A chara, – Fintan O’Toole makes much in his Saturday column of the prophetic role of JB Priestley in 1940, warning against the prospect of Nazi-empowered bully-boys in the event of a German takeover (Opinion & Analysis, June 3rd).
He links this to a vision of “what Irish politics would look like if a clever and magnetic leader were to emerge from the far right”.
The column is headed by a large illustration of such a leader, presumably, in a mask in the colours of the Tricolour.
John Boynton Priestley, as it happens, is on record in his English Journey of 1933, with a remarkable outburst of xenophobia, in this case, Hibernophobia.
On visiting Lancashire during the journey, Priestley delivered himself of the following: " . . . the Irishman in England too often cuts a very miserable figure. He has lost his peasant virtues, whatever they are, and has acquired no others . . . If we do have an Irish Republic as our neighbour, and if it is found possible to return her exiled citizens, what a grand clearance there will be in all the Western ports, from the Clyde to Cardiff, what a fine exit of ignorance and dirt and drunkenness and disease”.
The conventional figure of Priestley as a middle-aged pipe-smoking man seated comfortably in an armchair does not, I admit, consort easily with a man in a Union Jack mask.
But the fact of his outburst, apart from its offensiveness to us Irish, does raise questions about precisely who or what this “far-right” threat is that Fintan O’Toole talks about. – Is mise,
Sir, – In his vilification of people whose opinions about immigrants he disagrees with, Fintan O’Toole brands them “obnoxious little gits”, susceptible, he warns us, to being led by “loudmouths, the swaggerers, the goons drunk on their own grandiosity” in a “tyranny of twisted little nobodies”.
This reverting to name-calling, instead of debating the issues, reminds me of Hillary Clinton’s branding half of Donald Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables”. – Yours, etc,