A West Cork resident and member of the UK House of Lords has hit out at Britain’s “pig-ignorance towards the fundamentals of Irish history”.
British film-producer David Puttnam used a speech on Friday night to announce his retirement from the House of Lords.
In a speech at the Shirley Williams Memorial Lecture, Mr Puttnam said that the level of understanding in UK politics regarding Ireland was “shocking”.
Mr Puttnam, who produced films such as Chariots of Fire, Local Hero and The Killing Fields has lived in West Cork since 1998.
He said: “In discussions regarding the Republic of Ireland, and the complexity of finding sustainable post-Brexit solutions, I was staggered at the display of pig-ignorance towards the fundamentals of Irish history, let alone sensitivity towards the reality of cross-border relationships.
Here is my speech for The Shirley Williams Memorial Lecture, in which I lay out the reasons for my retirement from the House of Lords on 27/10/21: https://t.co/TqxyGe4IpK— David Puttnam (@DPuttnam) October 15, 2021
“Had they really become so disconnected from the ghastly history of what we euphemistically call ‘the Troubles’?
“As someone who lives just across the Ilen River from the site of what is probably the largest and most recent mass famine-grave on these islands, I may well be ultra-sensitive to these issues, but with a few notable exceptions, the level of empathy and understanding on display in both Houses was truly shocking.”
The Oscar-winner warned that the UK is “careening down a path to self-inflicted disaster”.
Mr Puttnam said that he felt the values he believed his country of birth represented had been stolen from him.
“It’s worse than that, I find myself embarrassed by what, on an almost daily basis I see it becoming – my old enemy Rupert Murdoch’s dream made real. He never liked Britain, and he’s kind of won, he’s helped remake it in his own malevolent image.
“It doesn’t have to be that way – politics is important, public service continues to attract utterly decent people knowing that Governments come and go.”
In his speech, he also hit out at speaking times in political chambers.
He said he has “become increasingly frustrated by the fact that in Parliament, as elsewhere, we no longer engage in serious ‘debate’ – we simply trade assertions”.
In closing the lecture, Mr Puttnam also made reference to Cork’s Olympians - including Paul and Gary O’Donovan.
Describing how he tried to play the role of an “active (sometimes cockeyed!) optimist” in his career he hailed the recent success of Skibbereen Rowing Club.
“Five years ago it exploded onto international consciousness when two of its young members won a silver medal in the light-weight double sculls in Rio.
“The post-race interview the two lads gave went ‘viral’ - a whole slew of local youngsters watched it and membership of the club soared.
“This year in Tokyo, young men from the club came home with gold medals and women with bronze.” He added: “This autumn my wife and I have watched at least two dozen crews and single scullers, in all weathers, training for the next Olympics – fully in belief of what’s possible.
“It can happen, and thanks to people like my neighbour [Skibbereen coach] Dominic Casey I’m watching it happen - every day.”