Relations between London and Dublin aren't at their best, given the ongoing war of words about the Northern Irish Protocol. But Mr S was still nevertheless surprised to see that RTE – Ireland's state broadcaster – has today published a comment piece by a leading academic and Guardian contributor which seriously floats the idea of a British invasion. According to Professor Cathal McCall of Queen's University Belfast, the likely election of a Sinn Féin Taoiseach in the Republic of Ireland means that re-annexation could seriously become UK government policy. This will be achieved either the leadership of Boris Johnson or one of his likely successors.
McCall suggests that if, as the polls indicate, Sinn Féin becomes the largest party in the Irish capital at the next election then two possible trajectories are open to the government in Westminster. One is that the British government respects the 'democratic decisions taken'; the other is that they do not and the republican victors are derided 'as terrorists and bandits who are not fit for government.' And it is here that he goes well off the deep end, painting a lurid picture of the incumbent Tory government as something akin to the worst excesses of the Putin regime.
Winston Churchill, according to McCall, is Boris Johnson's 'lodestar'; Churchill only reluctantly relinquished control of Ireland in 1920 and thus, the argument goes, Johnson too might seek to reclaim Ireland for Britain. And if not him then, 'his replacement – perhaps Michael Gove, Liz Truss, Dominic Raab, Jacob Rees-Mogg or Priti Patel – may have other ideas that do not necessarily take Irish history into account.' He continues:
“Should a Tory with British imperial delusions take charge, the odds shorten on a British reclamation of Ireland in response to Sinn Féin sweeping the electoral boards. Such a Tory Prime Minister, less than wedded to democratic principles, may well eye the size and purpose of the Irish Defence Forces and conclude that reclamation would be a doddle. No Provos roaming around the drumlins of South Armagh and Louth or lying in wait in the bogs of Tyrone and Monaghan to worry about either. No heroic Ukrainian-style resistance likely. And all done in the name of ‘peace and security’.
In this scenario, the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland' ends up siding with North Korea, China and Russia to torpedo any UN motion of condemnation, despite the pleas of an 'Irish government-in-exile' being 'holed up' in New York. Nato is apparently ambivalent and the EU indifferent. McCall's justification for all this is that, er, 'we live in tumultuous political times' and that while such a course of action may seem 'unthinkable' supposedly 'stranger things have happened.'
RTE makes it clear that the comment piece only reflects its author's view. But the editorial choice to publish such a sensationalist piece is telling. Steerpike isn't quite sure how such a scenario is expected to unfold, given the UK's lack of interest in any kind of re-annexation since Ireland achieved its independence in 1922. How bleakly comic that the author himself works at the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice – named after the American statesman who championed the Good Friday Agreement.
With academics like these, who needs firebrands?