MEP is unconcerned by criticism of his refusal to join the EU resolution against Russia
Mick Wallace, or ‘Golden Lion King’ as he is known to his fanbase in China, is nonchalant about whether he committed political suicide when he voted against a European Parliament resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Maybe I’m damaged more than before, I don’t know,” the Wexford MEP told the Sunday Independent from Brussels last week. “I expect the ordinary people to stand by me. But I don’t know. You can never predict how people will vote.”
Does he expect to stand again in the 2024 European elections?
“I probably will. It’s too far away to say for sure, but I’d be expecting to.”
The MEP has long courted political controversy, alongside his close ally Clare Daly, but he feels the negative commentary over his stance on the invasion of Ukraine “is in the media and on Twitter” and does not reflect how the Irish public feel about him.
“We’ve always got a lot of criticism. I’ve been criticised since I entered politics in 2011. I’ve always got a lot of criticism from the media. I feel the ordinary people of Ireland to be a great people. I feel people in Ireland are so decent.”
Wallace is synonymous with Daly, also an independent MEP, and the duo are aligned on every political issue. They appear to come as a package deal — one is rarely seen publicly without the other. Is their relationship purely platonic?
“It’s a professional relationship. We work well together. I’ve been accused of relationships with lots of women. I haven’t time for romance,” he said. “I’m too busy saving the planet.”
Wallace and Daly were two of just 13 MEPs who voted against a European Parliament resolution at the beginning of March that condemned Russia’s invasion.
The pair said they could not support it as it also stated support for Nato and called for weapons to be sent to Ukraine.
The condemnation from Ireland over their stance was severe and swift, with accusations flying that they are pro-Russian.
But Wallace insisted his views have been twisted.
“For people in the media in Ireland to describe me as ‘Putin’s Puppet’ is inaccurate. I’ve never said anything in support of that right-wing, neo-liberal nationalist.
“Russia invaded Ukraine. That was a criminal act. It was 100pc wrong. Putin was wrong to invade Ukraine. I’m anti-war, I’m pro-peace.
“The manner in which European countries accepted Ukrainian refugees is commendable. But they should give that same care to other people fleeing countries like Syria and Afghanistan. Where is the consistency? Is it because they are non-white and non-Christian they are not worthy?
“According to the UN, there are 400,000 dead in Yemen and 15.8 million in extreme poverty. We don’t give a f**king damn about them. They are not the right colour.”
The 66-year-old maintains he doesn’t get fair treatment in the Irish media over his stance on the Russian invasion. Alongside Daly, he recently initiated defamation proceedings against RTÉ.
In stark contrast, Wallace and Daly’s relationship with state-controlled media in Russia and China appears to be going from strength to strength. An investigation by the Irish Times last month showed the duo have become staples of state-run TV shows in Russia, China and Iran, regularly reaching millions of viewers.
Their speeches have gone viral multiple times in China, boosted by Chinese government officials online, giving Wallace his “Golden Lion King” moniker in that country. What does he think about the nickname?
“Lions are a nice animal. They’re a pretty influential animal. I could be called worse than a lion. The first I heard of it was in the Irish media. I’ve been called a lot worse in the Irish state-run media.”
So what, then, of the forensic detail in the Irish Times piece on his relationship with the media in these authoritarian regimes?
“I didn’t even read it. Life’s too short… If someone wants to interview me, I will. Sure aren’t I doing an interview with you? I’ve been interviewed by the Chinese state-run media and by Russia Today. I’ve been interviewed by RTÉ, and they’re state-run media too.”
China’s human rights record is not a consideration for him either, he said, insisting that social problems in Ireland are comparable.
“There are issues with human rights in Ireland. Look at our homelessness, look at access to housing and affordable healthcare.”
Wallace argues that a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine should be prioritised and is opposed to sanctions against Russia.
“Ukraine had every right to defend itself. But I disagree with Europe and the Americans pouring arms into the place now. Ukraine has the biggest army in Europe. Why isn’t Zelensky begging for peace?
"The more arms that we see going in will lead to more Ukrainian deaths. Biden should get directly involved looking for peace. I’d prefer if Zelensky, instead of asking Biden for money and arms, was asking him to broker peace. It is possible.
“I’m not a Putin fan. But you can talk to anyone and don’t have to like them. The Americans sat down with the Taliban. The British and the IRA sat down. They can’t just say ‘Putin’s mad’.
“I’d meet anyone. I’d even meet Biden. Putin is a war criminal, but there are no nice world leaders...
“The sanctions haven’t stopped the war. They punish and weaken Russia, that’s the plan. But they’ve no effect on Putin, his supporters and the oligarchs. They affect the ordinary Russian people. The sanctions will impact inflation and will hurt the people of Europe.”
Closer to home, the former developer has no time for the Coalition either.
“Micheál Martin and Leo shouldn’t be in government. The austerity imposed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour — that was a crime against humanity. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, I’d like to see them all resign.
“I f**king love Irish people. But it must be the worst-run country in the world.”