Again on Monday, for only about the gazillionth time since moving to Sweden, I had to explain to a handful of Swedes the various entities that make up the British Isles and Ireland. And explain that England is only one quarter of the UK. And that none of the other 3 quarters include the Republic of Ireland.
I know it shouldn't, because I should be well-used to it by me, but it still irritates and shocks me every time a Swede refers to the UK as England. Most Swedes actually do this. And of course they're not helped in rectifying their mistake by film and TV programme subtitle writers who persist in translating, Britain,UK, and Great Britain to "England", and British to "engelsk" (lower case in Swedish for languages, nationalities, days of the week and the
months....yeah, weird isn't it!)
Anyway on Monday, when asked (in Swedish of course) "Have you got English citizenship? I gave the one and only possible answer, "There is no such thing as English citizenship, because there is no such state as England" Which was followed by "Huh?" (that was also in Swedish).
I explained, "The state is called The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain being the geographical name of the island that is England, Scotland and Wales. The British Isles contains two nationalities - British and Irish. I have both citizenships, but only a valid Irish passport. The British one expired about 1o years ago ."
On Monday I didn't go into the complex details about the Isle of Man and the two Channel Islands states but I will now.
All three are separate states, with their own Parliaments and governments and are not part of the EU or the UK. They are self-governing British Crown dependencies. The only matters they may not affect or issue statements on are foreign policy, defence and nationality laws.
However, resdients of the Isle of Man receive full UK passports which inlcude an extra entry detailing their Manx nationality. Whereas residents of the 2 Channel Islands states - The Bailiwick of Guernsey and The Bailiwick of Jersey receive British Islands passports, which have the following on the front cover: "British Islands, Bailiwick of Jersey" or "British Islands, Bailiwick of Guernsey" So slightly different in that they do not have full UK citizenship like a Manx national does.
I then had to explain that Ireland has been a separate state since the end of 1921.
And that while Wales is a country politically and culturally, legally and judicially it has not been a separate country since the middle of the 1500s, when it was annexed to England by the Laws of Wales Act of 1535, under Henry VIII, who as a Tudor of course was partly Welsh himself.
Since then, Wales has been a principality of England and all laws apply to the legal unit of England & Wales. Scotland however, is still a separate country, even though it went into the union with England in 1707.
Then of course that old chestnut the question of Northern Ireland came up, which made me ask "How long have you got?" No, I didn't really ask that, but it isn't something you can answer in five minutes so I gave them the dry basic political answer.
"In 1801 the Kingdom of Ireland went into a union with the Kingdom of Britain, which was after 600 years of on-again, off-again English rule anyway. Then in 1920 the Government of Ireland Act divided the island into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, based on religious and ethnic grounds. At the end of 1921 the British Government and the Irish Parliament signed the Treaty making Ireland a separate state. And so since then Northern Ireland has been part of the UK."
Now this next part is me writing now and has nothing to do with what was being discussed on Monday evening. And would have had no place anyway in a simple conversation about the political boundaries and entities of the British Isles.
From its creation in 1921 and up to 1972 Northern Ireland "enjoyed" Unionist self-government, but after about 3 years of The Troubles that the Unionist Protestant authorities in Northern Ireland were unwilling to take action against to protect the Catholics that were being killed and burned out by Protestants, the British Government imposed direct rule from Westminster. And sent in British troops initially to protect Catholics by putting a stop to the sectarian killings and house burnings being committed by Protestants.
These actions were carried out not only by civilians but also by the protestant police force (the RUC) and the part-time territorial army unit of the region, the UDR. They weren't taking direct open action of course, but some of them assisted loyalist organisations with weapons and information and stood by and watched other protestants burning houses and assaulting Catholics without taking the obvious police action to stop it.
Many members of the RUC and UDR of the 1970s were of course later shown to have been members of Orange Lodges (masonic) and some were even members or had close ties to loyalist paramilitary organisations.
Of course, these loyalist atrocities meant that another organisation started taking action again to protect Catholics, the IRA. Which having been in effect quite inactive up to 1970 split into the Officials and Provisionals. The "Provos" stepped up operations while accusing the Officials of embracing parliamentary politics and running down military operations.
And the rest up to the mid-90s and the Good Friday Agreement is sad, bloody, tragic, awful history.
So as far as names go, Ireland is Ireland and England is England, nothing more, nothing less.