Written on: 14. 6. 2021 in the category: Uncategorized

Time for Dublin to Protect Unionists

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Geography is a cruel but inescapable master. In addition to governing propinquity, it often inspires atavisms that are usually best supressed, as the latest row over the Northern Ireland Protocol and Brexit attests. It was this propinquity and these atavisms which produced the Schleswig-Holstein question, the complexity of which bedevilled 19th-century diplomacy. Lord Palmerstone said: “Only three people have ever grasped the solution to this question. The Prince Consort, who is dead. A certain German professor, who went mad. And myself, and I’ve forgotten it.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol now looms where once those now-vanished Danish provinces once stood, and the key dividing issue is not one of sausages being imported by Northern Ireland from Britain but the ugly and primal emotions unleashed by the UK’s Reno-style divorce from the EU. And as usual, the hasty divorce-settlement didn’t cover quite everything – the CD collection, the goldfish, the garden gnomes, the lesbian porn and the nipple-clamps. To be sure, Article 16 of the post-divorce Protocol didn’t put it quite like that: rather more prosaically, it intoned:

If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures.

Isn’t that clear enough? Issues that are causing difficulties may be revisited, unilaterally if necessary. Yes, the EU foolishly invoked the Protocol in January for a few hours, but we may now put that aside. The evidence of societal difficulties – a subtly coded reference to what we might tactfully describe as “Incandescent Northern Prods wrathfully chewing the paving slabs on the Shankill” – is now clearly visible from Pluto, but not apparently from Cornwall, where EU leaders are huffing and puffing mightily.

In meanwhile, as the Taoiseach has remained calm and statesmanlike, two government ministers, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney have undertaken to become Britain’s scourge. The composite Varacove were educated at Irish public schools, Clongowes and King’s Hospital, so maybe they feel they have to flaunt their green credentials to prove themselves before the Shinner mob.

The Varacove-prefix is a lightweight who as Taoiseach in the last general election managed to come second to a Sinn Fein outsider in a middle-class constituency.  That’s rather like finishing behind Stalin in a Miss World competition in Brazil.

The suffix was the sort of boy who got chosen last for the mid-morning playground kick-around, and only then as the corner flag. Within Fine Gael, he stabbed John Bruton – perhaps the finest leader the party ever had – in the back, which is presumably why the EU now want him to display comparable skills against – in their eyes – the detestable Brits.  For the Commissars of the EU, there must be no more midnight flits to a Justice of the Peace in Nevada.

The interesting truth is that the Northern Ireland Protocol – which was signed by Varadkar and is widely detested by unionists – is actually a double-edged sword. For it was he who agreed that the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures, but of course, you wouldn’t know that from the Dublin media coverage of this sorry affair. One columnist in The Irish Times, with indignant glee, declared: “EU negotiators often refer to Northern Ireland as being in the EU, the British say, with barely concealed irritation. They describe an approach characterised as ‘we decide who gets access to our market and Northern Ireland is now part of our market’, in the words of one senior official. Irish and EU officials almost shout: this is what you agreed….”

Whereas, Unionists reply – do you not hear us? – that it is not within the power of the British government or the EU to sunder Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom as part of Brexit: every single legislative instrument from the Act of Union in 1801 to the Government of Ireland Act (1920) to the Treaty of 1921, Sunningdale Agreement in 1973, the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, the Downing Street Declaration of 1993 and the Belfast Agreement of 1998 has affirmed the position of Northern Ireland within the Union.

Moreover, Article 16 also specified how any concerned parties should deal with unforeseen difficulties: Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol. 2. If a safeguard measure taken by the Union or the United Kingdom…creates an imbalance between the rights and obligations under this Protocol, (either party) may take such proportionate rebalancing measures as are strictly necessary to remedy the imbalance. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol.

The primary issue here is clearly not the specific meaning of particular words, but of spirit: namely goodwill, as clearly proposed by the conciliatory terminology: “strictly necessary”, “remedy situation” “least disturb” (twice), “remedy this imbalance” and “proportionate rebalancing measures”. The key word here is “remedy”, from the Latin mederi, “to heal”. In other words, if there’s a problem, let’s medick it, not go to war.

The most extraordinarily apposite observation on the subject came from the EU Commissioner appointed to deal with the British, Maros Sefcovic, (no, me neither) who said that the marching season was approaching and we had to get this right soon. How is it remotely possible that this mere eurocypher from God-knows-where is apparently fully aware of the explosive nature of this time of year, whereas Varacove are not?

Moreover, the suffix wears two hats. He is both Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence. He is surely aware that the RAF is routinely notified of intrusion by Russian Bear reconnaissance aircraft into Irish airspace and if need be, British fighter aircraft are scrambled to intercept. Not German or French or Spanish fighters. British. It’s apparently called “neutrality”, or if you like, a British solution to an Irish problem.

So why would the British now not lay out this particular hand on the table and say, if you want to keep on playing silly buggers with us, we’ll reply in kind? Fine, your EU inspectors might choose to prevent the importation of those brain-fritters and hoofburgers and tripe-rissoles from Lancashire that the Northern Irish people apparently love, so in return, the RAF will no longer safeguard Irish airspace. Try calling the Belgian Air Force next time the Russians come a-calling. Code for Belgium is 0032….

With so much to lose, why do Varacove indulge in this Brit-taunting na-na-na-na-nah school of diplomacy? They are the Blaney and Haughey of our times: Micheal Martin our Jack Lynch. Meanwhile, the insatiably small-minded Dublin media, with their superciliousness, their ignorance, their arrogance and their almost racist Anglophobia, have become cheerleaders for the Varacove madness. Are they all thick? Do they actually want the unionists of Northern Ireland to revert to the Gusty Spence-Ian Paisley mode of 1966? If the Varacove faction want to know the meaning of “ugly”, Northern Irish loyalists will happily show them.

The obligations of the Irish Government are complex yet simple. Its duty within the EU is to the state. Its historical obligation, anterior and superior to that, is to the entire island of Ireland and its various peoples. This means that the Government must also protect the interests and the values of the unionist-people of the North, not out any cynical plan of seduction, but because it is in our interest that they continue to live in peace with us. Any settlement that discommodes them can end up tormenting us. Dublin must unfailingly do what London one day might choose not to: protect the unionist people.

As for that worthless jackanapes, Johnson, I need no lectures on him: I warned about his lies, his ruthless ambition and his utter lack of principle nearly ten years ago, predicting that one day this contemptible creature would become British prime minister. So, it’s absolutely not out of regard for him that I write this, but out of regard for the cruel master that governs us all.

Geography has placed Britain alongside Ireland. In the North, it has placed Ardoyne near Glenbryn, the Falls next to the Shankill, the Markets close to Sandy Row: and what characterises most of those places are the perversely named “peace-lines”, which is where war begins.

We again face a fraught summer, with the usual Orange marches, the 50th anniversary of internment, the 100th anniversaries of the Truce, the Treaty, and the formations of both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. For on this island, while geography is always a master, quite as cruel is the ruthless desire to commemorate, regardless of consequence.

To ignore either rule is to risk causing yet more explosions that will then insist on being commemorated for ever, and so on and so forth, et saecula saeculorum. …

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