THERE is something deeply unsettling at the sight of senior Irish politicians travelling to the UK to tell people there how they should vote in the in-out EU referendum later this month.
It is true that the visit, last week, by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and this week, by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, have been by way of pleading to the Irish community in Britain rather than instruction.
In the respect, they bring to mind the remarks made when Ireland decided to exit the British Empire, once and for all.
When the Irish Free State declared itself a Republic, in 1948, King George VI, father of the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth, was clearly disappointed. “Must you leave
the family?” he asked, somewhat pleadingly, of the Irish High Commissioner, John Dulanty.
The answer was a definitive ‘Yes’.
Thankfully, both the Taoiseach and Minister Flanagan appear to have confined their urgings to Irish citizens living in Britain. Yet, how would either of those gentlemen have felt if the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, had come to Ireland a little over a year ago to urge British subjects living here to vote against the same-sex marriage referendum?
There would have been uproar, even among the likes of the conservative Catholic Iona Institute, which actively campaigned for a ‘No’ vote. We would have found such interference intolerable, particularly in the run-up to the 1916 commemmorations.
Both Kenny and Flanagan have sought to justify their interventions on the grounds that a Brexit would be disastrous for Ireland. Apart from the naked self-interest that this implies, there are strong, contrary views about what might happen here if the UK decides to leave.
Their view was, admittedly, bolstered yesterday by the latest figures on Irish manufacturing activity, which showed that it grew at the slowest rate in May in almost three years.
That slowdown in growth has been attributed, in some business quarters, to the prospect of a Brexit, yet there are good reasons to suppose that we would actually benefit from
it. Inappropriate behaviour at the highest government level was evident a little over a week ago, when Kevin Vickers, the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, physically restrained
a peaceful — if noisy — protestor at a ceremony in Grangegorman cemetery, in Dublin, that commemorated the deaths of British soldiers during the Rising.
Vickers has enjoyed a degree of immunity from criticism for that assault, as he emerged a hero in 2014, when, as Sergeant-At-Arms, he shot dead a terrorist in Canada’s parliament. On that occasion, he was simply doing his job.
At Grangegorman, he was interfering with an issue of public order that rightfully belongs to An Garda Síochána.
Likewise, the Taoiseach and Minister Flanagan were interfering with the proper conduct of affairs in a foreign jurisdiction. In any case, it is a bit rich of us to tell UK voters what to do, considering we exited the British Imperial familywhen it no longer suited us to remain.
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