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Fighting Irish inaccurate

Letter to the Editor | Monday, March 27, 2006

This letter is in response to the recent letters and articles which question the racist nature of the term ‘Fighting Irish.’

Make no mistake, the stereotyping of the Irish people that exists at Notre Dame today is not only insulting and racist but portrays a completely inaccurate representation of modern Ireland. For these reasons I second the view of Paul Richards that the “Fighting Irish” moniker is indeed offensive to Irish people (“‘Fighting Irish’ moniker found offensive,” March 22).

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the event that catalyzed the establishment of the Irish Free State. It is time for the Irish nation to reflect and acknowledge our country’s origins, origins rooted in a determined and dynamic struggle for emancipation and sovereignty. The Irish men of 1916 envisioned a free and independent Ireland, one which indeed exists today.

However, many of the economic and politic realities of modern Ireland are contrary to this ideal of a principled and sovereign nation. Ireland’s primary industry, the service industry, is completely reliant on tourists, many of whom are American. Thus, our Tourist Board regularly perpetuates a vision of a mythical land of leprechauns and shamrocks or a land of Guinness-imbibing drunks, since these reductive images appeal more to the foreign masses than a complete depiction of the Irish nation. Ironically, growing up in Ireland, I did not hear the term “leprechaun” after the age of nine, when I stopped reading children’s stories. The “leprechaun” has little, if any, part in the realities of modern Ireland. Yet, our nation is so dependent on foreign tourists that we encourage the perpetuation of this ridiculous image. We don’t even object when it is considered a representation of Irish people drunkenly engaging in bar brawls. We have become so dependent on U.S. money that our leaders allow our nation’s policies to be determined by the desires of the U.S. market and American politicians. We are right now struggling under a de-facto economic and political colonization.

We can no longer stand for this. We can no longer compromise our nation’s values or subdue our people’s voices in order to maintain the economic support of America. We have essentially sold our soul to the devil. Instead, let us spread the representation of the ‘real’ Ireland, a country with courageous history, a rich culture, pride in our national language and filled with Irish men and women who kneel at the alter of Croke Park and not at that of a financial God. Let us determine our political policies based on our people’s wishes and beliefs, and not on the desire for American financial support.

Needless to say, I am Irish. I am also a graduate student and have studied at Notre Dame for the past two years. It has been, for the most part, an enjoyable experience. Indeed, my time here has been marred only by having to daily stomach the nauseating view of Ireland perpetuated by the “Fighting Irish” brand, the constant repetition of the stereotypical associations of Irish with drunk, and the supposedly “authentic” leprechaun.

While I acknowledge that Irish study programs offered here present different perspectives and work toward a more complete picture of Ireland, these goals are contradictory with the ridiculous “Fighting Irish” logo and carousing leprechaun. Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that these representations are in any way authentic or that they do not offend Irish people. They are constant reminders of the dependence that our nation still has on foreign economic support and the ways that our leaders compromise national integrity in exchange for cold, hard, American cash.

Sinéad Howleygraduate studentMarch 23