Tuesday 13 March 2012

How Irish is Montreal?

It is a question I ask myself sometimes, especially around Saint-Patrick's Day, which I started celebrating in Montreal. On Montreal's flag and coat of arms, you can find the Irish shamrock, alongside the French fleur de lys, the English red rose, and the Scottish thistle. These people founded and built Montreal, so they are deservedly represented, but the motto of Montreal: "Concordia Salus", "Salvation through harmony", is as hypocritical as it can be. There is nothing, there has never been anything harmonious about Montreal, certainly not among it's various groups. It is a city of division and conflict. The Protestant English and Scots dominating and exploiting the conquered Catholic French, then Irish immigrant coming in, some of them mixing with the French majority (especially since many Irish orphans were adopted by francophone families), some of them not overcoming the language barrier. Montreal is a city of conflicts and division.

So how Irish is it? It's climate is closer to Ireland's than France's. The beers are certainly not as dark, in general, but we sure drink a lot. And there are the names: Johnson, O'Neil, Farrell, McMullen, Murdock, etc. And I am just naming some off the top of my head. Names you find among the francophone population. It is traditionally Catholic, unlike France it did not quite divorce from it and its Catholicism is more akin to what you find/found in Ireland than in, say Italy, more cultural and less devout (I mean generally, and maybe it is wishful thinking). Our attitude towards British monarchy is certainly the same, going from disdain to downright hostility. But unlike an Irish city, Montreal is not in a republic. Which is sad. Maybe I am seeing a relationship that is not here and maybe my love for Ireland makes me exaggerate, but I do think Montreal is maybe more Irish than it is anything else.


Cynthia said...

France and Catholicism. You may think that they're anti-clerical but the truth is that you sometimes feel like you're in Quebec with Maurice Duplessis as the PM. Catholicism is often insidious but it's still alive.

Anonymous said...

A very thought provoking post, and it is an identity struggle that I think takes place in many cities that are founded by immigrants from different backgrounds, or centuries old cities that now depend on immigrant labour for the daily running of things.
I have little knowledge of Catholicism or the Catholic church, but I wouldn't mind being a little bit Irish :-)