An American writer was surprised to find she’d become an overnight celebrity in Ireland after standing up for the Irish on British Television.
Novelist Bonnie Greer was appearing on the BBC TV programme Question Time, in which a panel of politicians and political commentators answer questions posed by the audience.
The issue of Brexit came up as it so often does in relation to the problem of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which will double as the border between the UK and the European Union once Britain leaves the EU.
Ireland and the EU insists that in order for there to be a trade deal with the UK after Brexit, there must be no hard border with physical customs posts because that could threaten the peace ushered in more than 20 years ago by the Good Friday Agreement.
Former British Prime Minister Theresa May tried to solve the problem by having the backstop arrangement, whereby the UK would stay aligned to EU regulations and so remove the need for border checks, if no acceptable alternative could be found in the future.
Current Prime Minister Boris Johnson has torn up May’s deal and insists the issue can be dealt with by technology. Ireland and the EU have rejected this idea, prompting fury among many British Brexiters who claim Ireland is being unreasonable and forgetting the close bonds between the two countries.
There is also an air of superiority in the tone of some Brexiters, who act as if Ireland is a tiny country and somehow owes the UK a debt of gratitude.
Greer was quick to dispel this idea on Question Time. She said:
“Oftentimes, I hear people talking about Ireland as if this country (the UK) owns Ireland.
“Ireland owes this country nothing. Ireland owes this country no concessions, it owes it no quarter, it owes it nothing.
“The Good Friday Agreement, despite its rather benign name, is a truce because the United States of America and the EU sat down with these countries to make it happen. We have to be more serious about this.
“The other thing I want to say, the United States is Irish. Anybody who thinks that they’re going to get a deal through and have a trade relationship with the United States that shafts Ireland, you’ve got another thing coming. It’s not going to happen.
“I’m from Chicago, that’s where I was born. Do you know what we do on St Patrick’s Day? We dye the river green. People are very serious about Ireland in the United States. Don’t mess with it. Don’t make it look bad.”
Greer’s comments brought a round of applause from sections of the BBC audience but no doubt dismayed others.
Her clip from the programme was shared on social media and praised by people in the UK who are opposed to Brexit.
Not surprisingly, her comments were widely appreciated by viewers in Ireland. Greer told RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime programme that she was “surprised” at the support she’d received in Ireland.
“I think I’ve been invited to every town and city in Ireland and I’m very grateful, it’s amazing. I don’t know what to say. I thought I said something that everybody knew.
“I think a lot of British people, the people who responded to me, were fairly astonished. They didn’t understand that the Good Friday Agreement is a truce, a ceasefire. They just didn’t understand that. They don’t seem to understand that Ireland is a sovereign country and that it is in Europe.
“The truth of America is that it’s an Irish country. Many Americans can trace Irish ancestry and not just white Americans.”
This is Greer’s clip from the show.
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) October 3, 2019
Greer’s comments about Britain being unable to get a trade deal with the United States if it ‘shafts’ Ireland reflect the views of many leading American politicians, including Nancy Pelosi.
Like Bonnie Greer, many Irish politicians and celebrities have expressed their frustration at the arrogant attitude that some Brexiters display towards Ireland.