Ireland in June

Jul 5, 2016

Credit Andrew Downs / Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

My wife Jill and I spent time in Dublin, Ennis, and Galway in Ireland in late June.  This meant we were there for the Irish soccer team’s exciting win over Italy to qualify for the round of 16 in the European Championship (Euro 2016), their disappointing but respectable loss to France, and for a vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union (Brexit).  In the grand scheme of things, the Brexit vote probably was the most important event, but it would have been hard to know that based on what we saw and heard out in the communities we visited. 

When we arrived in Dublin, we saw flags, jerseys, posters, signs, and balloons showing support for the national team as it prepared to play Italy that evening.  In Galway, the game between Ireland and France could be heard out in the streets thanks to the speakers pointing out of windows and attached to the sides of buildings. 

We did not see a single sign in either city about the Brexit vote and overheard only one conversation about it.  That conversation was in Dublin at a table outside a pub on the day of the vote and the person we heard was vigorously opposed to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. 

The fact that people in Ireland were not voting in Brexit no doubt contributed to the lack of attention to the matter, but the vote was immensely important to the country.  Ireland shares a border with Northern Ireland and a large percentage of their exports go to the United Kingdom.  There also is potential for the vote to affect the number of visitors to Ireland from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales and vice versa.  Given the significance of the vote, it was curious to see and hear so little discussion in the community. 

I don’t want you to think that we did not see, hear, or read anything about the vote while we were there.  In fact, the news broadcasts on RTE and in the Irish newspapers were full of interviews, articles, and columns before and after the vote.  On the night of the vote, we were able to watch live coverage from a couple of the rooms where the ballots were being counted.  (As a side note, these were paper ballots being counted by human beings at tables spread around the rooms and every table where the counting was happening included at least two people who were watching the counting.)

A couple of days after the vote, Jill and I were in Ennis in County Clare.  The population of Ennis is approximately 25,400.  While we were there, we got into a conversation with a couple about the vote.  They both thought that exiting the European Union was a bad idea.  They speculated that Scotland would hold a new referendum about remaining part of the United Kingdom.  They also brought up unifying Northern Ireland and Ireland.  Finally, they pointed out that Dublin is home to a number of financial services businesses and that Ireland, generally, and Dublin, specifically, should approach the financial services businesses in London about relocating to Dublin since it still would be part of the European Union.  It was interesting to see this couple move so quickly from their disappointment in the vote to the opportunities the vote might bring. 

Since the vote, David Cameron (Conservative Party) and Nigel Farage (UK Independence Party) announced they will step aside.  We have seen Jeremy Corbyn’s (Labour Party) leadership questioned and a number of members of the shadow cabinet resign.   Corbyn may not survive as the leader.  The words “upheaval” and “chaos” would be accurate ways to describe things.

There is immediacy to what has been happening that we are not used to in the United States. For us, it is difficult to imagine so many changes in leadership because of one vote regardless of how important the vote and even more difficult to imagine so many changes coming at a time that does not coincide with an election.

  At the same time there is a familiar sense of hurrying up and waiting.  Immediately following the vote, people began to speculate about how the exit would be handled in spite of the fact that the United Kingdom and the European Union had not begun to negotiate the exit.  In fact, it will take years to work out the details. 

I wish I could say that we planned the trip to coincide with the Euro 2016 games and the Brexit vote, but that would be a lie.  It just was good luck.  I hope those of you going on WBOI’s Ireland Adventure have as much luck as we did.

Andrew Downs is Director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW.

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