US author Bonnie Greer has been credited with a significant intervention in Britain’s Brexit debate by eloquently speaking out for Ireland and the peace process on a BBC news talk show.
The African-American author and playwright electrified the studio audience on BBC’s Question Time by warning against believing that ‘Britain owns Ireland’.
Ms Greer is from Chicago but has lived in London for over thirty years.
She said: “Often at times, I hear people talking about Ireland as if this country (Britain) owns Ireland. Ireland owes this country nothing. Ireland owes this country no concessions, it owes it no quarter, it owes it nothing.”
Ms Greer, who writes for The New European newspaper, echoed the point made by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, as she outlined the importance of the Good Friday Agreement to American politics and the role of Irish-America.
“The Good Friday Agreement - in spite of its rather benign name - is a truce,” she said. “It’s a truce because the United States of America and the EU sat down with this country to make it happen. We have to be much more serious about this.
“The third thing that I’d like to say is that the United States is Irish. If anyone thinks that they’re going to get a deal through and have a trade relationship with the United States that shafts Ireland, you’ve got another thing coming. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. I’m from Chicago and you know what we do on St. Patrick’s Day? We dye the river green.”
She warned: “People are very serious about Ireland in the United States. Don’t mess with it, don’t make it look bad.”
A video clip of the remarks subsequently went viral on the internet.
She later told RTÉ Radio that she was “surprised” at the support she’d received, and was unaware she was voicing a rarely-heard Irish viewpoint on British television.
She said she was stunned that British people were shocked by what she had to say.
“I don’t know what to say. I thought I said something that everybody knew,” she said.
“I think a lot of British people, the people who responded to me, were fairly astonished. They didn’t understand that the Good Friday Agreement is a truce, a ceasefire. They just didn’t understand that. They don’t seem to understand that Ireland is a sovereign country and that it is Europe,” she said.
In a parallel development, the US House of Representatives introduced a resolution reaffirming support for the Good Friday Agreement against Brexit. The bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by Republican Congressman Peter King and his Democratic counterpart Thomas Suozzi.
The resolution urges Britain and the EU to ensure that Brexit does not threaten peace on the island of Ireland and strongly opposes the imposition of a hard border.
It also notes that any trade agreements between the US and Britain are contingent on meeting the Good Friday Agreement’s obligations.
Congressman Suozzi said Ireland was one of the US’s oldest and closest friends.
“We need to ensure that Brexit and other political challenges don’t threaten the peace process by reintroducing a hard border,” he said.
A number of senior members of the US Congress have previously warned that they will oppose any trade deal that undermines the Good Friday Agreement.
Those who have voiced their opposition include the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal.