Vote Yes! or it’s back into the arms of Mother England

The guys in Iveagh House have always been amazing.. In the early days up to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, they ran rings round the Whitehall mandarins who were only just learning to hack their way through the thickets of the NI problem. In his retirement from public service ( I think he’s a banker now) one of the brightest of the school of Dublin’s Department of Foreign Affairs Michael Lillis has come up with a brilliant strategy for winning a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Vote for Europe, or you’ll be driven back into the arms of Mother England.

Update. As Nevin has fairly pointed out in a comment, I’ve elided Liilllis’ words with Paul Gillespie’s the writer of the piece. But I haven’t misrepresented him. Here’s Lillis’s letter to the editor in full, plus this quote: “It is hard to imagine that, in this set of circumstances, we post-No Irish would have any choice but to hunker down in the new “second tier”, playing third fiddle, not to the EU Mark II, but rather to our old mistress, (i.e.the UK) who will dominate a revived EFTA Mark II and in practice negotiate on its behalf with the future EU. This may not be much noticed outside our shores in the din caused by the “departure” of Britain from the EU”. “British tabloid and broadsheet titles now occupy some 40 per cent of the print market and maintain the Eurosceptic policy lines decided in London. Television is equally penetrating. Advertising media are indistinguishable, reflecting the explosion of British retail chains here in the credit boom. British football and celebrity media have huge Irish audiences

whether the centrifugal forces which propelled Ireland away from British rule and influence during the last century are being replaced in this by the pull of the larger island on the smaller one now that the imperial and post-imperial phases have passed. The Northern settlement contributes to that. So does economic policy and structural convergence; shared credit and property booms; and our mutual membership of the Anglosphere .”

“It is ironic that this should be happening just as a more stable Ireland contrasts with a less stable Britain grappling with the possibility of Scottish independence and facing an increasingly inevitable Conservative election victory that could encourage that to happen. Such traumatic changes in their cultural moorings would prompt a profound unionist rethink of where their best interests lie – perhaps in Irish reunification.”

“( A Europhile Irish nationalism) needs to be reinvented and communicated far more effectively to citizens and voters, if we are not to sleepwalk back into the arms of mother England.”

And Irish unity thrown in as well! It’s a great pitch. My bet though is that Cameron in office would not go for a referendum. Admittedly, it’s a big hook to climb down from, but he would be able to plead the need to concentrate on the economy and changing circumstances in the EU – partly brought about ironically, by the EU’s response to the Irish No vote.

What a contrast with the old days – or is it?

Oh, Irishmen forget the past
Whack fol the diddle fol the di dol day
And think of the time that’s coming fast
Whack fol the diddle fol the di dol day
When we will all be civilized
Neat and clean and well advised
Oh, won’t Mother England be surprised?
Whack fol the diddle fol the di dol day

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London