Sadhbh Walshe is a filmmaker and journalist whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Irish Times, and Al Jazeera. She was a staff writer for the TV series The District. Her screenplay, The Fiddler, was a 2017 PAGE Award and Slamdance finalist. (April 2019)
Although the Good Friday Agreement brought an end to the violence in the North, the issues of national identity, civil and political rights, and religious differences that lay behind the Troubles are far from resolved. But without Brexit, it’s quite probable that the people of Ireland, North and South, would have happily gone on as they were, even though that required a significant papering-over of cracks. Now that Brexit is threatening to shatter the illusion, reinforcing the separation of the two parts of Ireland—either by restoring a hard border in the worst scenario, or by placing the North in a customs zone apart, in the best case—people in the South are engaging with the Northern question in a way very few did during the Troubles.
At this St. Patrick’s Day, one could be fooled into thinking that the Irish-American community is as robust as ever. But changes to US immigration rules have largely closed the door to new entries, leading inexorably to a “graying” of Irish America. I didn’t realize when I came here in the late 1990s that thanks to multiple failed attempts at immigration reform, the conveyor belt of Irish immigration would more or less stop with my generation. What that means for Irish-American identity in general, and the New York Irish in particular, is becoming a pressing issue.
It would seem that the ruling conservative party, Fine Gael, has already decided that there will be no great liberalizing of abortion laws in Ireland, no matter the unexpectedly liberal results of a recent Citizens’ Assembly vote. If this is indeed how it plays out, aside from the implications for women’s health, it will mean the party will have disregarded a meticulous exercise in deliberative democracy that it put in place (at considerable cost to the taxpayer), simply because it wasn’t satisfied with the results or because those results were not politically expedient.