Dublin needs to stand up to Britain and stop appeasing Unionists

Posted By: May 13, 2021

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, May 12, 2021.


You’ve read this here before but it’s worth repeating again in present circumstances.


About seventy years ago de Gaulle said: “For England [note England] there is no alliance which holds, nor a treaty which has value, nor any truth which counts.”


The last decade has once again demonstrated how right de Gaulle was. The so-called doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty means any British government can overturn any arrangement made by a previous government. It means the UK is an unreliable partner.


Essentially, what successive Conservative governments have been doing since 2010 is walking away from any and all arrangements the governments of Tony Blair made with the Irish government and people in The North from 1997-2010. The list is long, including going back on the legal definition of a victim, abolishing 50-50 recruitment of police, refusing Public Inquiries, but most seriously, gradually running down the machinery for maintaining relations with the Irish government, the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference (BIIGC) and the British-Irish Council (BIC).


Last week’s contemptuous treatment of the Irish government, preferring to brief the Torygraph

[The Telegraph] and The Times that they are reneging on the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) rather than have the courtesy to tell Simon Coveney when meeting him that afternoon shows there’s now a complete breakdown in relations between London and Dublin.


There are many reasons for the breakdown. Senior figures in this ultra-nationalist Brexit government don’t agree with anything Tony Blair did about Ireland. They certainly don’t like the idea that Dublin has a right to be consulted about anything regarding The North or any British decision here. The British government, long the most centralized in Europe, is now completely centralized in Downing Street; with even the smallest decisions taken there. There’s also the matter of a sequence of useless, uninterested proconsuls [NI Secretaries of State] letting this place drift.


However, there’s another side to it. It takes two to tango. Since 2011 the Fine Gael dominated governments in the Republic placed equally useless and disengaged ministers in charge of The North’s affairs. Only in 2016 with the arrival of Simon Coveney did Dublin sit up and take notice. By then Brexit had overtaken everything and the British were in no mood to play ball. During the fallow period 2011-6, Enda Kenny simply ignored this place. Despite the Good Friday Agreement specifying that “there will be regular and frequent meetings” of the BIIGC, none took place. The same with the BIC, although the GFA specified, “The BIC will meet in different formats: at summit level twice per year; in specific sectoral formats on a regular basis…”. The BIC has simply fallen into disuse.


For its part, the Irish government has been supine in its responses to British bad faith. Why was there no uproar in March 2020 when our current proconsul announced London’s intention to rat on the SHA? The northern Catholic bishops issued a strong statement in April 2020 deeply regretting the departure from “the fundamental principle that justice should be pursued…regardless of the identity of the perpetrator.” Not a word from Dublin.


Similarly, on the protocol, the Dublin government is allowing the Unionist line to prevail, including the entirely false claim that the GFA says any significant decision affecting peoples’ lives “requires the consent of both communities here”.


Dublin has allowed Unionists unchallenged to exaggerate enormously the impact of the protocol, whereas the Irish government should be evangelizing its economic merits. The truth is that unionists like Jeffrey ‘I could live with 40,000 job losses’ Donaldson aren’t concerned about trade. For them, the main aim was to leave the single market and customs union regardless of the economic consequences. What they are really concerned about is the imagined damage to their place in the UK – a direct effect of their own incompetence.


It’s long past time for the Dublin government to stand up to Britain and stop appeasing Unionists especially when Dublin enjoys the backing of the EU. Grow a spine.