Sunday 22 September 2019

Mary Kenny: 'Brexit has caused anxiety, frustration and even anger here. But there are 20 positives to consider as the saga continues…'


Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

⬤ It's put Dublin on the business map, with City of London traders asking themselves "Frankfurt, Dublin or Luxembourg?" as an EU location. (The gilets jaunes burning the Champs-Élysées in Paris rather demoted the French capital.)

⬤ It's also put Ireland at the centre of European politics, with Michel Barnier whizzing over here five times in the last two years, swearing undying loyalty to Ireland's interest - "Whatever happens, we will stand by Ireland." A hundred years ago, at the Versailles Peace Conference, President Clemenceau - along with the British and Americans - refused Ireland a place at the table.

⬤ It's given Irish commentators the glorious experience of being smugly superior and loftily patronising about the Brits, and the ghastly fix they've got themselves into, as Taoiseach Varadkar said, when being kind.

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⬤ Until Halloween this year, the Irish political class, such as former Irish ambassador Bobby McDonagh, can enjoyably wag their fingers telling the Brits to "behave themselves" in the councils of Europe.

⬤ That's a far cry from Punch cartoons' historical taunting of the delinquent and lawless Irish - now Westminster is described as a "shambles" and UK politicians as "hopeless".

⬤ It's created tens of thousands of additional Irish citizens, as anti-Brexit Brits turn to ancestral research to find an Irish grandparent and thus qualify for an Irish passport. This includes, to my certain knowledge, deep-dyed Ulster Unionists and veteran Orangemen. A move towards all-Ireland understanding surely!

⬤ Border communities from Crossmaglen to Strabane have joined together to protect their areas from new tariffs and obstacles to trade. It has brought renewed focus on the Good Friday Agreement - and justifiable critical assessment of the non-functioning of the Belfast Assembly.

⬤ Yet the DUP itself has embraced, as its VBF, the affirmatively Roman Catholic Jacob Rees-Mogg. How very ecumenical! And Arlene Foster chooses another parliamentary Papist to accompany her on Brexity trips to Brussels - Iain Duncan Smith.

⬤ Jeffrey Donaldson is given a polite round of applause when he speaks at the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis about Ireland perhaps renewing a relationship with the Commonwealth.

⬤ In fact, Brexit has propelled Ireland to join the French Commonwealth, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, since 12pc of the Irish nation is French-speaking. Felicitations!

⬤ And Brexit has been prolonged and delayed so repeatedly that we will all, surely, come to understand the French adage about l'impermanence qui dure.

⬤ It has hugely increased involvement in politics. In Britain, it's reported that more TV viewers took to watching the BBC Parliament Channel than Strictly Come Dancing. Schoolkids have videoed themselves doing satirical imitations of the Commons speaker, John Bercow: "Ayes to the right, Noes to the Left! Unlock!"

⬤ Brexit has brought an unprecedented number of women into political prominence, from Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom to Jess Phillips and Anna Soubry - so many articulate, knowledgeable and confident females, and, refreshingly, with many disparate points of view, coming from left, right, and centre. In Ireland, Brexit has placed the very capable Helen McEntee centre stage.

⬤ Theresa May has also fulfilled an important feminist goal: a woman's right to fail. She's been disparaged for her inadequate negotiating skills and called, by Ann Widdicombe, "the worst prime minister for 50 years". But that's fine, because it's treating a woman like a normal politician, not some special exception who has to be accorded victim status.

⬤ It has rendered the European elections, which many of us thought yawnsville, tremendously exciting. The battle for Mark Durkan's favour takes on a new significance.

⬤ Paradoxically, Brexit has made even Brexiteers more aware of the workings of the EU. Who would have thought that Guy Verhofstadt would be a household name over pints at the Dog and Duck?

⬤ The prospect of Brexit has created headaches for businesses, but it has also stimulated reviews of working practices. In Britain, concern about staffing has increased wages, especially for poorer and lower-paid people, which is welcome (and should, surely, be applauded by the Left).

⬤ It has made economists and commentators more aware of the social inequalities which produce Trump voters and working-class Brexiteers.

⬤ It has certainly worried Irish beef and dairy farmers, but it has also increased awareness of the exceptionally high quality of Irish dairy and beef products (and it would help even more if political leaders would stop pushing fads like veganism).

⬤ All institutions need regular reform and Brexit has prompted President Michael D Higgins - once a strong Eurosceptic himself - to warn that this is an apt opportunity for the European Union to take a good look at itself, and see where change is needed.

Yes, there are always positives!

Irish Independent

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