The impressive story of young Irish people saving their class-mate, Nonso Muojeke, from deportation, demonstrates a great humanity and generosity by the people of Ireland. The Irish people know only too well what it is like to have no home to call your own and they themselves have been the subject-matter of mass emigration, caused by starvation, political dominance and war. It was therefore no surprise to me to read of the powerful actions to save someone from a uncertain future in Nigeria.
During this past week, I have travelled extensively in Ireland and every where you go, the only subject that people want to talk about, is Brexit; the burning question is whether England will force through the ‘will of the people’ or will it have a referendum?
Whilst I was in Ireland, I read the by then shocking 6 day old report, not widely discussed, whereby the Centre on Constitutional Change (Link to The Guardian Summary go - to main website for full analysis) survey of voters revealed that, 79% of English Tory voters would support Scottish independence as a price worth paying for Brexit and 75% of English Tory voters would happily see the collapse of the NI Good Friday Peace Agreement, as an equal price worth paying for Brexit.
When I told Irish people of this survey, they were shocked at the extent of these views and they realised that the discussion on Brexit in the UK had now gone beyond any level of common sense and what was in the best interests of the UK. From their perspective, there exists a strong determination to mitigate against the affects of their near neighbour’s ‘madness’. There is even open discussion about a United Ireland; a conversation I never thought I would hear in my lifetime!
My discussions and this survey revealed a growing dislike for the English attempt to once again exert a dominance over Ireland. There is a palpable and indeed raw emotion of the wrongs committed over many years against the land of Ireland and its peoples. But Ireland is no longer alone. It has become a dynamic presence on the western-most part of Europe, where diversity and opportunity exists in a country transformed from the impoverished country that England left behind.
Everywhere I travelled, I heard stories about the influx of British people and how communities were being expanded via a new demand and a house price boom. The Brits relocating are some who have returned to Ireland, some with relatives there or indeed some with no connections in Ireland at all. One person I spoke with counted out each near neighbour, highlighting their connection to Ireland. Out of the 10 ‘new’ neighbours he had, 50% had no connections to Ireland. The reasons for the 50% deciding to live in Ireland ranged from a dislike of what had happened to the UK, a fear about England’s stability and a sense that their voice was no longer heard.
But there is a lesson also to be learned about Ireland. I was taken to an Irish cultural museum where on one wall, there was a collection of the postcards from many years, depicting the ‘romantic’ Ireland of John Wayne and ‘The Quiet Man’. Below those cards where photographs of the real Ireland through either before or during the timeframe of ‘The Quiet Man’, revealing a country devastated by conditions and the ever present power and control beyond the abilities of ordinary people.
In the Ireland of today, I spoke with one person, who talked about how her community had changed and that there were now 14 different languages spoken in her small town. Another person complained about how some were playing the benefits system; do my English readers recognise these sentiments? Examining this dialogue could suggest that it is a sign of openness by Irish people, or an ill-informed view of what is actually happening or indeed what is legal. One aspect which I think is important for the Irish people, is whether or not their political classes have actually considered the affects on communities of this changing landscape and whether they have introduced a preparedness to ensure that no-one is left behind? Tantalisingly, it also raises the question about the role of Britain in all these changes.
The light dimmed a long time ago on the British dominance of Ireland but scratch that surface and you will expose the passions where wounds had started to heal.
Europe & Ireland needs to pay heed to what is happening. At the time of the UK referendum, whilst I have never had any issue with immigration (possibly because I come from a people who have been defined by emigration/immigration), I never understood the obsession with immigration; it seemed to me to be a massive red herring against the real issues at stake. In considering emigration/immigration and how it has affected the Irish people, I would recommend that you read ‘The Pope’s Children’. It defines how emigration has fashioned modern day Ireland and in my view provides a valuable insight into the change of the Irish mindset, irrespective of the 2008 crash; subservience to any political master, be they Irish or British is not on the Irish agenda!
In this Irish journey, dangers lurk nonetheless for Irish people. English people were very misinformed about immigration from non-EU countries and immigration from the EU via Free Movement of People. In the time following the UK’s EU vote, I did suggest to colleagues that if we were to get past the impasse of the referendum, Europe needed to look again and ask itself; ‘what’s happened’; why was there so much discontent on this one policy? I suspected then that the answers lay in how the external border for the EU was operated, along with a need to determine solutions for non-EU immigration. However, more important, was to determine how Member States adapted to the very notion of immigration and how they allocated resources against demand for services. I considered that it was necessary for the EU and the Member States to carry out this analysis and redefine non-EU and Free Movement solutions to adapt to changing realities. If only British Politicians had led the charge on this very subject-matter!
British policy is clearly creating an outward flow of human traffic from its shores, perhaps deliberately solving its own angst about immigration. If so, the dialogue deployed is a crude device, leading to consequences for other EU Member States, which in turn could further destabilise the European Union.
Irish politicians need to learn from the lessons of its old foe; don’t let things slide - creating a fair infrastructure with good resources and a clear dialogue about immigration is the key to the success of its society.
Blighty is cunning, it has always created direct and indirect actions with consequences, it is hurt, it is flailing around, it doesn’t understand itself, the glorious colonial days beckon; will Ireland and the 21st century world tolerate its desire to exercise the ‘dark arts’ of its paternal instincts?