennedy

Lingo: Gosh, you're Irish? Me too, my great great grandfather was from Galway

Of course you don't have to be born or to have lived in Ireland for long to be Irish. After centuries of fleeing Ireland to escape poverty, starvation and shite weather, the Irish have embedded themselves in every corner of the world. From Che Guevara to Barack Obama, millions are blessed (or cursed) with Irish blood and St. Paddy’s day is celebrated on all six continents. Being good Catholics and having the fertility of rabbits, when the Irish landed somewhere they multiplied at a rate that would make Gremlins jealous. There are many examples here, one being Jim ‘the boxer’ Thompson, the ever friendly barman in Kennedy’s. Born to Irish parents he spent his early years moving around England as part of the travelling community before finally swapping his wheels for bricks and settling in Denmark. So don't be deceived by passports or accents, it’s what’s in someone’s blood that really counts.





Up North

Poster boy:  Georgie Best

Lingo: "Wha abut y'?" (How’s it going?)

There must be something in the tap water because the North has produced a list of entertainers that would make even Las Vegas jealous. George Best, Alex Higgins and Van Morrison, to name just three, masters in their field who liked a drink – imagine being on a session with all three! – and while they could be a touch on the grumpy side, millions were touched by their genius as they produced pride and hope when the region was going through a very dark period. ‘If only we could build ships as well as we produce superstars,’ muses Derry man Eamonn Rainey, who used to work at The Dubliner and now works at Charlies, and is probably Copenhagen’s slowest barman. ‘Now our problems are behind us, we need to follow Dublin’s lead and embrace a bit of style and sophistication, because for too long we have been mistaken for people from Roscommon and this has to stop.’