Irish Social Values & The Shame of the Informer

While reading the novel and watching the film The Informer, I paid special attention to the Irish social customs that are presented, particularly the anger towards and the shame of informers. From the beginning, it is evident that being an informer is a terrible crime in Irish society. On page 48 Gypo yells at Katie for making a joke about him considering her an informer, as he has just informed the police about McPhillip, which lead to his death. Gypo spends the rest of the novel grappling with this decision as his community seeks out the traitor and mourns the loss of McPhillip. “Informer! A horror to be understood fully only by an Irish mind” (77). O’Flaherty intentionally describes how the horror of informing is a specifically Irish sentiment. This likely stems from the history of Irish social focus on collectivity, community, and solidarity, particularly in times of political turmoil. Since the British were a violent oppressive force for so much of Irish history, there is no worse betrayal than aiding them in harming your own people. I think it is these values that Daniel O’Connell spoke about in his address to the Irish Repeal Association of Cincinnati, when he cast shame upon Irish American immigrants who supported slavery. By refusing to stand in solidarity with Black Americans, these Irish immigrants were effectively “informers” in choosing to side with the oppressor in order to gain social capital or whiteness. O’Connell emphasizes the importance of community and solidarity in Ireland, and accuses these immigrants of abandoning their traditional culture in favor of cruelty. I found it very interesting how serious the Irish took the crime of being an informer, and also how this type of loyalty and kindness was lost for many across the Atlantic as the Irish assimilated into a capitalist society and discovered that they could gain privilege by distancing themselves from other oppressed groups.