Irish heresy usually turns out to be right

Posted By: January 30, 2016

Patrick Murphy. Irish News (Belfast). Saturday, January 30, 2016 

Dear Theresa Villiers[Secretary of State for Northern Ireland]
It is with more than a little embarrassment that this column writes to agree with you. Not about everything, you understand, but you are right about one thing. No, it is not your party’s inhumane austerity, your government’s failure (with others) to deal with our past, or your membership of the Conservative Friends of Israel.

You are right in your view that Britain should exit the European Union, now known as Brexit. Those who support EU membership have a legitimate point. They believe in merging all 28 member-states into a single United States of Europe (USE), which already has its own flag, anthem and passport.

 The downside is that membership of the USE denies national sovereignty over social and economic policy, legislation and foreign affairs. It also creates a world power, which is largely unaccountable to its 500 million citizens.

 Like yourself, this column has long argued that we can have the free movement of goods and people across Europe without creating a single state. Indeed, many EU supporters now advocate restrictions on the free movement of people. Some, like Denmark, even punish them for moving.

 You should realise, of course, that your views on the EU classify you as a heretic among Irish nationalists. (Don’t worry, Irish heresy has a fine tradition of turning out to be right in the long run.)

 For example, you have already incurred the wrath of the SDLP. (Mind you, some would suggest that being attacked by the SDLP is similar to what Bishop Fulton Sheen said about hearing nuns’ confessions: it is like being stoned to death by popcorn.)

 The party initially questioned whether you could remain in post if you campaigned for Brexit. (It was supported in Westminster by those Hell’s Angels of popcorn-throwing, the Lib-Dems.) If the SDLP believes that you should be denied office because of your political beliefs, it would appear to be in breach of Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It says it will resist any attempt to “drag” Northern Ireland out of the EU, without the consent of its people. Is it advocating a separate referendum for Northern Ireland, thereby challenging our constitutional position within the UK, as defined in the Good Friday Agreement? Oh dear, it all sounds very confusing.

If the SDLP appears rather silly, Enda Kenny has finally lost the plot. He told us how to vote which, as Arlene Foster politely pointed out, is none of his business. (Her reply might have been more effective if she had simply issued a statement urging southern voters to support Fianna Fáil in the forthcoming election.)

More worryingly, the taoiseach also said that a British withdrawal from the European single state might threaten community relations here and even the existence of the political institutions. It was an inaccurate and irresponsible claim, which he might like to withdraw.

 While economic factors are relevant to Brexit, what you are witnessing here is a wonderful insight into Irish nationalism, which goes through a regular cycle from rebellion to consensual subjection. It has now turned full circle back to Daniel O’Connell’s days, with our revered leaders waving green flags while bowing before the Queen, Angela Merkel or the Apple corporation. (An English person trying to understand modern Irish nationalism might reasonably view it as the political equivalent of Morris dancing.)

Just as there was no rebellion during Famine (thanks to one of your ancestors, the 4th Earl of Clarendon, who was Lord Lieutenant at the time) there was no significant protest against the bank bailout. (John Mitchel called Clarendon “Her Majesty’s Executioner-General and General Butcher of Ireland”. Clarendon replied with the Treason Felony Act, which saw Mitchel deported to Tasmania for his writings. You will now understand why my writing to you is more polite than Mitchel’s.)

 Clarendon wrote in 1847 that with the Irish, it was hard to distinguish religion from politics. EU membership is nationalism’s new religion and it forbids heresy such as advocating a common market without a single European state.

 It displays an inflexibility of thought last seen in the vote on the Good Friday Agreement, when it was heresy to say, “Yes, I’d like peace, but I would like it built on non-sectarianism, with a social and economic framework included in any agreement.”

Of course, there is an easy way to wrong foot nationalist opposition to your Euro-views. Nationalists are currently at a point in the cycle where they love being subjects of what they regard as higher rational beings who live far away. Tell them the queen supports Brexit. That will silence them.