Britain and Ireland as one – an understandable mistake?


In   the sort of  verbal concrete beloved of politicians Enda has spoken of “deepening Anglo-Irish ties” due to the Olympics. But he didn’t go as far as some did, as noted – not with old fashioned fury, but with amused resignation –  by Donald Clark in the Irish Times.  

Can anyone defeat Britain’s Katie Taylor?” Twitter quaked with volcanic fury. By lunchtime, the newspaper had issued its own apology and clarified that: “She is Irish, of course.”

Is it safe to assume that Daily Telegraph journalists know the Republic is a separate country and that the busy compiler was simply confused about Taylor’s nationality? Probably. But the next – and surely most outrageous – controversy did cause one to question such comforting suppositions.

Stand up, Russell Barwick. You win the hotly contested award for ignoramus of the week. Hide your eyes, Australia. We’re back on your patch.

Speaking on Pardon the Interruption, an ESPN television show, Barwick wondered aloud – not in his head, while drunk – why Irish sportspersons did not compete for Great Britain in the Olympics.

“It’s a whole Irish joke, the whole thing. It just makes no sense,” he said before going on to engage in logic so poisonously unstable it could comfortably occupy space in a creationist tract. “It’s not like Tasmanians say they don’t want to represent Australia. You’re all part of the one mix master,” he continued.


  • gary oh

    I think the guy barwick ended up looking incredibly stupid and ill informed which doesn’t surprise me. The daily telegraph have form for this they do it with irish actors and sports people all the time. I think its very lazy to not know someones nationality when you are writing about them.

  • IJP

    It may be lazy, but it’s extremely common and we’re just as guilty.

    Even the famous “Russian linesman” from 1966 was actually Azeri.

    What Barwick said was outrageous, frankly. But before we complain too much, we should take a bit more time caring about similar divisions elsewhere in the world. How many times do you hear “China, Japan or one of those countries”, for example?!!

  • Brian Walker

    Well yes, being aware of separate nationalties is the obvious point. But the intriguing underlying one is that to the taosieach the Campbell-Nevin fight was an example of closeness between the fighers and in the crowd. Is it surprising that outsiders might see little difference between the two sides. Something like Freud’s narcissism of small differences?

    Now don’t all jump and stretch the point further than where it will go.

  • salgado

    As I understand it, Barwick was on a show that thrives on panellists being reactionary and provocative rather than giving well researched and thought out opinion (similar to Talksport radio). Maybe he went a bit further than he usually did, but I suspect he wasn’t entirely serious.

  • Republic of Connaught

    There’s no discernable difference to the outsider’s eye between New Zealand and Australia either. But tell that to Kiwis and Aussies and see where you get. Close neighbours can be very similar peoples; the Scandinavians are another example.

    Noticeably, they are all self governing countries. They don’t bow down to the biggest country in the neighbourhood and hand over their sovereignty. The Scots no doubt will be reminded of that before their referendum.

  • john

    An outsider might see little difference – maybe Brian someone from outer Mongolia but an Aussie – get real most of the population are of British or Irish decent and know better. I think the guy was trolling and didnt expect the back lash. It would be fairer to say whats the point of an Australian team after all how many British born people live in Australia – 2 million! with a large chunk of the remainder only having to go back to their parents and grandparents and then there is the Aussie flag with a little union Jack in the corner not to mention good old Queen Elizabeth as head of state so the joke is on him so much for the rivalry with the ‘pommies’ that lot are just pommies with good weather

  • Brian Walker

    So the Irish north and south are not alone in making identity politics as complicated as possible.. Surely a sign of insecurity all round?. The Aussies are still chippy about the Brits and the Kiwis about the Aussies while sticking closer than ever in some respects. The Oz/NZ parallel is quite a good one. It even goes further to include the subterranean theme of merger between the two States, which might surface during a prolonged slump. This counterintuitive stuff is fascinating.

  • tuatha

    I’m probably the last person alive (kinda sorta) who hankers after EFTA & Commonweath (nee Empire) Preferred.
    OZ may have been settled up to 50% by brits but more than a third (depending on defintion & dodgy records up to 40%) were Irish – hence their abiding regard for Blighty. (cf etymology – arabic/urdu for “wounded”meaning where you went with a sufficiently disabling number of missing limbs or organs.)

