Saoirse Ronan tried to explain SNL’s controversial Aer Lingus sketch in Ireland

Saoirse Ronan with musical guest U2 hosts the 43nd season episode 6 NBC's 'Saturday Night Live'

Two weekends ago, Saoirse Ronan hosted Saturday Night Live. I’ve gotten to the age where I use my weekends to sleep and rest, not to party and stay up late watching SNL, so I only watched the clips from Saoirse’s episode the morning after. I thought she was utterly charming, and you could tell that she thought it was such a big deal. She’s an Irish indie-film actress Irish indie-film actress and she wanted so badly to represent herself and Ireland and Irish people. As an American, I thought she did a good job, and I find her Irish accent completely lovely (God, I love Irish accents). But there were those in Ireland who believe that Saoirse is, like, bad for Ireland. Like she misrepresents them, like her accent is fake (not completely fake, but that she makes it fake-stronger in America). And Irish people apparently hated this skit where she seemed to be making fun of the Irish airline carrier Aer Lingus. Here’s the sketch:

I didn’t really get the joke. Is the joke that Aer Lingus flights are never on schedule because flights are delayed constantly because of dogs? Is the joke that Irish people love dogs? I have no idea. Aer Lingus made a joke too…???

If you read the comments on that tweet, you’ll see that there were strong feelings about Aer Lingus across the board in Ireland, and whether their service is actually any good, and whether their customer service is what is being satirized in the SNL sketch. I still have no idea. In any case, poor Saoirse. Irish people are mad at her! And so she appeared on the Irish chat show The Late Late Show over the weekend and tried to defend the sketch, saying: “I am not anti-Aer Lingus! Listen, I collect my points on Aer Lingus, that’s how often I fly Aer Lingus. I shop local and eat Tayto! It was so much fun and it was great to represent Ireland and great to have U2 on the show with me.”

If this is literally the worst thing they can dig up on Saoirse, I have to say… I think her Oscar campaign is going to go really well. Right now, it’s looking like it’s between Ronan and Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water. I would give Ronan the edge because she’s more well-known, because her film was directed by a woman (Greta Gerwig) and because this is literally the only controversy around Saoirse: some Irish people think she’s “faking” some of her Irishness for Americans and they also think she shouldn’t make fun of anything Irish. That’s it.

Saoirse Ronan at the 2017 IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street

Photos courtesy of Pacific Coast News and NBC/WENN.

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79 Responses to “Saoirse Ronan tried to explain SNL’s controversial Aer Lingus sketch in Ireland”

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  1. MeowuiRose says:

    I love her and her name! Ever since Atonement. I think she has a lot of talent.
    I hope she collects all the awards!

    • booRadley says:

      LOVE HER LOVE HER LOVE HER LOVE HER!!!!!!!! Just love EVERYTHING about her!!!!!
      Her adorable accent is just icing, she seems sweet as pie and has talent for days. I want all good things for her.

  2. Kat says:

    Well I think people are confused about the dog thing. We aren’t aware of having a reputation for loving dogs. It’s odd.

    Also, the stupid song about how to pronounce her name. She wasn’t a little girl when the SNL writers made it up. Saoirse isn’t a confusing name in Ireland. Pretending that we struggle as much as Americans with the Irish language is odd.

    • Ceire says:

      Seriously, what was up with the dogs?? If it was sheep I’d just say it was a ridiculous Irish stereotype, but dogs? I don’t get it all.

      • Kat says:

        Yeah, now speaking in broad stereotypes as I’m giving out about, I would have thought that English people had more of a reputation as animal lovers than Irish people.

    • MostlyMegan says:

      The dog thing? I don’t know what that is about. It was confusing and not funny. Irish people have a great sense of humour (very dark and sardonic) and I think we would have welcomed, with open arms, a sketch that was actually offensive but also actually funny. And the potato gag – really? Tired and unfunny.

    • dodgy says:

      I think the idea is that Saorise Ronan’s first name is difficult to pronounce in the USA. I know that I puzzled over the name of Siobban for a long time.

      • Kat says:

        Yes, possibly they were implying that, while living in a country where her name presents no difficulty as a young child, it was time to get ahead of the curve and write a song to explain it to people in other countries in case international fame should ever beckon. Prescient. Or possibly the writers can’t imagine a scenario where hers is a perfectly normal name? Who can imagine?

