Written on: 15. 12. 2011 in the category: Uncategorized

Is our membership of the euro simply a rather fraught way of declaring our non-Britishness?

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It was a shame that Europe waited until I was away before it fell apart, for I feel sure that my counsel might have been of some use to the German Chancellor, Helmut Merkel, or the French President, Signore Punchinello. For a start, I should certainly advise Herr Merkel to do something about his tailor, for the rascal is giving his suits the strangest cut.

Jackets should not normally reveal the bottom (especially one as ample as his) unless one wants to become a bullfighter, a career-choice that Herr Merkel seems to have left rather late in life. And I wonder, were the French quite right to have elected a Venetian seaside glove-puppet as president? Though I gather his wife is not a Judy, but a Carla: however, an Italian nonetheless.

Anyway — so here we are again, with the Great Dilemma: which way should Ireland go? To where language, culture, trade and history take us, closer to the orbit of Britain? Or where our political classes have sought to go, ever since their predecessors described Kaiser Bill’s Germany as “our gallant allies”? My own preference — to be a Mediterranean Département of France — has foundered upon the shameful refusal of Corsica to swap places with us. This is a pity. We could have those wonderful Mirage and Rafale fighters in our skies, and we could be selling our cheeses, Cashel Bleu, Milleens et Gubeen in French supermarkets, alongside the mediocre Roquefort and Colonel.

Fine Gael could revert to its Norman origins and become Fine Gaul. Our children would learn how General de Gaulle led the resistance to the Third Reich from the former French crown colony of Bretagne, before finally recrossing La Manche in glory and winning a stunning victory in Normandy in 1944. We would have to learn French, of course, and discuss deconstructionism and Derrida on Le Luas; a sacrifice well worth making.

But thanks to Corsica’s cruel intransigence — a French word, needless to say — it is not to be. We remain stuck in the Atlantic, and — to judge from some commentators — wallowing still in the warm cockiness that we are not like that pesky, stand-alone, Europariah Britain.

But hold on there. As our political classes are finally beginning to grasp, our major European trading partner will still be Britain, which exports more to us than it does to China, Russia, India and Brazil combined. And we sell more to the UK and the US than we do to euroland. So: is our membership of the euro essential to our economic well-being, or is it simply a fiscal and rather fraught way of declaring our non-Britishness?

But our two islands are culturally inseparable. One third of all newspapers sold in Ireland are British. British publishers account for 90pc of book sales here. Our foods are virtually identical. Aside from the huge domestic consumption of the main British television stations. Irish viewers watch English soccer, not Spanish or Italian, and the major club rugby matches are with British teams, plus a couple of French ones. And our emigrants, once again, are heading primarily for the Anglophone lands of the old British empire, rather than mainland Europe: an uncomfortable truth, to be sure, but an irrefutable one.

Which brings us to Michael Noonan’s point yesterday: we cannot have an EU tax on financial services while London doesn’t. Why? Because essentially, we are within the same trading area.

Yet if anyone were to start a closer-to-England party reflecting these realities — rather like the existing pro-EU aspirations of our political classes — it would soon be called the Fianna Famine Party, or The Black and Tan Fan-club.

But what about our history? Yes indeed: what about it? Germany invaded France three times in 70 years, and killed millions of French people on French soil (those that it did not gas, shoot or behead in camps in Germany and Poland). So what was that you were saying about history?

Anyway, by the standards of both the New Franco-German Empire and the UK, we are small beer, and must deal with political elites that are barely aware of who we are. We know from long experience that — apart from when the latest IRA is gallantly blowing up revellers in English pubs — the English (the only people in Britain that really count) have difficulty remembering anything about Ireland, other than in some benignly baffled way: namely, the home of the famous poet, Seamus Jedward. The Germans know us best for their TV soap opera, ‘Our Farm in Ireland’, in which a German GP falls in love with a beguiling Irish shepherdess, Erin O’Toole.

And indeed, the air is thick with shepherdesses, all of them utterly beguiling, here in Ballymore Eustace. Finally, the French know us primarily through ‘Braveheart’: we fight ze English, we wear ze kilt, we perform ze Highland Fling, and so on.

So we’re back to the old question: Berlin or Bermondsey? We all know the truth, don’t we? How long before that defining truth once and for all enters the mainstream of our politics?

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