Lecturing Britain about remembering?
A chara, – Finn McRedmond set up a classic straw-man argument when she accused President Michael D Higgins of casting “the entirety of British history as a monolithic, purely malign tale of imperialism” and of possessing “a unique level of arrogance to believe we are paragons of virtue in contrast; to believe that we are not in possession of our own ‘feigned amnesia’; and to believe we occupy a moral high ground thanks to a more nuanced understanding of the history of these two islands”, in his article in the Guardian recently (Finn McRedmond, “Are we really entitled to lecture Britain about remembering?”, Opinion & Analysis, February 18th).
He did no such thing, but he has certainly touched a nerve in British Tory sensibilities, to judge by the vituperative anti-Irish tone in the Daily Telegraph response, “The Irish president has a cheek lecturing Britons about history,” and their readers’ comments.
We all have our national myths, and no one has been more active than our President in seeking to question and understand ours.
But in asking the British to consider that there might be more than one side to the glories of their former empire he has clearly gone a bridge too far.
They need their myths now, more than ever, to overcome the dystopian reality created by their Brexit overlords “taking back control”. The UK economy declined by 10 per cent last year, which the UK government likes to blame entirely on the pandemic. But our economy grew by up to 3 per cent last year, despite the impact of the pandemic, and is projected to grow by another 3 per cent to 4 per cent in each of the next two years, despite the ongoing lockdowns and the impact of Brexit and a hugely reduced level of trade with Britain. Our exports to the UK declined by 9 per cent and our UK imports by 5 per cent last year, and that was before Brexit border controls were implemented. Meanwhile our exports to the EU single market and customs union grew by 13 per cent, and so must our level of political engagement with the EU and our fellow member states.
Sadly, our President is wasting his time trying to persuade British Tories that they should reconsider the impact of their imperial past on their former colonies. They will find out soon enough, when they try to reassert their former dominance in trade negotiations with those countries.
Brexit was a choice to distance the UK from Ireland and our fellow EU member states, and we must now accept that reality and move on to developing our shared historical narrative and future with the latter. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Finn McRedmond is critical of Michael D Higgins’s opinion piece in the Guardian, noting the President’s mention of the “feigned amnesia” of imperialism.
If President Higgins had published this view in the Daily Telegraph he might have inflamed British passions to the point of outrage. Thank God he only published his views in the Guardian, so that he was probably preaching to the already converted.
Perhaps the President should desist from publishing such opinions in any medium until he has finished his term of office. – Yours, etc,