      • paranormalgirl says:

        My girlspawn is called Siobhan.

    • Miss Jupitero says:

      Also, is it just me? I’m half Irish and spent part of my childhood in County Mayo (endless visits to relatives), and always pronounced it “Seer-sha” not “Sur-sha.” It’s a very common name in Ireland.

      • Evie says:

        @Miss Jupitero: It’s not you; it’s the Irish. I too am half-Irish and spent summers in County Kerry & Limerick living with my relatives. In Kerry — where the brogues are as thick as the bogs, they pronounce it Sur-sha.

        BTW, Saoirse has dual U.S. and Irish citizenship — her parents are Irish but moved to America and she was born in the Bronx and lived there until she was three when her parents moved “back home.”

      • paranormalgirl says:

        Whereabouts in Mayo? I’m a Mayo girl. Westport.

      • Meredith says:

        I googled the name Saoirse a few years ago to find out how it’s pronounced and the youtube video I watched said it was pronounced “Seer-sha.” Maybe it’s a personal thing, like how some people pronounce the name Tara as Tair-a and some pronounce it Tar-a.

      • Annetommy says:

        Oh Evie…brogues and bogs?

    • whatWHAT? says:

      OK, Irish people, HELP ME.

      I saw a young man playing Banjo this weekend, and his name is Diarmud MacSuibhne.

      I understand the first name is pronounced “jeer-mud” or thereabouts (I’m sure it depends on the local accent) but how do you pronounce the last name? Thanks in advance.

      • Skylark says:

        Mack sive (rhymes with give) na.

        ‘Diarmuid’ is the correct spelling and it’s more Deer mid (although there’s a ‘w’ in there too – mwid – which I can’t think of anything to rhyme with!)

      • whatWHAT? says:

        THANK YOU!!!

      • vanjam says:

        I think Saoirse Ronan is great. I’m London Irish. My five year old niece is called Saoirse. My family is mainly from Derry in the north and we say “Seer-sha”. Her dad’s family are all from Cork and they say Seer-sha and Sur-sha. My Kilkenny family say Sur-sha. I love the fact the my Saoirse has someone famous (and hopefully an Oscar winner of the future) with her name as there ain’t many Saoirses where she lives in posh Surrey. When she was a toddler and telling a childin the park what she was called she said it and then said “it’s a tricky name”. On the Irish name pronunciation confusion. My cousin is called Fionnuala, Nuala for short. Her brother has just opened a restaurant in London which he has called nuala and we are expecting Koala type pronunciations.

    • Mieke1963 says:

      She was born in the US and moved to Ireland at 3 years old. So as a young kid she could have had people around that were having trouble pronouncing her name. Also the dog thing probably has to do something with their pet policy. That’s what I got from the comments on the Aer Lingus twitter account.

  3. Ceire says:

    I don’t think this is real controversy though. It’s not like there’s a militant group of anti-Saoirse Irish people, or there’s a backlash against her or anything, at least that I can see. She’s lovely!

    This was just a few people mouthing of Twitter I’d say. Feck the begrudgers!

  4. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    Isn’t she actually American and her parents came from Ireland? That could tick some people from Ireland the wrong way. It would also explain why her accent is slightly different than they’d expect from an Irish person living in Ireland.

    • cr says:

      She is American by birth but raised in ireland.

    • Skylark says:

      Nope, she moved to Ireland when she was 3. And it’s not her accent that’s the problem, it’s the parodying of it for lame American entertainment. She’s happily playing into all the stereotypes.

      • Kat says:

        I think if it was funny, people wouldn’t have cared, but it wasn’t. I mean, “Irish people eat potatoes” isn’t groundbreaking humour. If you wanted lazy writing, it doesn’t get much lazier or more tiresome.

        Ultimately, I suppose there’s a sense of disappointment that she wasn’t saying, listen, this is stupid and not good enough for me to do. Make it funny or find someone else.

        Although I personally probably wouldn’t have the guts to do that, but still, I don’t think I would have been surprised that people disliked it.

      • Skylark says:

        @Kat – exactly. Father Ted it ain’t.

        I’m more surprised that Saoirse still doesn’t seem to have any sense of how tragically lame and borderline offensive it was and/or why it hasn’t gone down well.

