Thursday, 18 November 2010

Across the Irish Sea

The history of the relationship between Ireland and Britain is not a happy one. Centuries of oppression and atrocities followed by war and partition means that few Irish people view their island's time under British rule with nostalgia.

However, in recent years there have been moves to improve relations between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. There is agreement and cross border cooperation on a large range of issues, most notably with Northern Ireland (where both the Republic and UK agree that the sovereignty of Northern Ireland should be determined by its people).

For most of the last decade Ireland was known as the Celtic Tiger due to the extraordinary growth of its economy, much to the benefit of its people and its closest neighbour and trading partner (the UK). However, the Republic's economy was very closely linked to the property market and thus was hit hard by the economic downturn.

It now looks increasingly likely that the Republic of Ireland will require a bailout from the EU, and today David Cameron stated that it was in the UK's national interest to help Ireland. The Prime Minister was talking about the very close economic and trading links, but he could also be referring to something less tangible.

Most British people (including myself) have Irish ancestry and the links between the two nations are far closer than most neighbours (which is why the prefix 'Beyond Blighty' has been omitted from this post).

However, the Irish are an incredibly proud people, and accepting a bailout from their former occupiers will not be appreciated in all parts of the Republic. But perhaps it will help heal some of the wounds of the past and make the future prosperous for all the people of these islands.

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