Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Culture Matters (5)

Cultural diversity

The Gaelic revival movement in Ireland pursued a one-tradition model of culture, based on the principle of cultural absorption. As David Patrick Moran (1871-1936) said, 'The foundation of Ireland is the Gael and the Gael must be the element that absorbs.'

Some others have promoted a two-traditions model of culture and during the 1980s this was advocated by the Two Traditions Group.  Indeed this was the model adopted by the UK government and the government of the Irish Republic.  According to the Anglo-Irish Agreement (15 November 1985), the United Kingdom government and the government of the Irish Republic agreed to consider measures to 'foster the cultural heritage of both traditions'.  However this was a flawed model and it is a model which has failed.

There are in fact three main traditions that have shaped modern Ulster and they are English, Irish and Scottish.  At the bottom of the hill below the cathedral in Downpatrick there are three streets that meet at the traffic lights- English Street, Irish Street and Scotch Street.  That is a good illustration of our cultural diversity whereby we are a cultural confluence.  Moreover, whilst that is the simplest example, we see the three traditions reflected in street names and place names in other towns.  For example, in Carrickfergus we have the Irish Quarter, the Scotch Quarter and the Church Quarter, which was so named because of its association with the Established or Anglican Church.

This is no new discovery.  It was known in the 18th century, the 19th century and into the 20th century and a good example is to be found in a book entitled Three Wee Ulster Lassies, which was written in 1883 by James Greer as an allegory to explain Ulster to people in Great Britain.  The three lassies are Bessie Stronge (the Ulster-Saxon), Jennie Scott (the Ulster-Scot) and Nelly Nolan (the Ulster-Kelt).

Unless we recognise and remember that there are three cultural traditions in Ulster it is almost impossible to understand Ulster history.  Moreover it is the nature of this diversity and especially the strength of the Ulster-Scots tradition in the diversity which makes Ulster different from the rest of the island.

1 comment:

  1. "...the Ulster-Scots tradition in the diversity which makes Ulster different from the rest of the island."

    Please elaborate?


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