Hard choices for true believers - Rules on Irish exemption eased

Hard choices for true believers - Rules on Irish exemption eased

This weekend’s 40th anniversary of the death, in a storm in Bantry Bay, of double Booker prize winner JG Farrell, offers an opportunity to speculate how that great chronicler of empire and the collapse of empire might regard Brexit. 

However he might have viewed it, and it is hard to imagine he would admire Boris Johnson, he would have been alert to the nostalgia politics at the heart of that unfortunate enterprise.

He might have recognised, too, that Brexit, or at least the hard one Johnson’s true believers seem determined to impose, might make a border poll a mid-term possibility rather than a long-term probability. 

He might also have connected the news that students with disabilities will no longer need a doctor’s diagnosis to be exempt from studying Irish to the prospect of a border poll. 

Under new guidelines those seeking an exemption from studying Irish will no longer need to undergo a psychological assessment. 

However, exemptions will be granted only in “rare and exceptional circumstances”, according to the Department of Education.

In an irony that would not be lost on Farrell, any vote to end partition would, in a rational world, signal the end of mandatory Irish in our schools. 

Imposing such an obligation in a reunited, 32-county Ireland would seem the kind of cultural triumphalism that would make building a new, all-inclusive Ireland more difficult that it might be. Johnson’s true believers are not the only ones facing hard choices.

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