Abiding human and economic ties between Ireland and Britain

David McWilliams this week had a useful reminder of just how close Republic remains to the UK, and not just through the land border we all love to obsess on. About three or four years I began to hear the fresh accent of working class Dublin begin to make itself heard on London platforms again.

But as McWilliams notes, despite all the focus in Dublin on Europe, the human ties between the two islands have always been deep and fructive:

Here are the facts that form the basis of an honest economic inventory of the relationship. Some 9.8 million people flew between the Republic and Britain in 2011. This is just under 186,000 per week. Contrast this figure with the overall traffic of Germans coming here per year, which is 400,000.

After 30 years of tying our currency and criminally ignoring the sterling exchange rate in a bizarre effort to force more trade to Germany, officially neglected Britain is Ireland’s second largest export partner. We export around €14.265bn worth of goods and €15.052bn worth of services per year to the UK.

Ireland imports more from Britain than the rest of Europe combined: €16.686bn in goods and €10.108bn in services in 2011. Every week, €1bn of trade is carried out between Ireland and the auld enemy.

And the flow of people continues apace. The 2001 British census found there were 495,000 Irish people living in Britain, the highest concentration of Irish anywhere and a figure that no doubt has risen in the last decade.

  • The “criminally ignoring” goes both ways.

    If only both parties get over the post-imperial bit (and the Irish governments of the last few years have managed it, largely), there is a natural affinity on things Euro between the two nations. This extends as far as the Eurovision tat-fest. But may exclude the Common Agricultural Policy.

    I can recall, back in the ’50s, there was huge reservoirs of distrust, dislike and discrimination (both sides). I’m convinced I saw the legendary “Room to let: no blacks, no dogs, no Irish” in Kangaroo Valley, W14. That has now all gone: much that is “Irish” (in England a very loose term) is “cool” and even cult.

    While the present neo-imperialist Cameron regime is pursuing dodgy connections in east Europe, William Hague’s presence remains largely an architect’s practice in Dawson Street. Functions at the Irish Embassy in London are a high-spot on every press-reptile’s and parliamentarian’s (and even bibulous bishop’s) calendar. I’d doubt the same could be said of 29 Merrion Road. Even famous Seamus raised his glass, despite the colour (now burgundy) of his passport.

  • Oh, lord — yet another grammatical boo-boo. “were huge reservoirs”.


  • Viridiplantae

    It would be interesting to compare trade between the UK and Ireland with trade between GB and the island of Ireland. We might then judge how much the claims of “nth largest trading partner” relate to the existence of the land border, cross border shopping and so forth.

    Perhaps more interesting questions would relate to culture. Does the south have British levels of consumption of chicken tikka masala? Is there a great divide in masala consumption at the Irish border, or at the Irish Sea? Things like that seem trivial but are interesting and can add up to something substantial if there are enough of them in aggragate.

    One thing I happened upon in my travels is the fact that southern Irish people are watching a lot less British television than they used to. From 2002 to 2012 the share for BBC One fell from 10% to 5%, and for UTV from 10% to 3%.

    Yet there are perhaps some other ways in which the south may have had some more infusions of British cultural experiences in that same time period, such as all those Tescos popping up.

  • Viridiplantae

    “One thing I happened upon in my travels is the fact that southern Irish people are watching a lot less British television than they used to.”

    Which brings the question to mind that if one aspires to a united Ireland is that a good thing or a bad thing?

  • David Crookes

    “Functions at the Irish Embassy in London are a high-spot on every press-reptile’s and parliamentarian’s (and even bibulous bishop’s) calendar.”

    Tremendously taut piece of expression. And true, of course.

  • Obelisk

    May it get even better. I want the most positive friendship between Britain and Ireland possible, one so strong it won’t be affected by the occasional release of poison from the North.

    Cousins fighting is just unseemly.

