Back in 1171, there was an English invasion of Ireland. They say English Pope Adrian IV had issued the Papal Bull Laudabiliter which granted English King Henry II the right to invade Ireland and Romanise the church. Though the existence of this document has been disputed, Ireland’s future was nonetheless subsumed when Henry declared sovereignty and Dublin became the centre for his enforcers.
Several Henrys later, an Irish Parliament voted Henry VIII as King of Ireland after which he celebrated by planting English settlers into the lands confiscated from Irish rebels.
These islands have thus been associated with English ownership and named geographically ‘British’ for hundreds of years.
Britain has separated itself from the Europe Union and arguably, in doing so, it has become politically and diplomatically isolated from Ireland despite the sharing of the island. The exit agreement has even put an internal border in the Irish Sea, a figurative slash between the United Kingdom / Northern Ireland on the covers of their resurrected blue passports.
There have been many who have called for a new name for these islands. Such calls are at least a hundred years old. Some say that the time for a change has never been more appropriate. In Ireland, at least, it makes no sense to call the islands British no matter how widespread this exonym has become. Many say that using British as an Isle descriptor undermines Irish sovereignty at a time that Ireland and Europe both need to be stressing cohesion if not unity.
How can the Irish continue to leverage the name Ireland (Éire in Irish) if they remain mapped within The British Isles?
Some say the term ‘British Isles’ connotes centuries of betrayal and suppression of Irish culture and national aspirations. Many think it’s time to stop being saying ‘British Isles’ because Brexit is yet another proof of irreconcilable differences.
‘Although the term British Isles has a long history of common usage, it has become increasingly controversial, especially for some in Ireland who object to its connotation of political and cultural connections between Ireland and the United Kingdom.’ says Encyclopedia Britannica.
These islands are on edge of the European continent, separated from their mainland by shallow seas, seas that will disappear during the next glacial period.
The islands are geologically ephemeral. They only exist during warm periods. Perhaps these are The Summer Isles. That suggestion is a nice play on the Greek and Roman notion of the winter island, Hibernia.
The islands rise from and are proud of the waters, protruding above the seas much as mountain peaks appear above the ice sheets in Antarctica or Greenland. Remnant isolated mountain peaks that once projected through a continental sheet ice are called Nunataks.
Could these islands ever be called The Nunataks? Or as has been suggested, the Atlantic Archipelago though I doubt Irish politicians would be happy to be seen attending AA meetings.
But however they might be renamed, unconstrained public consultation should be avoided lest they become ‘The Boaty McBoatface Isles’. Worse might be the ‘Dustin Isles’, a notion that might occur to a nation that sent a puppet Turkey Vulture to the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. Some say the nation, if only subconsciously, needed to ensure they couldn’t win in order to avoid the expenses of hosting the event ever again.
The name of the islands is such a sensitive issue that the Irish and British governments refer to them in official documents as ‘these islands’.
Then again, despite the endonymic aspirations, Brexit was about taking back control of everything while remaining physically in Europe.
Perhaps there is nothing that can be done to exit the constraints of geography. Perhaps Ireland will be among The British Isles for as long as Britain remains within geographic Europe.
Caveat emptor: my daily musings may be incomplete and incorrect.