Monday 16 September 2019

John Downing: 'Uber-Brexiteers' attacks on the Taoiseach will do him no harm'


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. AP Photo
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. AP Photo
John Downing

John Downing

So we mark 100 days to "B-Day" March 29, 2019, today. The noise and indecision continues in London and no-deal Brexit preparations are now being more publicly ramped up.

Amid the noise in Britain there is a continuing attack on Ireland, with large sections of the UK's viscerally anti-EU media personalising these attacks to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. In recent days, we have seen media reports that UK Prime Minister Theresa May "loathes" Mr Varadkar.

There have been several weeks during which sections of the UK media - which have already made the European Union the most vilified entity in this media's varied history - have now turned their ire on Ireland. It reflects a section of the uber-Brexiteers, who have been blaming Brussels and other key capitals for its own self-inflicted injuries, feeling the need to vary its attack targets.

So, Dublin and the Taoiseach are in these ultra-Europhobes' crosshairs. They really should have a better memory if they are to succeed in such spurious lines of argument.

The reality is that it has taken way more than a year for the Irish Border issue to get on to the Brexit agenda in Britain. Both politicians, and key media commentators, for a long time seemed infuriatingly blind to the Brexit implications for the Irish Border.

They were oblivious to the threats to a fragile peace in the North, as voiced by key British figures like former PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde. They also were either culpably ignorant, or blissfully unaware, of the implications of that stretch of ground between Dundalk and Derry becoming an international EU-UK frontier. But to listen only to the UK discourse for the past month, you would struggle to grasp that reality.

Just 10 months ago, the Brexit convert of 2016 Boris Johnson was, as UK foreign minister, comparing the Irish Border to the London borough boundaries between Camden and Westminster. Now he is singing a very different tune.

It is exasperating and sometimes makes one reflect that little has changed since the stage-Irish racism in Britain of past centuries. But let's not succumb to this time-wasting bilge - let's look to comments by former UK prime minister John Major, and others on all sides of the political spectrum on these islands.

We note the piece this past weekend in the Conservative Party-supporting magazine 'The Spectator'. It is written by Brendan O'Neill, who yesterday burnished his Irish-UK credentials on RTÉ's excellent 'Today With Seán O'Rourke'.

Commenting on the Taoiseach's Brexit stances, the writer asks a surely rhetorical question about Mr Varadkar: "Who does he think he is?"

Such treatment may do An Taoiseach no harm at home.

But let's not get distracted. The Irish Government still has a big job to do.

Ireland, with fewer than five million people, must stay in tow with the 500 million people of the European Union.

Irish Independent

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