It was ninety-seven years ago yesterday that the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, a treaty that led to the establishment of an independent Ireland. Sometimes it seems that the fact of independence has yet to be fully appreciated.
During the years I lived in Dublin, a friend worked in the Dublin office of a London-based British international aid agency. There was always a suspicion that the agency’s presence in Dublin owed more to the generosity of the Irish government in funding projects than to any genuine interest in having a distinct Irish identity (the staff from the London office confirmed the suspicion when packing the Irish board of directors with British nominees).
One of the concepts some of the London staff seemed never able to understand was that of Ireland as an independent country. One morning, my friend answered a call from the London office. The woman in London said, “You know the way they have a parliament in Scotland and an assembly in Wales, what do you have in Dublin?”
My friend, somewhat annoyed at the caller’s failure to bother to check online for the details, replied tersely, “The Houses of the Oireachtas”.
“The what?” said the woman in London. “What would you call that?”
“I would call it the Government of Ireland”, said my friend, “I’m not sure what you would call it”.
“Oh”, said the London colleague. “Do you have your own government?”
“Yes, since 1922. Hadn’t you heard?”
The woman in London is not the only one to demonstrate a certain vagueness of the existence of a government in Dublin. On the anniversary of the 1921 treaty, the BBC carried a report on the implications of Brexit:
“Many MPs have expressed concerns about the backstop, aimed at preventing a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU, if no trade deal is ready before the end of the post-Brexit transition period.”
The BBC’s need to include the words “which will remain in the EU” suggest a perception remains that there is a need to explain that Ireland is independent, that Britain’s departure from the European Union is not a development that will change the position of Ireland.
Why, after 97 years, is Ireland still treated as though it were some sort of colony? Why does the BBC feel the need to explain? Perhaps the BBC are part of the problem, perhaps unambiguous reporting would have long ago stopped the misperceptions.