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National Honour. Is that even a thing anymore? As opposed (but not always opposed) to National Interest? “Britain” and moral delinquency.

June 7, 2017

fermanagh

My concept of patriotism is antediluvian.  I admit it.

Looking at Britain (and I will continue to write “Britain” sous-rature unless or until “Britain” ever looks like anything other than a Little England that negates its own federal unionism in the instant of its own articulation) from Ireland right now is traumatic for a variety of neighbourly and yet selfish reasons.

Many over here were shocked during the Brexit referendum by the utter absence of the Northern Irish border question from any aspect of the campaign.  The fact that Britain was bound by solemn and repeated treaty pledges to continue to sponsor peace in the north of Ireland ought, it was thought over here , to have informed the debate in some way shape or form.  The threat of a hard border that jeopardises the peace, prosperity, and practical liberties of a significant chunk of the polity known as the UK ought, it was thought, to have engaged public debate prior to the June 2016 vote.  But voters in those six counties do not vote for the parties whose leaders were leading the debate.  Those people clearly didn’t count in the great scheme of things.

What was shocking over here in Ireland during the Brexit campaign was not only the extent to which many Brits don’t care about Ireland, but the extent to which many Brits seemingly have no concept of national and international obligation, no concept of “honour” – without which, love of country is far to squalid and selfish and joyless to be termed any species of “love” whatsoever.

Tomorrow, Brits go to the polls again.  And again, the peace and freedom of place that the UK is legally committed to protect has formed no part of the campaign.  This is because what an geriatric like me calls “patriotism” has all but evaporated.

If you’re a politician who promises to always put your own nation’s interest “first” – no matter what – then you have no concept of national honour and you are in no sense of patriotism.  If you vote eagerly for someone who makes such a claim then you’re no patriot either – or at least your patriotism is suspended for the time being.

If you’re voting for a party that will enforce Hard Brexit and you haven’t thought long and hard about how such a policy might impact upon Northern Ireland then you are moral delinquent with absolutely no right to wave a Union Flag.

You’re a moral delinquent (with no sense of national honour) because you claim to be voting in the national interest while simultaneously claiming and yet repudiating a part of the nation whose flag you’re waving.  An open border with the Republic of Ireland, as part of the blessed demilitarisation of the region, is an essential part of the normal life of people living in the border counties.  If a hostile attitude to EU negotiations results in an inability to exempt Northern Ireland from border restrictions, the priceless normality of that part of the world is made vulnerable.

If your commitment to refusing to compromise with “Johnny Foreigner” means that you are prepared to threaten free movement of peoples and easy trading across that border, then you are morally delinquent and have no sense of national honour.  You are betraying the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and the Downing Street Declaration that preceded it.  The peoples of those border counties, both in the North and the Republic voted to remain in the EU, and EU membership has helped ease the politics of the region.  If your commitment to the toughest version of Brexit (a version which has no political mandate) is stronger than your sense of the UK’s treaty obligations and your concern for people who are still UK citizens – then you are a moral delinquent with no sense of national honour.

And if this delinquent and dishonourable version of Hard Brexit triumphs on Friday morning,  it will be further proof (if proof were needed) that Britain really does not deserve to exist for very much longer.

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One Comment
  1. NMac permalink

    It seems to me Conrad that hard-line, blinkered xenophobic nationalism has taken the place of patriotism, which I define as wanting the best for the country. It makes me angry and wanting to weep all at the same time. (One thing I find baffling is why so many older people still vote for a small clique of multi-millionaires who will take from them their pensions, their health service and even their homes).

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