Sunday 15 December 2019

Why Ireland should now think about a change of team

It could be that, impelled by the British example next door, the Irish made the wrong choice 35 years ago, writes Frederick Forsyth

The recent articles by Mike Soden and myself seem to have touched something of a chord to judge by the public response. I cannot know whether there is a mood for campaigning in Ireland, but there is a great cause that is snoozing.

It is to organise the biggest public opinion debate and poll the country has ever seen. County by county, perhaps constituency by constituency: at every level -- parish, pub, voluntary association, local media. Consult the people; let the people debate; let the people vote.

The issue: Ireland's real future. Is it to be subsumption into the EU forever or has that fever passed? Is there an alternative? Where is Ireland presently going? Do the Irish people wish to go there? For a surety there is no doubt in Brussels. The so-long-hidden and denied destination is a superstate after all, and Ireland can only be a small, devolved, regional territory in it.

The politicians and their parties have had their moment and blown it high, wide and handsome. Time to consider a debate outside the Establishment who have brought you to a pretty pass. The 51st state of the US union might be a step too far.

But several smaller countries have adopted the US dollar as their national currency and retained 90 per cent of their sovereignty, plus the security of the great dollar umbrella.

The punt cannot stand alone, but would the Irish see a better future in the sterling or dollar zone? It is certainly not as extreme as US statehood.

In today's turbulent world, a country the size of Ireland has to join a winning team. The issue is: which team?

It could be that 35 years ago, impelled by the British example next door, you chose the wrong team and on the wrong terms. Millions of Brits are of exactly that view.

The UK, outside the eurozone, is slowly coming back to prosperity.

So (oddly) is Iceland, though no one notices. Despite her problems, the US is still a giant and possessed of her usual can-do dynamism. The EU just piles on more and more bureaucracy and expensive armies of bureaucrats.

So, at least, think the OECD and the money markets. So . . . could the Irish change team? Would they want to?

It could be that, like Mike Soden's voice, others will now rise. New politicians to challenge the has-beens. Why not?

Is Ireland, like a prize-fighter, flat on the canvas for good? Or will she spit out the teeth, sniff back the blood, and come off the deck to fight again?

Frederick Forsyth is the author of The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, and The Fourth Protocol, and other bestsellers.

Sunday Independent

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