Wednesday 21 August 2019

Kim Bielenberg: 'New British PM should write a long thank-you note to the Irish'

Boris Johnson. Photo: REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Boris Johnson. Photo: REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

As Boris Johnson becomes prime minister in the coming days, he should sit down in a quiet moment, fumble around for his fountain pen and write a thank-you letter to the Irish.

Conjuring up some of the epic Latin phrases for which he is renowned, Boris should express eternal gratitude for everything we have done for the English - everything, in fact, that has made life bearable for those who have to live in perfidious Albion.

They gave us 800 years of oppression, Brexit and 'Love Island', but there are no hard feelings. We help them out in their hour of need.

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While they try to put up a border across our island, we send over a Dubliner, Eoin Morgan, to captain their team to victory in the cricket World Cup. They build boundaries between people, and Eoin Morgan scores them.

As the Taoiseach said so magnanimously without a hint of peevish triumphalism: "It's a wonderful feeling to see an Irishman and Dubliner lifting the cricket World Cup. A proud day for all of us."

The only surprise was that Shane Ross was not waiting on the side of the pitch at Lord's to hail the success.

In truth, while we prefer to be modest in the general run of things, it is important to note at this critical juncture in our history that the English could not have achieved anything without the Irish - from the sports field to the battlefield.

The English may have invented cricket, but quite frankly they have struggled with the sport over the years. When the critical time came for decisions to be made, they flunked it.

The way they go on with Brexit, it is hardly a surprise that they have lost the Ashes more times than a tipsy undertaker.

Watching last Sunday's cricket final in between snatches of GAA, I could only think of a line from Rudyard Kipling as I observed Eoin Morgan: keeping his head while all about him were losing theirs.

And of course, it is not just in cricket where we help out the English, and guide them along the correct path after they have gone off kilter.

If you thought Harry Kane looked a touch out of place leading England in the World Cup, it is because the free-scoring Harry is from County Galway.

As they embark on their zany Brexit adventure, Boris and the Leave supporters may be happy to rid themselves of the pesky Germans and French europrats meddling in their affairs. But there is every possibility they would all be speaking French, were it not for a helpful Meath man, Lord Wellington, who sorted out Napoleon. A celebrated quote is frequently attributed to Wellington about his Irishness: "Just because you are born in a stable does not make you a horse." But Trim's most famous general never actually said it, and 8,500 Irish troops helped rescue the English on the battlefield.

In World War II, Winston Churchill may have blathered on about fighting the Germans on the beaches while posing with a cigar, but it took Donegal's General Bernard Montgomery to secure the Allies their first decisive victory.

We even played a role in England's greatest heroic failures, with Castlebar's George Bingham giving the order for the Charge of the Light Brigade.

So, where should Boris start as he pens his tribute to the people of Ireland?

He should begin with breakfast.

The so-called "English breakfast" would amount to little more than a hill of soggy beans were it not for the leadership of Waterford's Henry Denny, inventor of the bacon rasher.

I have not even mentioned the invention of the cream cracker, the fig roll, the submarine and the endless supply of wisecracking chat-show hosts.

Will Boris thank us for the cricket world cup, victory at Waterloo and the rashers? Somehow, I doubt it. Instead, he waves a kipper.

Irish Independent

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