Millennial? Me? Doing my bit for the Irish language? Of course!

If you fancy a long read, you might enjoy reading the following long article on the English newspaper, Independent, about youngish people like your’s truly doing our bit for the Irish language. Tá neart ar siúl againn.

It is great to be included in an article with the likes of Linda Ervine and Darach Ó Séaghdha. Linda is doing capital work in promoting the Irish language in east Béal Feirste with her Turas project and educating unionists about their Irish-language heritage. Darach is doing amazing work to share the wonders of the Irish language, word by word, on the Twitter account @theirishfor and by writing books, including the great Motherfoclóir.

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The Lyra McKee murder – my letter to the Irish News

I wrote the following letter to The Irish News newspaper in response to the murder of Lyra McKee.

So-called republicans should use energies to learn Irish

There is something that the IRA can do to offer comfort to the family of Lyra McKee. In one word – disband.

I am sure the family and friends of Lyra McKee and most Irish people would be very happy and comforted to know that the organisation has disbanded.

While saying this, I am not saying that the people involved are barred from pursuing their political objectives. There are non-violent and constructive ways for any political beliefs to be progressed. If the leaders of the organisation were wise, they would engage in political debate and reaching out to the community to form coalitions for a common purpose. You know, the kind of things that normal political parties and campaigns do.

If they wanted to do something constructive, they could also learn the Irish language and encourage its use as much as possible.
I always find the so-called republicans who march around in British army uniforms and who can’t speak any Irish a bit of a joke.
If you wear the uniforms of your enemy and can only speak your enemy’s language, what are you fighting for? By using their energies to learn Irish they would do far more for Ireland than firing randomly down a residential street in the dark and murdering innocent bystanders. Learning Irish also has the added advantage of being a bridge to reach out to unionists who are interested in their Irish cultural origins.

Let me finish by using a well-known Irish war cry to the so-called IRA – fág an bealach! (Get off the road).

Trier, Germany

Gaeilge, IRA, Irish language, Irish News, Letter to the editor, Lyra McKee, political party

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Speaking Irish can be good for the Irish economy

If you saw a sign in your child’s school that said:

“The language of instruction of the school is the worst language for dyslexia, it takes longer to learn how to read it than most languages, and it will teach the children very little about their country and culture”,

would you want to send your children there? You would probably ask what bloody eejit decided to teach children in the worst language for dyslexia. You might feel the urge to barge into principal’s office and start thumping the desk to get them to use a better language of instruction.

The reality is that is how most schools in Ireland are. English is the worst language for dyslexia, it takes longer to read than most languages, and is of very little use when learning about Irish culture.

September is here and children are beginning school or returning to school. It is a good time to think about education and how parents can help their children with their schooling. By speaking Irish with their children, parents can make a huge difference to how their children perceive Irish, and they can also help the Irish economy.

Recently there has been talk about the new exemptions’ policy for the Irish language. I would like to share my school experience. I come from an English-speaking family in northern county Kildare. My mother doesn’t speak Irish but my father does, however he chose not to speak Irish with us at home as my mother did not speak Irish. I sometimes feel that we missed out on something at home due to my father’s decision not to speak Irish to us as we grew up. I was sent to a gaelscoil, Scoil Chearbhall Uí Dálaigh in Leixlip. I did not speak a word of Irish when I first started school at the age of four but within a few years I was fluent. This shows that it is possible for children from English-speaking families to become fluent in Irish in the space of a few years. We do not need exemptions from the Irish language, we just need more gaelscoileanna.

In the absence of Irish-medium schools there are a few things that parents can do to help their children with learning Irish and becoming fluent in it. The most important thing that any parent can do regarding Irish is to speak it as much as they can with their children. Even if you only know a few words or a few phrases, that can make a huge difference to your children’s appreciation of the Irish language. Children will hear it at home in day-to-day situations such as during meals, when getting ready for school, going to the shops etc. Hearing their parents saying Irish phrases to them during the day will just be a normal part of life.

Parents can also help the economy by buying products in the Irish language for use at home with their children. There are microenterprises employing one or two people who make books, comics, games, DVDs, toys, clothes, school products, decorations etc. in the Irish language. If more people bought products in Irish, they would boost these enterprises who would then be able to develop more products and employ more people. When parents buy English-language products, it is highly likely that their money is going to companies outside of Ireland.

