When I was in boarding school, hardly a hotbed of violent republicanism, there were guys who would not wear Reeboks (Runners, as we called them back in the day) because they had a union jack on them. I knew other guys who would wear them, but would first blacken out the union jack with a black felt tip marker. Now, bear in mind that these guys had no PIRA tendencies. They regarded the Provos as psychos. It was just hardwired into us. Even today, outside many hotels and buildings, you will see the US flag (Who took us in, in the dark days), the EU flag (Who taught us how to use a knife and fork, use a belt instead of baling twine, and stop making a show of ourselves in front of the For’ners) and the German flag (who slipped the few bob into our hand like a decent uncle at a confirmation). We don’t fly the union jack. I’ve seen people who have objected to it being flown anywhere. I’ve even met one guy who objected to a union jack being flown over an Irish pub IN LONDON!
Yet here’s the funny thing: We all have British friends and family. We have nearly all been on holiday in the UK, and most of all, in recent times, the great majority of Irish people know (but won’t admit) that the Brits treat us better than we treat them. We will cheer Anyone But England even when they cheer Ireland. Yet, the fact is they don’t have anywhere near the animosity towards us that many Irish people purport to have towards them. We watch their TV, read their newspapers, and we know that we are not treated as foreigners when in the UK.
Many British readers can easily misunderstand the reaction to a possible UK funded bailout in Ireland, so let me clarify it: We are grateful, and we are not angry at you. We know it is in your own self interests to help us, but there is also a recognition that these two islands, since the Good Friday Agreement, have never had so good a relationship. What we are angry at is that in the past, we were looked down upon by the Brits. That changed in the Tiger years, not just in Britain, but in our own minds, and now we have humiliated ourselves by feeling that we are back where we started. But that is not the fault of the Brits. That is the fault of Fianna Fail.
So, to the Brits (And the rest of the EU): Thanks for being there when we needed you.