Dear Britain… Love, Ireland. Your open letters to UK voters

We invited Irish people to write open letters to UK voters. Here’s what you wrote

Dear Britain,

After saying I never would, I’ve left your country and returned to my own. I was heartbroken doing this; I had a nice life in Oxford and in many ways things were better there. Going “home” was much harder than I’d expected, but Boris Johnson’s recklessness and the growing uncertainly made it too hard to stay. I’ll remember you fondly. Please try to get through this. It’s good that you can’t see how the rest of the world sees you right now.

Your greatest fan,
Denise Power

Dear Britain,


I’m a Belfast boy born in the 1990s who came of age in the light of the miraculous peace accords, which to this day still just about stand. To my mind they strike me as perhaps one of the only things our politicians have ever done that truly mattered, a resolution achieved through diplomatic reform, not violent revolution, that has saved an incalculable amount of human life.

I always wondered whether to regard myself as Irish or the slightly compromised “Northern Irish” (I’m born Catholic). As I got older, I realised that I in fact liked the fact I could regard the Scots, the English, the Welsh and the Southerners as brothers and sisters bonded by sharing the same island home and through the existence of the Union. They were all my family.

I feel that, should Boris Johnson triumph at the election and be given a blank cheque to impose his version of a hard Brexit, sell off the NHS to Donald Trump and trample over the Good Friday Agreement, I could not in good conscience, wish to be a part of the union any longer, and I know many others my age who feel the same. Don't let him get away with it, Britain.

John O'Boyle,

Dear Britain,

I have lived as a child both north and south of the Border of Ireland, witnessed the divide, seen cowardice, hate, friendship, love and bravery across communities. The first vote I cast was one of hope for all of Ireland, for the Good Friday Agreement. It brought Loyalist and Republican communities together. Separately these groups had committed disgusting acts of violence on each other and on each of our nation’s people. Together even though I don’t trust either of their extremes, they have shown when they have to work together that they can build a brighter future.

Please make sure to respect all of our communities, do not let one side speak or gain undue influence without the other as has happened in your last elected government. Regardless of your respect or disrespect for the European Union, respect the fragility of peace on the island of Ireland. Your departure from Europe tears Ireland apart, as custodians of Northern Ireland it's you are accountable that it's done with due care.

Do not vote for parties who do not have a plan for how Ireland can remain borderless, are disrespectful of our history or consider other parties not worthy of sharing government with because of bigoted backwards views. Vote for parties that support peace, stand up for diversity and build unity not, division.

Anthony Brew,

Dear Britain,

Don’t get Brexit done please!

Juliet Loughran

Dear Britain,

Please don’t leave. The Britain that works is multicultural and inclusive. The Britain that is afraid and turns inward will shrivel . Look outward, embrace your like-minded neighbours, stay part of the union and make it better and stronger . Stay with us. The rise of populism and far right ideology can only be stopped by working together. It’s not too late.

Joan Gaw

Dear Britain,

You are a sovereign nation and have the right to make your own decisions about your future direction. However, I wonder if you can spare the time to consider the effect of your vote on your friends and neighbours in Europe.

Firstly, a vote for Brexit will weaken the EU, which has had unparalleled success in maintaining peace and prosperity within Europe for the past 70 years. More recently it has helped to stabilise the political situation in Northern Ireland and heal the divisions caused by the Iron Curtain. We need it to be strong to balance the world superpowers: the USA, China and Russia.

Secondly, a vote for Brexit will divide Europe and make it easier for global multinationals to ride rough-shod over consumer, environmental and workers’ rights, to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and to play off one government against another.

Thirdly, exiting the EU will inevitably and unavoidably reduce the opportunities for free trade between us, increase bureaucratic red-tape, and encourage companies to relocate to where their largest market is – more often than not the EU single market – thereby reducing your prosperity as well as ours.

There is no free trade agreement on earth which comes close to providing the benefits of the single market. Already, merely the threat of Brexit has caused the UK’s output to be about 3 per cent lower than it would otherwise have been, and this relative decline could be much worse depending on the precise form Brexit ultimately takes.

The loss of Government revenue from this reduction in output already exceeds the famous £350 Million per week Brexit was supposed to save the British exchequer. It’s not too late to change your mind, and there is no shame in doing so.

Frank Schnittger

Dear Britain,

EU membership has been vital in healing the wounds that Ireland and Britain have inflicted upon one another. We became mutually dependent on one another for our well-being. What had once been a bitter hatred became, for most people, a friendly rivalry.

Brexit could be economically disastrous for both the UK and Ireland, but it has already begun to erode our former partnership. The rhetoric on both sides has been filled with a mutual disregard for the welfare and desires of the other.

Brexit is the will of the majority of the British people. However, I would ask voters to consider the welfare of those who voted to remain, particularly those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, who will suffer most from Brexit with or without a deal.

Economic recession makes for an unhappy country, but social division within a nation can make it unbearable. A soft Brexit is within your grasp, one that will least threaten the union and its relationships with nations that are slowly becoming “former” friends.

Vote with an open heart for candidates that care for everyone within the United Kingdom.

PM Roche,

Dear Britain,

I know you well from working in London for 40 years. I know you are, at your best, one of the most civilised countries in the world and one of the most civilising when looking forward. I also know you are at your worst when you are looking backwards and hankering for a return to days of empire and military might.

Now you have a big decision to make: do you move forward with the rest of Europe in peace and prosperity, committed to improving European institutions, or do you move backwards.

Yes, the EU is imperfect but so are all institutions and need reform ... from the inside. What about your children and grandchildren? Is going back creating opportunities for them? Or should we not go forward in co-operation to face the big challenges of our societies and our planet.

