Nigel Farage is travelling to Ireland next month to attend a conference calling for Ireland to leave the European Union. I’ve got bad news for him: this ludicrous notion is as likely to catch on as the “Irexit” portmanteau being used to describe it.
Farage has previously said that Ireland should follow Britain’s example and leave the EU because it would benefit the Irish people financially. In reality, it’s a selfish idea which a few hardline Brexiteers, high on jingoism, have dreamt up so that they don’t have to compromise on the thorny issue of the Irish border, which they so blissfully ignored during the campaign.
52 per cent of the British people may have followed Pied Piper Farage off a political cliff, but the Irish? In the words of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern: “We’re mad, but we’re not that mad.”
It’s true that Ireland has a history of being somewhat Eurosceptic, but after rejecting the EU Treaties of Nice and Lisbon by referenda in the 2000s, both were renegotiated and accepted; a demonstration of how the Irish work to change things for the benefit of all member states, rather than simply throwing our toys out of the pram when we don’t get our own way.
Europe has helped Ireland to strengthen its voice on the international stage, and yes, it bailed us out when the banks failed in 2010 – a moment of national shame from which the country swiftly bounced back.
A May 2017 poll showed 88 per cent of Irish people think Ireland should remain in the EU, and a further survey in August 2017 showed Ireland was the country most optimistic about the EU’s future, with 77 per cent of people responding favourably.
And yet the Facebook page for February’s event warns that “Ireland is at risk of becoming a powerless EU province”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As of 2017, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness is the Vice President of the European Parliament and last month, the EU gave Ireland the final say on whether or not Brexit negotiations should move on to the next stage. This was not for one-upmanship against the British, but because Irish politicians and diplomats had lobbied hard to put the border issue at the top of the agenda, and because other EU leaders appreciate the complex issues which have forged a unique situation on the island of Ireland.
This was a display of consensus, respect and solidarity – concepts which may look unfamiliar if your political background is the muddied, chaotic ranks of Ukip.
It is hypocrisy of the highest order that Nigel Farage – who was apoplectic when US President Barack Obama warned of the dangers of Brexit in 2016 – has spent the majority of his post-Brexit redundancy period touring other countries, instructing them in their domestic political affairs.
Nigel may have been warmly embraced by some unsavoury characters in Berlin and Alabama, but he’ll find few welcome bedfellows in Dublin. No far-right party has ever taken foot in Ireland, and the country takes an immediate dislike to anyone who gets “notions” about themselves – let alone demagogues. Just ask Bono.
So let me save you the Ryanair fare, Nigel. When the Brexiteers voted to take back control, that didn’t include the Irish Republic. The days of Britain telling Ireland, or any other country what to do, are long gone.