‘These islands’

Sir, – The periodic debate about the use of “the British Isles” has broken out again. Peadar Mac Maghnais (February 5th) suggests that the term is dated. Surely not. It is used regularly by people in the travel and tourist industries, by weather forecasters, and by many others, simply because it is an appropriate – the only appropriate – and useful term to describe this archipelago as distinct from the European continent. It also acknowledges that Great Britain and Ireland share a common culture, by and large. We in Ireland are sometimes reluctant to admit that much of our heritage is British.

Moreover, in an era of vastly improved British-Irish relations, “the British Isles” has long since lost its possessive or imperial connotation. Beyond all that, were not the ancient Brits our Celtic cousins? The only objection to the sensible usage of “the British Isles” comes from those with a post-colonial chip on their shoulder. Finally, the proposed substitute of “these islands” is limited and inadequate. It would also be extremely comical if used, say, in Washington or Canberra.

Get over it. – Yours, etc,




A chara, – In response to the name for these islands, I tend to favour the “Northwest European Archipelago” or the “Northeast Atlantic Haven”. – Is mise,




Co Wexford.

A chara, – I have to agree with Peadar Mac Maghnais that the term British Isles is very misleading if not rather offensive if taken to include Ireland. It also makes life difficult for Irish citizens living abroad. Born and bred in Ireland I now live in France and make blood donations. One of the questions on the questionnaire was, have you ever lived in the British Isles, les Îles Britanniques? Naturally I said no. However I was told I did and that they couldn't take my blood, for fear I had been eating mad cows. I contacted the Irish Embassy in Paris and they swiftly took up the issue with the French health ministry. I'm delighted to say the questionnaire was changed and brackets were added reminding the reader that Ireland is not part of the British Isles. The questionnaire has been revised since to just say the United Kingdom, le Royaume Uni. Your readers will be happy to know that Irish blood is very welcome in France and that the British Isles no longer exist. – Is mise,