In Ireland, we won’t be Brexiting

Jennie Ridyard

Jennie Ridyard

Dare I speak for Ireland? I live in Ireland – not England, not Great Britain, not the United Kingdom – but in this separate land, the Republic of Ireland.

We are not Brexiting. We’re out here in the Atlantic, a sovereign island nation on the northwestern edges of Europe, but on our island there is also Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom (which includes England, Scotland and Wales too).

It’s not complicated. Yet our relationship with “the North” is complicated. So is our relationship with the United Kingdom. It’s friendly, but fraught if you consider the actual history, taught in no schools in the UK far as I can tell, though you won’t find a child in this Republic of Ireland who hasn’t learnt about the occupation and colonisation by the empire-building Britain of yore – rose-tinted memories of which seem to have created Brexit.

Under the British, the Irish weren’t allowed to own land; their children weren’t allowed to learn in their home language. Do you hear echoes? The notorious potato famine that decimated a quarter of the population was not merely due to the ravages of blight; it was not due solely to a lack of food. Subsistence sharecroppers who worked the confiscated lands faced total crop failure, so were thrown out because they couldn’t pay their tithe.

However, other food crops were shipped to England, plentiful. So no, we’re not Brexiting, nor Irexiting. Irish people half joke there was “800 years of oppression” before the final uprising and War of Independence.

On departure, the British kept the North, or Northern Ireland, because the people they’d brought over to secure it – google “Irish Plantations” – wanted to stay in the Union.

Except for those who didn’t. It got ugly, with bombs and soldiers, until the troubles ended with the Good Friday Agreement.

We were all in the EU now: the border could go. There’d be free movement. Until Brexit.

Now the Irish are accused of being obstreperous for insisting that the internationally ratified Good Friday Agreement stands, that the hard borders between the Republic and the North must not go up again.

And all the while, the British contend they’re sick of outsiders interfering in their affairs…

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