How The Irish Shaped Britain

Episodes

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01Kingdoms Of The Broad Sea2021011120210113 (R4)In this series Fergal Keane explores the profound influence the Irish have had on Britain over many centuries, from the vanished tribes of the ancient Celtic world to the Ryanair generation of today.
The telling of the story of Britain and Ireland has been dominated by narratives of conquest and rebellion in which a powerful empire attempts to subdue an indomitable native spirit – two different identities colliding throughout history. Fergal presents a more complex narrative. He begins with the old kingdoms of the Irish Sea, and travels through the time of the Vikings to the 19th and 20th century migrations, all the way to present day. Throughout the Irish have shaped literature, culture, politics and the physical landscape.

Whether it is 19th century theatre or verse, or today's pop culture, Irish migrants and their descendants have deeply influenced and steered the UK's literature and arts. Think of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw or, more recently, the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, Oasis, or Terry Wogan, Paul Merton, Claire Foy, the Irish and their descendants have had a profound influence on Britishness. The Irish have also been highly influential in the world of business, politics and sport.
As migration, integration and assimilation dominate public debate in Britain, Fergal examines the impact of the longest and biggest immigrant story in the history of the United Kingdom.

Producers: John Murphy & Adele Armstrong
Mixed by Eloise Whitmore

Thanks to (in order of appearance): Emeritus Professor Roy Foster (Oxford University), Sinéad Morrissey (poet + Newcastle University), Dara O'Briain, Dr. Clare Downham (Liverpool University), Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (ex NUI Galway), Professor Diarmaid MacCullough (ex Oxford University), Fiona Shaw, Professor Thomas Devine (ex Edinburgh University), Dr. Catriona MacDonald (Glasgow University), Greg Quiery (In Hardship and Hope: A History of the Liverpool Irish), Michael Boyle, Theresa Hill, Ultan Cowley (The Men who built Britain: A History of the Irish Navvy), Professor Louise Richardson (Vice Chancellor Oxford University), Ralph McTell (singer, songwriter), Sean Mulryan (CEO Ballymore Group), Una Heaslip, Carmel Wilson, Danny Maher (CEO Ashford Place), Bob Geldof, Bobby McDonagh (ex Ambassador to London), Maurice Malone (CEO Birmingham Irish Association), Adrian Goldberg (The 21 Podcast), Dr Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid (Sheffield University), RTE.

Fergal Keane explores the profound influence the Irish have had on Britain.

In this provocative series Fergal Keane explores the profound influence the Irish have had on Britain over many centuries.
The telling of the story of Britain and Ireland has been dominated by narratives of conquest and rebellion in which a powerful empire attempts to subdue an indomitable native spirit – two different identities colliding throughout history. Fergal will challenge that narrative. He begins with the old kingdoms of the Irish Sea, and travels through the time of the Vikings to the 19th and 20th century migrations, all the way to present day. Throughout the Irish have shaped literature, culture, and even the physical landscape.

Fergal argues that some of the most treasured features of Britishness are in fact Irish – or at the very least, some of their finest proponents have been Irish. Whether it is 19th century theatre or verse, or today's pop culture, Irish migrants and their descendants have deeply influenced and steered the UK's literature and arts. Think of the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, Oasis, or Terry Wogan, Paul Merton, Claire Foy, the Irish have deep roots in what is “British.” The Irish have also been highly influential in the world of business, politics and sport. Some have made a feature of their Irishness while for others it has been lightly worn.
As migration, integration and assimilation dominate public debate in Britain, Fergal examines the impact of the longest and biggest immigrant story in the history of the United Kingdom.

Producers: John Murphy & Adele Armstrong

02Mcalpine's Fusiliers2021011820210120 (R4)In the second part of “How the Irish Shaped Britain,” Fergal Keane continues his exploration of the profound influence the Irish have had on Britain.

In this episode we begin with the years of the Great Famine. Millions leave Ireland, many of them heading for the port cities of Britain, where they are far from welcome. But soon they become an integral part of the workforce in the factories and shipyards of Scotland and England. Then, in the second half of the 19th century, Irish Fenians, partly in revenge for the famine, launch the first terrorist bombing campaign to hit these shores.

In parallel with that, Irish MPs flex their muscles in Westminster; while on the cultural stage Irish playwrights and writers are bringing the 'English language back to the English'. It's a pattern that stretches through the decades, to the reconstruction of Britain's bombed out cities after World War Two and the building of a more modern Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, with the successors of the Irish navvies digging their way underground. Irish descendants also begin to shape the British musical scene.

It's a tale of rejection and assimilation, of hatred and tolerance, of separateness and of mixing. In the story of how the Irish shaped Britain, as Fergal points out, there are all kinds of narratives and counter-narratives being told at the same time.

Produced by John Murphy and Adele Armstrong.
Mixed by Eloise Whitmore.

Fergal Keane explores the profound influence the Irish have had on Britain.

03The Long Road To Peace2021012520210127 (R4)Fergal Keane explores the profound influence the Irish have had on Britain.

Fergal Keane completes his exploration of the profound influence of the Irish on Britain, from reconstruction after the Second World War, through the hard road to peace and onto the uncertainty posed by Brexit.
Following in the footsteps of earlier generations of migrants, hundreds of thousands of Irish came to Britain in the 20th Century, rebuilding shattered cities, putting in new infrastructure, working in the NHS. Some faced hardship and racist abuse, particularly during the difficult times of IRA bombs on the British mainland. Others flourished, bringing innovation and rebellion, shaping the music scene and politics.
The Good Friday Agreement heralded a time of hope and good relations across the Irish Sea, with the Queen's first ever visit to Ireland as a potent symbol of that. Meanwhile many of the Irish and their descendants in Britain put a difficult past behind them and looked to the future. Derogatory Paddy jokes fell out of favour. However, the UK's decision to leave the European Union has, as Fergal hears, unsettled what many thought was settled. Following the hard road to peace, uncertainty has returned.

Producers: John Murphy and Adele Armstrong
Mixed by Eloise Whitmore

Thanks to (in order of appearance in series): Emeritus Professor Roy Foster (Oxford University), Sinéad Morrissey (poet + Newcastle University), Dara O'Briain, Dr. Clare Downham (Liverpool University), Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (ex NUI Galway), Professor Diarmaid MacCullough (ex Oxford University), Fiona Shaw, Professor Thomas Devine (ex Edinburgh University), Dr. Catriona MacDonald (Glasgow University), Greg Quiery (In Hardship and Hope: A History of the Liverpool Irish), Michael Boyle, Theresa Hill, Ultan Cowley (The Men who built Britain: A History of the Irish Navvy), Professor Louise Richardson (Vice Chancellor Oxford University), Ralph McTell (singer, songwriter), Sean Mulryan (CEO Ballymore Group), Una Heaslip, Carmel Wilson, Danny Maher (CEO Ashford Place), Bob Geldof, Bobby McDonagh (ex Ambassador to London), Maurice Malone (CEO Birmingham Irish Association), Adrian Goldberg (The 21 Podcast), Dr Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid (Sheffield University).

The final episode of Fergal Keane's exploration of the Irish influence on Britain.