Saturday, August 09, 2014

Britain and Ireland are sovereign States , but our peoples are from the same family.

This was a Tweet yesterday from Welsh Nationalist Jonathan Edwards to which I responded by saying that it was "very silly". He came back to me and asked me why I thought that. Here is my answer.

The issue that Mr Edwards is referring to has nothing to do with governance or independence. Sovereign States often negotiate bilateral agreements which allow free movement of Labour between them (and Capital for that matter). For Ireland and the remaining parts of the UK the family and other ties across the new national border in 1922 were very strong. Irish origin communities existed across England and Scotland, in Glasgow, Liverpool, London and elsewhere. To introduce travel and residency restrictions between the UK and Ireland would have been socially disruptive and unfair. In those days many people did not have passports and the idea that the Kelly family, of Glasgow, would have had to get them to visit their Kith and Kin in County Kildare would have been unworkable and unnecessary. 

The ties between Britain and Ireland were, and are, strong at a family level. There was, and is, a degree of ambiguity about nationality as well. For a couple of centuries to be "Irish" was also to be British. Whilst at a Governance level Ireland broke away from the UK at a family and social level many Irish people have strong British ties and affiliations. That works in reverse as well. Many of us who are not Irish regard them as close cousins rather than foreigners. To visit Dublin is very different than to visit any other European capital. These emotional, social and family ties and feelings did not go away with independence. And the Governments of Britain and Ireland had the good sense to recognise this and agreed total freedom of movement for British and Irish citizens across the British Isles from the start. This includes (well ahead of the EU) the right to work and even to vote. The Irish from the Republic may not be British anymore, but they are family and we recognise them as such and in my experience this is reciprocated. The absence of the need for any travel documentation between our nations is simple a bureaucratic acknowledgment of this reality.


At 11:11 am , Blogger Unknown said...

A well-thought out response Paddy. I agree that there is a special (if often tense) relationship between the UK and Eire. Being of part Irish origin, I feel I have a foot in both of the nations. The tension (and bigotry) I experienced as a child has dissipated enormously, resulting in increased mutual understanding and tolerance. Sadly this is not universal and anti-British attitudes often prevail with the so-called Irish Americans (some of whom only have very distant and tenuous Irish connections).


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