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An education in power relationships. June 14, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I was reading this from Fintan O’Toole during the week and thinking, is it even plausible that he would have written something like this any time prior to 2016. And while it is probably unwise to assume there is an O’Toole-o-meter by which we can judge Anglo-Irish relations at state and governmental level surely this underscores just how absurd matters stand in London.

About a decade ago I was talking with someone over a pint. And they raised the idea that ‘you know, really, what difference would it make if Ireland was still part of the UK.’ And it followed along the lines of ‘we’re really very similar’ etc, etc. And it struck me then, and even more so now, that that betrayed a remarkable misunderstanding of the power relationships at work between large and small states, between neighbours and in regard to the differing societal and cultural forces at work. And having a bit of an in to English attitudes to the Irish – having an English parent, living in the UK, etc, I also thought there was a certain naivety about certain aspects as to how Ireland is perceived.

Johnson’s boorishness points to that. But I’ve heard a lot worse in my time – sometimes born of ignorance, worse again when it’s born of indifference.

Of course Ireland and England, and Scotland and Wales are close. There are aspects of a fraternal relationship. There should be strong links between them, and some of those may well be political in form. But closeness does not and should not be taken for indivisibility. And the very simple reality that first Ireland, and more recently Scotland, have pushed and are pushing towards independence tells us something.

And Brexit teaches us that British interests are clearly not the same as Irish interests, and that Britain does not pay due heed to Irish interests. This is hardly news for many of us, but it is clearly news for some.

In fairness to the person I was talking to, in fairness indeed to O’Toole, it is entirely reasonable to suggest that rosier views of these matters were possible in the period from the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s. Though even then a healthy scepticism would be no harm. But they’re not possible now. And O’Toole’s appreciation of that is no bad thing.


1. FergusD - June 15, 2018

Sadly British governments retain a colonial attitude to Ireland and the Irish. Witness the border issue. The Eu is more important now. You can see what potential there is in something like the EU for both countries if the EU operated on socialist principles, but alas not.

Most Brits see Ireland as a close, but different country. I don’t think many Brits understand NI.


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