When Brexit happens, Ireland will have to do more business with other EU states, most of whom do not use English. Irish students need to be encouraged to be multilingual. The mindset in Ireland is “English is the only language that really matters”. That mindset will have to change if Ireland wants to succeed in doing more business with the EU. Parents can instil a positive attitude about languages in their children. All that needs to be said to children is “You have already mastered the worst language for dyslexia, so every other language will be easier from now on”.

dyslexia, economy, education, exemptions, Gaeilge, Irish, Irish language, language learning, parents, school

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What to do when life steam rolls over you…

In a series of articles, I am going to tell you about how I am blessed, that I have something that the richest people on earth don’t have enough money to buy, and I am going to provide advice that could one day save your life. You will also learn that sometimes things happen for a reason even though you might prefer if they did not happen that way and that it is better that things turned out the way they did.

You will also learn that by telling the world that you need help, you will be surprised how much love and help you receive – even from people and places that you would never imagine.

These articles are written in memory of my neighbours who were murdered, dedicated to my family and cousins who helped me, and for the benefit of anyone who is struggling with intense emotional pain.

For those people reading this who would say, “Seanán, you should not be telling people about this stuff. It could be used against you and be bad for your career”, I say, “Go fuck yourselves!” Telling the world that you are in pain and need help is what will get people through the pain. Not sharing and bottling up intense emotional pain is the worse thing that anyone can do. It is one of the reasons men die by suicide. I would not want to be in a career where I would have to bottle up my emotions and not be able to look after myself emotionally.

Employers would be keenly interested in a person who, when struck with a crisis, was able to dust themselves down, rebound, and take control of the situation to be able to improve themselves. These are skills that employers look for. Skills such as exerting control, connecting and networking with people, asking for help when you really need to ask for help, not being afraid to say no sometimes, setting out personal plans and targets and achieving them, finding opportunities when presented with rejections, and being able to communicate to explain difficult situations. Being able to do those things are very helpful in a career, not the opposite.

In December 2020, my world was turned upside down when my relationship suddenly ended. To say I wasn’t expecting it would be an understatement. It knocked the shit out of me. It left me an emotional and physical wreck. When life does this, you have two ways to react – you can be crushed, or you can learn from it and come back better. I chose to do the latter.

In the half year or so since the end of my relationship, I have reassessed my life, said no to things that were wasting my time, taken control of my health, laid down objectives to lose weight and smashed them, appeared in television ads, made new friends and contacts, created an amazing word processor for the Irish language, got qualified in a German examination despite having to do the exams in the freezing cold with the windows open, got a job where I inform more than a thousand journalists around the world of how the European Union is performing, and when life give me a pile of lemons, I went out and made lemonade – very enjoyable lemonade.

One of my favourite DJs, Avicii, died by suicide and I think I know what caused him to die that way. I shall reveal it by describing what happened to me in December.

All this during a pandemic when it was very difficult to mingle and have opportunities to meet people.

If you are curious to learn more, you are going to have to wait to read the articles to get all the sad, juicy, and ultimately, uplifting stories.

Continue Reading agus Cur agus Cúiteamh

Tá breis agus mí ó shin, do chruthaigh mé an suíomh gréasáin chun an foclóir Gaeilge is mó riamh, Croidhe Cainnte Chiarraighe, do chur ar fáil ar bhealach nua-aimseartha do dhaoine.

Is éard atá ann ná suíomh gréasáin air ar féidir na ceannfhocail atá le fáil i gCroidhe Cainnte Chiarraighe a chuardach, a scagadh, agus iad a léamh. Is féidir na focail agus na habairtí samplacha a thiontú go litriú caighdeánach agus freisin cnaipe a bhrúigh chun an litriú bunaidh a fheiceáil arís. Tá sé an-éasca chun feidhm a bhaint as.

Tá an scéal faoi á scaipeadh agam faoi láthair. Mar chuid den iarracht sin, labhair mé le Doiminic Ó Brolcháin ar a chlár “Cur agus Cúiteamh” ar an mbealach Destination Newry.

Bhí comhrá breá agam maidir liom féin, mo mhuintir, an t-oideachas do bhfuair mé agus an dúil atá agam i bhfoclóirí Gaeilge. Phléamar an foclóir nua Béarla Gaeilge agus freisin conas mar atá an saol san áit ina bhfuil mise i mo chónaí, Trier, in iarthar na Gearmáine.

