DUBLIN—“England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity,” goes the old nationalist slogan. In the elegant Chapter One restaurant, next door to one of Dublin’s most eye-popping Georgian townhouses, I learned that the slogan has been updated. England’s difficulty is now Ireland’s mortal danger.
Eoghan Harris made his career writing for television and films. His grandfather and two of his great-uncles carried arms against Britain in the Easter uprising of 1916. He worries now that Brexit is provoking a dangerously nationalist reaction on the western side of the Irish Sea. “There is no easier political stunt in Ireland than wrapping yourself in the green jersey,” he said. He worries that the present Irish government, and especially its prime minister, Leo Varadkar, are recklessly antagonizing Britain for local political advantage.
Ireland is led by a weak minority government, a legacy of a half decade of economic hardship.
Ireland suffered terribly in the euro currency crisis that struck at the end of 2009. The austerity measures imposed on Ireland by the European Central Bank and the European Commission cut services, raised taxes, and eliminated jobs. When I had drinks in a Dublin hotel with a former Irish prime minister, he arrived by bus: He had lost the car and driver formerly awarded to ex–prime ministers amid the budget cuts needed to keep Ireland on the euro currency. (Ireland being a small country, I then walked from the hotel to a nearby club to have dinner with the government official who had been given the job of breaking the bad news to the former prime ministers.)