Brendan O’Neill

Ireland, the EU is playing you like a fiddle

Ireland, the EU is playing you like a fiddle
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The EU has no shame. It is a completely shame-free zone. How else do we explain the grotesque spectacle of EC President Donald Tusk cosying up to Ireland this weekend, and claiming to respect Irish sovereignty, as if the past 15 years of Brussels treating Ireland as a colonial plaything had never happened? As if the EU hadn’t time and again overridden the Irish people’s democratic wishes? As if the EU didn’t just a few years ago send financial experts to run the Irish economy above the heads of the apparently dim Irish demos? Tusk claiming to be a friend of the Irish takes EU chutzpah to dizzying new heights.

EU officials were all over Ireland at the weekend. Tusk decreed that Ireland would have the final say on the Brexit deal. And if the deal hardens the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, then the Republic can choose to scupper it. ‘The key to the UK’s future lies, in some ways, in Dublin,' said Tusk. Plucky little Ireland and the monolithic EU are as one, he said: ‘The Irish request is the EU request.’

Today Tusk tweeted ‘Tell me why I like Mondays!’ — cringe — after apparently having an encouraging phone call with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about Brexit and Ireland — which will be bad news for Brexiteers. All over Twitter EU officials have been fawning over the Irish. Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit negotiator for the EU Parliament, tweeted ‘Ireland decides’, with the hashtag: #IamIrish.

As an Irish citizen currently mortified beyond description by the the weaponisation of Ireland’s border concerns against Brits’ democratic vote for Brexit, I have only one thing to say to this EU love for Paddies: pass me the sickbag. The EU respects Ireland’s borders and national integrity like a shark respects a seal. Is the crisis of historical memory now so pronounced that we have forgotten how the EU treated Ireland when its people had the temerity to vote against the Nice Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty? It was the polar opposite of ‘The Irish request is the EU request’; it was more like ‘The Irish request is pig ignorant and must be ignored by all good people’.

Years before the EU referendum, our Irish cousins were revolting against Brussels. In June 2001 the Irish stunned EU officials by rejecting the Nice Treaty in EU enlargement. The EU was at first bamboozled, then furious. It said the result was unacceptable — not least because the Irish had received so much EU cash — and it insisted the Irish be made to vote again. In the words of Roger Cole of the anti-EU Peace and Neutrality Alliance, the EU’s ‘contempt for the Irish people clearly showed in their reaction to our vote against the [Nice] Treaty’. In the second referendum in 2002, under huge political and economic pressure from every wing of the establishment, the Irish relented and voted Nice through.

In 2008, the Irish people voted against the Lisbon Treaty, which was in essence a new constitution for the EU. A Brussels insider described them as ‘ungrateful bastards’. The EC said there was ‘no Plan B’ to Lisbon — in short, it would carry on regardless of what the daft Irish thought. Pro-EU commentators insisted the Irish had been brain-warped by ‘populist demagogues’. It was precursor to the snobbish, anti-democratic fury that has likewise greeted the Brexit vote in certain EU fanboy circles. On Lisbon, too, the Irish were forced to vote again, and again they gave in the second time round.

Not content with dissing Irish voters, the EU then took over the running of their country in 2011. It sent the Troika — the EC, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — to oversee an overhauling of Irish public spending in order to keep the Euro ticking over. The Troika suits were effectively an unelected government. In the words of an Irish Times account of how they conducted their affairs in Ireland, they ensured that ‘members of the government were deliberately kept in the dark’. A budget for Ireland was drawn up by EU officials who didn't consult Ireland’s own cabinet. To the EU, Ireland is a kind of colonial outpost, and its people pesky, irritating know-nothings.

And yet now the EU says it is Ireland’s mate and trusts it to make big decisions. It really doesn’t. It wants Ireland to do one thing and one thing only: wound Brexit. Ireland is being played like a fiddle. It is being used by an EU that is still reeling from our brilliant Brexit sucker-punch and which is so desperate to preserve its flagging authority that it is willing to pit Ireland against Britain; the Irish government against the British people; Irish concerns against British democracy. This is cynical, divisive and dangerous. An oligarchical institution that has demonstrated nothing but contempt for Irish and British voters and which is so speedily losing the plot that it’s happy to stir up tensions between nations in order to do over a democratic vote? With each passing day I grow happier and happier that I voted for Brexit.