So, at long last, it seems that the negotiations on Brexit between the United Kingdom and the European Union have produced a draft agreement. We do not yet know what it contains but it will be a compromise that falls far short of the high expectations of June 2016 when the British voted to leave. It will tie Britain to the EU’s customs union and single market for an indefinite but probably very long time. Instead of making a glorious leap to independence, Britain will become a satellite orbiting the European planet, obliged to follow rules it will have no say in devising.… Seguir leyendo »
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On June 5, there were audible gasps in the House of Commons in London. The UK parliament was discussing the anomaly of the realm’s abortion laws: while Britain legalized abortion in 1967, Northern Ireland, though subject to the same parliament, still operates under an extremely restrictive Victorian-era law banning all abortions unless the mother’s life or health is at serious risk. The subject has recently come to the fore because the Republic of Ireland’s landslide vote last month to repeal its constitutional ban on abortion has made the situation in Northern Ireland seem all the more egregious.
Heidi Allen, a Conservative member of parliament for an English constituency, had just given a highly personal and emotional speech in favor of change:
I was ill when I made the incredibly hard decision to have a termination.… Seguir leyendo »
Just before lunchtime on Monday, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “Tell me why I like Mondays!” He had just gotten off the phone with the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar. Varadkar told Tusk that Ireland was happy with a formula of words the British government had already agreed to: that, after Brexit, there will be “continued regulatory alignment” between both parts of Ireland. Behind this technocratic phrase, there was a great retreat by the British.
They had previously insisted that Northern Ireland is as British as Yorkshire and thus could have no special status after Brexit. The Irish government, with the full support of the European Union, had argued that this would mean the reimposition of a hard border on the island of Ireland and a real danger of undermining the Belfast Agreement of 1998 that ended the Troubles.… Seguir leyendo »
In the long and tangled history of relations between Britain and Ireland, it has generally been the Irish who seemed troubled. British identity was fixed, solid and self-confident. Britain had, after all, imposed itself on much of the world. Ireland, on the other hand, was anguished, uncertain and divided. Brits could look across the Irish Sea with a mixture of perplexity and patronizing disdain: Why can’t the Irish settle down and stop being so obsessed with those maddening questions of nationality and identity?
So perhaps some of us in Ireland can be allowed a moment of schadenfreude as we look across the same sea and ask a similar question.… Seguir leyendo »
To understand the sensational outcome of the British election, one must ask a basic question. What happens when phony populism collides with the real thing?
Last year’s triumph for Brexit has often been paired with the rise of Donald Trump as evidence of a populist surge. But most of those joining in with the ecstasies of English nationalist self-assertion were imposters. Brexit is an elite project dressed up in rough attire. When its Oxbridge-educated champions coined the appealing slogan “Take back control,” they cleverly neglected to add that they really meant control by and for the elite. The problem is that, as the elections showed, too many voters thought the control should belong to themselves.… Seguir leyendo »
Can a government be re-elected after imposing harsh austerity on its citizens? If you were to pick one to succeed, it would surely be Enda Kenny’s centre-right coalition in Ireland. It came to power in 2011 and pushed through big cuts in welfare, health, education and policing. It raised taxes and raided pension funds. But over the past year, the Irish economy has palpably improved. Growth is the highest in the European Union. Emigration has slowed down. At least in Dublin and the other main cities, the buzz of boomtime Ireland is back.
The governing Fine Gael and Labour parties are promising to reverse some of the tax increases and begin to repair the damage to public services.… Seguir leyendo »
On a Sunday in May, a reporter for The Irish Times went looking for religious people who might be expected to oppose same-sex marriage. The issue is a hot topic in Ireland because on Friday the nation votes in a referendum that, if passed, will enshrine marriage equality in the Constitution.
The reporter engaged an older woman after Mass at Dublin’s main Catholic cathedral. “I’m just going to vote for gay people because I have nothing against them,” the woman, Rita O’Connor, told the journalist. “I can’t understand why anybody is against it.” And she dismissed the church’s opposition: “It’s a stupid carry-on.”… Seguir leyendo »
In the west of Ireland, they say that if you can see the mountain, it’s going to rain. And if you can’t see the mountain? It’s raining.
Ireland may have its troubles, but drought isn’t one of them. Which may be why proposed charges for household water have brought tens of thousands into the streets in protests that have deeply unnerved the political order.
If the Irish are finally catching the mood of anti-austerity anger that has been rolling across much of the European Union, it may be a case not so much of the straw that broke the camel’s back as the drop that caused the dam to burst.… Seguir leyendo »
I was talking just before Christmas to a young man who sells shoes in a department store in Dublin. He told me that a television news crew had filmed interviews in the store the previous day. They wanted to know if sales were picking up during the vital holiday period, indicating that the battered Irish economy was, after five grim years, on the rise at last.
Most of his colleagues said that, actually, sales were rather sluggish. One was more hopeful and said that there were signs of improvement. When the young man watched the TV news that night, he was not entirely surprised to find that the only interview that had made the cut was the one with the optimist.… Seguir leyendo »
A voter in County Clare, not content with putting an X beside the no option on the simple ballot paper in the Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty, included a long letter of protest. Its message to the Irish government, which had campaigned desperately for a yes vote, was: «You forgot us in Shannon.» The anonymous voter was using the opportunity of a vote on the structural reform of the European Union to protest against the withdrawal by the newly privatised state airline Aer Lingus of its regular service between Shannon airport and Heathrow. You would have to pity the poor Eurocrats contemplating the wreckage of the results of eight years of negotiation and compromise.… Seguir leyendo »
The quickest way to understand the uncertainty that holds sway as Ireland prepares for tomorrow’s referendum on the EU Lisbon treaty is to think of the “what have the Romans ever done for us?” scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. On the one hand, there are the equivalents of the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front – a fissiparous array of small groups ranging from right-wing Catholics to Trotskyites – all anxious to strike a blow against the big boys in Brussels.
Like French and Dutch voters, who rejected the abortive EU constitution, of which Lisbon is a low-tar version, the Irish seem instinctively inclined to listen to dissonant voices, to rebel against their own political establishment and to scupper the best-laid plans of the Eurocrats.… Seguir leyendo »