Could rejoining the UK be any worse than this?


This being a largely frivolous column, we won’t dwell on the awful story that is eating up the airwaves, but, suffice to say, it doesn’t feel like a great week to be Irish.

With some justification, we have been characterised as gap-toothed half-wits whose gender politics are still stranded somewhere south of the second ice age. Those proverbial indigenous Arctic folk who abandon the elderly on ice floes seem positively civilised by comparison. I can understand why we’re being demonised. Heck, I’m demonising us.

While the international opprobrium was brewing, your correspondent was spending time at the Corona Cork Film Festival. That event is known for its promotion of short movies and, this year, it screened a very amusing, drily satirical film entitled A Kingdom Once Again. Andrew Legge’s picture lays out the wretched state of the nation and concludes (with its tongue firmly in its cheek) that the solution is to rejoin the United Kingdom. Now, there’s a thought.

It’s not such a radical idea. A one-time columnist for The Irish Times (now pontificating in another place) used to regularly make the case for re-entering the Commonwealth. If that organisation is good enough for former colonies such as India, Australia and Papua New Guinea then it’s good enough for us. After all, the Australians can’t stand the English, but they stubbornly refuse to disengage from a coalition comprising the nation’s former slave states.

Why stop there? Let’s wheel out the union flag and embrace full UK citizenship. There is precedent for such a move. In one of the less well publicised sideshows of the recent US election, the citizens of Puerto Rico voted to request full US statehood. What a weird new world. It’s as if Moctezuma II sent Hernán Cortés an invitation to invade. It’s time we got on board with the craze for colonisation.

Jedward for governor general

As Legge points out, we could end up with a proper national health service, policemen in amusing hats and – in the capital anyway – an efficient underground railway. The film-maker proposes Enda Kenny for the post of governor general. But we can almost certainly do better than that. Our new compatriots across the water voted repeatedly for Jedward and we know the boys enjoy wearing gold braid. Make it happen.

Think how less confusing life would become. Nobody would shout at Rory McIlroy for choosing the wrong squad at the Olympics. Men in berets and dark glasses have, for decades, been agitating for the annihilation of the Border. What simpler way of achieving that feat than expanding the most westerly constituent nation of the United Kingdom back to its original size?

BBC TV news would become that bit less depressing. The rush to change the channel before the Northern Irish local bulletin – generally involving some sewage leak in a grey corner of Craigavon – would no longer be necessary. BBC local reporters (no doubt, current RTÉ staff could cross the floor with ease) would be dispatched to investigate less depressingly northern events in Galway, Cork or Waterford.

With some relief, we could reinstate the honours system. No longer would men wearing starry robes and stags’ heads – after dancing crazily round a burning wicker figure – feel it necessary to induct implausibly obscure Irish-language poets into the sacred brotherhood of Aosdána.

(I may have got the details wrong. But I believe the meetings progress along these lines.) We could then say hello to Sir Roddy Doyle and Lord Bono of Bigmouth Valley.

Rather than scrabbling around for cash to support arts projects, we could appeal to English guilt and, as the Scottish have done for years, enjoy disproportionate degrees of subsidy for ethnically specific cultural activities. Think of all those jobs in the Ireland Fund, the Fund for Irish Irishness and Celebrate Ireland.

We wouldn’t even need to say goodbye to our football team or our rugby squad. Distant Liverpudlian descendants of Irish immigrants could still lose to Turkmenistan with their Celtic heads held proudly high.

All right, all right. Lest the diaspora conclude that The Irish Times has returned to its historical unionist affiliations, we should clarify that, like Legge, we are not offering this as a serious solution to the current lapse in national esteem.

Independence has had its downsides. But it remains a preferable condition to any that allows Morris dancing in public places and the election of old Etonians to high office. Too many British people still regard Ireland as a larger version of the Isle of Man. Let’s not do anything to turn their postcolonial error into a freshly minted statement of fact.

It’s all academic anyway. After the events of the last week, it seems unlikely that the British would want us back. Come to think of it, the Vandals or the Huns might have thought twice before inviting the current State into their pillaging hordes.

What a mess.

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