Author Archives: Audrey Eager

Audrey Eager, Founder of Liberal Irish, the Irish Liberal Democrat Society. If you’d like to join our mailing list, contact us on [email protected]

The Irish Liberal Democrat Society AGM 2020

From a small group that gathered in Bournemouth at Conference in September 2019, I am delighted to say that in a year on marked with a pandemic and all the troubles that this has brought, the first AGM of a new Irish caucus within the Liberal Democrats will be next Monday, 7th December 2020 at 7pm.

We have two very special guest speakers joining us – Stephen Farry MP from the Alliance Party to speak on his work in Parliament over the last year, and Gerald Angley, Irish Deputy Ambassador to the UK. We look forward to hearing from them both.

As a new entity, we are working towards formal status within the Liberal Democrats, and as such, one of our main housekeeping goals has been to develop a new constitution for the Society and we will be presenting that work at the AGM next Monday.

Our goal is to create a voice for the Irish community within the Liberal Democrats as a whole. We have high ambitions but like most things, it is dependent on resources both in terms of money and time. However, from small acorns mighty acorns grow.

Since the referendum in 2016, Ireland has seen an unprecedented demand for Irish passports from Britain. In the 2011 Census, more than 430,300 people living in Britain identified themselves as Irish-born, down 37 per cent from the peak of 683,000 in 1961. In 2018, the Annual Population Survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) put the numbers of Irish-born people here at just 380,000. Since 2016, almost 100,000 first-time applications for Irish passports were received from people born in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. That’s the current big picture. Our mission is to help the Liberal Democrats reach out to this community.

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The Late Late Toy Show – an Irish institution

This Friday, Christmas in Ireland will officially begin. The institution that is The Late Late Toy Show will be aired live on RTE One and internationally on the RTE Player.

It is the job of the Irish emigrant to explain to her non-Irish friends exactly what the appeal of The Toy Show is. Why do grown adults drop everything to get the goodies in, get settled in for the evening and pretend that they are children again? Why does Ireland stop for this one night, and in this Covid world we currently live in, why is the Irish Government desperately working to set out the exit plan from lockdown in time for The Toy Show? What is it about this magical Toy Show that brings grown adults to their knees?

The Late Late Toy Show began as a segment on toys on The Late Late Show back in 1976. The legendary broadcaster, Gay Byrne, saw the appeal of this segment and grew it into a fully-fledged dedicated programme once a year. If you’re of a certain age, you will remember the cheesy children from various stage schools singing and dancing, you might remember the precocious children showing off the toys they were to demonstrate or you might remember the delightfully entertaining children who could not but put a smile on your face. The Toy Show is warm television viewing with a heart. The key to its success is its values – an expectation of what childhood should be like putting family at the core of it.

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Mixed race Irish families in Britain, 1700- 2000

Although the portraits are captioned ‘Brighton’, Jane and Sake Deen Mahomed lived in Cork in the late eighteenth century.

This summer, I had the pleasure of attending the virtual launch of a new exhibition entitled ‘Mixed Race Irish Families in Britain, 1700 – 2000’ by the Mixed Museum and The Association of Mixed Race Irish (AMRI). Researched by my Irish Lib Dem colleague, Conrad Bryan, the exhibition explores the social reactions to mixed-race Irish families in Britain over the course of three centuries.

The Irish Community in Britain has traditionally been looked upon through the prism of negative stereotypes. There is also an assumption that we all are white with freckles and red hair. A truth that even Irish society has struggled to get a grip on is that Irish people come in different skin colours and this exhibition highlights how far back in history mixed race relations in Ireland have existed: It is not something that has just appeared with Phil Lynott or the 1990s Irish soccer team.

At the launch, Conrad explained that the challenge would be finding records and information going back further into the 18th century. The period 1700 to 2000 is a long period, but if we are to fully understand the social history of the mixed race Irish people in Britain, we need to go back to the colonial and slave trade periods to examine the migration of African and Irish and other people into Britain who formed these mixed race relationships.

He also hadn’t expected to discover that mixed race families formed in Ireland, then moved to Britain. It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 Africans lived in Ireland in the 18th century. This aspect of Irish history is very under-researched. Were they British soldiers, servants in Anglo-Irish “big houses”, traders who came off the boat in Cork, enslaved Africans who escaped from ships?

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An united Ireland v a shared Island – how the messaging is changing

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For anyone following Irish politics, Budget 2021 was announced on Tuesday. In it, something very interesting occurred – €500m was allocated to the ‘Shared Island’ initiative intended to support cross-border co-operation, joint infrastructure projects and all-Ireland education, health, tourism and climate action projects. This came on the back of the creation of a ‘Shared Island Unit’ established by the new Government which will be managed within the Taoiseach’s Department (the Irish equivalent to Downing Street). It is not the investment that’s of interest, it’s that over the last few months, the language has moved from ‘An United Ireland’ to a ‘Shared Island’ very quickly.

