A story is told of a man from Cork coming out of Twickenham delighted because England had been beaten by France. The man is asked by a BBC reporter, would he support any team, whoever they were, against England. The Corkman said he would.
‘Well’, says the BBC man, ‘can you think of any circumstances at all where you would support England?’
The Corkman scratched his head and said, ‘Well, I suppose if they were playing Tipperary’.
The story is hardly an exaggeration. Standing in a Dublin bar after Ireland had triumphed over Wales in the Six Nations rugby in March, the packed room erupted in cheers every time Scotland scored against England; English scores were greeted with groans and jeers. A Manchester United supporting friend complains of people he calls ‘ABUs’, ‘Anyone But United’. He introduced me recently to the term ‘ABE’, Anyone But England.
Perhaps the existence of ABEs is a consequence of history; perhaps it’s also a matter of plain unthinking ignorance. An email this evening recalled an accountant friend telling of a telephone conversation with a London colleague.
The woman in London said, “You know the way they have a parliament in Scotland and an assembly in Wales, what do you have in Dublin?”
My friend, somewhat annoyed, replied tersely, “The Houses of the Oireachtas”.
“The what?” said the voice in London. “What would you call that?”
“I would call it the Government of Ireland”, said my friend, “I’m not sure what you would call it”.
“Oh”, said the London colleague. “Do you have your own government?”
“Yes, since 1922. Hadn’t you heard?”
The woman in London is not the only one to fail to be aware of the existence of a government in Dublin.
The email this evening was from a Christian group urging involvement in the General Election campaign. The facetious response would be to write back and say that the General Election was in May 2007 and, judging by the polls, it seemed hardly likely there would be a General Election for another two years, but it would probably only serve to confuse the sender. A group that can dispatch materials to Dublin and take payment in Euro still thinks it reasonable to send out a blanket email to everyone on its list – ignorance or maybe arrogance?
‘No One Likes Us – We Don’t Care’, was consciously chanted by Millwall soccer fans in past decades. Sometimes there seems an unconscious expression of such a chant by a lot of English people. Wilfully ignore other people and assume one’s own ideas are shared by everyone, and it is not long before a pool of resentment builds up.
Oh for the day when a Corkman might cheer England.