Sunday 24 February 2019

Eoghan Harris: 'Backing the EU and excoriating England comes with a price tag'

Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

A small majority of English people went mad and voted for Brexit. But a bigger majority in the Republic has gone right off its rocker.

A Sky News poll reveals that eight out of 10 people want the Government to hold firm on the backstop - even if it ends in a crash exit - so as to prevent a hard border.

This means we are ready to risk a crash-out to prevent a hard border - although a crash-out would ensure the EU has to erect a hard border!

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Never again will I ask rhetorically how Germany went mad in the 1930s.

Because over the past few months I have watched the Irish people being worked up to a frenzied green fever whose evil effects will go on leaking poison into the body politic long after May and Corbyn have done a deal for the UK to stay in the customs union.

The Government and a posse of craven public intellectuals fostered the Anglophobia that surfaced in the Sky poll by peddling a higher form of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy, because far from our backstop stand protecting "the peace process", it has destroyed the real peace that lives in minds and hearts by inciting our antipathy against Northern unionists in a way common in my youth but which was dying away until the Government played the green card.

Hypocrisy, because the pundits bigging up the EU are the same ones who wanted us to defy it during the bank crisis and burn the bondholders - backed by a then junior minister called Leo Varadkar who said that "not a penny more" should be paid to bondholders.

What short memories we have when we tell Sky pollsters we prefer the EU to our English neighbours. Let me jog these junk memories a little.

Remember how the EU forced us to raid our rainy day savings, clean out our national pension fund, to pay off the bondholders?

Remember Michael Noonan telling us how John-Claude Trichet had warned him if the bondholders were not paid, a bomb would go off in Dublin?

Remember how the EU was far more draconian in its approach to our rescue package than the IMF?

Remember who came to our aid? Not the EU. It was England which helped us with a £250m loan.

Here's a reality check. There are no free lunches. The verbal backing from Tusk and Team EU will have to be repaid some day soon, not in words but in cash.

Let me predict the EU will bully us when we resist "reforms" and tax harmonisation.

Let me predict that English people, both Leavers and Remainers, will not easily forget our tribal gloating and jeering at our nearest neighbours when they were in difficulty.

Brexit will soon be a blip on our history. But the Anglophobia revealed by Sky News will continue to corrupt our national life and feed the foul agendas of the Recurring IRA.

But as if we were not green enough from backstop bluster, along come the centenaries of the War of Independence to create a perfect storm of self-pity and green flaggery.

Far from trying to lower the green temperature with some real history, RTE raised it further last Monday with the first of the three-part series, The Irish Revolution, based on the mammoth Atlas of the Irish Revolution published by University College Cork.

The Atlas received high praise from those who never mind the quality but want to feel the width. For now I will confine myself to three general points.

First, physically, the Atlas is far too big: the sheer size gives it the look and feel of a vanity project.

Second, on the plus side, the superb maps and graphics means it gives good value for money.

Finally, while an enormous amount of editorial work has gone into the project, it recycles rather than challenges nationalist myths, including those of the War of Independence.

The RTE film of the book, The Irish Revolution, based on the Atlas, reinforces my early editorial reservations.

Let me start this brief review by pointing out that the British prime minister is Sir Herbert Asquith not Sir Henry Asquith as we were told by Cillian Murphy's Mise Eire-style voiceover.

Getting an English prime minister's first name wrong is not a major crime. But it was symbolic of the slovenly and perfunctory treatment of English and unionist politicians.

From start to finish the film took a reverential tone, reminiscent of the Christian Brothers' take on Irish history as depicted by James Plunkett Kelly in his classic short story Weep for Our Pride.

We were swiftly and simplistically escorted past the traditional monuments erected to the bad parts of our history - the 800 years of British oppression, the Plantation of Ulster, the Penal Laws - before stopping to draw breath in 1912 and the Ulster crisis.

Indeed the script was so simplistic I began to suspect it was written for an Irish- American audience. This view was supported by what we were not told.

We were not told about the epic constitutional achievement of Daniel O'Connell in securing Catholic Emancipation.

We were not told how Charles Stewart Parnell forged a fighting Irish party, or how the Land League won its epic campaign.

We were not told that by 1900 most of the land of Ireland was in the hands of the former peasantry - thanks to grants provided by the British government.

We were not told votes for women was brought in by the British government - not by Sinn Fein.

We were not told about the Congested Districts Board's massive building of public housing which revolutionised the lives of the Irish rural poor at the turn of the last century.

We were not told that the last 40 years of British rule in Ireland were regarded by many who lived through them as possibly the most prosperous and happy time in Irish history.

We were not told the distinguished historian Tom Garvin points out it would take until the 1970s before an equivalent level of prosperity returned.

But then there were few historians with the weight of Tom Garvin on the film - just a long parade of junior academics, all generally agreeing with each other's banal observations.

Where were the contrarian voices from big beast historians? We got some tepid soundbites from Roy Foster and some green ones from Joe Lee, but no sense of complexity.

True, Michael Laffan and Marie Coleman looked as if they could give a rounded rather than a reverential picture, but they were confined to soundbites.

David McCullagh, to his credit, told us that after three failed by-elections Sinn Fein was a busted flush until the British saved it by bringing in conscription for Ireland as a result of the German Spring Offensive of 1918.

But most contributions were so short, and so shorn of context, as to confirm my belief that RTE and Tyrone Productions had tailored the series for an audience abroad.

The Irish Revolution looked like something sanitised and simplified for the American market, and the soundbites from Irish academics in the USA support that view.

This crude greening did no favours for either RTE or UCC. In many ways the authors of the Atlas were short-changed.

There is a special place in hell for those who plunder the past to suit a nationalist narrative.

Sunday Independent

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