Monday, August 11, 2014
I have been in Dublin for the last few days, on holidays. People drive on the left, buy in Tesco supermarkets, speak English, have Boots pharmacies, two level buses... I mean, perhaps they had good reasons to completely secede from the Unted Kingdom in 1922 (although they had to fight a civil war about that because the moderate nationalists were not in favour of full independence), but today the Irish society looks the closest thing that one can imagine to a British society, at least in the capital Dublin. After independence, it took decades for them to prosper, and no doubt after joining the EU they experienced rapid growth, which stopped, as in the UK, with the global financial crisis of 2008. Of course, there was a big difference between the UK and Ireland back in 1922 and possibly today: Ireland is a Catholic country. As an independent state, it took decades for them to separate church from state, as in the UK they still have some lingering remnant of unnecessary Protestant influence (the Queen is the head of the Anglican church). But if that is the big difference, that one country is Catholic and the other is Protestant, to an atheist like me, this does not seem to be a big difference either. In the part of Ireland that did not secede, these two branches of the Chirstian religion have been fighting and killing each other in the streets until recently. Was all this necessary? Given all the good that membership in the EU has done to both countries, it seems to me that this is the way ahead: increased cooperation in a unified Europe. Actually, it was close cooperation and a European and global perspective what brought the best that both countries have achieved in their history: peace in Norhern Ireland in the late 1990s. But it is still a fragile peace, non the least because of the remaining influence of radical nationalists (not only Irish Catholics, but also radical Unionists).