On September 3rd Fintan O’Toole, one of Ireland’s most renowned journalists, shared his thoughts on Brexit and its impact on Ireland.
From his deep understanding of all the historical, cultural, trade and political machinations that lead us to this point in UK : Irish relations, Fintan highlighted just why the border in Ireland is so critical to Brexit. He also explored why it is a crisis of identity that fuelled the Brexit movement in the first place and how perspectives on identity are fundamental to peace on the island of Ireland.
From a practical point of view Fintan highlighted how the border in Ireland was never intended as an international border. It is too long, meandering, disjointed from physical attributes and ambiguous to be an effective international boundary. The entire eastern boundary of the European Union has 137 crossing points in relatively manageable geographic locations. By comparison, the implied British border in Ireland has 208 crossings and few of them are in situations that can be managed.
More importantly, Fintan reminded us that discussions on boundaries in Ireland forces questions that are best not to be forced. He articulated some of the brilliantly delicate understandings around the Good Friday Agreement which created conditions for peace and prosperity for the people living in Ireland. Those understandings allow interpretations of identity to be nuanced enough to enable peace rather than being so forced that they drive a divide.
Fintan had the audience fully engaged with his insight and informed perspective. Discussions over the drinks that followed his talk were imbued with an intelligence and energy that was definitely fuelled by fresh learning and understanding.