I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Part of What They Are

Maurice Earls
Jonathan Swift was an Englishman who lived in Ireland and who, from a certain point of view, took Ireland’s part. He suggested the Irish should burn everything English except their coal. Swift had many hatreds. For example he hated lawyers, but admitted it was the tribe rather than individuals that he despised. I think he felt the same way about dentists. This is not unlike the Irish attitude towards England. The Irish, or at least a fair few of them, have a problem with England that they can’t quite shake off. Well actually they don’t really want to, not yet anyway. But that is not to say that many of both sexes would not be more than a little happy to spend an evening in the company of Miss Elizabeth Bennett, Dr Johnson or some other English figure of their choice. In pubs quite a few cheer for whoever is playing against England and in polite circles the fashionable term to describe the feeling generated by Brexit is schadenfreude, which means a mean-spirited delight in another’s misfortune but sounds sophisticated and, even better, European. As we await, with thinly disguised pleasure ‑ albeit tinged with fear and terror ‑ what we imagine will be a latter day fall of Constantinople across the Irish Sea, we are in a fundamental way mystified. Why are the cunning Brits doing this? Is it idiocy or is it something else? Do they know something we don’t? But actually Brexitry arises from the same source as Irish glee over the prospect of our near neighbour, John Bull, falling from his ladder. It arises from historical experience. We know plenty about our own historical experience. Maybe it’s time we paid some attention to England’s. After all, when the English move away from the EU, their island will not be towed out into the mid-Atlantic. They’ll still be next door and we’ll still be watching their historical dramas and their football. It would be as well to understand what makes them tick and we may as well start with the Reformation as this week sees the 500th anniversary of the theses-nailing episode in Wittenberg. There was once a story told in England of the Reformation which was very popular for a very long time. It featured decent sixteenth century parishioners increasingly uneasy over clerical abuses, fat friars, insufficient prioritising of the Bible and, of course, Roman glam and…

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