I’m Irish living in the Republic of Ireland. But I’ve grown up being acutely aware of our similarity to Britain. Our reliance on Britain. And love/hate relationship with Britain. On first glance we look alike. We sound alike. We speak the same language (though some would wish we didn’t). We like to drink. We play football and rugby. As a child my cousins lived in England. With of course my aunts and uncles often talking about when they’d get home. I grew up thinking I would emigrate there. I never did but lots of friends have, some never to return. My sister is settled in London with the other one having just left after nearly ten years. Then there’s the history. The embittered, well told tales of 800 years of servitude. The banishment out West, the martyrs and failed rebellions, the murders, The Black and Tans, the bombings, the religion. Oh the religion. And the never ending blaming of a country that sometimes barely recognises us. Any Irish person will tell you about how often Britain has happily claimed an Irish feat as their own. i.e. referring to someone who’s clearly Irish as British. It is somewhat forgivable this offence. They’ve colonised so many countries, I’m sure it is easy to forget who is still under British rule.
I’ll admit, I would love to have seen the diverged path of Irish history, had we not been colonised. Simply to learn what choices we would have made on our own. But only as a glimpse as I believe our history is what is the making of us. Especially in this year, our centenary of the Easter Rising. People like Pearse, Yeats, McDonagh and later in life Heaney, Longley and Sebastian Barry among many, many others, would have told different stories. Though I suppose that is to be expected.
As a child, I clearly remember a sense of awe at how multi-cultural England was. Whereas Ireland in the 80’s was predominantly a sea of white, Catholic faces. Just across the water the country seemed to bream with experience and culture. There were stories to tell. Experiences to learn from. Differences to understand. It felt so much more cosmopolitan than anything I’d ever experienced. Ireland felt like a backwater pond in comparison. But things have changed here. I believe we’ve caught up with Britain. We may not be able to compete on an economic scale but we are making our own differences. Last year, an over whelming majority voted Yes in a marriage equality referendum. This progressive, pro-tolerance, accepting legislation has put us on the map as a country that doesn’t fear difference. Instead embraces it with loving arms.
I know Brexit is not simple about immigrants and their influx to Britain. I understand how times have changed and concerns over economies and jobs have developed in unexpected ways. Britain in many ways would like to view itself as a Superpower. Echoing the days of its former colonising glory. Yet, events like bailouts and civil wars have impacted its growth, despite having nothing directly to do with them. This can be hard to take. As a member of Europe, Britain has had to give and give. But it can’t be said they haven’t done well from this partnership. It’s not as if they’re on their knees, like many other countries.
But I’m not economist and I don’t know the ins and ins of this economic argument.
What I do know is the hypocrisy of Brexit.
As I mentioned above Britain is a country of beautiful races. Albeit second and third generation now. But it’s what makes it an interesting place. In my opinion, it’s what defines Britain today. And it is as a result of Britain colonising half of the world. So it is a bit much now to be saying we don’t want a flood of immigrants to our country. We want to close our borders, protect our jobs, our schools, our life. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t turn your back on history and the role you played because it now suits you. I understand there is a problem. Europe has failed to deal with the immigrant crisis and it needs to put some sort of structure in place. More for the people who are fleeing than anything else. The rest of us, we must stand together and help the less unfortunate. Not shut them out when they have no where else to go.
I really hope the people of ‘Great’ Britain stand up for what’s right and vote to remain.
If not, then I hope everyone else stays true to their word and shows Great Britain what it is really like to be out alone in the cold.