“Now there’s the healthy option of simply getting on with the neighbours.”

In contrast to John’s northern cynicism, in the Irish Times Fintan O’Toole is optimism personified on the impact of the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland  [Keep the noise down in the attic, please – Ed].  Indeed.  From the Irish Times article

The combination of all of these factors made the visit an oddly liberating occasion. No one would have thought that the British queen could free Ireland, but she did help to free us from the crippling insecurities of false choices. Before, the choice was to hate England or to be a West Brit.

Now there’s the healthy option of simply getting on with the neighbours.

The long-term value of this psychological shift is twofold. First, it frees Irish energies, official and otherwise, to concentrate on our real and pressing problems. The superb organisation and brilliant choreography of this week’s events were reminders of just how much of the best of official intelligence and competence has been devoted to Anglo-Irish relations, at the expense of other things. If the relationship is now normal, perhaps some of that competence and intelligence can be channelled into the small task of recovering the sovereignty that was won from the British and lost to the European Central Bank.

Second, the death of Anglophobia is a useful part of the redefinition of what it means to be Irish. That new identity has to be positive rather than negative. But it also has to find a way to include Britishness. Those on the island who value the British part of their identity have to know that, for everyone else, British is not a dirty word.

After this week, it isn’t.

Personally, I think it is too early to say.  Even if some are writing their own “next page”.  And the euro crisis requires a much wider consideration.

But, as ever, read the whole thing.

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  • perseus

    For equality-seekers the visit is great news
    Brit-haters and prod-supremacists need to take a leaf
    from SF’s Mayor in Cork, and remove head from sand.

  • Mick Fealty

    Agreed Pete. Too early to say.

    Murder and mayhem will never completely die for two reasons. It is too deep in the bone. And we seem always prepared to rely on the sectarian impulse to overcome other more complicated political problems. Being another ‘Belgium, that’s an easy impulse to give in to.

    And two, ‘Ireland – The Island’ comprises two very different places. ‘The war’ for our southern families and friends ended a very long time ago. In the north eastern part of the island, we are not quite there yet. As demonstrated by all but one of the Ulster GAA counties in their determination to break ranks with the other three provinces there is, little in the way of easy redemption..

    We Nordies, think of our selves ad tough graduates from the tought school of sectarian knocks, we have seen it all before.

    And we don’t *quite* believe it. The bomb in Derry further suggests that this was a 26 not a 32 gig. Yet that in itself is significant.

  • sdelaneys

    Sinn Fein might be surprised that they have a mayor in Cork.
    Out of the 9 Ulster counties only Down sent a rep to Croke park, the second biggest party in Stormont wouldn’t go either, so, yes, it was a 26 county event and there the great majority of the people stayed well away.

  • Alias

    “On the cold, rational level, the visit didn’t change anything: it reflected a change that has already happened. The British and Irish Governments have been working very closely together on the Northern Ireland peace process since the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 and especially since the mid-1990s. There are effectively no policy differences on by far the most sensitive area of British-Irish relations, a state of affairs that would seem astonishing had it not become a truism.”

    The long-term question of whether that development is a normalisation of the Irish state’s relationship with the UK or an abnormalisation of it hasn’t yet been answered.

    It is very easy to remove contention with another state when you change your policy to agree with its policy and ignore peripheral contentious issues.

    The significance of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 is that it was the first time that the Irish state conceded that the British state legitimately held sovereignty over territory that the Irish state had always maintained to be properly its territory. And it was the first time that the Irish state conceded that the Irish nation within the disputed territory had no inalianable right to national self-determination.

    Both of those concessions where long demanded of the Irish state by the British state. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that conceding both of those demands would please the British state and lead to an improvement in the quality of the Irish state’s relationship with it. However, it represents a fundamental defeat for Irish nationalism.

    It is not particularly surprising either that those members of the political class who conceded to the competing demands of the British state should be lauded by sections of the media that promote British national interests at the direct expense of Irish national interests, and who consistently sided with the British state in its claim to the disputed territory. Progressng those demands, after all, was why the British state via its intelligence services invested so much effort into infiltrating that media and political class, and other influencial realms within the Irish state.

    But just as the British state took great care to infiltrate the Internal Security Unit (ISU) of PIRA for the express purpose of preventing that counterintelligence unit from detecting members of the intelligence services at work within it, the British state also took great care to infiltrate the intelligence agencies of the Irish state for the express purpose of preventing those agencies from detecting members of the intelligence services at work within it. That is a profound abnormalisation of the relationship.

