In Against the Wind: Memoir of a Dissident Dubliner, I postulated on the commonality that exists between the plain people of Britain and Ireland. Below are some extracts to ponder as we witness a dramatic change in British politics.
“Often throughout history it has not been the people themselves but the arrogant and superior attitudes foisted upon them by monarchy, religion and class that has led to an unfortunate enmity between the plain people of both countries who otherwise have much in common and could, if allowed, get on quite well together. I believe that both countries have dissidents who recognise there has always been as much connection as separation between the ordinary people of Ireland and England”.
“In England, there was a crop of younger writers and playwrights who were challenging the established order of things. John Osborne, Arnold Wesker and Shelagh Delaney were making names for themselves in the theatre. As were John Braine, Alan Sillitoe and later Lynn Reid Banks in literature; all writing stories with working-class heroes as in turn the Beatles would recognise in a song ‘A working class hero is something to be’. The media dubbed them ‘The Angry Young Men’. When I had told Fred I was pleasantly surprised to find so many dissidents in his country, ‘Not nearly enough,’ was his caustic reply”.
“It amused me to hear a Ganger man yell, ‘Tear it out of it, lads. Sure, it’s not our country,’ to a gang of Irish navvies wielding picks and shovels in a trench. But I did not appreciate that they knew nothing of the Irish Chartists and their struggle to better working class lives in this very city. This separatism and lack of integration worked against not only the Irish but also the other immigrant communities from all parts of the Commonwealth. West Indians did not sit with Pakistanis or Indians in the site canteens, nor did their communities mix well in the rundown areas where they could afford to live. And though there was no organised policy of discrimination like there existed in Northern Ireland, the lack of assimilation was not an evident concern of those that ran the major cities of Britain at the time”.
Now a dissident English republican will surely find common ground with those who in George Bernard Shaw’s phrase live on John Bull’s Other Island to the west. And hopefully those that live on that island will find common cause with him.