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Jim OBrien: Our neighbour has gone rogue again, but this time we have the might of Europe on our side – Farm Ireland

Sep 15th, 2020

These are fraught times the return to school is as unpredictable and unsteady as a foals first attempt to stand. Our new government is lurching from hiccup to crisis.

Meanwhile Brexit is back in the headlines with a new ferocity as truth and trust are degraded and used as bargaining chips in an increasingly bitter set of negotiations.

It is certainly a new departure to see a British minister stand up in the House of Commons and announce his governments intention to break international law.

Under new proposed legislation the British government intends to give itself the power to override certain provisions of the EU Withdrawal Agreement as it pertains to the Northern Ireland protocol.

Such a departure should be deeply disconcerting, especially for smaller countries like ours that depend on international law and the sanctity of international agreements for protection. Otherwise we will find ourselves in a global free-for-all where might is right.

Indeed the current British Government, with its 80-seat majority, appears to live by that maxim as it throws its weight around playing fast and loose with facts, treaties and understandings.

In a headlong rush to get Brexit done it appears to be willing to turn its country into a rogue state in the hope that the world will regard it as a loveable rogue, a mirror of Boris Johnsons self-image.

This behaviour is redolent of a rising brashness and a cynicism in the world that is coarsening discourse and giving a sharp edge to the way we do business with one another. Ill do whatever I like because I can, and spare me the morality typifies the approach to the conduct of affairs at every level.

World leaders like Trump, Putin and Erdogan are champions of this, with the Hungarian and the Polish governments not far behind. Johnson is now taking his place in this hall of infamy.

Ireland, its peace, its security, its people, its politics and its economy will suffer major collateral damage if the UK government continues on its current jingoistic trajectory. It leaves us with a feeling of helplessness.

The prospect of a no-deal Brexit resulting in a hard border is frightening, and thats not just among those of us who remember the Troubles. At our kitchen table during the week those born after the Good Friday Agreement expressed most concern at the turn of events in London.

We know what a hard frontier will do to the border region economically. We know how such an eventuality will inflame divisions in the north and could lead to the unspeakable.

I am keenly conscious of a sense of national helplessness as I write these few words. What difference will they make to anything or to anyone? The temptation is to go on a rant and list out the multiple instances of bad faith, duplicity and betrayal Ireland experienced at the hands of London governments going back to 1169.

I have to admit to smiling wryly as I listened to British MPs and commentators who objected to the proposed legislation citing Britains international reputation as the country that consistently championed the rule of law in the world.

I couldnt help thinking of the Penal Laws and the multiple impositions of martial law, not to mention internment without trial. The British notion of the rule of law is no stranger to us.

But lets not go back there. In fairness, it is encouraging to see so many on the Tory side of British politics object so strenuously to this recent move. Perhaps it is just as well our European partners are handling the discussions we have too much inflamed skin in the game to be completely objective.

What is deeply disappointing is the feeling of dja vu that pervaded the country as events in the House of Commons unfolded this week. We had come to believe that Ireland was in a new age of relative harmony internally and with our nearest neighbour. It is disheartening and frustrating to see things revert to type.

It is to be hoped that with the help of our European partners we can move on. They perhaps will help to keep the dark clouds of our history at bay while we attempt to refashion our social, economic and political reality no easy task when your nearest neighbour and biggest trading partner decides to go rogue.

Online Editors

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Jim OBrien: Our neighbour has gone rogue again, but this time we have the might of Europe on our side - Farm Ireland

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