Britain & Ireland: Lives Entwined

Mick Fealty at Slugger O’Toole has details of an interesting book launch in Dublin later this month.

Britain & Ireland: Lives Entwined

The idea for this book was conceived in February 2004 at a seminar held in Dublin to launch Through Irish Eyes, a piece of opinion research jointly commissioned by British Council Ireland and the British Embassy.

Two themes – the evolution of Britain and Ireland’s relationship since Independence, and related debates about what it means for individuals to be British, or Irish, or both – lie at the heart of each of the essays contained in this volume. The eight writers come from a range of professional backgrounds, including politics, academia and sport, and each contributes a unique perspective on the entwined lives of Irish and British people.

A poll on the book launch site ask Irish surfers whether "This house believes Britain is just another foreign country."

Personally, as someone born and brought up in England of Irish descent, I feel strongly that there is a close connection between the two countries.

However, they have historically been (apologies to Bernard Shaw) two peoples divided by a common government.

Too often, it is assumed that closer links between Ireland and Britain simply mean Ireland integrating into unionist institutions which are increasingly being questioned in Britain itself.

It is not often acknowledged, particularly since the rise of cultural nationalism in the 19th Century, but there have been important British influences on Irish nationalism.

The United Irishmen in the eighteenth century were strongly influenced by the English republican tradition, as were their counterparts in America.

In some ways, it could be argued that Ireland and the US completed a process of evolution into common law republics, which in England was halted by the rise of the British Empire.

It’s worth noting that in 2003 the Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell rejected suggestions that Ireland would have to follow Britain in introducing ID cards on the following grounds:

“It would alter the current balance between the interests of the State and the rights of the individual to go about their lawful business without being challenged as to who they are.

“The fundamental philosophy is you are not obliged to account for yourself or to carry anything to identify you.

After 800 years of common law in Ireland it’s something that would require huge reflection and very cogent reasons to change.”

Sadly McDowell has since indicated Ireland may fall into line with Britain on ID cards.

But the principle stands. Respecting Ireland’s links with British traditions need not mean submitting to the institutions of the British unionist state. Sometimes, as in the eighteenth century, it can mean the opposite.







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