Friday Short: St Patrick’s Day, Brexit Troubles & Disunity

Posted: 16th March 2018 in Uncategorised
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Origins of St Patrick’s Day

National holidays have been occurring for centuries, they’re not unusual to the general public but to me they’ve often seemed like a strange phenomenon. The mystery lies often with the connotations that are ignored, forgotten or lost within the distractions of the celebratory glitz and glamour. Take St Patrick’s day for example, the day is often used to commemorate Irish solidarity, heritage and culture; but what I have always wondered, is which elements of Irish heritage are being celebrated? Are we here to remember all the divisive parts of Irish culture as well as its solidarity? St Patrick is supposed to celebrate the achievements of the Christian Priest himself and his life as a missionary to missionary to Ireland as well. This therefore illustrates Ireland’s christian history and withdraws the Irish people from their mythological roots. But this distinction is often ignored during the celebrations, with the fantastical Leprechauns paraded around Christian symbols and buildings like the Irish churches and the cross. One could argue that the introduction of the leprechaun and other fairies from Irish folklore is simply about commemorating the universality and the depth of Irish nationalism, and this is understandable given the divisive nature of the Irish past. But surely this only seeks to detach St Patrick’s day from its true religious origins? If we want to understand and enjoy the entirety of Irish history, then perhaps there is a need to reinvent our demonstration of Irish pride. I have often spoken about the fluid nature of national identity, but when it comes to the commemoration of historical figures we should attempt to be as accurate as possible so that we do not blur legacy of our forefathers.

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Is this really what St Patrick’s day is about?

Brexit Troubles

With St Georges day also approaching, the British national identity maybe on its own path of reinvention. With discussions around the Irish Border heating up, there is a growing talk of a border being formed in the Irish Sea essentially allowing Northern Ireland to retain its access to the single and customs market in conjunction with the Irish Republic. Some Brexiteers and Remainers see this as a path to the eventual break up of United Kingdom which I think would be a radical shake up of our national unity.

The Tory MP and prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, has criticised the warning that creating a Hard Irish border to separate South and Northern Ireland could reignite the Troubles. He claims that simply making that historical link is an encouragement of violence. Whilst I agree that it is premature to believe that Ireland would simply revert back to its violent and chaotic past, I do believe there needs to be some acknowledgement that creating such split on the Irish land has psychological consequences for the Irish people. It reinforces the image of Ireland being in constant civil strife and it could undermines the relatively healthy relationship that both regions of Ireland have shared recently. Many young adults in Southern and Northern Ireland have little to no recollection of the Troubles and influences it has had on Irish development, this has enabled them to live a harmonious live with their Irish neighbours. But history has often demonstrated how quickly peace and cooperation can descend in to division and conflict, thus we should never underestimate mankind’s ability to be regressive and self-destructive.

On the other hand, a border in the Irish Sea could seriously challenge the framework of the United Kingdom, given how attractive Northern Ireland may be to those seeking to maintain their link with the European Union. Furthermore with the growing regional disunity within the United Kingdom – as seen by the EU referendum – the creation of a hard border may persuade other British regions to secede themselves from the central government. Either way, some sort of border needs to be erected in or around the United Kingdom, the economical operations of our nation requires it. Whether this will transform our national identity remains to be seen, but this radical step towards greater independence has raised questions of allegiance and sovereignty, which must be addressed.

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