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A Chara, - Finn McRedmond set up a classic straw man argument when she accused our President, Michael D Higgins, of intellectual laziness in casting "the entirety of British history as a monolithic, purely malign tale of imperialism" and of possessing "a unique level of arrogance to believe we are paragons of virtue in contrast; to believe that we are not in possession of our own "feigned amnesia"; and to believe we occupy a moral high ground thanks to a more nuanced understanding of the history of these two islands" in his article in the Guardian recently.  (Are we really entitled to lecture Britain about remembering? Opinion, 18th. February)

He does no such thing, but he has certainly touched a nerve in British Tory sensibilities, to judge by the vituperative anti-Irish tone in the Daily Telegraph response "The Irish president has a cheek lecturing Britons about history" and their readers' comments below. We all have our national myths, and no one has been more active than our President in seeking to question and understand ours. But in asking the British to consider there might be more than one side to the glories of their former empire he has clearly gone a bridge too far. They need their myths now, more than ever, to overcome the dystopian reality created by their Brexit overlords "taking back control".

The UK economy declined by 10% last year, which the UK government likes to blame entirely on the pandemic. But our economy grew by 2-3% last year despite the impact of the pandemic and is projected to grow by another 3-4% in each of the next two years despite the ongoing lockdowns and the impact of Brexit and a hugely reduced level of trade with Britain. Our exports to the UK declined by 9% and our UK imports by 5% last year, and that was before Brexit border controls were implemented. (Irish exports surge to record €160bn in 2020 despite pandemic, Business, Feb. 15th.) Meanwhile our exports to the EU single market and customs union grew by 13%, and so must our level of political engagement with the EU and our fellow member states.

Sadly, our president is wasting his time trying to persuade British Tories and their self-confessed supporter, Finn McRedmond, that they should reconsider the impact of their imperial past on their former colonies. They will find out soon enough, when they try to reassert their former dominance in trade negotiations with those countries. Our President and Irish Times opinion writers would serve us better by focusing on developing our political, cultural,  and economic links with our fellow EU members and neighbours, with whom we have rich historical associations and where our future now lies. Brexit was a choice to distance the UK from Ireland and our fellow EU member states, and we must now accept that reality and move on to developing our shared historical narrative and future with the latter.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Feb 19th, 2021 at 01:29:35 PM EST
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