    So that defeat of the core demands of Irish nationalism is now touted by the media as progress, which now returns to the agenda of defeating Irish nationalism completely by ‘progressing’ British nationalism to ‘parity of esteem’ with it within the state itself. Since the British state cannot directly censor Irish nationalism within the Irish state, it must promote self-censorship of it by encouraging the Irish nation to do this themselves.

    That is one very grave abnormalisation of the relationship, in addition to the abnormalisation of the relationship being expressed in the supranational authority (the only such one within the EU) to which the Irish state gradually surrenders its sovereignty and thereby its right to self-determination.

    But the abnormalisation that will undo all of it is the reality that we don’t have any members of the British nation within the Irish state whom we need to persuade to be within it. They have all freely chosen to live within an Irish nation-state (of the hollowed out remnants of it). And even if we decided to turn the Irish state into a replica of Northern Ireland, what relevance does the propossed dissemination of Britishness have to people in the 26 counties? Belfast may be as British as Finchley but Tullamore will never be. The abnormal attempt to impose an alian national identity on those who have no need of it is a surefire recipe for manufacturing anti-British sentiment on an unprecedented scale. De-politicising the Irish and getting them to focus on other matters while the above occurs by stealth is another abnormalisation and only likely to be effective until fools realise who is making a fool out of them and why.

  • Cynic2

    “However, it represents a fundamental defeat for Irish nationalism.”

    There is one teensy flaw in your argument. The change to the constitution was approved in a referendum by 94.4% of voters in the Republic. In democratic terms that is sort of conclusive.

  • I sometimes wonder if part of the problem is that over the years some of us have come to think that in order to be ‘for’ Ireland you must be ‘against’ Britain’ especially England…

    Imo nothing could be further from the truth to be ‘for’ Ireland is to recognise all others not as more or less but as equals. To that extent Fintan O’Toole was right. The head of state of our previous colonisers came and was welcomed as an equal.

    The feel good factor is a strange phenomena often generated by sporting success but also by other more formal occasions. This past week showed Ireland at her best, not fawning and grateful for the attention, as some may be when Obama gets here, but dignified, gracious and welcoming.

  • Henry94


    If you look at the evolution of nationalist opinion from the territorial approach to the cosent principle the outstanding influences were people like John Hume and Garret Fitzgerald. But even before that under Jack Lynch it was obvious that the Irish state was unwilling to either put boots on the ground in the north or to give covert support to the IRA.

    That approach was supported overwhelmingly by the voters from the beginning. In fact the debate in the south was really a process of bringing the rhetoric into line with the actuality.

    It was a debate that took place among groups of friends, at kitchen table among families in colleges and workplaces. Nobody was fooled or manipulated.

  • socaire

    catweazle, if, as you say, that the head of state of our ‘previous colonisers’ came and was welcomed then this also admits that, at some stage, we were colonised and now that is in the past. Well, we all know that the whole of Ireland was colonised and that only 26 counties has been decolonised so why was the Queen of Britain welcomed? And more to the point how is she your equal? Paw in the mouth?

  • socaire

    Of course we were colonised, we were the most serious strategic threat and we bloody meant it!

    Btw I don’t care how many diamonds anyone wears (ignores serious jealousy) that does not and would never make them better than me, just richer and with more diamonds.

    The royals are not a big deal but I was proud of Ireland. How can you pay so much attention to them when Ireland looked so good and did the ceremonial as well as the Brits. If the queen was gracious we ‘outgracioused’ her!

  • Sorry to rehearse an argument that already seems so last century.

    But Alias said: “it was the first time that the Irish state conceded that the Irish nation within the disputed territory had no inalianable right to national self-determination.”

    Perhaps he means that the Irish “nation”, as a necessariliy single unit, had no inalienable right to self determination. But surely in Ireland there is no special right to prevent secession, should part of the people wish to do so? Is there something in ancient Irish history that I am missing that confers an indivisibility upon the population of the island, different in kind from any other populated land mass?

    If you can imagine Texas (or the Apache Nation) seceding from those United States, or Cornwall from England, or the Basque territories from Spain or France, when why should not Kerry, Cork, or the north eastern counties of Ireland opt out of an all-island state (provided they could convince their fellows that it was a good idea)?

    Wasn’t that, in essence, the right that the Agreement recognised?