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Monday
May062019

Ten reasons to feel at home in Ireland

I was in Ireland last week.

I flew out on Wednesday and spent two nights in Malahide to the north of Dublin with an evening in Greystones to the south.

For the most part Brexit wasn’t a topic of conversation, for which I was grateful because on my two previous visits, toward the end of last year, it rather soured the mood.

Thankfully there’s more that unites our two countries and as a regular visitor to Ireland I always feel at home.

Here are ten things (in addition to our shared use of the English language) that Britain and Ireland have in common. In no particular order:

1. Breakfast
The difference between a full Irish and a full English (or Scottish) breakfast is minimal. Asked to choose I’d pick a full Scottish because you get the option of haggis but a freshly cooked full Irish is not a bad way to start the day. ‘Continental’? No thanks.

2. Driving on the left
Having replaced miles in favour of kilometres on road signs in the Seventies, and done the same with speed limits in 2005, it’s perhaps surprising that Ireland didn’t follow Sweden’s example and switch to driving on the right. Long may our two countries continue to drive on the side that God (not Napoleon) intended.

3. Imperial pint
One measurement EU-loving Ireland still shares with Britain is the imperial pint. Which leads me to ...

4. The pub
Our shared pub culture may be taken for granted but it defines how Britain and Ireland differ from the rest of Europe if not the world. Enjoy it while it lasts.

5. Landscape
Parts of Ireland are unquestionably beautiful but they’re not so different from parts of Britain. The west of Ireland, for example, will remind anyone who has been there of the west of Scotland. The lush green fields of Wicklow remind me of Pembrokeshire, and elsewhere there are many similarities with the more rural areas of Scotland and Wales in particular.

6. Architecture
This may be a sensitive area given how many buildings in Ireland pre-date independence, but Dublin’s famous Georgian terraces, for example, should be a matter of shared pride not division. Either way, most towns and cities in Ireland feel familiar in a way that can’t be said of any town or city on the continent.

7. Football
On Saturday morning, on the return flight to Stansted, I sat next to two young Irishmen wearing West Ham shirts who were on their way to London to see West Ham play Southampton. Meanwhile a Dublin-based Irishman of my acquaintance was in Newcastle to watch the match with Liverpool. Each week thousands of people from Ireland make similar journeys to football matches all over England (and Scotland). Sport can divide nations but it can unite us as well. Which brings me to ...

8. Cricket
I’ve yet to meet an Irishman who likes cricket but they do exist. On Friday Malahide hosted a one day international between Ireland and England and as I walked to the station to catch a train I passed scores of Irishmen on their way to the match. A wet outfield delayed the start of play and supporters huddled together to keep warm. Sound familiar? Talking of which ...

9. The weather
No-one visits Ireland for the weather but if you’re British that’s another reason you’ll feel at home.

10. The Royals
Following a hugely successful visit to Dublin and Cork a few years ago, the Queen would appear to be as popular in Ireland as she is in Britain. Last week, while having dinner in Malahide, my companions (both local) were greeted by another group of diners. A conversation ensued and one of them caught my accent. “Oh,” she said, “I do love the Royals!” In my experience she’s not alone.

Below: view from a restaurant overlooking the estuary at Malahide, Dublin

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