  • Kevsterino

    Logically, I would presume Ireland and Britain would have more intercourse of all kinds than either would have with Europe. Proximity and both being islands makes it inevitable

  • David Crookes

    “May it get even better.” Amen. If unionists ever decided to make their future in a UI, the friendship between Britain and Ireland might improve enormously. A UI could be part of a harmonious Nordic-Council-style-only-better association of four nations. Sorry to keep harping on one string.

    The nore geniality in every department of life, the better. Joyless high-principled monitor lizards have had their day.

  • David Crookes

    Then you have the Six Nations. Good start……

  • Alias

    “Ireland imports more from Britain than the rest of Europe combined: €16.686bn in goods and €10.108bn in services in 2011. Every week, €1bn of trade is carried out between Ireland and the auld enemy.”

    So much for the UK having no selfish strategic, or economic interest in Ireland. And which HQ in Holywood has a role in protecting the UK’s “economic well-being”?

  • As so often, Alias @ 4:28 pm manages to find the ullage at the bottom of the barrel. For once, he may have dredged up something potable.

    The good news is that Ireland, unlike Britain, recognises the organic link between Foreign Policy and Trade — that responsibility keeps Eamon Gilmore, Lucinda Creighton and Joe Castello out of the Leinster House bar.

    Curiously, William Hague does not have “trade” as one of the FCO’s four prioritised policy aims. As he collects his air-miles, he may need minders from Vince Cable’s BIS and (because of how important arms and munitions are to UK trade outwith Europe) from Philip Hammond’s band of Undershafts.

    Illogical, Captain.

    In one area I’d wager Alias @ 4:28 pm is right.

    There is no practical way Ireland alone could afford the kind of protection from cyber-attack all commerce will be facing for any foreseeable future. Yet, multinational business needs support that only comes from the likes of the CIA and GCHQ.

    So we’re participating in NCIRC. There was a 27th-28th November 2012 conference in Dublin on just that. The direct access, through siliconrepublic.com, seems blocked; but Google “Ireland+NCIRC”, and four ‘hits’ down you should get the agenda. For the record, that acronym stands for the NATO Computer Incident Response Capability.

    The whole business of “neutrality” becomes more complicated by the day.

  • Costello, dammit. Costello!

  • Alias

    Oddly enough, Malcolm, MI5 had a role is promoting the UK’s economic interests long before it wrote its press office blurb on cyber-terrorism for folks to regurgitate and long before cyber-terrorism would become a viable threat to national security (which it hasn’t yet). Although it’s amusing that you think the role of MI5 is to advice business on how to maintain computer firewalls.

    Their actual role is in commercial espionage: typically bribing employees of non-British to reveal security-sensitive information about innovative technological and pharmaceutical products being developed in competing countries. And given that foreign companies based in Ireland are also their targets, I doubt they’ll be turning to MI5 for advice. But if The Guardian and MI5’s press office told you otherwise, then it must be true.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, another role is in competing for FDI with Ireland. It’s always good to know who is in the market and what a competitor state is offering to entice them. If nothing else, I guess being based in Northern Ireland saves a lot of air fares and allows for a lot of undocumented trips into Ireland for the express purpose of promoting British national interests on the island of Ireland.

    One other point, while you are inebriated by your own verbosity, don’t assume it has the same effect on others. Keep the replies short and to the point, old boy.

  • A word to Alias @ 7:25 pm:

    McCoy: Well, you must be very unhappy, Mister Spock.
    Spock: That is a human emotion, Doctor, with which I am totally unfamiliar. How could I be unhappy?
    McCoy: Well, we found a whole world of minds that work just like yours. Logical, unemotional, completely pragmatic. And we poor, irrational humans whipped them in a fair fight. Now you’ll find yourself back among us illogical humans again.
    Spock: Which I find eminently satisfactory, Doctor, for nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans.
    Kirk: Touché, Bones.
    Mudd [Off-camera]: I’ve never heard of anything so revolting. We’ll soon get to the bottom of this.

