Patrick Murphy’s excellent piece in Saturday’s Irish News on Ireland’s relationship with the EU and its role within the Brexit negotiations highlights some vital issues. I reproduce Murphy’s article below.
‘Like General Humbert, who landed in Mayo with 1,000 French soldiers to help the 1798 rebels, Barnier arrived last week with an army of journalists and EU officials to tell us that help is at hand.’
In essence Murphy accuses the Irish government of naively believing that the EU – in the form of a French conservative, Michel Barnier – will protect Irish interests, when they have never done so in the past. He goes back to the French involvement in Ireland in 1798 to illustrate the historical accuracy of his claim and in recent times reminds us of how the EU – mainly France and Germany – treated Ireland at the time of the banking crisis.
‘the biggest robbery of the Irish people since the Act of Union in 1801.’
Murphy contrasts Irish nationalist rejection of the union with Britain with their avid support for the union with the EU, leaving Ireland once again subservient to a larger power bloc that has shown little or no support for Irish interests.
This is an all too familiar scenario in Irish history and politics – subservience to an outside and abusive authority. We could go back a lot further than 1798.
In fact, this pattern of subservience was first instilled in the Irish by the myth of their patron saint, St. Patrick – another outside authority – whose role was to convince the hitherto independent Irish that they needed external guidance.
When the English ‘invaded’ Ireland in the 12th century they more or less just walked in. They established an abusive regime for many hundreds of years and the Irish turned desperately to Rome for support, believing this Church to be their loyal defender. It was not until the late 20th century that the Irish discovered to their horror that this Church was as abusive of them as the English had been. In truth, this Church had actually partnered England in the conquest of Ireland, while cynically pretending to be on the side of the downtrodden Irish.
At this point of disillusionment, the Irish turned to the European Union for reassurance; only to be abused once more when it came to the 2008 financial collapse, water charges et al, and – according to Murphy – that abuse is about to be repeated again with Brexit.
Those who understand or have experienced abusive relationships will see a familiar pattern here.
The Irish are an abused people and they behave like an abused child desperately seeking support from one authority figure or another, only to discover that each ‘adult’ they turn to abuses them like the last one. At some point, as the ‘child’ matures and in order to break the cycle, it learns to be self-reliant and independent, weaning itself off these abusive authority figures. So it is with Ireland.
We have to hope that the point of self-realisation will come soon for the Irish.
England’s difficulty is Europe’s opportunity
Irish News, 12 May 2018
‘Oh good, the French are back. In a modern re-enactment of 1798, the Irish are again celebrating the arrival of a French fleet to support the struggle against the accursed British. Well, this time it is not really a fleet, just Michael Barnier, a former Conservative French cabinet minister, who has come to help us rise up against Theresa May – oh, and Arlene Foster.
‘Like General Humbert, who landed in Mayo with 1,000 French soldiers to help the 1798 rebels, Barnier arrived last week with an army of journalists and EU officials to tell us that help is at hand.
‘Although Humbert drove the British out of Castlebar with the help of 3,000 Irish armed only with pikes and pitchforks, he was later surrounded at Ballinamuck, Co. Longford, and surrendered. The French soldiers were repatriated to France. But an estimated 2,000 Irish were massacred or later hanged, including Matthew Tone, Theobald’s younger brother, despite being an officer in the French army. When it came to the the crunch, the French looked after themselves, because several attempts at French intervention here were in the interests of France, not Ireland.
‘Despite that, the welcome which Barnier received in Newry and Derry echoed the wild cheering of the Irish peasantry as Humbert marched through the mountains from Ballina to Castlebar. For a nation obsessed with history, the Irish have learned little from it. Oh dear, you say, I see that this column has reservations about Ireland’s current love affair with the EU. You see correctly. While Barnier wrote: “No matter how big or small a country is in the EU, we stand by each other through thick and thin.” This is simply not true.
‘A 2015 report from the European Central Bank (ECB) showed that Irish citizens lost more of their personal wealth than any other eurozone country during the financial crisis. Ireland lost €18,000 per citizen. Greece lost €17,000 and Spain €13,000. Their size guaranteed them a better deal. German citizens’ wealth increased by €33,000
‘Ironically, it was that same ECB which in 2010 threatened the Irish government with withdrawal of support for the Irish banks, unless it paid €63 billion to unsecured bondholders.
‘It was suspected that Irish taxpayers were subject to an additional levy, despite opposition from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which went to help the French and German banks. It was the biggest robbery of the Irish people since the Act of Union in 1801. The ECB’s greed effectively undermined the Irish government of 2011-2016, by pressurising it to introduce water charges, while the electorate could see billions of euros flowing to financial speculators. The led to the current instability in Irish politics, where Fine Gael survives only with the help of Fianna Fail. No one mentioned that to Barnier. His popularity among nationalists appears to be because he is not British – the same reason unionists do not like him. Recent history would suggest that Leo Varadkar has been naive in placing his trust in the EU to protect Ireland’s interests. Ireland now needs face-to-face negotiations with Britain over the future of the border, particularly since Theresa May is trying to steer her government towards a soft Brexit.
‘But the EU will not allow Ireland an independent voice and without it, the Irish will once again be slaughtered, this time economically. Ireland already faces threats in the form of a standardised EU tax regime, the exclusion of the IMF from the eurozone and, with Britain gone, even greater centralisation of power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats in France and Germany.
‘The difference between 1798 and today is that whereas Tone and others wanted to break the connection with England, modern nationalist want to substitute ubion with Britain with full political union with 26 other states (including the increasingly repressive Poland and Hungary).
‘The north now has two competing sets of unionists. One favours union with Britain, the other wants union with 26 countries. Whatever happened to Irish political independence?
‘Mr Barnier said he was here to defend Ireland’s interests, but recent history shows that when it comes down to the final EU-UK deal on Brexit, Germany and France will look after their own interests. general Humbert fought in the French revolution. Politically, Michel Barnier is no general Humbert, but Sinn Fein and the SDLP appear to believe that a French Thatcherite will do more for Ireland than a British one.
‘As someone once said, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Whoever said it may have been thinking of Ireland’s experience with French fleets and German banks.’