I have been a Brit living in Ireland for around 13 years.
It can be a complicated relationship at times; so much in common, but so many subtle cultural differences not always visible to the naked eye.
I have never wanted to take on Irish citizenship, despite being married to an Irishman and having two Irish children. It was important to me to retain my British identity, even though I have lived most of my adult life in Dublin.
Then, today. For the first time in thirteen years I am seriously considering applying for Irish citizenship. I look at Britain, and I don’t recognise what I see there. I’m writing this at noon on Friday, 24th June the morning the referendum results were announced. Now is the time, naturally, of emotion and hyperbole. Remain campaigners and voters are devastated at their defeat. It signals a win for fear, selfishness and, in extreme cases, hate. It’s interesting to note that 70% of 18-24 year olds voted to remain. Our future would have been safe in their hands. Those with the most to lose, are now the most betrayed.
The horrific and brutal murder of Jo Cox is a reminder of the hate and fear which has been whipped up by the press, the Daily Mail in particular, and the odious faux-political agenda of UKIP, Nigel Farage and his like. Her murder reads like a scene from a horrific dystopian novel, or a chapter from a History book on the causes leading to the next world war. Jo Cox stood for equality and love. I had hoped , we all had hoped, those standards would win through yesterday.
And yet for those who voted leave, I feel mostly sadness rather than hate. It’s sad that 16 million people are terrified at the prospect of unity. That fear clenches their heart. That they would choose selfishness over compassion for those less fortunate than themselves, whether that be Syrian refugees, millennials struggling for jobs or Generation Xers battling childcare fees and mortgage deposits. The country is divided and whatever the outcome the division will remain. The United Kingdom, divided.
I travel regularly home to Newcastle, on my British passport, with my kids and their Irish passports. We already have to explain ourselves due to the fact I don’t share their surname, will this complicate matters further? Will I wave across at them from the interminably long non-EU queue ? I don’t consider myself non-EU.
As I contemplate the thought of taking Irish citizenship , another referendum rears its head. I had vowed to myself that I would not contemplate Irish citizenship until a referendum had taken place to Repeal the Eighth Amendment. The 8th Amendment was passed in 1983 and acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, equating it with the mother’s right to life. In simple terms, abortion is not allowed in Ireland resulting in 8 women a day travelling , mainly to the UK, to terminate their pregnancies. These might be women who have been told their foetus will not survive outside the womb, or women who have been raped, or mothers who can’t financially cope with another child in the family. Women who don’t want to have a child at this moment, for whatever reason, but who under Irish law do not have control of their own bodies and reproductive rights. The campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment is vital, active and ongoing and needs our support. On Twitter, @Blaisinsquad raised the question of what might happen now for those Irish women needing to travel ? Will this already inhumane trial be made more difficult for them?
Currently, as an English person living in Ireland I am eligible to vote in General Elections, but not referenda. My previous stance I realise now is empty, a silent protest. Wouldn’t it be best if I take on my Irish citizenship thereby enabling me to vote in any future referendum, which we hope will be coming soon, and truly be able to stand behind this cause I believe so passionately in? Because let’s remember: 33 million people voted in the UK referendum, who knows what might have happened if tens of millions others had exercised their right, and joined them.
If you want more information on the Repeal the Eighth campaign, check out @repealeight on Twitter.