Paddy Ashdown’s Irishness
Sir, – I was sad to read of the death of former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown in the days before Christmas. For me he was the embodiment of the British liberal tradition, which has been a great force for good in the world.
But he also was one of our own. At a reading in Edinburgh once I was surprised and pleased to hear him introduce many an opinion with the words, “As an Irishman”.
He quite obviously saw himself as such, and in no way considered this to be a contradiction with life as a special forces officer, a British political leader and peer.
In Ireland, we lost too many years insisting that identity was singular and that people could not be a collection of adjectives, whether British, Irish or whatever.
The UK itself is now falling into that trap where those who support continued membership of the EU lose in the eyes of some their Britishness.
Lord Ashdown represented well those of us who believe that accepting people can have a variety of identities doesn’t undermine a nation but makes it stronger, and infinitely more interesting. – Yours, etc,