If we are to believe some of what we read and hear, a wave of anti-Britishness – anti-Englishness in particular – has been festering in our psyche this past year.
It is suggested we should embrace some kind of communal guilt fest; the accusation is we harbour too many dismal thoughts about our nearest neighbour.
The Decade of Centenaries has certainly resurrected old demons. Long shadows cast by the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence, the Civil War, and the creation of the Northern Ireland state, have forced a remembrance of things past.
Meanwhile, the Brexit saga, and the election of the ultra-hyper Boris Johnson government, has spawned an outbreak of English nationalism. This has provoked some similar sentiments, on this side of the Irish Sea.
There has been a resurrection in some quarters of old grievances from our history. But in the main, a solid maturity in our dealings with Britain has held firm. This has been reflected at the highest levels by the likes of Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin, and Simon Coveney. All the while the heart of British politics – and British life – is essentially sound as regards Ireland and the Irish.
Overall, in recalling epoch-making moments of 100 years ago, we have not lost the run of ourselves. However, the memory and residue of events such as Bloody Sunday in Croke Park strike a chord with some people. Such is the case in all societies who strive to reconcile their past with the present.
The French have never fully confronted why there was so much collaboration with the Nazis who occupied the country during World War II. For its part, Germany has tried mightily to forge a new narrative for the country. But there is still a silence about so much that happened during the Hitler era.
The Spanish Civil War spawned murder and massacre on both sides. Here, too many sleeping dogs have been let lie. And our nearest neighbour prefers to hold a cloak over some of its imperial past. Great cruelties carried out in the name of the British empire remain submerged under a delusion – bad things were done for the greater good.
In Ireland, the story of what went before seems more present than in many other countries. The obvious reason is the ferment in the troika of relationships between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the Westminster government.
Yet all things being equal, relations are on a sounder footing than ever before. In the North, various checks and balances, under a power-sharing arrangement, ensure there is broadly fair play for both sides of the divide. And this year saw one of the most historic developments in the recent history of this island. The guarantee of no hard border dividing north and south is underpinned by the might of the EU, eventual acceptance by the British government, and watchful oversight by the US president.
For most middle-ground opinion in the Republic – whatever their aspirations about eventual Irish unity – such a scenario is enough to take them into a long-distant future.
A younger generation in particular simply want to get on with their lives rather than obsess about the ‘national question’.
They may decry the introspection of Brexit, or ridicule the foppishness of Jacob Rees-Mogg. They poke fun at Boris the showman, and when it comes to international sport, it may be a case of ‘anybody but England’.
However, all neighbouring countries indulge such one-upmanship. Witness the jibes between the British and the French in the Brexit talks.
The reality is the Republic of Ireland is better educated, better off, better travelled, and better informed, than at any time in its history. We still have a poisonous strain of physical-force republicanism. But it is in decline.
Health, housing, and unremitting populist politics are the vote winners for Sinn Féin, rather than fanciful plans about a united Ireland.
This week, caught in time on our national media, was that 1980s photograph of a young Joanne Hayes gazing at us reproachfully. The Ireland of 2020 has rightfully apologised, and tried to make good for the way things were over 35 years ago.
We are different now. We see ourselves, and that tribe we sometimes call ‘The Brits’, in the clear light of being wiser folk all round.