Brúigh seo más mian leat an físeán dár gcomhrá a fheiceáil.
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Léirmheas eile ar Bheo Ar Éigean

Agus mé idir mo chodladh agus mo dhúiseacht ar maidin, chonaic mé teachtaireacht ar Twitter faoin eagrán is déanaí den phodchraoladh, Beo Ar Éigean. Roghnaigh mé éisteacht leis fad agus a bhí mé ag néalfartach sa leaba.

Tá ag éirí go maith le Beo Ar Éigean ar na saolta seo agus theastaigh uaim éisteacht leis arís. Cé go raibh an chaint agus an comhrá go breá bríomhar, mar sin féin, bhí díomá orm. Dhá rud ba shiocair leis an díomá sin.

Tá sé sin crazy, you know what I mean…

An chéad rud a chuir díomá orm ná an iomad Béarla a bhí fite fuaite sa chaint. Uaireanta, bíonn gá le focal Béarla nó dhó chun rudaí a dúirt daoine eile i mBéarla a chur in iúl ach sílim go raibh an iomarca den Bhéarla san eagrán seo. Más podchraoladh Gaeilge é Beo Ar Éigean, ba cheart go mbeadh sé i nGaeilge.

Maíonn daoine gur fhorbairt nádúrtha é in aon teanga go mbeadh focail ó theangacha eile á dtabhairt isteach sa chaint. Tá agus níl. Is forbairt é nuair a thógtar isteach i do theanga féin focail ó theangacha eile chun coincheapa nua nach bhfuil i do theanga a chur in iúl agus a phlé. Tá éacht d’fhocal sa Ghaeilge a d’eascair ó theangacha eile agus is maith sin. Samplaí de sin ná beag, Aifreann, scríobh, póg, grá, leabhar, Domhnach, car, Nollaig agus neart focal eile ón Laidin. Thug na Lochlannaigh margadh, seol, stiúir, cnaipe, pónaire, fuinneog agus focail eile don Ghaeilge. Fuarthas an t-uafás focail ón Fhraincis, buidéal, siúcra, siúr, seomra, tábla, gasúr agus araile. Fuarthas neart eile ón mBéarla contúirt, fiontar, mála, dabht, seiceáil agus araile.

Cén Ghaeilge atá ar vuvuzela?

Ní miste focail mar na cinn sin mar chuireadar le stór focail na Gaeilge. Cén Ghaeilge a chuirfeá ar fhocail faoi leith amhail perestroika, vuvuzela, salsa, Oktoberfest, sfumato, hygge agus mar sin de? Is focail faoi leith iad agus b’fhéidir nár gá iad a aistriú. D’fhéadfaí vuvuzela a litriú mar bhúbhúsaeilea ach bheadh cuma an-aisteach air.

Ní forbairt é nuair a chaitear slám mór nathanna i dteanga amháin isteach i dteanga eile. Déantar praiseach den dá theanga ach déantar an dochar is mó den teanga ina bhfuil an chuid is mó den chomhrá. Cuirtear as riocht í.

Tá bealach éasca ann chun bréagnú a dhéanamh ar an maíomh gur fhorbairt nádúrtha atá ann teangacha a mheascadh le chéile ar nós cuma liom. Samhlaigh go raibh scrúdú cainte le déanamh agat. I bhFraincis abraimis. Dá mheascfá an Fhraincis agus an Béarla le chéile, ní bheadh ach toradh amháin air sin. Teip.

Samhlaigh dá mba rud é go raibh scrúdú scríofa i mBéarla á dhéanamh ag mac léinn in ollscoil sa Ghearmáin. Dá scríobhfadh an mac léinn nathanna i nGearmáinis sa scríbhinn Bhéarla, theipfeadh ar an mac léinn agus thabharfaí an chomhairle di nó dó gan Gearmáinis a scríobh i bpáipéar Béarla.

Scríobhaigí Gaeilge i scrúdú Béarla agus féach an toradh a bheidh air

Ba bhreá liom daoine le Gaeilge a fheiceáil ag scríobh nathanna Gaeilge i scrúdú Béarla san Ardteistiméireacht. Forbairt nádúrtha sa Bhéarla a bheadh ann ar ndóigh! Tarlaíonn sin i ngach teanga! Abair sin leis an gceartaitheoir agus le do thuismitheoirí. Féach cé chomh sásta is a bheidh siad leis an míniú sin.

