Brendan O’Neill

    The EU and US are playing Ireland like a fiddle

    When did Sinn Fein become a cheerleader for empire?

    The EU and US are playing Ireland like a fiddle
    Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Credit: Getty images)
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    There’s a meme that goes: ‘I, for one, welcome our new overlords.’ It’s a paraphrase of a comment made by Kent Brockman, the newsreader on The Simpsons, and it’s intended to signify submission to some crazy powerful force. I couldn’t help but think of that line when I saw the photo of Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald giddily welcoming representatives of the American Empire to Dublin this week.

    There she was, the leader of a party that was once devoted to liberating Ireland from external meddling, smiling widely as she greeted representatives of the most powerful military nation on Earth. Sinn Fein translates as ‘We Ourselves’. It was set up to get Britain out of Ireland. Now it’s welcoming America in. 

    ‘They wield considerable influence’, said Ms McDonald of the US delegation. Remember when SF thought it was a bad thing when foreign powers with considerable influence rocked up on Ireland’s shores? 

    The US delegation, led by congressman Richard Neal, is in Ireland largely to moan about Brexit Britain. They’ll be echoing Nancy Pelosi’s haughty, imperial message to our pesky kingdom that dared to vote to leave the EU – that if Boris Johnson tampers too much with the Northern Ireland Protocol, then the US might have to rethink its trade deal with us. In short, do as we say or your economy will suffer.

    Remarkably, McDonald embraced these threats from America to punish a democratic nation – the UK – if it does anything to upset the Biden administration’s allies in Brussels. On America’s dangling of a Damocles sword over its trade deal with Britain, McDonald said: ‘The (US) administration has made that clear for many years now.’ 

    ‘(The) Protocol is here to stay’, she continued. There you have it: Sinn Fein as cheerleader for the machinations of Empire.

    And it isn’t only Washington that ‘We Ourselves’ are cosying up to. Sinn Fein, once upon a time, was Eurosceptic. It saw the EU as a thief of sovereignty. In the 1970s, when Ireland and other countries were mulling over whether to join the European Community, a Sinn Fein bigwig said he was ‘perplexed’ by the idea that Ireland should ‘surrender its sovereignty to an even bigger entity than Britain’. Fast forward 50 years and SF is the EU’s best friend on the island of Ireland, valiantly defending Brussels’ interests against the upstart masses of the United Kingdom. 

    What a swivelling turnaround. Once an anti-imperialist organisation, now SF is a plaything of imperial powers. Once determined to defend Irish sovereignty from all-comers, including the EC, now SF is happy to do the bidding of ‘even bigger entities than Britain’, whether that’s Washington or Brussels. Once keen to make Ireland a truly independent nation, now SF is content to see it become a patsy state sandwiched between two power-hungry global forces: the US on one side, the EU on the other.

    And it isn’t only Sinn Fein — virtually the entire political class in Ireland is happy to let the nation be used as a battering ram against Boris and Brexit by the US and the EU. This has been the most depressing thing about the US delegation to Ireland: not its blatant one-sidedness, where it is clearly warmer towards nationalists who have fallen in line with the Euro-oligarchy than it is towards Unionists who want to defend the Union, but its confirmation of the fact that Ireland now largely exists in the minds of some to further the interests of external powers.

    This has been the story of Ireland for a few years now. Shortly after Brits voted to leave the EU, Brussels started playing Ireland like a fiddle, using it to try to frustrate Brexit. The EU cynically weaponised Ireland’s border concerns to argue that Brexiting the whole of the UK from the EU just wasn’t feasible. Our own government ended up agreeing, and came up with the Northern Ireland Protocol that essentially keeps a large part of our supposedly sovereign nation — Northern Ireland — beholden to EU rules and regulations. 

    Now the White House also spies in Ireland a means of taming Britain and tempering populist democracy. Its trade-deal threats are clearly designed to weaken Britain’s standing vis-a-vis the EU. Washington might pose as the defender of plucky Ireland from the tensions and confusions unleashed by Brexit, but if you believe that you’ll believe anything. It’s cold, hard imperial business we’re witnessing in Washington's threats against disobedient Britain — Ireland is merely Biden and Co’s weapon of choice in their pushback against populism. 

    It’s an ignominious end for a nation that was once determined to show the world that even small countries could be free and self-determining. Like many others of Irish descent I grew up singing along to the Wolfe Tones’ classic ‘A Nation Once Again’. Now, as I watch Ireland’s rulers let Ireland become an outpost of imperial Brexit-bashing, I feel that truly independent Irish nationhood has never been farther away.