      • Kat says:

        Well I suppose she’s been paid for it. It’d be a bit ungracious and professionally damaging to be flitting around the world saying “I got the cash and exposure for that old tripe! Saw them coming, the stupid eejits”.

      • Miss Jupitero says:

        Few things make the Irish more weary than anyone parodying their accents.

        If she is laying it on thick abroad in an attempt to charm Americans who really want her to be “Oirish,” I can see how that would make people roll their eyes.

        I was friends once with a Scottish artist who would always crank up the brogue when she was at galleries trying to sell her work. I always thought it was funny. Then one day she ran into a Scottish gallery owner who told her to cut the shit, lol.

      • ann says:

        There’s no way she eats Taytos. There’s not a pick on her.

  5. Skylark says:

    Aer Lingus is a great airline, I use them all the time, and that ‘sketch’ was seriously unfunny and so full of clichéd crap. Not at all surprised that Aer Lingus took exception to it.

  6. Zapp Brannigan says:

    That sketch was a bit ill advised honestly, had an aunt comment it was just a reminder of “no blacks, no dogs,no irish” for her, which is not a good idea.

    • Justjj says:

      I agree. Ill advised to say the least. America doesn’t have a great track record with how it has regarded Irish-Americans. They were portrayed as simian, dirty, uneducated, derelict, and nasty here for a very long time. This depiction of them was ubiquitous in media at the time as were signs barring them for businesses and restaurants. It just feels especially weird for an American comedy show to be using such dated characterizations of the Irish. But we Americans sure love our faux Irish pubs and dyeing our beer green once a year. Not to mention the colonization of Ireland itself. Just an odd choice for a sketch and honestly, I understand if people found it offensive. I blame the American writers of the show, not the Irish guest who is just testing the waters with a mainstream American audience.

      ETA: I think the dog thing was reinforcing the American perception that not much happens in Ireland? That the only worries the Irish have are dogs in their path or the occasional sheep? Maybe? I don’t know. I kind of think that was going in that direction. The whole thing seemed thrown together in 5 mins.

  7. jeanne says:

    i studied abroad in ireland and we all loved aer lingus . it was cheap and convenient although the running joke was that the seats were held together with duct tape. nothing wrong with that. they got us where we needed to go all over europe when we were poor college kids, haha

  8. Valois says:

    It might be a culmination of things.
    Moffat impersonating Connor McGregor and joking about the IRA last year didn’t go down well either, probably because of the currrent climate and people worrying a lot about stanility and Peace in Ireland post-Brexit

  9. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    “Like her accent is fake (not completely fake, but that she makes it fake-stronger in America).”

    If that’s it, that’s nothing. It’s what I was explaining about why I didn’t like McConaughey. When you capitalize on an accent, a lot of people “back home” just might cringe. Pouring it on thick works better in small, sporadic doses.

  10. Juls says:

    Did Trump write that tweet for Aer Lingus? Seriously. Was it intentionally Trump-esque?

  11. Pedro45 says:

    Looking on the bright side, I don’t think alcohol was mentioned except for the names of beers. But definitely no alcoholic stereotype so yay, SNL?

    It was still stupid and confusing though. I still love Siorse.

  12. Alberto CD says:

    YEEEEZ. Irish people need to take like 4.5 million seats if that’s what they’ll have against her.
    Was the sketch funny? No. Was it silly? Yes, as all final sketches on SNL. Was it offensive and tantamount to treason and racism against the Irish people? Hell no!
    You wanna know what offensive stereotypes are? Ask anyone from Africa or South America. We only get panflutes, drug dealers and Sofía Vergara (a born-wealthy, white woman) trying to pass as ‘exotic’. Ireland is a first world country, with major cultural influence. No one is going to tarnish your image with one dumb sketch, specially not the woman who is pretty much the Greatest Millenial actress and may become the GOAT.
    This is a nothingburger from tallypopping and begrudgery at its worst, typical small country mentality. I’m from one of those and we act exactly the same with our success stories abroad.
    Also, that’s her real accent, she has a Dubliner accent because her parents are Dubliners and she’s lived all over the place. Accents are not a fixed thing, ask any freshman linguist.

    • Kat says:

      Well that’s us tellt, I suppose.

