England & Ireland

Anthony McIntyre thinks Sinn Fein was on the money when it dismissed criticism of Mary Lou McDonald as faux outrage. 

Mary Lou McDonald has been on the receiving end of political ire and ostentatious breast beating for having walked behind a banner in the New York Patrick's Day Parade which proclaimed England Get Out Of Ireland.

The banner would capture the time honoured republican sentiment of separatism, one of the "five isms" of republicanisms. Republicanism has long wanted England to get out of Ireland. The "Adam" of Irish republicanism, Theobald Wolfe Tone, exhorted his fellow citizens "to break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils."

England get out of Ireland is simply the boilerplate republican position of Brits Out. As Martin Galvin pointed out in a letter to the Irish News England in this context is synonymous with the Westminster parliament. Even Sinn Fein which has abandoned everything in its quest for respectability and the pursuit of careerism has not yet concocted the bedazzling formula that will see another bamboozle inflicted on the grassroots and allow it to fly into the Westminster parliament on the magic career carpet.

So what if the banner is anti-British? There is nothing wrong with being anti-British if by being anti-British it means opposition to the continued involvement of the British state in the political administration of any part of Ireland. There is even more reason to be anti-British given that Britain has brought a right wing Brexit; has invaded Iraq and refused to prosecute Tony Blair for war crimes; has tortured prisoners in Abu Ghraib; has bombed and destroyed Libya; and has derisorily dismissed the anguish of the relatives of the Bloody Sunday dead.

It may by now be academic because England has no intention of getting out of Ireland, nor ever has to, due to a political reality made possible by Sinn Fein having signed up to Good Friday Agreement. When stripped of its spin, the substance of the GFA is that it was a British declaration of intent to stay on the same basis that they had previously stayed in Ireland – until a majority of people in the North say otherwise. Moreover, as Richard Humphreys has pointed out in the best book yet to address the Good Friday Agreement, even after such a vote the British will continue to have a role in Ireland.

One of those leading charge has been Simon Coveney who found it "offensive, divisive and an embarrassment” that McDonald should stand beside the banner but not about his party leader and Taoiseach standing beside Donald Trump. While Sinn Fein is correct to dismiss such posturing as faux outrage, it is more than that. For many like Coveney in the political class, the Good Friday Agreement meant not only the strategic capitulation of republicanism but its ideational strangulation. Okay to proclaim England Stay In Ireland but not England Get Out Of Ireland

Only a week after the faux outrage, Coveney's party Fine Gael applauded Jeffrey Donaldson after he had figuratively hoisted the banner Ireland Get Into The British Commonwealth.  

England is the country that I have visited more that any other. I have spent time in many of its cities and towns, Southampton, London, Luton, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Coventry, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Preston, Burnley, The Wirral, Salford, Colne. I have walked the Moors and drank English ale in bars up and down the country in the company of English people, liking them as much as I do the Irish. As citizens the English should always be welcome in Ireland but never as rulers.


  1. Have to agree with all your points there Anthony , as far as I'm concerned the English have been getting shafted by their politicians for as long as we have , minus the death squads of course , you briefly mentioned Brexit in your piece and I found myself in parliament square in London yesterday , not as a remainer
    or leaver but rather in a professional capacity.

    The far right were well represented , they came from all over England but very few of them had London accents , A loyalist flute band paraded around the square for several hours , out of step , their uniforms ill fitting and hardly a polished shoe in sight , Paisley junior gave a short speech , "We will NEVER , EVER , EVER , for some reason he dropped the Ns on the last two , only he knows why but the inevitable sign off came with guess what , NO SURRENDER, myself and a photographer standing beside me almost pissed ourselves laughing.

    His sign off was enough for the righties to begin a rendition of the sash and of course the Billy Boys , and so young Ian left the square a happy man having whipped up anti Irish hysteria amongst the pea brained English and left the Intelligent English wondering what sort of demo they were attending.

  2. Mary Lou signed the ENAR pledge to restrict what the Irish could debate during elections, so I’ve little sympathy this Nationalist play has triggered the sort she is courting. I suggest she denounce the nationalist sentiments of Pearse to quickly make amends, full steam ahead Ireland 2040!

  3. Staffenberg - IPJ must have seen money in them thar flutes