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Why can't people be both British and Irish?

The British Council - like the Crown itself - is held by its charter, as granted by the Crown, to be above party or sectional politics and to be representative to others of something of the cultural mix that makes up what is the United Kingdom. A part of that mix is contentions about identities.

Neither the English nor the Scots were happy about thinking of themselves as British when the Act of Union between England and Scotland was enacted at the beginning of the 18th century. And the rousing Welsh anthem, Men of Harlech, has the British overcome the Saxon (that is, the English).

That being so, Paul McVeigh (Life, May 4) had no reason, other than an interpretation of the past that would have Ireland viewed in isolation, to be surprised at being invited by the British Council to travel to Mexico and the invite still holding even when he had made known his identity.

It's an identity which, for him, now seems to have become somewhat more tolerant, but at that time was more rigidly possessive, excluding others in the name of Irish from identifying themselves as both Irish and British. His article deserves to be pondered. A multiple identity recognises in our making something of the cultures of these geographical Britannic islands which the British Council is held to promote and to that can be added something of European culture (whether in the EU, or not).

James Joyce, who always held to a British passport, and was undoubtedly Irish and lived on the European mainland, would today have no difficulty with multiple identities. Why should we?

WA Miller


Belfast Telegraph Digital


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