  • Nordie Northsider

    It’s very common for wll-educated foreigners, and not in countries as far away as Australia, to assume that Ireland is part of Britain. I was in France at the start of the Iraq war and had to deal with angry denunciations of ‘votre Tony Blair’. And when you finally manage to convince them that Ireland and Britain are seperate polities they’ll say ‘Quand meme, vous-etes tous des anglo-saxons, non?’

  • HeinzGuderian

    ….maybe those promoting ‘team ireland’ should take note ? 😉

  • gary oh

    Its the same with people that use england as shorthand for the UK. For them england is the UK. They completely disregard the other countries in it

  • gary oh

    At the end of the day the UK is a powerhouse. Were the tiny neighbour and we shouldn’t b so insecure about it. I get annoyed at my fellow irishmen who think that everyone should know the nuances of irish history. Look at germany/austria or canada/america not much difference between them to my uneducated eye. I notice when I am in the states some people think scottish/irish is the same thing.

  • I wonder if he’s a Rugby Union guy? Might at least explain where the confusion comes from – 32-county team, and then the B&I Lions.

  • Greenflag

    Over the bank holiday on a visit to Newgrange I was telling a young nephew all of 8 years of age that we used to visit Bray and the amusements when I was his age . The word Bray triggered off a response which was as unexpected as the recent few days sunshine/lack of rain.

    He told me had a friend in school who told him that Jesus was crucified on Bray head up there on the cross at the top. .

    ‘Is that so ‘? I replied momentarily at a loss for words .

    ‘I don’t believe him’ said the nephew ‘Cos Jesus was never in Ireland so how could they crucify him when he was never here’.

    Unassailable logic there .

    I know I should’nt have but I told the youngster that although Jesus never made it to Bray there were several million Americans one of whom might be the next President of the USA who believed that he (Jesus) made it to the USA a couple of thousand years ago and was seen conversing with the Indians . ‘

    ‘That’s not true ‘ asserted the 8 year old again with unassailable logic ..

    ‘Why not ? ‘ I replied

    ‘Cos Jesus spoke English and the Indians did’nt ‘

    Russell Barwick seems to be the kind of person that if visiting Paris and taking a stroll through the Monmartre area and seeing some French kids playing ‘cowboys and indians ‘as i witnessed on a memorable occasion many moons ago would immediately deduce that American cowboys spoke French as their first language and the American Indians were equally conversant in the Gallic tongue 😉

    To paraphrase an old adage

    ‘Old anglo saxons never die they merely fade away ‘

  • Greenflag

    Gary oh ,

    ‘I get annoyed at my fellow irishmen who think that everyone should know the nuances of Irish history.’

    There are some 7 billion people on the planet of whom 6.5 million reside on the island of Ireland .Some 60 million reside on the neighbouring island Britain. Together they make up less than 1% of the world’s population .

    Most people even the vast majority of anglophones worldwide are uninterested in Irish history or indeed British history as to the nuances of either and trying to explain them this is only for a very small minority . Even the majority of English and Irish people probably are more interested in the fortunes of Manchester United than in the Land League or the Peterloo Massacre .

    Barwick being a media journalist should have known better but then maybe he spent too much time lying on the beach as a young man and fried his thinking parts.

  • Drumlins Rock

    of course an EU team would dominate completely (93 golds I think) but no real fun in that is there?

  • andnowwhat

    Maybe Barwick had been drinking too much Starbuck’s?

  • GavBelfast

    I have visited that part of the world, especially New Zealand, many times, and whether or not the people get the nuances of these islands (copyright John Hume), a still fairly common term for us all, regardless of which island or parts of, is that we are from the “Old Country”.

    There is no political sentiment in that, we are widely seen as the same but different, different but the same.

    (Not quite Poms, of course, thankfully.)

  • Billy Pilgrim


    ‘Something like Freud’s narcissism of small differences?’

    What events of the last few years, and indeed the last few weeks have demonstrated, is that the people of Britain and Ireland are great friends. And that’s a fantastic thing.

    I’m lucky enough to have a few very close friends. We have a lot in common. We do a lot of stuff together. We look after each other. We care about each other. But we are not indistinguishable from each other; nor is any one of us master of the other. Were there to be a master, there could be no friendship.

