Ambassador’s remarks on Brexit


Sir, – Further to “Brexiteers only want to be masters of their ‘own little world’, says Irish envoy”, (June 21st), am I alone in finding the analysis of Bobby McDonagh, the Irish Ambassador to Italy, of the motives behind Brexit to be unhelpful, at the least, as our relationship with the United Kingdom enters what will almost certainly be a fraught and tense period?

It will surely be difficult to convince our British friends that a senior Irish diplomat’s opinion that the 52 per cent that voted for Brexit are afflicted by “xenophobia, insularity and a lack of self-confidence” does not, to some degree, reflect our official opinion.

No doubt Mr McDonagh believes this disparaging picture to be the case, and it might even be true (although I doubt it myself).

But in a context where I and many others fear that we will be very hard put to maintain our special and latterly excellent relationship with the UK when elements of that country’s media seize upon our solidarity with the EU’s position, might it not have been a little more diplomatic on Mr McDonagh’s part to refrain from such an airy public dismissal of what was obviously a heartfelt and unimpeachable vote, however mistaken he thought it was in principle?

It seems that Mr McDonagh will retire in a few weeks and doubtless this is just a manifestation of that “demob-happy” syndrome well noted in other circumstances.

But it’s not difficult to imagine the high-octane indignation that we would feel if a serving senior British diplomat was to pop up at some pleasant university-sponsored event in Rome and riff away on his theory that our oft-proclaimed affection for the European Union was actually just a reboot of the old “hat-in-hand” servility that had previously marked our attitude to his predecessors and less to do with “the assertion of Ireland’s psychological independence” than it has to do with our very keen sense of economic self-interest.

I’m always fascinated by our treasured conceit that we know the British perfectly but that we remain a mystery to them. I’d be more inclined to the view that they know us at least as well as we know them.

In any case, it is surely wiser to proceed on the basis that they might become aware of what serving Irish officials are saying – or sneering – about them. – Yours, etc,