Ever wondered why nearly all our Northern Ireland MEPs have been Eurosceptic (with the exception of the SDLP) whilst those in the south have been almost universally Europhile? John Coakley on the remarkably protean nature of Irish identity, and it’s willingness to engage with wider notions of European identity…
It may well be the case that the pillars on which Irish nationalism has relied in the past – such as its ancestral language, a perceived link to the Catholic tradition, and a militantly separatist version of history – have all been undermined over recent decades, leaving space for the growth of broader patterns of loyalty.
But the pace at which public opinion seems to have changed must remain something of a puzzle. Why have Irish citizens, like their counterparts elsewhere, been prepared to give up the distinctive green passport, to adopt the euro in place of the pound, and perhaps even to defer to European foreign and defence priorities? And why have Irish elites, like elites in other member states, been willing to surrender decision-making capacity and to forgo domestic promotion prospects (even if much brighter prospects beckon for the few at EU level)?
These questions are challenging, and raise a more general issue about the puzzle referred to above. Rather than exploring “Euroscepticism”, whose roots are not at all surprising in a union of nation states, should we not be exploring “Euronationalism”, the force that has played so remarkable a role in driving the European integration process?