Crossing the border – and the Rubicon

Former soldier and diplomat Adrian Hill continues his series on the diplomatic and defence environment of the UK’s departure from the EU.  Disclaimer: At times we publish the views of our members. This article is not an official Veterans for Britain paper and does not necessarily reflect the view of Veterans for Britain.

 

All through the Troubles, the British and Irish governments carried on business as usual between our countries, this included the Common Travel Area and the joint tax office. The only zone of rivalry was over inward investment and competition was fierce though friendly. The low point in diplomatic business was when the Irish took us to court at Strasbourg but both countries had very able ambassadors, John Peck in Dublin and Donal O’Sullivan in London and the dispute made no difference to our liaison over security along the border. There were only two British battalions along the border so the addition of an Irish battalion on their side increased the overall force by a third. After bloody Sunday there was a three day siege of our embassy riot in Merrion Square, the heart of Georgian Dublin. Around 20-30,000 people were involved, armed with explosives and petrol bombs. Some of the Garda suffered broken thighs defending the British Embassy from the mob. I phoned the embassy to make sure nobody had gone back to the building. At the other end answered a lone Garda, who told me in no uncertain terms that he was on his own and the rest of ‘ems gone off and******** left me. That night the embassy door was blown down and the building was set on fire – the Garda inside was badly injured but I think my telephone friend had safely left.

These were grim times with murders of our ambassador with his PA, Lord Louis Mountbatten, many soldiers and policemen as well as innocent men, women and children. No-one with any sense wants to go back to that bleak hatred.

That’s why as a part of the Good Friday Agreement the Irish Parliament voted to remove Articles 2 and 3 of their constitution which laid claim to the whole island. This recognised the legitimacy of Northern Ireland and was a crucial stride towards bringing peace. Entrée Mr Varadkar – avec/mit Monsieur Barnier… stumbling around the china shop. A former commander of our forces in Northern Ireland described the province politics as rather like a mobile hanging from the ceiling – touch it gently, otherwise it flies all over the place out of control.

Diplomacy has rules. Standards of courtesy are demanded even between hostile nations. We should not make an exception for the European Union.

Adrian Hill.