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Irish ex-diplomats claim Britain does not engage very willingly with Ireland
"The British do not engage very willingly with or about Ireland, " Ó hUigínn says. "Burke said that the English have only one ambition in relation to Ireland, which is to hear no more about it. And that is still not a bad working maxim if you want to analyse British relations.

"When they have to focus on it, there is another mechanism which comes into play which I would call the Irish anomaly. Something that would be taken very seriously in another context can be disregarded if it comes with an Irish label. The Border is a classic example of this.

"Why didn't the British focus on the fact that they had an extensive land border with the European Union? The answer is that it was in Ireland. It wasn't serious."

An exhibit of this, he argues, were comments made by former UK Brexit secretary David Davis just days after the initial Brexit joint report first containing the backstop, the insurance policy to avoid a hard Border, was signed in December 2017.

Davis told the BBC the backstop was "much more a statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing".

"He gave a very broad wink to the British public," says Ó hUigínn. "This is Irish stuff. Don't take it too seriously. And I think there's a kind of psychological shock among the Tories that the Europeans don't seem to grasp this fundamental convention."

Michael Lillis, who was a diplomatic adviser to Garret Fitzgerald and was a negotiator of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, also says there have been "numerous very difficult moments" and "a lot of obdurate, of almost blind attitudes by the British".

What you hear in the public space is the bit of the iceberg that's above the water and there's a lot more to it underneath

While acknowledging the difficulties caused by Brexit, he says "it's been much more difficult several times in the past".

"People would find that surprising, but I've been through dealing with Northern Ireland in one way or another since the early 1970s. [Conservative UK prime minister Edward] Heath made it very clear that Northern Ireland was none of the business of Dublin.

"This was in the middle of the worst period of violence that we've had in the 30 years, mainly Provisional IRA violence of course, but also disastrous policies by the British like internment, other disasters like Bloody Sunday. And you know eventually, in both instances, we got over it."

Lillis believe Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, will lead the UK to a no-deal Brexit at the end of October, while Ó Uigínn says "they will crash out or they will leave, certainly".

"I think Boris Johnson is determined that there will be no issue between himself and Brexit as he goes toward an election," he adds. "And that's why he has to avoid the practical stuff which is messy and go for the Agincourt.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 10th, 2019 at 11:14:03 AM EST
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