Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

The London Film Critics Circle thinks Saoirse Ronan is British

It’s nice that the professional body so often acknowledges Irish talent, but still…

Tue, Dec 16, 2014, 15:27


Here we go again. To be fair, UK institutions do not fall into the trap of describing Irish people as British quite so often as they used to. After close to nine decades of independence, the message seems to have got through to most newspapers, colleges, arts bodies and police forces. There was that embarrassing incident earlier this year when the Daily Telegraph included several Irish writers’ work in a selection of Best British novels. ┬áBut the paper did change the heading to “British and Irish” after being buried under a mountain of digital fury.

One unlikely organisation that holds out for the old colonial ways is, most unexpectedly, the London Film Critics Circle. Almost every year, that body honours an Irish professional with a nomination in their “British” categories. This year, the LFCC includes Saoirse Ronan in the shortlist for “Young British Performer of the Year”. Understandably enough, those nominated have, in previous seasons, thanked the Circle politely and made no mention of the category error. It would be rude to complain when you have just received such a welcome leg up.

Nonetheless, it is strange that the LFCC continues to define their awards in this manner. A helpful note on the website tells us that: “Films, filmmakers and performers from the UK and Ireland are eligible in all British categories.” Are they? Well, then those categories should be renamed as “British and Irish”. It’s really as simple as that. In the robust, often politically incorrect world of rugby union, it was decided that the British Lions should become the British and Irish Lions over a decade ago. Yet the largely liberal London Critics Circle continues with this bizarre, mildly offensive practice. “Irish actors and directors are considered ‘British’ for the purposes of the awards,” Ben Child of the Guardian wrote when reporting on the nominations two years ago. I am reminded of Viv Richards, the great West Indian cricketer, commenting on the South African authorities’ offer to make him an “honorary” white man if he agreed to tour during the apartheid era. “I’m not an honorary anything,” he said. Okay, I take that back. That was an immeasurably more serious situation, but I still don’t like the notion of Saoirse Ronan being an honorary British person for awards season. Is she Welsh? Is she Scottish? Is she English? She certainly isn’t Northern Irish. I can tell.