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Bastille Day

Zut alors! 7 reasons why you're as French as a string of onions

As France celebrates Bastille Day, reveals that we Irish are all French deep down. Here’s why.

TODAY IS BASTILLE day, when French people all over the world celebrate the dawn of their proud republic.

Two hundred and twenty-two years ago, an angry mob stormed the Bastille prison in Paris and paved the way for the French Revolution. Since then France has gone from strength to strength – giving the world germ theory, the Statue of Liberty, and a selection of delectable cheeses.

But in Ireland, the country’s influence goes deeper still. Here looks at the reasons we should all be celebrating le quatorze juillet – because deep down, we’re almost as Gallic as they are. So what have the French ever done for us?

  1. Our flag You thought the tricolour was a representation of peace (white) between Catholic (green) and Protestant (orange)? Well, you’re partly right. But it was first flown by Thomas Francis Meagher, a leader of the 1848 Young Ireland Rebellion, after he travelled to Paris and was inspired by the new republic’s swish three-vertical-stripe design. So the first Irish tricolour was made in France, from French silk, following a French pattern. Is it too late to say thanks?
  2. English Yes, English. The language you’re reading right now was first established in Ireland in the twelfth century after the arrival of the Anglo-Normans – which is to say, the French people who had invaded Britain a century or so earlier. They spoke a mixture of English and French, but it was English which spread along the east coast. To add insult to injury, Irish speakers also picked up several of the French words – chaumbre became seomra, page became páiste, college became coláiste and so on.
  3. Our names Another legacy of the Anglo-Normans: one of the original Tribes of Galway were called Ffrench because they were, well, French. It remains a common name to this day, and has been joined by a number of Gallic pals including Guerin, Millet, Trench, Deverell, and D’Arcy. No word on why the Ffrenches added the extra F – perhaps they just felt their name needed a certain je ne sais quoi.
  4. Our breakfasts What could be more quintessentially Irish than the breakfast roll? Bad news: it’s a baguette. From the croissants of Ballsbridge to the pork-stuffed baton on every builder’s van dashboard, the French have a virtual monopoly on our morning-time baked goods. It’s not for nothing that one of Ireland’s largest bakeries, supplying practically every newsagent and petrol station in the country and based in the oh-so-Gallic environs of Clondalkin, is the euphemistically-named Cuisine de France.
  5. Our politics Not only do we owe our republican system of government to the French, who were the first to give it a try  back in 1789. But there are certain characteristic features of it which literally could not be described without the help of our friends on the Continent. ‘Gaffe’, ‘publicity’, ‘sabotage’, ‘resign’ and, of course, ‘bribe’ – all French words which we have very much made our own.
  6. Our literature Well, perhaps not all of our literature. But the very first literary journal to be published in Ireland – called, with admirable originality, A Literary Journal – was founded by the Huguenot emigrant JP Droz in 1744.
  7. Their national anthem Surely one of the proudest traditions in Irish footballing history is the appropriation of La Marseillaise. Travelling Irish fans have out-sung (well, out-shouted) the French stands at a number of events – not least the fixture where a certain Mr Thierry Henry put in a famous performance. Even Father Jack likes to get involved…

Father Jack and La Marseillaise:

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