Anyone used to studying nineteenth-century Ireland will be familiar with how issues of church-state relations frequently arose in that era, perhaps a little too often. More surprising might be where and how such an idea might surface “today”.
That is not a debate that I pay attention to, although one can see in the distance how Irish writers on the theme often identify not with the American republican system, as one might expect (considering how the Irish constitution came to be written), but with a British civitas one, purely because of a perception of how either system can end up affecting their pockets. So much for altruism. Last summer, however, an old Irish legal historian said to me that he viewed the current negotiations between Britain and the European Union as being akin to “24 Hen 8 c 12, Act II” and, with his own educational background, he evidently quite sympathised with that idea. What a peculiar idea that might seem, although in one of the more interesting pieces of news I heard recently—a video of a lecture by a former Irish ambassador—it was perceptible how a similar dynamic was perceived to be affecting life in Ulster increasingly today. People may be familiar with the broad ethos of British public service broadcasting worldwide and various British universities, although as I think the late Garret Fitzgerald used to say the real nature and parameters of English nationalism is nevertheless perhaps quite obscure to many people.
My breakfast each day usually consists of a cup of tea and an orange and so I consciously avoid a diet of news on that perpetual media story that sounds like a breakfast, but isn’t really. But, then again, here I am thinking about writing an international relations history, with my head currently wrapped up in Irish newspapers from in-or-about 1945, so is it a case of “perhaps I better pay some attention to this one after all?” Being a historian, I want to avoid contemporary issues but, in attempting to map out a plan for future reading, it is clear that if I ultimately decide, or I am able to, or ever get to the stage of, writing about issues as recent as Ireland joining the EU in 1994, a potentially good source of “free literature” (a valuable asset for one with no budget like me) can be found here. That is a source of contemporary literature the existence of which I have only discovered recently. Perhaps it is familiar to many. But if it is not, it may make for some interesting breakfast reading, of one kind or another. I just thought I’d share that (before I go to put the kettle on again)