    [Star Trek, Series 2, I, Mudd, first transmitted 3 November, 1968]

    Right, then, Alias @ 7:25 pm, with the gracious permission of Mr Fealty, our onlie true begetter, the chat-room floor is yours. Pray educate Sluggerdom in how I should properly and to your satisfaction have expressed my pith, my cogency, my implications, my emotions, and my references.

  • And get my html codes right without fail.

  • Brian Walker

    The culture is basically the same isn’t it, give or take a few dwiddly bits and the odd in-joke? Isn’t that the big point? And accepting that doesn’t entail swamping the Irish branch by the British any more than the British is overwhelmed by the American – or both Irish and British by the American?

    And Viridi… I wouldn’t pin too much on falling BBC and UTV viewing shares in the Rep. That’s the general phenomeon in the mutlchannel digital age, -although take care to include their rebroadcasting on other digital channels.

  • OneNI

    I rarely agree with Brian but regarding TV audiences there is ‘shredding’ of audiences due to muti channels.
    Moreover high quality British telly like Eatenders is available on the Republic’s channels!

  • By the look of it, McColgan’s Quality Foods Limited of Strabane has done wonders for inter-island relations with the incarcerated part of the Islamic community.

  • Harry Flashman

    “I’m convinced I saw the legendary “Room to let: no blacks, no dogs, no Irish” in Kangaroo Valley, W14.”

    You may be convinced but nobody who has ever made a study of these unicorn-like signs is.

    They never existed, they’re a figment of the imagination, pretty much like the “No Irish Need Apply” job advertisements in the US where only an infinitesimal number of such ads have ever been found contrary to their supposedly common status.

    The only picture that has ever been produced of the “No Blacks…” sign is an obvious forgery, but no doubt it will be reproduced here soon.




  • I rejoice for Harry Flashman @ 4:00 am, that he never experienced the prejudice and discrimination that made the UK’s Race Relations Act of 1965 necessary. Others were not so fortunate.

    The signs may be — for him — a “myth”. The reality remains, even today. Try having an East European background, and wanting to rent a flat or house in the right/wrong areas around Boston, Lincolnshire.

    Perhaps what has happened is the animus the English (I choose my words) felt against all things Irish didn’t go away: it just found another, more immediate target.

  • Barnshee

    There is sadly always a grain (or more) of truth in nation stereotypes. Sadly many Irish in London conformed to the hard drinking and quarrelsome stereotypes (Fights at the Harp and the Shamrock New cross and Tottenham Court Road were a weekly event)

    Class –of course tended to trump animus The “posh micks” as they were called (Doctors Dentists Lawyers etc) in the “wild geese clulbs” were largely immune .

  • Harry Flashman

    Malcolm, you will search the world far and wide, from arid plain to snowy tundra, when you do and you find a country more tolerant of immigration and more renowned for fair play and a longer history of giving the other guy a decent chance than England (and in fairness the countries which developed from English law and culture) let me know, I’ll pack my bags and move to that Nirvana straight away.

    It might not have been a perfect society but England was a quintillion times better than pretty much any other country anywhere else in the world in the 1950’s with the added fact that in England whining immigrants were listened to and their appeals for reform were treated with sympathy and almost always granted. You can’t ask for more than that.

    Perhaps Stalin’s Soviet Union appealed to you, or Franco’s Spain, but it’s funny how you picked nasty oppressive England to live in isn’t it? How much did you enjoy the free education and NHS when you were there Malcolm?


  • No, Harry Flashman @ 12:59 am, I’d be an ingrate if I didn’t honour the paid-for education (The High School then in Harcourt Street, TCD) and the way the Adelaide Hospital put back together the rugby tackle that went wrong.

    Some might feel the Scots or Welsh, and even the benighted Irish played major parts in building the Empire. But, still, it’s good to be told only the English taught lesser breeds (which must, presumably include the Scots or Welsh, and even the benighted Irish) charity and tolerance.

