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Brexit ire has replaced Catholic-bashing in Ireland

Leo Varadkar (Getty)

It has been well documented that Brexit has worsened relations between Britain and Ireland. There’s a tendency, among the more Brexity members of the Westminster government, and its supporters, to blame the pesky Irish – insisting on their “Backstop” – for holding up all proceedings.

In Ireland, there’s been a new rash of Anglophobia, and a reversion to blaming “the Brits” for the problems which Ireland will face in the slipstream of Brexit.

The phrase “800 years of British exploitation”, which we hadn’t heard for some time – it had almost been forgotten since the Queen’s state visit to Ireland in 2011 – has seen a revival in Irish discourse.

It was days and days before Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were in contact, after Boris entered 10 Downing Street, and even then, their phone conversation was “testy”.

However, it’s an ill wind that blows no good, and I do see one bright spot in this picture, at least for the Catholic Church. For the first time in years – perhaps in decades – the Irish public conversation has stopped obsessing about the “toxicity” and “repressions” of the Catholic Church.

Bashing the Church has been the favourite topic of conversation in fashionable Ireland for some time. Everything that was wrong with Ireland was the fault of the Catholic Church.

There have been steady calls to eviscerate any trace of the Catholic Church from public life.

In a recent book of essays, hailed as a minor masterpiece, the writer Sinead Gleason even complained that some Irish hospitals – and maybe even other places – were still called after saints. How extreme is that!

But for weeks now, there has been scarcely any Catholic-bashing in Irish public discourse. All fire is turned on Brexit and the Brits, and Boris Johnson has replaced Dr John Charles McQuaid – the former, admittedly somewhat rigid, Archbishop of Dublin – as the villain destroying us all.

Meanwhile, very quietly, a report has appeared from Trinity College Dublin disclosing that the majority of Irish people over 50 still attend weekly Mass, and those who do so have fewer mental health problems than those who don’t.

And maybe they, too, are having a bit of fun blaming the Brits for everything?

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It wasn’t very bright of Prince Harry to proclaim that he and his wife, Meghan, would only have two children, so as to save the planet from the environmental damage of overpopulation.

Firstly, he cannot predict that he will have two children. Contemplating matters of conception and birth, it is wise to abide by the rule that “anything can happen”.

Secondly, Harry could make a rather more constructive contribution to saving the planet by desisting from flying in private aeroplanes (especially not to posh climate change pow-wows) or helicopters, which gobble up the earth’s resources.

He could also reduce the use of royal motor cars, and his wife could recycle more of her frocks rather than purchasing new designer labels.

Thirdly, Harry could take note of the headlines which tell us that the United Kingdom birth-rate is at a record low and population is well below replacement level. HRH needs to wise up!

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During the month of August, I’m offering a weekly poem short enough to accord with the age of Twitter. Alice Meynell’s very touching “Maternity” is so eloquent in just 49 words.

One wept whose only child was dead,
New-born, ten years ago.
“Weep not; he is in bliss,” they said
She answered, “Even so,

“Ten years ago was born in pain
A child, not now forlorn.
But oh, ten years ago, in vain,
A mother, a mother was born.”

Alice Meynell was a poet, writer, suffragist and a committed Catholic. Her sister was the distinguished military artist Lady Elizabeth Butler.

Alice and her husband Wilfred Meynell, the Catholic journalist and publisher, had eight children, one of whom died in infancy. Alice died in 1922, aged 75.

Follow Mary Kenny on Twitter: @MaryKenny4