My mother used to say that the Irish remember too much History, the English too little. I’m not a noble and can only trace my ancestry back 11 generations. One of my uncles said to me once “Do you know you are related to your Mother?” I thought the relationship was fairly obvious but apparently my mother is also my 6th cousin on my father’s side. My wife said “Incest – that explains a lot!”
Going back to the Williamite War, with my Irish Catholic background, we were, of course, on the loosing side. Aughrim (1691), the final and decisive battle, was a disaster. My view was that it was a travesty that the Jacobites lost; it was a catastrophe for these islands. The victors however get to write the history and of course all in NI will know that the Williamite victory is still celebrated.
An interesting alternative history has been meticulously researched by Prof Sowerby (Harvard) book Making Toleration:
In the reign of James II, minority groups from across the religious spectrum, led by the Quaker William Penn, rallied together under the Catholic King James in an effort to bring religious toleration to England. Known as repealers, these reformers aimed to convince Parliament to repeal laws that penalized worshippers who failed to conform to the doctrines of the Church of England. Although the movement was destroyed by the Glorious Revolution, it profoundly influenced the post-revolutionary settlement, helping to develop the ideals of tolerance that would define the European Enlightenment.
Based on a rich array of newly discovered archival sources, Scott Sowerby’s groundbreaking history rescues the repealers from undeserved obscurity, telling the forgotten story of men and women who stood up for their beliefs at a formative moment in British history. By restoring the repealer movement to its rightful prominence, Making Toleration also overturns traditional interpretations of King James II’s reign and the origins of the Glorious Revolution. Though often depicted as a despot who sought to impose his own Catholic faith on a Protestant people, James is revealed as a man ahead of his time, a king who pressed for religious toleration at the expense of his throne. The Glorious Revolution, Sowerby finds, was not primarily a crisis provoked by political repression. It was, in fact, a conservative counter-revolution against the movement for enlightened reform that James himself encouraged and sustained.
Why the historical ramblings? It has probably been a bit under the radar, but for the first time in over 300 years Ireland is centre stage. Some analysts say the next two weeks are the most critical since the 2nd world war for the UK. The Irish border issue is one of the three roadblocks to be cleared before Brexit trade talks can begin. It is crunch time between the UK power of large nations approach, and the belief in Ireland that the EU was set up in such a way to ensure no large nation can totally dominate and small nations need also to be treated with respect. This is not a new concept; it also was used by Britain as a justification for war with Germany with reference to Belgium in the 1st world war. Its a pity May seems to have forgotten this and is riding roughshod over Scottish wishes to Remain in the EU.
The Irish understand that they are a small nation and have embraced the EU since they joined in 1973, believing very much in playing as part of a team, making friends, building up goodwill and networking profusely. Too often it seems the UK has used its big nation status to throw its weight around and act as a playground bully.
Ireland has been meticulously working to keep the “frictionless and seamless” Irish border on the agenda and has been so successful that essentially the EU27 position will dictated by the Irish effectively giving a veto to Ireland. The British position is to have a “frictionless and seamless” border but its position paper, widely believed to have been influenced by Legatum, has been derided as “magical thinking” and “All we have been getting from the British,” says one source, “was muzak, and nothing else” by the EU. The British would naturally like to kick the can down the road. An excellent analysis is given by Tony Connely The Brexit Veto: How and why Ireland raised the stakes which is well worth reading.
It was anticipated that there would be 6 areas affected as set out by the Good Friday agreement but when mapping was conducted in detail:
All that mapping was highly detailed and technical. In time, officials quantified the level of EU-relevant areas of North-South cooperation. It came to 142 areas.It was becoming clear that, as they waded through all of 142 areas in detail, officials on both sides were discovering more and more areas of North South activity that was touched by EU law. The mapping file was getting thicker and thicker. It also was becoming clear to officials in Brussels – and Dublin – that there were things outside the strict remit of the Good Friday Agreement where Brexit was going to have an adverse impact on daily life. “The deeper you go,” says one EU source familiar with the mapping exercise, “the more examples there are, more areas where you find out that actually a lot of the Good Friday Agreement requirements are more implicit than anything else. They rest on the status quo, and that status quo involves membership of the EU single market.”
In a sense this is not surprising as the complexity of Brexit is staggering. This will, I’m sure, be repeated hundreds of times as the Brexit madness unfolds. It has major implications for Ireland and our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is no pushover and has absolutely properly in my view dug his heels in. No guarantees no progress. This has earned howls of derision from the right wing UK press with headlines such as “IRA’s political wing Sinn Fein to blame for new Brexit standoff over Northern Ireland border” which must qualify for a golden horseshoe award for the most lies you can out into a single sentence and the charming “Shut your Gob” from the Sun. Its unusual for Ireland for once to be in a position of power, the nice thing is that Leo not only speaks for Ireland, I get the impression that millions in the UK are also cheering him on.
It will be an interesting few weeks, will Brexit finally unravel or will the British muddle on?