    Are you seriously arguing that the Race Relations Act, and the associated social reforms (e.g. the Rent Act of 1965) were necessary only because of whining immigrants? Did Swedish-born Majbritt Morrison, single-handed, provoke those tolerant English Teddies to the 1958 Notting Hill riots? Were those whining immigrants the timber of Peter Rachman, Michael de Freitas, Johnny Edgecombe?

    If you weren’t there, Harry, west London in the late ’50s and early ’60s was pretty nasty and oppressive, with or without the cards in the tobacconists’ windows (did you inspect them all? — those of us in search of a rentable room had a fair knowledge).

    How about Stalinist show-trials in London, during the dying-days of oh-so-decent Harold Macmillan’s premiership? Couldn’t happen, could it?

    Well, there was this Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, who felt that Roger Hollis of MI5 hadn’t been adept enough with the Official Secrets Act to protect John Profumo. And the Labour MP, George Wigg (who had a track record, hounding Attorney-General Manningham-Buller over the Bodkin Adams murder trial), clearly knew too much.

    With the complicity of Met Police Commissioner Sir Joseph Simpson, the “Hunters” came about (CJ Herbert, DS Burrows, DS Eustace, DS Glasse, working to Commander Fred Pennington). The brief was to finger Stephen Ward and find something and everything useful, no matter how trivial.

    Unfortunately Ward was not particularly guilty of any major offence, and he had friends in high places. Blackmail and coercion ensured that there were enough witnesses to give evidence at the Old Bailey in July 1963. A decent partial judge, Mr Justice Marshall, ensured everything went according to the script, and a 14 year sentence was in the offing, when Ward took matters and barbiturates into his own hand.

    That wasn’t a one-off: anyone remember the trial of DS Challenor, that bullying and treacherous policeman also in 1963? Just as well they could depict Challenor as a psychopath: it diminished the other three guilty and convicted coppers.

    Keep taking the facts, Harry: they’re a wonderful cure-all for blind prejudices and bigotries.

  • Greenflag

    We take each other for granted by and large in this neigbourhood be we Irish ,English ,Welsh or Scots .Geography , history , common culture (Anglo American ?) etc etc .

    This should not surprise anybody .

    The past was and is a different country even if it left it’s mark on stereotypes . While the UK and Great Britain in earlier centuries welcomed ‘immigrants ‘ so too did France . I fact the French were the first to legislate ‘freedom ‘ and full civil rights for Jews . If i’m not mistaken that would have a decade or more before the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 .

    Parisian hospitals were opening their doors to the French poor as early as 1800 and their training hospitals welcomed American , German , British and many other nationalities to a degree not seen by other major European countries until much later in the century .

    The English are when all is said and done not the world’s worst and even if history and geography conspired to force English /Anglo Norman domination and control of the entire archipelago those who know their Irish history should remember that when Harold lost at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 many of his family fled to Ireland for political asylum .

    Interests of individual nations will change over time and historical period . As they always have . Regardless of that it’s a safe bet that human and economic ties will continue between Britain and Ireland even if the strictly political ones fade and weaken .

    The important thing to remember is that England must be beaten at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday . But it won’t be easy based on that performance against Scotland .Ireland won’t be able to afford to take the second half of the game off either as we did against Wales .

  • Harry Flashman

    No one forced you to live there Malcolm.

    If it was such a racist hellhole why didn’t you go to Russia or some other such well-balanced, harmonious, colour-blind society in the world in the 1950’s? You know like, er, no, I’m stumped.

    I can’t actually think of a country in the 1950’s with a longer record of acceptance and tolerance of immigrants and people of other races than England. Maybe you can enlighten me.

    Get the chips off both your shoulders, there’s nothing more depressing than listening to a Mick whining into his beer in London about how awful England is.

    The odd thing is they seem to stay there, never returning to that paradise that is the Emerald Isle.