    • MostlyMegan says:

      Alberto, Um wow. No one in Ireland was offended by the sketch, as far as I know. Most people found it strange and unfunny – ‘bemused’ is the most accurate reaction I can think of. It seems like you are unloading a lot of your own issues on a perceived reaction.

    • Sitka says:

      Thanks for that. Always needed someone to tell me when my opinion counts or not.

    • BaBaDook says:

      Ah, thanks Alberto. You’ve really put that into perspective for me as an Irish person*eyeroll*

      Generally people like Saoirse here, as far as I can tell. We have a tendency to get behind those who are doing well. As anyone famous from the Irish diaspora can attest.

      But how can you say that South American stereotypes are more offensive than Irish ones? You’re not Irish – so I’m sure for you, they’re not.

      The whole diddly di da, top of the morning, “oirish” thing is actually pretty irksome. It’s not harmful though and we’re used to it by now.

      Its just annoying to see that this is still what we’re viewed as abroad. The actual skit was lazily written ( the oh so orignial potato joke) and it just wasn’t funny. No one is offended in a large scale, its just like, come on lads – can’t ye do better?

      We’re not going around hating Ronan over it, its just more like why is this the material she was presented with?

      Also, her accent is pretty whack* – but we’re a nation of hundreds of accents so, shrug.

      *oh, and this is coming from a Dubliner ; )

      • dirk says:

        Ah, c’mon lads, he obviously knows what he’s talking about, having seen firsthand how enraged we all are…

        My only complaint with the sketch was that it was unworthy of her time in being lazy/not funny

      • Arlene says:

        I was playing the spoons on me leg, and ‘atin’ a head of boiled cabbage and a plate of crubeens by a turf fire when I read yer comment, ara thanks be t’Christ Alberto was kind enough to explain it to us fierce gombs why we’re all wrong. I’ll whist now. *doffs capeen gloss*

      • Kata says:

        “But how can you say that South American stereotypes are more offensive than Irish ones?” – as someone who’s from neither I would say that being constantly portrayed as drug dealers and gang members is a bit more offensive than the whole diddly di da, top of the morning, “oirish” thing .

    • Pinky says:

      Definitely not a Dublin accent!

  13. Maggie says:

    So, there are giant metal cylindrical tubes flying under the Aer Lingus banner and the best they can do is make jokes about dogs? Aer Lingam jokes are bouncing around my head and I’m no comedian.
    Edit: Google “lingam”

  14. Jean says:

    What you’re doing here is conflating two different issues. People saying she’s not Irish enough, pretending to be too Irish, or faking her accent are clearly just wrong and begrudging her over nothing.

    However the sketch itself relied on ridiculously dated Irish stereotypes and was not at all funny, and wouldn’t have been whoever had performed it. I’m not really here for Americans telling Irish people they’re getting upset over nothing, to be honest. God knows you take exception to a lot of things on this blog so putting everyone in the same boat on this and acting like they’re all overreacting is pretty hypocritical, especially when you clearly don’t understand the issues.

    Most of the tweets I saw were along the lines of, “I like Saoirse Ronan but that sketch was stupid,” so there’s no need to lump the two issues together to pretend it’s just sour grapes, when actually people have valid reasons to be annoyed about the sketch.

  15. Jem54 says:

    She’s talented, sketch was lame… but so is 70-80 percent of SNL EVERY week. They would do much better with a tight 30 min rather than a very sloppy 90….or do 60 & add more pre-taped bits (more like 50/50 if they turn out funny) which they seem to do a bunch now anyway. Yeah, pre-tape would have been SHOCKING back in the day, but writers/cast can’t seem to put together a sustained 90 min of funny (less if you consider music).

  16. YeahRight says:

    I did not think SNL was funny but I only ever slightly giggle at The Weekend Update. Anyway I love her and hope she’s at least nominated for Ladybird. I’m still angry she didn’t win for Brooklyn.
    Can we talk about the 1950’s nightgown hybrid dress thing she has on that looks like a Project Runway cast off? She’s gorgeous but ffs!

  17. Meggles says:

    It’s not that the sketch makes fun of Aer Lingus, it’s that it rests on bringing up every single tired, ignorant stereotype about the Irish.