For us political nerds, it is a fascinating example of how framing the message can create shuttle shifts in tones and outcomes. A Shared Island appreciates that there are different communities living on the island with different identities and values. It’s a practical approach allowing these communities to work together. It’s not a constitutional issue.

Covid has significantly highlighted the need for the island to work together. The virus does not recognize borders. With NI political leaders looking across the Irish Sea for its public health guidance rather than agreeing a coordinated plan with the Irish authorities, the virus has mocked the border. There are similarities made between the island of Ireland and New Zealand frequently but it is impossible to deliver the same results while two jurisdictions work independently from each other. The opportunity to take advantage of being an island lost.

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In memory of Ireland’s favourite Englishman – Jack Charlton

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Ireland’s favourite Englishman, Jack Charlton, was buried this week and if it wasn’t for Covid, a state funeral would no doubt have been planned for him in Ireland.

The news broke on Saturday, July 11th of his passing followed by an outpouring of emotions. Big Jack wasn’t just a football manager. He took us on an adventure. He helped create a more confident Ireland. Robert Emmett said during his trial for the failed 1803 Rebellion ‘When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written.’ It was Jack who took us to our place among nations.

We need to go back in time to remember what Anglo-Irish relations were like back in the 1980s. Big Jack took on the Irish job in 1986. He had played on the 1966 winning English team but didn’t receive the same accolades as others did. He dedicated himself to a long career with Leeds United before managing Newcastle United. He applied for the English job and publicly spoke of his anger of being ignored by the FA.

There was skepticism of his appointment at first. The Troubles were at their height, England still considered the ‘Old Enemy’. He took Ireland to her first major tournament in 1988 beating an overly confident England one-nil. It was a watershed moment.

Then came Italia ‘90. Ireland made it to the quarter-finals. What can be said about Italia ‘90 that doesn’t leave Irish eyes smiling. It was a golden age of Irish football. A confident Ireland was emerging. Italia ‘90 kick started it followed by the annual Eurovision from Ireland, Riverdance and the Celtic Tiger. Being Irish was cool!

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Is Civil War Politics in Ireland really dead and buried?

Can you remember the 8th of February? Before COVID? No? Neither can I. There was an election in Ireland that day, but a government was only formed last Saturday. Yes, it took 140 days and on Saturday, Micheál Martin, leader of our ALDE sister-party, Fianna Fáil, took office as An Taoiseach.

Negotiators from Fianna Fáil (FF), Fine Gael (FG) and the Green Party (GP) worked on a Programme for Government (PfG). At the same time, a pandemic sucked the life out of the economy, and public health officials strived to protect people. Each respective government party took the PfG back to their membership for support and won it, allowing for a viable coalition to emerge.

But this isn’t any coalition. It is meant to be the beginning of the end of Civil War politics.

Let’s set the scene.

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Ireland at the UN table – An authority in soft power

In the world of international diplomacy, something remarkable happened this week to boost the morale of the UK’s closest neighbour, Ireland. She was elected on the first count to the table of the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member, beating the far bigger power of Canada in the process.

You might wonder why Ireland would even want to be there, or why in fact, others would want her to be there. In the short history of the recent state that is Ireland, it will be the fourth time that Ireland has taken its place at that table. An impressive statistic given it’s just a small island in the North Atlantic. To answer this question, you need to get right into the soul of the Irish people to understand why being at the centre of shaping global decision-making and politics is important.

There’s a sense of national pride attached to it – Ireland, the underdog, holding its own amongst the big guns of global politics. More importantly, the island of Ireland has known its own troubles and has overcome them. We understand what feeling oppressed is like. We understand how hard peace is to come by. We understand the importance of language and identity. We understand conflict resolution. We lived it, and if we can come out of it the other side, so can others. 

Let’s look at the result of the count this week. The quota was 128 out of 192 votes. There were three countries up for election – Canada, Norway and Ireland. One the first count, both Norway and Ireland were elected leaving Canada bruised again failing for the second time in recent times to get elected. Two features appeared in the vote – small nations voted for Ireland as well as all the Middle East Arab countries. A vote for Ireland was a vote for the small nations in the UN. Equally, Ireland doesn’t bring baggage to the UN Security Council as it does not have a colonial past and is deemed an honest broker.

The agenda Dublin will be focused on includes supporting a rules-based order that helps to enable small nations to survive. Plus, it intends to lobby for action to be taken against Israel if the planned annexation of the West Bank goes ahead. Ireland regards annexation as a blatant breach of international law. As an honest broker, Ireland is much respected in this regard and has been an active participant in the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) since 1958. UNTSO, established in 1948, is the oldest ongoing United Nations peacekeeping operation. It operates in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel – the parties to the Truce Agreements that followed the fighting in Palestine in 1948. To date, Ireland still maintains troops in the Golan Heights and Lebanon. 

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