San eagrán is déanaí den phodchraoladh, rinne na láithreoirí – Áine, Sinéad, agus Siún – plé ar an gciníochas agus ar an gcos ar bolg a dhéantar ar dhaoine, go háirithe daoine gorma. Dúirt siad nár cheart dúinne, an saol mór, glacadh le rudaí míchearta agus gur cheart rud éigin a rá faoi. Dúirt Áine gur cheart don lucht éisteachta é a rá leo nuair nach bhfuil rudaí inghlactha. (“Call us out” mar a dúradh). Mar sin, táim chun rud a dhéanamh orthu agus a rá “Níl sé inghlactha Béarla a bheith sa phodchraoladh más podchraoladh Gaeilge atá ann.”

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil sé deacair an Béarla a sheachaint in Éirinn agus go bhfuilimid báite i saol an Bhéarla ach níl sé dodhéanta. Is féidir idirdhealú a dhéanamh idir theangacha. Dáiríre, tá sé tábhachtach sin a dhéanamh nó ní thuigfeadh daoine muid.

Seachain tostanna sa chaint

An dara rud do chuir díomá orm ná na moilleanna agus stadanna a bhí sa chaint. Bhí tostanna ann ó am go chéile. Le podchraoladh agus le craolacháin, is í fuaim an meán, mar sin, tá sé tábhachtach go mbeadh caint nó ceol nó fuaim le cloisteáil. Níor thaitin na tostanna agus na moilleanna liom. Uaireanta, bhí sé ar nós go raibh mé ag éisteacht le comhrá spadánta idir chairde nach raibh mórán le rá acu. Sin mar a bhíonn an chaint idir dhaoine sa bhaile nó ar oíche chiúin i dteach tábhairne, ach nuair is clár fuaime atá ann, is fearrde tostanna a sheachaint agus neart ábhar cainte a bheith ann. Tuigim go bhfuil sé deacair a bheith ag caint go spleodrach faoi chiníochas agus éagóir ach bheadh léiriú an phodchraolta níos fearr gan na tostanna sin. Mar a luaigh Siún, is scéal duairc é an ciníochas agus caithfear dul i ngleic leis agus an ceann is fearr a fháil air. Dá mbeinn féin i mbun comhrá faoi chiníochas, bheinn i bhfad níos caintí faoi. Tá an t-uafás le rá ina choinne.

Ag srannadh agus ag gáire

Bhí rud amháin sa phodchraoladh a bhain gáire asam – agus srann leis. Nuair a bhíonn Áine ag gáire go mór, déanann sí srann nó gnúsacht. Is é a dhála sin agamsa é. Is nós liom srannadh mór a dhéanamh nuair a bhím ag gáire go mór. Níl neart agam air. Is dóigh nach bhfuil neart ag Áine air ach oiread.

Is dóigh gur rud é a thóg mé liom ón mbroinn. Bím ag srannadh agus mé i mo chodladh agus nuair a bhaintear gáire mór asam, bíonn gnúsacht mar fhreagra ar an ngáire.

Beo go deo

Tá ríméad orm go bhfuil an-rath ar phodchraoladh Gaeilge. Bhí a fhios agam i gcónaí, dá ndéanfaí cláir i nGaeilge ar na craolacháin mhóra amhail RTÉ Raidio a hAon, RTÉ 2FM , Today FM, Spin1038 agus araile, go mbeadh fonn ar dhaoine éisteacht leo. Tá súil agam go spreagfaidh sé stiúrthóirí craolacháin eile chun cláir mar sin a chraoladh. Tuigim go mbeadh siad buartha go dtréigfidh an lucht éisteachta nach dtuigeann Gaeilge iad ach mura ndéantar iarracht riamh, ní bheidh aon toradh air. Von nichts kommst nichts (ní fhaightear faic as faic) mar a dheirtear sa Ghearmáinis.

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Remembering my grand-uncle Michael Ryan killed in the First World War

The First World War ended on this day a century ago. Well actually it did not officially end – an armistice was declared. In other words, a cease-fire. It was a permanent cease-fire. It brought to the end an enormous war that caused the deaths of an enormous amount of people, including my grand-uncle Michael Ryan. He died in a war that he had no reason to be part of.

Who was Michael Ryan?

Michael Ryan was one of my grandfather’s older brothers. Michael Ryan was more than ten years older than my grandfather, Peter. Michael left the family home aged 15 to work. He worked for a while in a shop in New Ross or Enniscorthy. He had a falling out with his employer and left. He could not find a job in Ireland so he took the boat to Australia in 1913.

