Less of all this phoney sovereignty wittering


For a country that spends its whole time emulating and buying from Britain, all this sovereignty talk is just a tiny bit disingenuous

WELL, LIFE goes on. The IMF guy looks nice. A lot of us, unoffended by foreign help, are only wishing that Mr Chopra would overhaul the health service and what passes for our education system while he’s at it.

Most taxpayers are having no problem in keeping calm and carrying on.

We’re goosed and the Government thinks more of the Donegal byelection than it does of us: so no change there, then.

In Swords’s Pavilion shopping centre on Friday, about 300 people gathered at McCabe’s pharmacy to watch model celebrity Katie Price sign boxes of her new perfume, Precious Love.

As a crowd we were unworried about the level of corporation tax. Margaret Rogers and Rose Hand had bought the Precious Love gift set – “€23, very reasonable,” said Margaret – and Katie Price’s new book.

Katie Price is popular here. “Oh, she’s a tonic,” says Margaret. “Particularly today. Anything to break that monotony and worry.”

Margaret Rogers and Rose Hand are sisters. They are getting Katie Price to sign Precious Love for their daughters, Linda and Stephanie. Stephanie is an air hostess and Linda works for a cargo airline.

(Swords is five minutes from Dublin airport, if Terminal Two is not being opened at the time.) Jordan and Katie Brady and Maeve Buffiny and Sarah Lester are all 17 and each has spent €15 on a bottle of Precious Love.

Each one of the four girls has her hair dyed black, just like Katie’s.

“She’s gorgeous,” says Jordan, who hopes to train as a hairdresser when she leaves school. Today is in fact a school day, although the girls got the day off to go to an open day at a local college, DCU.

They describe Katie’s divorce from her first husband, Peter Andre, as “devastating, just heartbreaking.”

Maeve Buffiny dreams of going to college in London. She loves London. Sarah Lester, who goes to Manor House school, is hoping to do sociology or business and stay in full-time education until the economy recovers slightly. The other three girls look at her in surprise. “I am,” says Sarah. “I’m going to try to do sociology or business.”

At last Katie Price comes through the crowd, as slim as a wraith and unnaturally dark for an English girl. “Oh my God, she’s gorgeous,” sighs Dylan Ryan who is 15 and from Rush. Dylan has been here since 8.30 this morning and it is now getting on for five o’clock in the afternoon. He’s mad about Katie; “She’s just out with it and she’s gorgeous and she’s successful,” he says. “I love her to bits.”

Dylan’s time with Katie is so short that I miss it. I only see Dylan get the autograph of one of her handlers, a tanned man with plucked eyebrows. “That’s Gary,” says Dylan. “He does be on the show with her.” “My heart is going like mad,” said Dylan after his five seconds with Katie. Calum Best was due to sign boxes of his aftershave at McCabe’s the following day, Saturday.

One of the few surprises of the past week has been the fact, revealed by the British chancellor, George Osborne, that Ireland is the biggest market for British exports. They didn’t teach us that in geography class, did they?

In 2009 Ireland bought a total of £23,767 million in British goods and services. That was £15,918 million in goods and £7,849 million in services. More than Brazil, Russia, India and China. However, if you add Hong Kong’s figures to those of mainland China you get a total £24,370 million British goods imported there, so Ireland’s figure is marginally below that.

Still, in 2009 every man woman and child in the Irish Republic spent £3,607 on British imports, one of the highest per capita spends on British goods in the world. In 2009, we bought £2.4 billion worth of food and drink from Britain, making us the biggest importer of British food and drink in the world.

(My God, there’s only four million of us. How do we manage to eat and drink so much – it must be the stress.)

These figures come from the British embassy. The British ambassador apparently used them in a speech last summer, when they had been newly compiled by a clear-sighted statistician.

They also include surprising statistics on Irish participation and investment in the British economy – the number of Irish directors of British companies, for example.

Anyway, even though they do not pertain to the Donegal byelection, the figures make for interesting reading.

They provide George Osborne with a good reason for offering us a big loan and they provide us with a very good reason for grabbing George Osborne and holding on tight.

It is not just true that Ireland consumes Britain’s food, its fashion, its football and the fun and rudeness of its tabloid culture, its golf, its opera productions, its West End shows, its Formula One, Downton Abbeyand Masterchef– we are part of it.

Britain – or more specifically, England, is where our girls look to for their heroines and for their hairstyles. England is where our boys dream of playing soccer. Dublin was always a unionist town and in many ways it still is.

Let us have no more wittering on about sovereignty. Loose talk costs lives – it has certainly cost us an economy.