Ireland may be an island; however, the Celts began very early to forge links with Insular Brittany on one side (Great Britain that is) and continental Europe on the other. On the one hand the Gaels conquered part of Insular Brittany, which would become the land of the Scots, in other words Scotland (yes, the conquest first took place in the other direction!), and on the other hand, scholarly monks went to spread the word and teach in several European countries. How does it stand with Irish identity many centuries later?
Well first of all, never tell an Irishman that he is English, you would insult him! Nevertheless, the Irish are much, much more Anglo-Saxon than they would like.
In general, and this is one of the major paradoxes of Ireland today, they do not like the English very much (remember: they use the word subdued as soon as they speak of the UK), but do everything like them: they speak English, they drive on the left side of the road, they have partly similar political institutions (the Irish Parliament was created after the British model), they have a very comparable school system with lots of uniforms and boarding schools. With the busses and health insurance they took the better and the worse of the Great Britons (as in a marriage!) namely double-decker buses like in London that give you sublime views of Dublin Bay, which you take with a Leap Card instead of the London Oyster card. And HSE instead of NHS for the health system, both according to the principle called Beveridge; this system clearly perfectible by the way (and I’m being nice here) … in short, even in the acronyms and appellations, large parts of the Irish life look like a British duplicate.
This goes as far as the organization of the calendar and Bank Holidays. No Ascension Thursday, nor Mary’s Assumption Day or Whit Monday in the very Catholic Ireland (having said that, it can be argued that the plethora of public holidays in France is also here to please the trade unions more than the church…). The only Irish holiday is St Patrick’s Day on March 17. Apart from that, there is Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter and the first Monday in May, June and August according to the Anglo-Saxon system. Mondays in May and August were created by the Bank Holiday Act of the British Parliament in 1871 and kept as it is by independent Ireland. Monday in June replaces Pentecost Monday, which keeps the holidays regular. Independent Ireland decided this in 1973… the large neighbor island took the same decision at the same time. No comment. For the record, St Patrick’s Day is also a holiday in Northern Ireland. « Ireland » IS a vague concept I’m telling you.
The Irish do not like the English but look at the United States with ecstatic eyes. Many Irish people plan to live in the US for a few years, even if they come back afterwards. Even at the height of the spring 2020 worldwide lockdown, Dublin Airport has kept three-weekly lines to Boston and Chicago. Dublin and Shannon airports are the only ones outside the North American zone that offer pre-clearance, that is, you go through US customs before you board the plane and you land as a domestic flight, which is very pleasant. Another example: it was when the US began to take an interest in the Northern Irish conflict that the negotiations began to become serious. Ending 200 years of strict american non-interference, Bill Clinton’s 1994 visa granted to Gerry Adams – the president of Sinn Fein – allowed him to come to the United States for a visit. It offered an international forum to somebody who was short of a global pariah. Following that, Clinton’s visit to both Irelands the following year is still remembered by everybody on the island. Most families have a relative in the US, and from Kennedy to Biden Irish-American relations are claimed and assumed on both sides of the Atlantic. This further reinforces the Anglo-Saxon and resolutely Western identity of the Irish.
Last but not least, it should not be forgotten that it is paradoxically the language of the invader that allowed the rise of the Celtic tiger: you can imagine that the interesting Irish corporate taxation alone would not have been enough to attract Pzifer, Microsoft, Amazon and co. on the green Erin if they had to learn Gaelic!! The Irish would do well not to forget this simple fact. So yes, the Irish are volens nolens Anglo-Saxons
Next week: Are the Irish Celts?