He lived in Australia for a while trying to settle down. It seems that he did not really succeed so he enlisted in the Australian army in 1915. He probably did this as he was out of work. This unfortunate situation was to lead to his being killed in March 1918.

He spent more than two years as a soldier before he was killed in March 1918. His unit was being moved by train towards the front line. The Germans had launched a huge offensive in spring 1918 and were only 20km from the place where Michael was killed. On the evening of March 27th, the train he was travelling on was hit by a German high-explosive shell. Eleven soldiers were killed instantly. A few other succumbed to their wounds shortly after. It must have been a huge explosion as bodies and body parts were strewn all over the railway station.

Michael was one of those killed in that attack. Hopefully he died instantly and suffered as little as possible. The brutal reality is that his body was destroyed in the explosion. So were the bodies of other soldiers.

It is for this reason that the memorial stone in the military cemetery where he is believed to be buried states “Believed to be buried here”. The teams that dealt with the aftermath of the attack probably could not distinguish or identify the body parts that they found. They put them all in graves in the cemetery unsure of whose bodies they were.

Do I hold it against the Germans?

No. Not in the slightest? Why would I? I live in Germany. I know Germans to be happy, warm, welcoming people. I hold no grudges against them for what happened a century ago. The soldiers who fired the cannon that shot the high-explosive shell that killed my grand-uncle were only following orders. They did not know Michael Ryan. They did not deliberately target him. They did not know who or what they would hit.

What I really blame for his death

I blame poverty for my grand-uncle’s death. He left home at the age of 15 to work. When I was 15, I was a child in school not thinking of what I would work at.

Poverty is what forced Michael Ryan to leave Ireland to go to Australia to seek work.

Poverty is what forced Michael Ryan to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force as he could not get work in Australia. He took part in a war that he had no reason to be part of.

Poverty was the reason why Michael Ryan was killed. If he had work in Australia, he would have been able to have remained there and hopefully have lived a happy life.

armistice day, death, France, Germans, Ireland, memorial, Michael Ryan, poverty, war, World War One

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If I were a presidential candidate

The date is set for the election of Uachtarán na hÉireann – October 26th. Different people (Seán Gallagher, Gemma O’Doherty, Kevin Sharkey, Peter Casey etc.) are trying to get nominations to be candidates. Presidential elections offer people the opportunity to think about the kind of country they would like, unlike a general election which is more partisan and about bread and butter issues.

Presidential elections provide the opportunity for an intelligent discussion about the type of society that Ireland should be.

If I were to be a presidential candidate, these would be the things that I would have as themes:

1. Reaching out to unionists, building bridges like President Mary McAleese did. Things are going to change rapidly in Ireland in the next 20 years when unionists become a minority in the north. Nationalists must reach out and cherish unionists as Brexit, Scottish independence and becoming a minority in the north will affect them adversely.

2. Building bridges with the EU – Ireland needs to reorient herself in Europe once the UK leaves the EU. We need to find new allies and engage more with other EU Member States. Unfortunately, many people in the EU are clueless about Ireland so the president could be the principal ambassador for Ireland using the soft power of culture to make new friends in the EU and around the world.

3. Promoting the Irish language – for the first time in more than a century the census results show that the number of speakers of Irish has decreased. There is an urgent need for someone to show leadership. The president is well suited to doing this as the Irish language is not a political issue and it is something that has been traditionally a feature of the presidency. Presidents Hyde, Ó Ceallaigh, de Valera and Ó Dálaigh all used Irish as their working language in Áras an Uachtaráin. This should be continued.

4. Being a champion of volunteering – Irish society would crumble without the efforts of volunteers in communities. By volunteering in sports clubs, youth clubs, parish committees, tidy town groups etc, volunteers make Ireland a better place. They need to be recognized and rewarded for their work.

5. Men’s mental health – mental and emotional health for men is a huge problem. As a young man, I think that more needs to be done to help men cope with emotional problems and their mental health. Getting men talking and helping each other is the way to improve mental health.

6. Recognizing the role of the defence forces – the president is the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces. The army and naval service often operate without much attention or recognition. The president should be their main cheerleader.

Let’s see what the candidates will have as their themes. Some of them have bizarre ideas as to what they think that they could do as president. It smacks of not nothing what the role of President of Ireland is.

