Ambassador rebukes Times columnist

Ambassador rebukes Times columnist

British columnist Melanie Phillips came under fire from the Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall after she claimed Ireland had a “tenuous claim to nationhood”.

Writing in The Times, she questioned whether Ireland could be classed as a nation since it only seceded from Britain as the Irish Free State in 1922.

In the piece entitled ‘Britain is the authentic nation in this battle’ she also criticised Scottish nationalism stating that, along with Irish republicanism, it had been borne out of “myth and hatred”.

Discussing a potential break-up of the United Kingdom, she wrote: “Does that mean that Westminster should tear up the Good Friday Agreement and bid farewell to Northern Ireland?

“No, because it has an obligation to the Unionists; and because the claim to unite Ireland is tenuous since Ireland itself has a tenuous claim to nationhood, having seceded from Britain as the Irish Free State only in 1922.

“Scottish nationalism and Irish republicanism are cultural phenomena rooted in romanticism and myth and hatred of the other in the form of the English or the Protestants.”

One the other hand, she claimed, “Britain is an authentic unitary nation”.

Her comments were met with fierce criticism from a number of quarters, least not from Mr Mulhall, who described them as “outlandish”.

“As Ambassador I cannot ignore Melanie Phillips’ outlandish claims in The Times that Irish nationhood is ‘tenuous’,” he said. “Her contention that this is because we only became independent in 1922 is beyond bizarre, for this would invalidate a significant proportion of the world’s nation states.

“Ireland is an ancient nation whose destiny has been shaped by our island location.

“Since independence, we have enjoyed an unbroken century of democratic rule coupled with significant economic and social progress, notably in the decades since we joined the EU in 1973.

“Ireland also possesses a distinctive culture and a strong sense of identity. We have also played an active international role through our UN membership, our involvement in peacekeeping and our development aid programme.

“Such are the elements of nationhood in today’s world. There is nothing tenuous about that.”

Neale Richmond, Fine Gael Senator, added that Ms Phillips should “read a history book before making such an ill-informed comment”.

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