  18. Lainey says:

    Saoirse doesn’t pronounce her name the way its actually pronounced. I’d never heard it pronounced that way until she started telling everyone that’s how it goes. I know quite a few Saoirse’s and they all pronounce it Seer-sha.
    The Aer Lingus sketch was just lazy with stupid American stereotyping.
    Also Ireland isn’t mad with her, our lives don’t revolve around American comedy shows that no one has heard of. If I didnt read this site i never would have heard of it.

    • punkprincessphd says:

      @Lainey: there are multiple accepted pronunciations of most Irish names due to the various dialects across the island. So whole most Saoirses would say “Seersha”, others say “Sursha”. My daughter is Sorcha. In Dublin she gets “Sur-a-ka” while in northern Ireland it’s “Soar-a-ha”. For our Canadian relatives, we simplify it to “Soar-ka” because they don’t get the “ch” as in “loch”. Funny story: I lived in Belfast for 7 years and had pretty extensive knowledge of Irish names. I met a girl from L/Derry in my dorms and asked her name: “Cee-yar-la” was what I heard. I thought it must be Ciarlagh or something, and remarked how pretty and unusual it was. She just stared at me. Turns out her name was just Carla!

      • Bex says:

        When I moved to England I met a whole wave of Sorchas who all pronounced the name ‘Sore-sha’. This confused the ever living heck out of me, but I couldn’t exactly tell all of them that their name made no phonetic sense in Irish! Your daughter has a beautiful name.

      • punkprincessphd says:

        @Bex: my Sorcha gets Sorsha sometimes as well – usually from fantasy nerds who are thinking of Joanne Whaley ‘ s character in Willow 😉 but thank you, it has a lot of meaning for me.

        And some love for your name: I’m a Bex as well!

  19. lamaga says:

    Look, the sketch was just an excuse to show lots of cute dogs. Le fin (regardless of where you’re from and what your culture is).

  20. Olive says:

    so aer lingus is trying to make a joke by writing like trump? i don’t like brands being so casual on social media and almost pretending to be people and be “cool,” like they’re our friend (like Netflix did with the tweet about their xmas movie). kinda slimy IMO.

  21. Bex says:

    Saoirse doesn’t even pronounce her own name right in her SNL intro- it’s more like Seer-sha, though with the accent from where I’m from it comes out closer to Sair-sha. She doesn’t say it like Sir-sha when she’s in Ireland, and there’s nobody in Ireland who wouldn’t immediately be able to get it right. The accent thing is a non-starter. Her parents are both Dubs, she’s moved around a lot, and she had the same accent age 11. Just because she doesn’t sound straight off RTE doesn’t mean she’s exaggerating it. She’s a wonderful actress and did the best with what she was given.

    What is mildly confusing about that sketch is the outdated stereotypes. Hahaha, look at those Oirish potato farmers!! We wouldn’t give a fig about the offensiveness if it was actually new or funny. And I must say I find it a bit patronising for an American to tell Irish people what they can consider irritating. If an American had come on Irish TV and been in a sketch portraying Americans as nothing but loudmouth rednecks eating supersize burgers and asserting their superiority to everyone in sight it’d be just a wee bit eyebrow raising, right?

    • A says:

      The thing is though, as you said, those Irish stereotypes are outdated. That American stereotype is still 100% true and proudly asserted. The only criticism it would get is that it’s a bit tired, not that it’s not true.

  22. MI6 says:

    Tall poppy syndrome.
    It’s Sair-shuh, emphasis on first syllable. It means “freedom” in Gaelic.
    And Aer Lingus is brilliant

  23. Annetommy says:

    She’s terrific. I hope she gets the Oscar. It was a silly sketch but it’s hardly surprising that Irish people are a bit sensitive about ridicule given the disgraceful remnants of colonialism that linger on in certain areas of Britain, and the extent of “thick paddy” jokes just a few years ago.

    • BaBaDook says:

      Hey @AnneTommy, are you single? Cos your awareness of the often internationally overlooked colonisation of Ireland and the anti-Irish sentiment that still lurks legit made me swoon.

  24. Electric Tuba says:

    I just liked the dog sketch because I really love dogs a lot and I like it any time I see them. I’m simple like that.

  25. Natalie S says:

    That lead in photo of her is beautiful and she looks rather like a young Cate Blanchett.