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For the love of God, please stop giving out about Saoirse Ronan's accent

Accusing Saoirse Ronan of having a ‘fake’ Dublin accent smacks of begrudgery.

SAOIRSE RONAN IS one of our great natural treasures. At 23, she has been nominated for two Academy Awards and a third looks likely thanks to her universally lauded performance in this year’s Lady Bird.

Let’s go through her achievements very quickly, shall we?

  • She was nominated for her first Oscar when she was 13 years old.
  • She has worked solidly since she was a tween, collaborating with everyone from Peter Jackson to Wes Anderson to Greta Gerwig.
  • She has covered magazines like Time, New York Magazine, W, Interview, and The Gentlewoman.
  • She played the lead in a recent Broadway revival of The Crucible.
  • She’s due to host Saturday Night Live this weekend, the first Irish woman to do so.
  • She’s going to play bloody Mary Queen of Scots in a film written by the creator of House of Cards. Mary! Queen! Of! Scots!
  • She was once hailed as “Meryl reborn” by Ryan Gosling.
  • She has explained to Americans how to pronounce her name approximately 732 times and exhibited the patience of a saint each and every time.
  • She has lent her support to the like of ISPCC, Home Sweet Home and appeared in a Hozier video aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence.
  • Did we mention she’s still somehow only 23 years old?

In other words, she hasn’t put a foot wrong over the last decade or so. She’s down-to-earth, grounded and charming as hell – a worthy ambassador for the country. Can you tell how much I love and admire Saoirse Ronan????

This isn’t about me or how much I want to befriend Saoirse Ronan, though. This is about a particular issue a group of Irish people seem to have with Saoirse Ronan. I am, of course, referring to the accent truthers.

The accent truthers are a cohort of people who go out of their way to question Saoirse Ronan’s accent at every turn. “Why does she sound like she’s from Dublin when she’s from Carlow?” they ask, as though they’ve just unmasked an imposter. “She’s putting it on. People from Carlow don’t sound like that.”

“Saoirse Ronan’s fake overdone Dublin accent makes me embarrassed to be Irish,” reads one tweet. “Saoirse Ronan’s best acting performance has to be the Dublin accent she’s putting on considering she grew up in Carlow,” reads another. Last year, an Irish journalist labeled her accent “preposterous” on Twitter.

But the outrage isn’t confined to Twitter. There’s a Boards.ie thread asking, “What’s the story with Saoirse Ronan’s accent?” in which the poster asks how the actress “ended up with a particularly unpleasant and grating Dublin accent”. That’s not to mention the Reddit thread that asks, “where in f**king hell did Saoirse Ronan get this accent?”

The conspiracy theories reached fever pitch when she appeared on Ellen last year to discuss getting her nails done in Tropical Popical.

Source: TheEllenShow/YouTube

Let’s get a few things straight. Saoirse Ronan was born in New York and moved to Carlow when she was a toddler before moving back to Dublin as a teenager. Her parents are both from the capital with her mother Monica hailing from Cabra.

She has been working since she was a child and had what could be fairly described as a nomadic childhood and adolescence as she worked on film sets across the world. The one constant was that she was accompanied everywhere by her parents. If your accent is a product of how you grew up and who you mixed with, it stands to reason then that she would have inherited her parents’ accents.

Indeed, if you look at footage of Saoirse Ronan throughout the years, you’ll see that the claim that she’s feigning an accent doesn’t stack up.

For instance, here is a video of Saoirse Ronan as a child on the set of I Could Never Be Your Woman in which she discusses working with Michelle Pfeiffer. As you can hear, the accent is still very much there.
Source: NoAngel2901/YouTube
Here she is on the Oscars red carpet in 2008. Once again, her accent hasn’t changed in the slightest.
Source: Blink of a Thought/YouTube
Here she is on The Late Late Show in 2010. Same accent! (Bonus: listen to her Dad’s accent.)
Source: BryceOneVideos/YouTube

It’s a peculiarly Irish complaint. If Ronan had so much of a trace of a British or American twang, she would be admonished for losing the run of herself. As it is, people regard her as trying too hard and amping up her Irishness to charm Americans. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

In reality, the thing that has changed about Saoirse Ronan in the last few years is not her accent, but her visibility. She’s now a regular on the likes of The Ellen Show, Graham Norton and countless other late night talk shows. In turn, Irish people have started to view her through the prism of how she’s perceived internationally and make judgments about how she represents Ireland.

That leads to claims that she’s putting on a so-called Oirish accent for the benefit of American audiences, the insinuation being that she’s somehow inauthentic or fake. It all smacks of begrudgery and a concerted attempt to cut a young woman down to size, not to mention an effort to police how women speak. (After all, we don’t see people ranting and raving about Colin Farrell’s accent or accuse Domhnall Gleeson of hamming it up for the Yanks, do we?)

It’s unclear exactly what these critics want. Do they want her to neutralise her accent? Do they want her to distance herself from her Irishness? Do they want her to adopt a Carlow lilt and start identifying as a scallion eater? Or could it be that this whole debate is complete nonsense and they’re just looking for an excuse to take against her?

Saoirse Ronan is one of our most successful exports. She’s the toast of Hollywood and the envy of her peers. Our instinct shouldn’t be to question her Irishness or tear into her for not having enough of a Carlow accent when it doesn’t even really make sense that she would have one. Instead, we should celebrate her success and perhaps ask ourselves why our inclination is to always turn against our own.

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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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