If you take the use of the word « Europe », it has already become polysemous for Europeans, as it can refer to the European Union (the 27), or to geographical Europe from Iceland to the Urals (51 countries). Moreover, when you say “Europe”, you may refer to the European Economic Area (27 EU+3 = 30 countries), the Schengen area (22 EU + 4 = 26 countries) and the Euro zone (19 members). To all these meanings is added a 6th in Ireland: continental Europe. This is how the Irish speak of « European Plug » for example, to designate the electrical outlets that we find in most European countries while the Irish have adopted the English system of plugs.
The Irish voted overwhelmingly for entry into the European Union in 1973. Initially, EU subsidies enabled the country to acquire much-needed infrastructure and to perform its conversion from an agricultural country to a tertiary economy. Since 2006, Ireland has been a net contributor to the EU budget and has resolutely embraced the single market as a springboard both to reduce its dependence on the UK and to turn its economy towards exports. Irish was even recognised as an official language of the EU in 2005 !
The Irish immediately adopted the Euro, unlike the British neighbor. On the other hand, it is one of the very few countries of the European Union, that is not part of the Schengen area. I did not know that when I first moved to Ireland, I admit, and everyone who has visited us since then was also unaware of. Everyone had to be reminded to bring an ID!
The Irish way of thinking and regulating during the pandemic has not been European at all, on the other hand, the pandemic has reactivated ancestral insular reflexes. The Irish did not hesitate to put most of their European allies in a mandatory hotel quarantine for example.
As I write this, most countries in Europe are announcing that they are opening up to tourism this summer for people who have been tested and/or vaccinated, but Ireland continues hesitate about the possibility of a travel cert. This is likely to ruin the 2021 summer season, with future holidaymakers turning to other destinations and Irish people taking the plane to go to the sun as soon as they can, no staycation as the government would like them to.
Consequently, the Irish have turned to Europe yes, but more for an economic and independence-oriented purposes than out of a sense of belonging. That said, Brexit has brought Ireland closer to the EU. There is a slogan that appeared this year forged by the Irish President Higgins, « France, our nearest EU—neighbor », slogan widely taken up by the French representatives in Ireland with a subtle change of possessive pronoun (see picture): it is true that since Brexit the ferry crossings between Ireland and France have quadrupled, despite of the pandemic.
In fact, Ireland is in danger of finding itself faced with a cornelian choice: to move towards Europe at the risk of seeing the ashes of the troubles revived, or to choose peace on the island at the risk of seeing its economy deteriorate; preserving both the European future and the fragile peace throughout the island of Ireland is a balancing act.
So, Europeans yes, but Ireland is and remains an island first and foremost. The Irish in fact have a multifaceted identity: Administrative life is Anglo-Saxon, the visual and leisure are Celtic, Sundays and many high schools are Christian, the currency is European. The harp unites the whole. The most beautiful illustration of this syncretism is the magnificent Celtic cross: it is assumed that the ancient native populations worshipped the sun, and the addition of a circle to the Christian cross made it easier to take their adherence to Christianity. The Irish simply take a pragmatic approach to things..
Overall, the Irish are much less American but much more Anglo-Saxon than they would like, Celtic in their hearts and European yes, but it’s a marriage of convenience.