    Such is the natural relationship between Ireland and Britain. (Or indeed, the various distinct parts of Britain.)

  • gary oh

    Greenflag, Maybe that’s a good thing because the obsession with history in the UK and Ireland can get very tedious. Billy P I have a lot of family ties with west yorkshire and there so friendly its embarassing. How we got a reputation for friendliness I will never know. Go to any shop in dublin and they wouldn’t look at you if you were on fire. I was pleased when the irish fans cheered for nicola adams in the excel arena. About time and all

  • glenda lough

    Needless to say the knockers are out in force here in Irish Occupied Ireland: some say our medal tally reflects our national talent for fighting, riding and violence against women (though usually the latter is perpetrated by men; Ms Taylor has struck a blow for gender equality Praise Jesus), others somewhat cynically say that Northerners, on being rejected by Team GB, automatically apply to Team Ireland. If this is so you can hardly blame outsiders for the confusion.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    ‘Needless to say the knockers are out in force here…’

    Who is?

    ‘…some say our medal tally reflects our national talent for fighting, riding and violence against women…’

    Who does? (Other than jokingly?)

    ‘…others somewhat cynically say that Northerners, on being rejected by Team GB, automatically apply to Team Ireland.’

    Who does?

  • glenda lough

    Surely Mr Pilgrim you are not demanding that I furnish you with names and addresses? What possible non-sinister use would they be to you?

  • Mister_Joe


    It’s not just friends. Probably most people on the islands have family ties on the other island. Of my own great grandparents, six were born Irish from somewhere or other, one was Welsh and one was Scottish. And I have nieces and nephews and cousins all over the UK and Ireland.

  • Brian

    I didn’t realize there was a “Pardon the Interruption” beyond the american one with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. That is actually one of the only sports shows worth watching, they are both highly educated and knowledgeable about sports and other things.

    What this guy said is not being provocative, this is just being an ignorant moron. It is something you hear from in a bar from some drunk who probably couldn’t pinpoint his own country on a world map. How someone like this gets on ESPN to prognosticate on the Olympics (or anything else) is a joke. I assumed he was some ex jock or coach who was on for an interview, but this guy is actually one of the two hosts of the show!! Wow.

    It’s like asking why Canadian players don’t play for the US and then calling Canada being a sovereign, independent nation a ‘joke’.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    Brian, are you still at this?

    The horse is long dead, stop flogging it!! 8 days ago it was the ill-informed rant on “are Irish begrudging British success”.

    Irish people do not begrudge anyone else’s success and understand perfectly well when journalists make lazy mistakes. But that’s all they are; mistakes.

    I read the whole quote of Barwick and he’s just an ignorant big mouth whose comparison with Tasmania nearly had me in an ambulance.

    Either that, or he’s extremely clever and calculating to have known how to get a reaction and increase his profile. Had anyone heard of him before this? Nope, thought not.

    I’ll stick my neck out and go for the former.

    Perhaps this is a nice explanation for Mr Barwick (and Prof. Walker) why Ireland’s relationship with Britain isn’t as close as say Austrlia and Britian (or Tasmania!)

    The video, while one part of four in a fascinating episode follows, among others, the excellent Stephen Colbert and traces his past.

    Give it a look, Colbert’s “Final Solution” remark is particualrly noteworthy:

  • Billy Pilgrim


    ‘Surely Mr Pilgrim you are not demanding that I furnish you with names and addresses?’

    Just evidence to back up your claims, that’s all. It’s just that, when I read your post, I wondered what on earth you were talking about.

    Mr Joe

    Likewise. Half my family is on the wrong side of the Irish Sea….

    But I’m sure you’d agree with me when I say that, generally speaking, Irish people and English people like each other; and that the relationship between the nations should reflect the friendship and familial ties that are so commonplace between British and Irish people?

  • Alias

    The more interesting aspect is the absence of a national homecoming celebration (on a ridiculous pretext), to be replaced with local homecoming celebrations – the official post-nationalist reduction of the Irish from a national collective to a collection of local groups.

  • Alias

    Billy P, our friend from Wicklow is a nom de plume of a comic – and a very fine one too. The posts are not intended to be taken seriously.