Writing in the Financial Times last week, Bobby McDonagh said he wished Britain’s debate about the EU would be “serious and fact-based” and appealed for Britain to recognise the “huge influence” it has in Europe.
The well-connected diplomat also made the telling admission that “much of the debate on Europe in Britain causes concern in Ireland”.
His words follow firm statements made by senior Irish politicians, including the Taoiseach, that Ireland will not follow Britain out of the EU if the British public votes to leave in a referendum promised by Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this year.
Mr McDonagh paid tribute to the progress made in Anglo-Irish relations in his article, saying: “I am happy, as my time as Ireland’s ambassador in London ends, to observe simply that today our two nations are true friends.”
The ambassador credited business and cultural links, as well as “the contribution of the Irish community to every facet of life in Britain” for healing Britain and Ireland’s historic rift.
But he claimed the transformation of Anglo-Irish relations has been best aided by both countries’ participation in “the two great peace processes of modern history” – post-Troubles Northern Ireland and post-World Wars I and II Europe.
Of the second, he said the EU had given Britain and Ireland “deeper common interests than ever”.
Claiming it would be a “shame” if Anglo-Irish relations within the 28-member bloc lessened, Mr McDonagh added: “If I may be allowed a wish as I come to the end of my posting in this nation, for which I have immense affection and admiration, it would be that the debate about UK interests in Europe should be serious and fact-based; and that Britain should recognise the huge influence it has had, and can continue to have, in Europe.”
The ambassador has previously appealed for the Irish in Britain to add some “common sense” to Britain’s EU debate and likened Britain’s relationship with the Union to “permanent marriage guidance counselling sessions”.
Earlier this year, he said that public debate about the EU in Britain was guilty of focusing “more on national angst than on national interests” and “less on winning the game in hand than on how to invent a different game which the other players don’t want to play”.
See this week’s Irish Post (out tomorrow) for our interview with Ambassador Bobby McDonagh and wife Mary as they prepare to leave London for a new posting in Italy.