Katherine Butler: Stand up, tick box and be counted

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

The people of Ireland have booted out their hopeless leaders but many of them aren't hanging around to see if things improve; they're voting with their feet. A thousand a week are already fleeing in a new wave of emigration. The exodus represents an appalling brain and revenue drain for an already shattered economy, but is it necessarily a personal tragedy for those who go elsewhere in search of work and, who knows, adventure, love, fortune, fame? Think of the Irish in Britain: Philip Treacy, the celebrity milliner, who will be hatting out the bridal party at the royal wedding, or Dubliner Orla Kiely, whose design empire seems destined for world domination, comedian Dara Ó Bríain, Graham Norton, Fiona Shaw, the list is long. I doubt any of these Irish success stories would mourn that they left home.

From the moment I set foot in Paris for the first time at the age of 14, I knew I wanted to live in other places too. My days would be filled with reading Simone de Beauvoir on the cafe terraces of the Left Bank, I decided. Which doesn't mean I don't sympathise with those now on lonely journeys to the gold mines of Kalgoorlie. But most of the younger people leaving the Irish collapse will be educated, skilled, networked, confident, potentially more like commuters than emigrants. If they find jobs, there is no reason they won't embrace a multicultural metropolis like London where nobody cares where anyone else comes from. I don't crave Barry's Tea or Flahavan's Progress Oatlets, and more importantly, I have in the UK, the same legal rights as any British or European citizen. So why would I want to bang on about my ethnicity in the upcoming UK census as a campaign called "How Irish are you?" encourages me to? That surely would be a pointless, rather depressing exercise in ghettoisation.

Or so I thought until I heard the ebullient chef Richard Corrigan speak at his Mayfair restaurant the other night. The Michelin-starred Corrigan, who is even more unsentimental about Ireland than I am and has courted controversy by attacking failures in Irish farming and food production (he once described Irish chicken as "shit"), hosted charities who work with the least glamorous, least fashionable, most forgotten Irish, those who moved to Britain in the 1950s and '60s. The situation of many of them is shocking: they are the only migrant group whose physical and mental health deteriorated after moving to Britain; they have the highest rates of cancer of any minority group in the country; they suffer a disproportionately high incidence of dementia and the problems persist into the second and third generations.

Sadly, the charities find that many successful Irish want nothing to do with the "invisible" group; they don't want to be associated with failure. "Maybe", as Corrigan pointed out, "we don't get involved because we always think one day we'll be off home ourselves." Jennie McShannon of the Federation of Irish Societies told me she meets elderly Irish women who say they haven't been to the doctor in years "because he's in County Clare". They've paid their taxes in Britain, but don't dare to trouble the system.

The inclusion for the first time of an "Irish" box in the forthcoming census is a breakthrough which will improve statistics and lobbying clout, which matters as the axe falls on public spending. Even if you have British nationality, but you are second or third generation Irish, you can tick it. A hundred years ago, the 1911 UK census was the last one to include the island of Ireland. My great grandmother was asked to record ability to speak the Irish language, and whether anyone in the house was deaf, dumb, blind, idiot, imbecile or lunatic. History brings things around in neat circles.





A lesson learnt in loco parentis



I'm usually underwhelmed by the "I don't know how she does it" crowd who write bestsellers about how exhausting it is to be a parent. Now, based on what may or may not be recent personal experience, is the plot of my own new bestseller about a carefree single woman who undertakes to babysit her golden-haired nieces, both under six, while their parents grab a rare weekend in the Big Smoke.

Aunt arrives like Supernanny, imagining junior yoga sessions, only fruit for treats and a ban on mindless television. What could possibly go wrong? Chicken pox for a start. Weekend evolves into temperature-taking, Dozol-administering, Peppa Pig-flavoured housebound marathon. Woman unable to work oven, allows children to eat Chipsticks and watch too much TV.

Night falls, many stories are read but then family dog starts behaving oddly. Exhausted aunt has forgotten to give dog vital tablet prompting protracted seizure. Guilt-ridden, she sits with dog into early hours, both zombified by cartoons (did you know there are channels where shows called Frances the Badger and Strawberry Shortcake screen all night?). Five minutes after falling asleep woman hears the cries of tiny voices. "It's nearly morning, can we get into your bed?" She is forced to accept that parents have very complex lives, and like the Uncle Buck character in the forgotten 1980s John Hughes film of that name, realises that maybe there are things missing from her own.





Sick of the sound of it



Maybe now that The King's Speech has been festooned with prizes, people will start pronouncing the central character's name correctly. I'm not talking about the George bit, but the VI bit. I can't be the only one who has noticed how many people say "SICK-th" instead of "SIX-th". Even on the Today programme, I hear it, as in inflation rose for the "sickth" time this quarter. It sounds unpleasant but no doubt, I will be informed the reason people are making this shift has either to do with social networking or that it's "generational".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz