A chara; I read with interest Brian John Spencer’s letter complaining about Ireland joining La Francophonie [the community of French-speaking nations he calls the ‘French commonwealth’].
There are many reasons for Ireland to be part of such an organization as there is a long history of the French language and influence in Ireland.
The French language arrived in Ireland twice – firstly with the arrival of the Anglo-Normans who spoke French.
Later in the 160Os Hugenot refugees came from France and settled in various places including Dublin, County Antrim and, in particular, Portarlington where French was the town language until the early 1800s.
The Hugenots were very influential in banking and commerce.
They had a large impact on the lace and linen industries in Ulster.
French is the thirdmost studied language in schools in Ireland after English and Irish.
L’Academie française in Dublin is the second largest in the world, second only to Brussels.
Ireland joining La Francophonie is actually a back-handed compliment to the UK.
Even though an independent Irish state was established in 1922, it wasn’t fully independent of the UK. Ireland was dependent on the UK for trade, currency, banking, defence, and many other matters.
Ireland joined the EEC as it had to follow its main market, the UK, in order to follow it and continue trading with it.
As the UK was a serious player on the world stage, Ireland followed in its wake without doing the heavy lifting.
Now that the UK is leaving the European Union, Ireland has to up its game in terms of international relations.
It can’t depend on flying in the slipstream of the UK.
This is why joining La Francophonie and opening new embassies is actually a back-handed compliment to the UK as Ireland relied on the power and influence of the UK for a century but now it has to do things for itself.
Brexit is causing Ireland to do things that it never considered doing until now – because it relied so much on the UK.
Those days are over and Ireland has to do more for itself.
Seanán Ó Coistín, Trier, Germany