Karen Bradley’s gaffe exemplifies the political ignorance about our island that has fanned unhelpful hostility
Brexit has created many nightmares, but a particularly unpleasant one is the rise of anti-English sentiment in Ireland. British-Irish relations have not just cooled on a diplomatic and political level, but among the Irish population. The anti-Englishness born of past oppression had, we thought, been confined to the past but has resurfaced. And whose fault is that? The emotional trauma of Ireland’s treatment by Britain, and England in particular, is usually delicately contained but now it is spilling over.
I grew up in Dublin, far removed from the conflict north of the border but I went to an Irish-speaking secondary school, where boys wore balaclavas to school Gaelic football matches for a laugh, and “IRA” was carved into desks with maths compasses. As the painful peace process concluded, and the Good Friday agreement came into force, God Save the Queen was sung in Croke Park, the hallowed ground of Gaelic sports, and the Queen spoke in Irish at a state dinner in Dublin Castle. It seemed as if anti-British sentiment was at least covered over with a healing gauze if not completely healed. But Brexit, and the behaviour and rhetoric of British politicians, the tone of the trightwing British press, and the constant stream of ignorance about our island from across the Irish Sea, has ripped that bandage off. Everything is exposed now, and it’s a wound that has been, and can be again, mortal.