Under the shadow of the Liberator, Ireland stands firm on Brexit

It wasn’t quite on the same scale as Brexiteers puffing out their chests and quoting Winston Churchill’s “we will fight them on the beaches” speech, but, in an Irish context, there was no avoiding the point being made by the Cabinet yesterday.

Under the shadow of the Liberator, Ireland stands firm on Brexit

With Brexit continuing to stumble from annoyance to crisis to potential disaster, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his ministers travelled to picturesque South-West Kerry for a special Cabinet meeting on the situation.

And not just any part of south-west Kerry either, with Derrynane — the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell — the carefully chosen location.

A 19th-century politician known as the Liberator for seeking Irish independence, standing up to Britain democratically, and ensuring better rights for Catholics, choosing Mr O’Connell’s home as the Government’s latest Brexit bunker was no mistake.

And given the developments in Westminster in recent days, which have threatened to tear up prime minister Theresa May’s bid for a soft Brexit, ministers were quick to pick up and run with the point being made throughout the day.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney was first to nod to the carefully chosen theme, telling reporters as he arrived for the Cabinet meeting that while ministers were examining all potential outcomes, including a hard Brexit, Ireland must stand firm on its beliefs.

Despite accepting a Brexit deal needs to be found, Mr Coveney insisted Ireland and the EU must not “panic buy” a bad deal for this country just because of Westminster’s woes, and must hold Britain to its previously stated agreements on the border.

In other words, Ireland will stand up for its democratic rights and, like O’Connell, has no intention of backing down.

The view was repeated after a lengthy Cabinet meeting by the Taoiseach, who insisted that while Ireland understands the predicaments facing Britain and Ms May, our red-line issues of no hard border and no dilution of the Good Friday agreement will not be changed.

And if that leads to an eventual no-deal hard Brexit, he added, the country is preparing plans to cope with what happens.

Yesterday’s references to standing firm against Britain in the shadows of Daniel O’Connell’s ancestral home were not on the same scale as Brexiteers’ recent references to Churchillian speeches of fighting off the enemy in Europe.

They may even be missed by Ms May and others when the beleaguered prime minister travels to the Irish border today to meet the people who risk being worst affected by a no-deal Brexit.

However, as a reminder that Ireland is just as committed to protecting its own interests as Britain over Brexit, the message should be clear.

Britain may be central to the Brexit stand-off, but so is Ireland.

And despite the need to find a compromise solution, the Government is willing to do all it legally can to ensure our rights are protected.

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