A boy beside her exclaimed, before the entire group erupted in laughter. These were kids from a very privileged primary school in South Dublin quite near my own secondary school; kids that I’d say were no more than eight years of age. Children do not simply create their own class prejudices independently. I fear that their highly derogatory comments are a misunderstood product of words which they have absorbed from their older siblings, cousins and possibly, parents.
As Ireland does not have the same extent of racial tension as in the United States, or religious tension as in France, it is understood that a lot of social tension in our society stems from class antagonism. As someone who attended school in South Dublin but who lives in an area not traditionally associated with the middle class, I have always been very aware of this. I have witnessed the rudeness of working class strangers who perceive me as a “poshie” and yet my hometown serves constantly as the butt of jokes from my middle class friends.
Shockingly, a friend of mine from the North side of Dublin once got beaten up for being from the perceived ‘wrong’ side of the Liffey by an overly violent group of adamant ‘Southsiders’ with whom he had absolutely no previous contact. Similarly, standing outside a night club in Temple Bar one night, an aggressive man from the North side of Dublin began to threaten me for being ‘too stuck up’ to have any interest in him. Regardless of what Dubliners will claim, violence frequently erupts at the hands of those both North and South of our capital city for no reason other than the intense preconceptions we carry of those in a different socio-economic background from our own.
Paul Howard’s fictional Ross O’Carroll Kelly series, a parody of middle-class Dublin society which was worryingly accurate, soon became, in my opinion, a catalyst to strengthen Dublin’s class tension during the economic boom. Southside teenagers began to exaggerate their accents and take on the beliefs of this rugby-playing protagonist who refused to drink anywhere but Kielys and lamented sitting next to ‘skangers’ on public transport. Some would have no problem being rude to those who lived outside of D4 on that basis alone. He of course eliminated pockets of North side ‘unacceptability’ for the wealthy neighbourhoods of Howth, Castleknock, Malahide, ‘Clontorf’ and ‘Portmornock’.
Three years ago, Irish Independent columnist Kevin Myers was confronted by North side politicians for his claim that the traditionally working class culture of the North side could be regarded as 'self-regarding defeatism, pathological unpunctuality, addiction to alcohol and disdain for academic achievement'.’ It is clear from his very public commentary that class antagonism is an issue which is completely entwined in Dublin society.
Perhaps instead of criticising why those from the North of Dublin are not usually as affluent as those from the South, practical measures should be taken to give youths the qualifications they need to avoid a tough life of low paid jobs and crossing paths with violence? And surely South siders can find something better to do than to pick on those in society who are often forced by their socio-economic status to constantly struggle. Golf in Portmarnock maybe? In reality we’re not all that different.