Alan Wood,
Cork and London

Dear Britain,

I’m originally from Derry, where we’re surrounded by the border with the Republic on three sides, with three crossings, Bridgend, Muff, Killea, just miles away. The present: thousands of people cross the Border every day in all directions, a peaceful, invisible border where at times you only know which country you’re in when you see the traffic signs.

The past: when I was a boy in the 1960s, we used to cross the Border regularly, going to, say, Buncrana for a day out. We had to stop at the customs post in Bridgend, where we were asked if we had anything to declare; at times our car would be searched in case we were smuggling goods. At the same time, I used to cycle with friends across the Border and back: there were myriad unofficial crossings which nobody checked, minor roads and lanes that crisscrossed the border and were presumably used by smugglers and others. Later, the British Army erected checkpoints near the border (at Coshquin, outside Derry, for example), where we waited anxiously to be checked, while nervous soldiers trained their guns on us from watchtowers.

The future: do we want a return to the past? Do we want to wreck everything that has been achieved? A hard Brexit will mean a hard Border, with all that it entails, including customs and checkpoints: a veritable disaster for people and businesses on both sides. Even worse, it could trigger a violent chain reaction that starts with attacks on customs posts, continues with police and soldiers stationed along the Border, and at worst ends with a renewed outbreak of violence. Is that a price worth paying?

Dermot McElholm,

Dear Britain,

Why must the lies of a previous referendum lead to the “break up” of trade between two countries, possible violence again in the island of Ireland and lead to the end of the UK? Take the vote back to the people and explain all implications

Dwain Schouten,

Dear Britain,

I admire your country very much as I lived there for two years. However, things have gone really badly since June 2016. It is time to reconsider Brexit. You made a choice to leave in ignorance, not knowing the facts of what leaving the EU would actually look like. Now you know. Most people rethink their options given new information. We did it twice here over the Nice Treaty in 2002 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. If you choose to stay you will keep the best of both worlds of full membership of the EU, but you can stay out of the Euro currency, Schengen and other EU initiatives.

Consider voting for parties that are clear about staying.

Diarmuid Fitzgerald,

Dear Britain,

Although we have a complicated history, we have become good friends and neighbours. We share a common culture, language and heritage going back thousands of years. Do not let the nationalists distort our shared values. Patriotic words, flag waving and chest banging have never advanced society.

We are all interconnected in so many ways, it is natural that you will trade more with your neighbours and friends than far off countries that care little about Britain. We in Europe need to accept that we are at best mid-sized economies and if divided will be bullied in any trade agreements.

The EU is the best example of international cooperation in the world and it has brought peace and prosperity to this continent. We set high standards in areas such as workers’ rights and environmental protection. These standards force others to follow. Divided we will race to the bottom.

We all need to accept that no country can exist in isolation, that compromise and cooperation are key to our peace and prosperity.

The EU has worked hard for British and European interests and it is not the enemy that it’s portrayed in your media. In a world that is increasingly autocratic, do you think Trump, Putin or China will be a better friend to you than we are? Politics and economics are not simple, and meaningless slogans such as “take back control” are infantile. So I ask you please to think about the complex consequences of following provocative one-line populists. Your friend and neighbour.

Wesley Conboy

Dear Britain,

I’m sorry to see you go, genuinely. Our two countries have a shared-history that is now about to diverge for good. It will hurt both of us, of that there is no doubt.

I was living in the UK at the time of the vote. I wasn’t surprised at the result. It wasn’t just the lies on buses that swung the vote. It was the 40-odd years of relentless anti-EU propaganda that proceeded them. What it has highlighted is something Irish people have always known, the UK is deeply fractured and unviable as an entity into the future.

I have no idea what will become of you Britain. I am saddened by this but it had to happen sooner or later. I wish you the best of luck. At a time when there is strength and safety in numbers you have chosen to diminish your stature in the world. I fear for those that are poor, vulnerable or weak in your society. Godspeed.

Robert Strunz

Dear Britain,

I would ask you to vote for a candidate who supports Remain. Ireland and the UK have a very close history. Brexit causes real problems for our relationship. Your place is with the countries of Europe. Remember that the EU is all about peace in Europe and working together in the interest of all Europeans. Surely this is also what you want. Britain supports peace in Europe. Irish people want to be close to British people. Don’t quit. Instead work with Ireland and other like minded European countries to make our European Union even better than it is today.

Tom Sheedy,

Dear Britain,

You need another public vote before definitively leaving the EU. After three years of wrangling, the choice is clear. Is living under a narrow nationalism likely to be better than living in the European community of nations, especially considering the economic and security implications and not forgetting the bonds of history among the peoples of these islands? The answer is now clear to the whole world. It is “no” and there needs to be another referendum.

The upcoming election may give you the chance to make a second referendum happen. Just vote for any party other than the Conservative and Unionist Party or the Brexit Party, and you can be confident that the opposition parties will win and that they, possibly in some form of coalition, will put through a Brexit deal subject to a confirmatory people’s vote.

Paul McMahon Glynn,

Dear Britain,

Thank you. The last three and a half years have been a blast, in a good way. It is called democracy. People disagree about big things and then try to work out a way forward. It is messy, fractious, frustrating, but politically vibrant with high levels of engagement. Just look at Parliament Square.

Why should we be surprised that EU bureaucrats and their ilk find such vibrancy bewildering? I remember when Ireland voted down the Lisbon Treaty, Bully Barosso was on the next plane to Dublin to put the nation on the naughty step until another vote was held and we knew our place in the great scheme of things.

The political kaleidoscope in the UK has been given a good shake, and no one knows when a new pattern will settle and what that pattern will be. But thank you Britain for kicking over the traces.

Daniel Callaghan,