áras an uachtaráin, building bridges, defence forces, election 2018, Gemma O’Doherty, Ireland, Irish language, Kevin Sharkey, mental health, president, President of Ireland, presidential election, Seán Gallagher, Uachtarán na hÉireann, unionists, volunteering

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Young Irish graduates still moving abroad to find better job opportunities despite signs of economic boom returning

I was asked by Orla Donaghar, an interview tutor, to provide information about what it is like for Irish graduates to leave Ireland and work abroad. This is the report that was published in The Sun newspaper.

THE boom may be back but Irish professionals are still moving abroad to find better job opportunities.

According to career consultation and interview coach Orla Donagher, young professionals are lured abroad by attractive packages. Ms Donagher, from Interview Tutor, said: « Some small to medium companies (in Ireland) can only offer basic salary packages.

« On the other side of the coin some people abroad looking to come home are shocked to discover it’s not so easy. »
Here people discuss their decisions to work at home and abroad.

SEANAN O Coistin left Ireland in June 2012 when the economy was still in dire straits. Seanan first travelled to Luxembourg, where he worked in the European Commission.

Then it was on to Germany, where he taught an Irish Cultural Studies course at the University of Trier. Returning to Ireland in 2015, he worked for a time in Galway before embarking on a course at the Innovation Academy in Trinity College.
However, when he saw a competition for Irish translators at the European Parliament he applied, and was successful, moving back to Luxembourg in 2016.
The 37-year-old has been there since, and like any job he says it has its positives and negatives.
He said: « There are pluses and minuses, the pay is very good, you have 24 or 25 different languages, you’re meeting people from different places.
« But we have very long days and I’m sitting down all day, which is very unhealthy. You can be sitting in front of a computer from about 8.30am until 6pm so it’s not the best. »
While based at the European Parliament, Stephen [NOT MY NAME] actually lives across the border in Germany.
The cost of living in Luxembourg is very expensive, so many people opt to travel over from Germany where costs are lower.
He explained: « I have an hour-long commute each way because I live in Germany and it’s cheaper, so I’m back and forth every day. »
Seanan, who is originally from Co Kildare, said he would like to return to Ireland at some stage.
But there are several factors to consider first. He said: « I’d like to save up money for a while, there is no point going to Ireland with little or no money — particularly the way prices have gone.
« I have a German girlfriend and she is still studying so she can’t go anywhere with me until she has finished her studies.
« I’d like to come back to Ireland but when and where and for what reason is unsure yet. »

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Why Ireland should not join the Commonwealth

There are from time to time suggestions that Ireland should rejoin the Commonwealth. The most recent comes from Judge Richard Humphreys, in an opinion piece in the Irish Times. These suggestions may be done with good intentions but the idea needs to be teased out and combed to better understand what it would imply.

1. The people who usually promote this idea are unionists or people who regret that Ireland left the United Kingdom. I am thinking in particular of the “Reform Group” (they wish to reform the old United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland). They yearn for some political connection between Ireland and the UK. They often dress up their suggestion as a way for better relations between Ireland and Britain, but once you scratch the surface, it becomes clear that they are really crypto-unionists who would prefer if Ireland was still ruled by Britain.

Here is a message from a supporter of Ireland being in the Commonwealth on the Facebook page of the Reform Group. It provides an indication of the mindset and ambitions of its followers:

Yes quite frankly it (Ireland) could even become a Commonwealth Realm and later on apart (sic) of the UK. It’s quite clear to me how to acheive (sic) it but it’ll take a while to implement. The majority of the British Isles are Unionist and these very people have the freedom to live, study and work anywhere in the UK or the ROI. Along with our Isles having a majority Unionist population, the UK is one of if not the greatest soft power. Subversion is also key.”

2. The advocates for joining the Commonwealth do not complain that Ireland needs to be more active in international affairs and that Ireland should be a member of NATO, the Schengen zone, the International Energy Agency, the Association of Small Island States, etc. No, they have a very specific objective which is that Ireland should be part of one international organization in particular, the Commonwealth. This is an indication that the desire is not to be more active in international organizations but to be more closely associated with Britain.

3. One does not hear the advocates of the Commonwealth wishing for every state in the world to be part of the Commonwealth. If it is such a good organization to be part of, then logically one would expect them to seek countries like Paraguay, Albania, Uzbekistan, and many more to become members.

