Monday 16 September 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Laughing at the Brits is tempting - but won't serve national interest'


Mr Johnson insisted he would never “surrender” to the EU and demanded an election. Photo: ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
Mr Johnson insisted he would never “surrender” to the EU and demanded an election. Photo: ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

What would Charles Stewart Parnell make of it all? The Brits were at it again this week - in a big way. If it were actual theatre, you would say they brought the house down.

But the situation is so bizarre that Boris Johnson failed to do exactly that despite taking a sledgehammer approach.

Parnell was an obstructionist MP who used his position to argue for Home Rule in Ireland. This is very different from the abstentionists in Sinn Féin who have sat out the Brexit debate, leaving the floor to the DUP.

Three times this week Parnell's name was dragged into the Brexit debate: firstly by Jacob Rees-Mogg, then by Nigel Farage and finally by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

They all manipulated his words to different ends. Rees-Mogg suggested Opposition MPs were copying his almost unconstitutional behaviour of disrupting parliament.

Farage declared him a nationalist hero who would have helped unsettle the bureaucratic European Union. And Varadkar painted him as a more hopeful figure who would have worked to resolve the current impasse for the good of everyone.

Of course we'll never know where Parnell would have stood on either the EU or Brexit - but he would certainly have enjoyed watching the UK government implode.

He believed undermining English "misgovernment" would pave the way for Ireland "to take her place amongst the nations of the earth".

However, there's a possibility that he may well have adapted to the more mature Anglo-Irish relationship of recent years.

As Conservative MP Alistair Burt, who was among the MPs to defy Johnson this week, put it: "With our history in relation to Ireland, everything that happened there, they became our best friends in the European Union." He argued that the UK's decision to leave has put us "in the most catastrophic situation of any country".

And while the first part of Burt's contribution might make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the second part should strike fear into our hearts.

Varadkar's admission (finally) that there will be checks "near the Border" is a serious wake-up call. Legitimate questions about what happens on November 1 can no longer be batted away as 'hypothetical'.

It would be easy to put our feet up and feel smug as a nation this weekend. We have our own quirky ways and the Healy-Raes, but I don't think we'll ever see Varadkar stand up in the Dáil and call Micheál Martin a chlorinated chicken.

But the national interest won't be served by laughing at the Brits. We must focus on protecting ourselves from their folly.

The current Government argues that our EU membership and the Good Friday Agreement have helped us find our place in the world. Both are being undermined by a man who will grace us with his presence on Monday.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss