By David Hennessy
Bonnie Greer spoke about the reaction to her Question Time statements when she joined IIBN at their annual conference in Westminster on Friday 9 November. The American playwright endeared herself to Irish people when she spoke up for Ireland in a discussion on Brexit on the BBC political show. She has since been invited to Ireland as a guest on the Ray D’Arcy Show.
In conversation with Joe Lynam of the BBC, Bonnie discussed the historical similarities between the Irish who went to America and African-Americans, saying they were oppressed in the similar ways as well as other topics with racial elements such as the Grenfell fire when she said that Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments were ‘beyond outrageous’.
Designer Paul Costelloe and Niall McGarry, founder of Joe.ie, also spoke on the day.
Bonnie told The Irish World that she was somewhat taken aback by how much impact her Question Time statements had: “It’s just a shock in a way because when you’re on that show, you’re talking to that audience and it’s a small audience. I just went back to my hotel after that and got into Liverpool Lime Street and all these people walked up to me in the train station. It was quite a surprise, it’s still a surprise.
“Being born and growing up in Chicago, which is a big Irish town, and being raised Roman Catholic so my teachers were Irish-American of course, that whole link has always been there for me.”
On the future of Irish- British relations after Brexit, Bonnie said: “I hope the Irish stay European, I hope they stay staunch about being in Europe and I hope in a way that it gives them a stronger sense of who they are. I think the British need to understand that Ireland is Europe and a big player in that sense, important for commerce, culture and everything else. I hope the UK comes to understand their neighbour to the West and what that means: Europe on the West and Ireland on the west.”
Asked if her statements had had an effect on the British public coming to a realisation, the answer was not so positive: “No, I don’t think so but then they can just sort of bury it. Some people did and followed me on Twitter but I don’t think the press covered it. I’m not sure. I don’t think so.”
Bonnie Greer told the BBC panellists and audience, ‘Ireland owes this country nothing’ and ‘If anybody thinks they’re going to get a deal through and have a trade relationship with the United States that shafts Ireland it’s not going to happen’.
Designer Paul Costelloe also joined IIBN Co-Chair Conall O Móráin for a discussion about staying in business, dressing Princess Diana and increasingly important topic of sustainability.
Paul told The Irish World: “It’s a real pleasure, I enjoy telling them my history about survival, about keeping going and staying on the horse: Just don’t fall off and keep believing in yourself, that’s the hard part.
On the Brexit issue, Paul said: “It hasn’t bothered me, it’s annoyed me more. I think it’s just disgraceful behaviour by all these politicians whether it’s Labour or Conservative or Liberal but then we talk recession and I heard this morning that Germany is going to go into recession and who would have thought Germany would ever go into recession? So we need to be prepared, not to be too confident.
“Within the Princess Diana context, I’ve lived on that for a long time so I have to move on, that’s the hard part but I’m ready for another challenge. Maybe someone in the royals might still be interested in Paul Costelloe tailoring because we are probably one of the best tailors in ladieswear in UK and Ireland.”
Paul also spoke about sustainability which has become such a key issue: “It’s becoming very important. One really has to know where and from who it’s coming from but if there’s a recession, that can all go out the door because people need food, they need money. Sometimes these very worthy causes can diminish somewhat in times of recession.
“We have to nearly go back to our roots, go back to our Irish roots, go back to the craft, the people in the fields harvesting, clean water, clean soil, uncontaminated. It’s a very exciting time but we must be prepared.”