Donald Clarke: Saoirse Ronan being claimed by the UK not ‘a compliment’

Journalist’s report has led to yet another controversy over the actor’s nationality

Actor Saoirse Ronan onstage at the 27th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival   in Palm Springs, California. Photograph: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for PSIFF

Actor Saoirse Ronan onstage at the 27th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival in Palm Springs, California. Photograph: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for PSIFF

 

A British journalist has generated fury after remarking on Sky News that the UK could regard Saoirse Ronan as “one of our own”.

Richard Suchet made the comments when reporting on Ms Ronan’s Bafta nomination for her performance in Brooklyn.

As a professional journalist, Mr Suchet should have been aware of Denis Healey’s First Law: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

If so, Suchet conspicuously ignored it.

Responding to a piece on his statement on the RTÉ website, he said: “She’s from the British Isles & whether you like it or not, Brits will be willing her to win. Glad you got an article out of it tho.”

Suchet followed these remarks with a patronising tweet featuring a link to the Wikipedia article on the British Isles.

We do not know if he read as far as the following paragraph: “The term British Isles is controversial in Ireland, where there are objections to its usage due to the association of the word British.”

He wasn’t finished yet. “Many Brits will still see her as one of their own. It’s a consequence of geography. A compliment I’d say,” he then tweeted.

Graham Linehan, writer of Father Ted and The IT Crowd, summed up the dozens of overwhelmingly negative replies with the words: “A compliment. What an absolutely moronic thing to say.”

More than a few pointed out the irony of Suchet claiming for Britain an Irish woman whose first name translates as “freedom”.

Saoirse Ronan, born in New York and raised in Carlow, holds dual US and Irish citizenship.

She has not lived for any significant period in the UK and both of her parents are Irish.

Suchet’s only justification for his bizarre claim seems to be Ireland’s position in the anachronistically named “British Isles”.

We look forward to his reports on Tanganyika and British East Africa.

Offensive remarks

Though most of the tweets responding to the journalist’s claim remained civil in their fury, some correspondents posted offensive remarks beneath Suchet’s tribute to his late Sky colleague Eleanor Jeffery.

At the time of writing, the journalist has made no further comments.

The story echoes a controversy late last month when the London Film Critics Circle (LFCC) nominated Ronan and other Irish professionals in their “British” categories.

Following a Twitter storm, the LFCC relabelled those categories as “British and Irish”.

Brooklyn received six nominations from Bafta.

On Sunday night, Ms Ronan will attend the Golden Globes Awards, where she is seen to have an excellent chance of winning best actress.

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