Given that the political history of Ireland has been forcibly bound up with the history of England since the 12th century CE, with parts of this island serving as both the first and last overseas colonies of the English state, it is remarkable that our neighbours to the east continue to be so casually ignorant of a nation they have interfered in for some twenty-eight generations. Even supposedly sympathetic or liberal British people display an astonishing lack of knowledge about this country, resorting to false assumptions or cultural stereotyping when discussing Irish affairs. Take this recent episode of the anti-Brexit YouTube series, Three Blokes In A Pub, and the evident lack of understanding on even the most mundane of matters.
Jason J Hunter: If you look at the numbers, right. There are twenty-eight members of the European Union. We have seventy-three members of the European Parliament, democratically elected people. That’s almost one in ten out of the 753 members of the European Parliament. Almost one in ten. And there’s twenty-eight members…
But guess what. Not only do we get our own seventy-three votes, we also work really, really closely, our MEPs, with the ones in the Republic of Ireland. Or Southern Ireland or, before you start complaining, whatever you want to call yourselves down there –
Madeleina Kay: Air. Air!
Jason J Hunter: Ayer. Ayer!
Madeleina Kay: Ayer!
Jason J Hunter: Ayer. There are other names that I’m not gonna go into. But we also pick up their eleven votes as well, so not only do we get our 73 votes in the parliament we also get their eleven which puts us above France. We are so punching above our weight, as Britain, already in Europe…
Needless to say, the name of this island nation is not the “Republic of Ireland” or “Southern Ireland” but simply Ireland, that is Éire in the Irish language (not “Air” or “Ayer”), and the country’s eleven MEPs are not part of the United Kingdom’s allocation of European parliamentarians or associated with that seventy-three strong grouping. Of course, this level of ignorance in the UK also exists in deliberate form among Britain’s hard-right movement, as in this entirely spurious opinion piece published by The Spectator magazine in London.
[The] damaging Brexit impasse, though, has been caused not only by British incompetence. A mighty contribution has also come from Dublin.
It was only in June 2017, when May lost her majority, becoming reliant on the DUP, and Varadkar replaced Kenny, that the Irish border hit the headlines. Brussels then saw an opportunity to raise the political stakes by asserting the ‘impossibility’ of avoiding ‘a hard border’ unless Britain stayed in the customs union.
Since then, Dublin has danced religiously to the EU’s tune. Varadkar disbanded Kenny’s working groups and cranked up the rhetoric, claiming that Brexit threatened the Good Friday Agreement.
Varadkar leads a minority government in need of support from Irish nationalists. He has an incentive to make the Brits sweat.
The current coalition government of Fine Gael and Independent TDanna in Dáil Éireann does not rely on the support of “Irish nationalists” to stay in office or to implement its policies. And the author of the article knows that.