Wogan – a new model citizen

As ever with my mini-obituaries, I have been slow to respond to the passing of the legendary broadcaster Terry Wogan. But it would be wrong to call this brief post an obituary. It is more a comment on one aspect of his life that has becoming increasingly relevant to the modern world we live in. For there was something very modern about Wogan in the way he crafted his career.

Apart from the occasional article, not much of the reaction to his death in the UK centred on his Irishness, even though he never hid it. That it wasn’t deemed worth remarking on by many commentators is quite remarkable when one stops to think about the nature of Anglo-Irish relations during a significant chunk of his broadcasting career. For a Limerick man became not only a hero to Middle England, he was arguably was their most loved and genial representative. Whether that is attributable to the ability of the British people to separately compartmentalise politics and entertainment – for there have been numerous high profile Irish presenters and entertainers in the UK over the decades – or it is a testament to Wogan’s own brand of charm, the answer quite likely is that it was a bit of both.

It might not be entirely valid to extrapolate from the example of Wogan, because of the unique nature of the relationship between Britain and Ireland, with its near infinity of personal and family links and myriad cultural similarities. However, in this era of comparatively freer movement of peoples, national identity has become an increasingly fluid concept. Wogan, it could be argued, was a master exemplar of the way many people are increasingly comfortable with proclaiming multiple identities. Aside from his other talents and achievements, he deserves recognition for evincing a new paradigm of citizenship.

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