Donal Blaney is a Florida-based solicitor admitted to practice in England & Wales and the British Virgin Islands.
In 2004, I decide that Samuel Johnson was wrong. I had tired of London but not tired of life. I looked for a new challenge in my legal career and decided to take a job in the British Virgin Islands. Thus began my love affair with the dependent territory known as Nature’s Little Secrets: particularly its stunning beauty, welcoming people and, of course, its numbing painkiller cocktails.
When I left two years later, I had proposed to my wife atop Tortola’s highest peak and we repatriated a rescue dog, Bella, back to England. Having been admitted to practice law before the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, I then opened a law firm and a trust company to service clients from around the globe. I owe a great deal to the BVI.
The damage to the BVI is catastrophic. At the time of writing, many roads are impassable, power is off, water is running out, phone lines are down and many homes have become uninhabitable. Lives has been lost and livelihoods ruined. Our fellow British citizens, living in what is normally paradise, are hurting. I have still not heard from colleagues who work with me on Tortola. My businesses’ office building has had its roof ripped off. It will take many months for the islands to recover.
Now is not the time for grandstanding or politicking. People need urgent humanitarian assistance. The last thing that ought to be happening is for politicians with ulterior motives in London to start finger-pointing, as happened last night. We could all do without that distraction.
The people of the British Virgin Islands will come back stronger than before. The territory and its tourism and financial services businesses will be rebuilt, as will residents’ homes. The leadership of the Premier, Dr Orlando Smith, and our own Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, has been calm, effective and welcomed by those who do not have an axe to grind. But we cannot expect governments and aid agencies to do it all. We can help too.
I have launched a fundraising initiative called “Legal Aid” ( www.legalaidforbvi.com), a chance for lawyers, clients, fellow professionals and those who fell in love with the islands as visitors to give back.
It is at times like this that we in Britain realise truly how blessed we are not to live in an area of extreme weather. Let us share our blessings with our fellow countrymen and women by generously supporting them in their hour of need. I hope you can support this urgently needed humanitarian and reconstruction effort in whatever your heart moves you to.