Submitted by George Callaghan…
Brexit is happening. Where does this leave the Republic of Ireland? It will leave us as the only EU member state bordering the United Kingdom. It looks like there will be no trade agreement between the EU and UK. The United Kingdom is the biggest single trade partner of Eire.
For divers reasons rejoining the UK is the right answer. Not least it would solve the trade issue. It would enhance our security. It would bring us under the NATO umbrella.
Dissident republicans are threatening to recommence their shameful crimes against peace. However, if the security forces across the British Isles were united then the dissident republicans would soon be closed down.
The great majority of people in Ireland have ancestors who were Welsh or Scots or English as well as Gaels. Likewise, at least 20% of people in Great Britain are of Irish stock. Irish nationalism is founded on the core fallacy of the Irish not being British. Ireland has been regarded as integral to the British Isles throughout history. The culture of Great Britain is almost identical to that of Ireland. There is an Irish pub on every high street in Great Britain.
Most people in Ireland were nationalists. That is they say that they wanted Ireland or at least most of it to be independent or at least mostly independent. Those who were uncompromising were known as republicans. What is the one thing everyone knows about the United Kingdom? That there is a monarch. There is a clue in the word ‘kingdom’. Irish republicans were known as ‘republicans’ because they abjured the monarchy. Moreover, it signified their complete rejection of any political link with Great Britain. Great Britain is a land where almost all Irish people have ancestry. It has also been our major trade partner since time immemorial.
Since the 1990s people have spoken of Ireland being post-nationalist. In the Republic of Ireland the partition issue was not prominent.
In 2002 the Fine Gael leader pronounced ‘Fianna Fail is the nationalist party and we are the internationalist party.’ Despite mouthing nationalist shibboleths the Fianna Fail Party did not believe in Irish nationalist. Like the other mainstream parties they had become European nationalist.
Sinn Fein went the same way. For all their ‘wrap the green flag round me’ antics it was a sham. In the 2000s Sinn Fein underwent a volte-face on the European issue. They became ardent Europhiles.
It appears that absolutely no one in Ireland supports Irish independence now. There are dissident republicans. These are ultra nationalist headbangers who reject the Good Friday Agreement. These cretinous thugs want to destroy freedom and democracy. But even dissident republicans do not support Irish independence. They want to found a Celtic Confederation of Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Wales and Brittainy.
Post-Nationalists in Ireland pay lip service to the reunification of Ireland. Ireland has only ever been fully united when we were politically connected to England. Ireland can be united again. If we simply rejoined the UK then that would be that.
Eurobarometer polls show that approval of the EU is higher in the Irish Republic than in any other EU country. Just because EU membership is popular does not prove that it is good. The majority can be wrong. Remainers in the UK will tell you that! In the UK there was a high majority for the EEC in the late 1980s. How times of change. Irish approval of the EU could change drastically.
We used to be net recipients of EU funds. Now we are contributors. Dublin set up one of the world’s lowest tax rates for corporations. This was hugely beneficial to the Irish economy. Now the EU tells us that is illegal. We have been handed a massive bill for back taxes.
Northern Ireland has received subsidies from the rest of the UK for over a century. The Republic of Ireland probably would too. Great Britain is incredibly generous to the Irish.
The Irish have virtually no influence in the EU. We are under 1% of the EU population. The EU is looking to expand ever deeper east to Albania, Georgia and Ukraine. This could well provoke a war against Russia.
Neutrality has been the lynchpin of Irish foreign policy since the inception of the Irish State in 1922. This has served us well. Irish neutrality is still very popular. But the EU has made this neutrality a fiction and Irish politicians have played along with it. They have pulled the wool over the people’s eyes. We the Irish could find ourselves at war despite having a puny army.
Think of the bombing of Libya. That was EU policy. As the Treaty of Lisbon said we were required to support that in a spirit of loyalty and solidarity.
The United Kingdom is not neutral and does not pretend to be. This honesty of laudable. There are people in the UK who would like to turn the country towards neutrality. Irish input would make this more likely.
The European Union has done nothing in furtherance of the Republic’s interests with respect to Brexit. If the EU cared about Eire then an acceptable deal would have been offered to the UK. If Brexit turns out to be catastrophic then the Irish Republic will be more severely impacted than any EU member country. The logical solution is to rejoin the United Kingdom. Then trade will be safeguarded. We trade with GB more than any other country.
Nationalists in Ireland craved partition. They wanted the partition of the British Isles. The people of Great Britain are our kith and kin. Our fate is enmeshed with ours and theirs with ours. We are of one blood, one language, one faith and one crown. It was the height of absurdity to believe that a clean break could be brought about. Moreover, anyone who has applied his mind to the situation would perceive it to be undesirable.
Ray Basset was a career Irish diplomat. He was a lifelong europhile After the Brexit vote he said that the Irish Republic ought to withdraw from the EU also. In the wake of Brexit I must quote W B Yeats – ‘everything is changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.’
If we rejoined the UK it could be as part of the unitary state. More likely there would be devolution to the whole of Ireland. An all-Ireland assembly would sit at Dublin. There would be a first minister. I believe the title chief minister as is used in Pakistan would be better. Because it gets confusing when speaking about the sequence in which people held the office of first minister. We would also send MPs to Westminster. The Queen would be our head of state. We could have a governor-general as we did in the 1920s or a viceroy as we did in the 1910s. This person could be elected. We might even be able to retain the president with the title of president even if we dissolved the republic. Some people dislike the monarchy so references to the monarch in oaths could be made optional. The British Constitution is very flexible. It could adapt to us having a president as well as a monarch. Unionists would be happy to be part of the UK. Nationalists would have Irish unity.
We could retain the tricolour. Our flag is what most people associated with Ireland. That is far more vital than the word republic. The Union Flag could fly over the whole of Ireland too.
The Irish language is used by the UK Government on British passports. The Irish language would retain its co-official status in Ireland if we came back to the UK. People have been learning it in Great Britain for decades. No one is trying to deprive us of our Irish identity. When we were part of the UK no one disputed that we were Irish. Irishness was and is celebrated by the British Army. Irish regiments have the word ‘Irish’ in their names. The have Irish kilts, Irish pipes, Irish wolf hounds etc…
We are not where we were a century ago. If the whole of Ireland were to form part of the UK it would not be as it was last time. Sectarianism has all be vanished. There is no anti-Irish sentiment in Great Britain. There is little anglophobia in Ireland. Reunification would only happen in a voluntary and honourable manner.
Before 2016 polls showed a clear majority of Catholics in Northern Ireland favoured the union. Even 20% of Sinn Fein voters did. Catholicism is entirely compatible with Britishness.
Unfortunately, there are deeply entrenched prejudices. Some people are very closed minded. Many are living in the past. People will bring up grievances from centuries ago as reasons not to come home to the UK. I wish to see us reintegrate with the UK. But I am not holding my breath.
If we reunited with Great Britain we would be richer, safer, freer and happier.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.