15th November 2018
We have been here for just over a year now. It is fascinating to be a Brit in Ireland during Brexit (albeit I’m of distant Irish descent via a great, great grandmother born in Dublin c. 1816, who emigrated to the East End of London before the Great Famine, otherwise I might not be here).
I’m a Brit with an obvious English accent, living mostly in this rural part of the West of Ireland.
Local Irish folk here have been very friendly & welcoming, for which I’m eternally grateful.
Ireland is the third most popular destination for UK citizens choosing to migrate and settle in other EU member states. Estimates of how many UK citizens live in Ireland range from 140,000 to 300,000, while about 400,000 Irish citizens live in Britain.
There’s been a sharp rise in the number of British nationals looking to become naturalised Irish citizens – a five-fold increase. 529 British nationals became naturalised Irish citizens last year, a jump from just 51 people in 2014. This is thought to be due to Brexit – Brits wanting to keep a foot in the EU.
The cost of buying almost anything and the general cost of living in Ireland is higher than in the UK. The cost of household insurance, car insurance & road tax for a van or car is much higher. There is no free banking with the exception of one account offered by EBS Bank; banking services are charged for, and VAT is 23% compared with 20% in the UK.
In small local shops in rural Ireland the service is friendly, very helpful, and charmingly slow (everyone likes to chat). You can be five to ten minutes waiting to pay for your groceries while the old lady in front of you at the till finishes her conversation with the shop keeper. An Irish friend commented that this is because everyone is nosy and wants to know all about you, particularly if you a new ‘blow-in’, a recent incomer. As in villages and small rural communities in England – and in fact anywhere – you need at least 3-4 generations behind you to be considered ‘local’.
However, in supermarkets the concept of customer service is a little behind the U.K. – don’t expect anyone to offer to help with packing your bags, if you do a big shop. And customer service with companies you phone up can be infuriatingly bureaucratic, if is possible to get through at all – which in the case of Eir Telecom – IT IS NOT!
There are other things about Ireland which I am reluctant to discuss, in case I sound like a stereotypical patronising Brit, which is one of the worst crimes a Brit can commit in Ireland. So apologies if any Irish sensibilities or scruples are ruffled, but there is little point in writing this unless I am honest in recording what I notice. There are things about Ireland that can best be described as overly bureaucratic or positively arcane, though I’m not clear how much of this is due to over diligent enforcement of EU regulations and how much (no offence), to a sort of Irish, possibly Celtic, vagueness and cultural obscurantism, which could be considered endearing.
The Irish are refreshingly disrespectful of authority (particularly anything reminiscent of British colonialism & the Anglo-Irish ascendancy). At the same time there is in the Irish character a cheerful, matter-of-fact practicality which can appear to be a shrugging ‘nothing-to-be-done’ fatalism, perhaps originating in the Roman Catholicism of the country, or from the Celtic mists of Ancient Ireland. Of course, any generalisations about people or national characteristics are just that – generalisations – and the same no doubt applies to generalisations about the English. In America at least, the English seem to be regarded either as upper-class toffs with stiff upper lips or cheerful cockneys who like to say ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ a lot.
There certainly are some Irish people who are no more sanguine about EU rules & regulations than the British who voted Leave – and would even like to see Ireland out of the EU – but what are the alternatives? Is abandoning the EuroZone to return to the Irish Punt even an option?
A closer relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the UK also seems understandably unthinkable after Brexit, considering the hundreds of years of English and British colonialism towards Ireland and the Irish, culminating in the 1916 Uprising and the Irish War of Independence, the setting up of the Irish Free State and then the Irish Republic.
The thread above was stimulated by a podcast called “We need to talk about the British in Ireland” from a series called “Brexit Brits Abroad”..A contributor to this was Professor Mary Gilmartin of Maynooth University.
My next post will be appearing soon, including details about my new podcast venture.
Wow. Cool eh?