4. It seems that the main basis for wishing for Ireland to join the Commonwealth is because the Irish state was once part of the Commonwealth. Logically then, other states that were once ruled by Britain should also be encouraged to join the Commonwealth. One never hears a demand from the supporters of Irish membership of the Commonwealth for the United States of America, Egypt, Israel and Palestine, etc. to join it. Yet for some reason, there is a persistent demand that Ireland should be part of the Commonwealth. Surely if the Commonwealth was such a wonderful international organization, its advocates would desire every country, particularly countries once ruled by Britain, to be members.

5. Those advocating Irish membership of the Commonwealth as an action to acknowledge the British identity of unionists in Ireland claim that the organization has changed since the time Ireland ceased being a member and that it is no longer a British organization. Mention is made of it being no longer called the British Commonwealth and that most of the member states are republics. If that is the case, why then would Irish membership be useful to recognize the British identity of people in Ireland? If there is nothing British about the Commonwealth, it would be an empty and useless gesture. It would no more be a nod to British identity than being a member of the International Energy Agency would be. The reason that those who urge Irish membership of the Commonwealth in order to acknowledge those in Ireland with a British identity is because the Commonwealth is associated with Britishness. The Commonwealth is a looser version or an echo of the British Empire. The British monarch is the head of the Commonwealth and the UK government has a department called the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is very much British.

6. The litmus test for Ireland to join the Commonwealth would be that Irish membership would be reciprocated in a positive way by unionists. If Ireland were to join the Commonwealth and unionists do not change their feelings and opinions about the Irish state, then it would be a waste with no benefit in return. The justification for Irish membership of the Commonwealth seems to be that it would be important for unionists. History shows us that from the moment that Northern Ireland and the Irish state were established in 1922 unionists not only had no interest in the Irish state but were hostile to it. Unionists did not care less that Ireland was in the British Empire and later the Commonwealth. They despised the Irish state. So what would be the point of Ireland making a gesture to unionists which would not be reciprocated? Such a big step for Ireland should only be done if the unionists become more willing to respect the Irish state and accept an Irish role in their lives.

7. People who suggest Irish membership of the Commonwealth as a way to better relations between Ireland and Britain seem to forget that the Commonwealth is a global organization. What does Ireland share in common with Jamaica, Pakistan or Papua New Guinea? Little or nothing.
The Commonwealth is too large and cumbersome an organization for Irish-British relations. It lacks the focus on these relations that the British-Irish Council has which is a much better structure. Would unionists be interested in a language exchange between Ireland and Papua New Guinea? We don’t need to beat around the bush here. They wouldn’t. Unionists are interested in political, economic and cultural links with Britain, not states on the other side of the world that nobody in Ireland has any connection to.

8. The real way to improve Irish-British relations is to focus on Scotland. Most unionists feel an affinity with Scotland. The real Irish-British axis is not east-west (England-Ireland) but south-west – north-east (Ireland-Scotland). Scotland is Ireland’s nearest neighbour and there is a cultural continuum from the south-west of Ireland to the north-east of Scotland (the Shetland and Orkney island excluded as they have a Viking heritage). By focusing on and strengthening the connections between Ireland and Scotland, with Northern Ireland in the middle, Irish (unionists and nationalists) and Scottish people will find a common ground with an easy appreciation for a shared culture. There are many similarities between Ireland and Scotland and links that go back thousands of years.

Developing this Irish-Scottish axis is not a threat to Irish identity or political sovereignty. There would be no need to become part of an international organization that lacks the focus required for developing relations between Ireland and Britain. It would be a win-win situation for unionists and nationalists as well as for Scottish people. Unionists would appreciate the deepening of relations with their neighbours across the water, home of many of their ancestors. Nationalists would also win as it would be a way for Ireland to engage closely with British life without feeling that there has to be a price in terms of being politically associated with Britain.

No doubt the campaign for Irish membership of the Commonwealth will rumble on quietly over the next few decades but its advocates have to realize that there are deep flaws in their ideas and there are better ways for Ireland to be connected to Britain without having to join the Commonwealth. The USA and the UK are special partners but the former is not nor ever was a member of the Commonwealth. Its lack of membership did not stop the USA developing incredibly strong ties with the UK.

Once the UK leaves the European Union, things will rapidly change. No one knows yet what the future relations between Britain and all of its neighbours will be but there will be opportunities for new types of relationships. Scotland might become independent if Brexit goes horribly wrong. This is when the Irish-Scottish axis will become more important.

Commonwealth, EU, Ireland, Scotland, UK, unionists

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