Friday, 28 July 2017
How the Irish see us, and other things.
I've just returned from a fascinating week doing "touristy" things based on Galway in the West of Ireland. I do not claim on the basis of a one week visit to have cracked the Irish perspective on everything, but here are four interesting pointers.
1. Brexit I. A leader in the Irish Times (does Murdoch own that one too?), on, I think, Friday 21st July, said something like
"We are sorry to lose our friend and close ally [from the EU], but that will not preclude us from picking at the carcass" (or maybe it was 'cadaver').
This struck me as being surprisingly friendly, in view of the bitter history between our two nations, but, in seeking to attract those financial services, and perhaps other industries fleeing from a UK no longer in the EU, essentially practical.
And good luck to them. Ireland shares one of the great "pull factors" which attract foreign firms to settle in the UK: the English language. And they speak it in a way I find absolutely charming.
2. Brexit II. Here's a letter published in the Irish Times on Thursday 27th July:
With the prospect of a UK-US trade deal likely to result in the flooding of the UK with US-produced GM food products, chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-laden beef, surely any "Ireland-UK friendly" Brexit deal will mean that we are also vulnerable to exposure to these products? I can think of a multitude of UK-based food outlets in Ireland where such exposure is not only a risk but a likelihood and wonder what the Government is doing to safeguard such a prospect.?
Yours etc, Kevin Nolan.
Mr Nolan may genuinely wonder what his government will do. I don't wonder at all about ours. . It will almost certainly be "Nothing " - a complete cave in to any demands that the US is likely to make in order to secure any sort of trade deal.
3.The Famine. By far and away the most moving experience was to see the National Famine Monument, a Coffin Ship at the base of Croagh Patrick in Murrusk, County Mayo. This depicts skeletons intertwined with the rigging of one of the ships which took the desperately starving migrants to a better world across the Atlantic - if they survived. For details see here.
In 1997, the 150th anniversary of the end of the Famine, Tony Blair "apologised" for it as follows:
"That one million people should have died in what was then part of the richest and most powerful nation in the world is something that still causes pain as we reflect on it today. Those who governed in London at the time failed their people"
Sadly the collective leadership of Europe, with the UK as one of the most culpable, will need to make a similar apology at some time in the future for our indifference to the sufferings of migrants and asylum seekers desperately, and across the Mediterranean dangerously, fleeing similar poverty today.
4. Equality. Opposite the splendidly modern but imposting cathedral in Galway is a sculpture by John Behan depicting Emerging Equality. In the inscription below is the definition:
Equality is but difference - respected and celebrated.
I'll try to remember that next time someone taunts those of us who believe in equality that we want everybody to be the same. Not at all: different, yes please, but still equal.