I’m working on an article on right-wing nationalist movements in Ireland, focusing on Anti-Corruption Ireland, the National Party, and Identity Ireland, with a historical background of the Citizenship Referendum of the early 2000s. These parties employ rhetoric and tactics associated with fascism. Political scientists don’t typically agree on all of the ideas that define fascism, but they do agree on a couple: (1) Pro-natalism and anti-abortion policies that oppress women while simultaneously idealizing them as keepers of the “home”; women thus have the responsibility of raising the next generation of X nation; (2) Extreme nationalism that rejects immigrants and other “races” as inferior and as defiling the purity of the nation; this type of nationalism also looks to the nation’s mythic past and wants to restore the nation’s bygone greatness; (3) corporatism that tames capitalism, and attacks powerful/wealthy companies (and labor unions, sometimes).
I posted about my research on Twitter, with a little joke about Justin Barrett and Gemma O’Doherty having an excellent ouija board with which they communicate with Benito Mussolini.
This was an excellent lesson for me in Internet cultures, and how such groups operate. First, a supporter of Gemma O’Doherty asked me a question about alleged fascism in Israel–a response to a tweet that had literally nothing to do with Israel. This person started by saying: “Weinstein. Interesting name, that,” followed by a question about the Israeli government. The implication here was clear: Because my last name is Weinstein, I’m (1) Jewish, and (2) harbor loyalty to Israel. The person seemed to have been attempting to induce me to defend Israel.
First, this tweet was overtly antisemitic. The deployment of my surname in this way is definitive proof of that. Second, this person invoked the antisemitic trope that Jews have dual loyalty to Israel. I pointed out that I’m American and sometimes live in Ireland, but the person–eventually people–involved in this was not moved. Finally, I noted that while I think Israel engages in a variety of human-rights violations, I’m not an expert on Israel/Palestine, and so I don’t feel comfortable commenting further.
Before I blocked the offending morons, I realized a couple of things about how the supporters of far-right nationalism work:
(1) They operate in online gangs in attempts to bully people into backing off of their positions, or, in my case, research.
(2) While I don’t believe all criticism of Israel is antisemitic, in this case, their use of conspiracy theories to attack Israel stank of anti-Jewish ideas.
I have no interest in engaging with gobshites on Twitter, so I just blocked this person. But, he gave me excellent fodder to open my article when I have enough research to write it. A personal anecdote is always a good way in, right?
For reference, here’s my original Tweet:
My original tweet about my research.
And here’s a small selection of the insanity that I received in response:
A sampling of the bullshit response to my simple statement that I’m researching fascist movements in Ireland.
These boneheads have also suggested that I’m aiding and abetting paedophiles. Seriously:
Returning to the United States from Ireland is always difficult, because I immediately miss the beautiful scenery, mellifluous speech, and friendly people of Dublin. This time, returning was particularly painful because the first news we heard about upon disembarking from our flight to Newark was that two mass shootings had occurred in under twenty-four hours. And we wanted to turn around and hop on the next flight back to Dublin. This trip that began in Norway and ended in Dublin was our honeymoon, and we have babies on our brains. We can’ t help thinking about where we want our children to grow up: in Donald Trump’s violent and hateful America, or in a more civilized country such as Ireland or Norway?
My husband, Chris, remarked after watching 12 days of European news coverage, “Wow, no one here challenges the fact of climate change that is caused by humans.” He is, of course, correct. Norway is particularly concerned with global warming and pollution–and rightly so. Norway’s natural beauty is unmatched by anything I’ve ever seen. The stunning clear water of the fjords that reflects the mountains that grow out of the earth; the delicious cheese that derives from the humanely-treated goats and sheep that roam the mountains, freely grazing on grasses and plants that grow in the wild. And on these issues, Ireland is much the same. On our drive up to Belfast, we heard the faint mooing of happy cows, and indeed we saw a few goats as well.
In Norway and in Ireland, we realized, capitalism and freedom aren’t viewed as synonyms. People don’t want to abuse nature in order to maximize their profits–or if they do, there are widespread and powerful forces to restrain these perverse desires. Does the goat cheese in Norway and Ireland taste better because it’s made from the milk of happy goats who are free to be goats and enjoy nature? I think it does.
I hadn’t been to Ireland since the centenary celebrations of the Easter Rising in March of 2016, but I hadn’t been to Belfast since May 2011. Dublin remains largely the same in character, with maybe a few more trendy shops. But despite the proliferation of high-end donut joints, my favorites still remain the Rolling Donut stand on O’Connell Street. Om Diva still showcases young Irish designers; as much as I wanted to, I didn’t have the opportunity to venture out to Jennifer Rothwell’s shop, now that it’s no longer at Powerscourt. (You should go, though, if you’re in Dublin!)
This time, I had the opportunity to see some of Ireland through my husband’s eyes. I dragged him to a tour of Glasnevin Cemetery, where many of Ireland’s great leaders and rebels are buried. Our tour guide, Bridget, seems to have fallen in love with Daniel O’Connell, and through her eyes Chris was utterly impressed with the brilliance of the Liberator. Bridget clearly cared less for Charles Stewart Parnell, almost taking on the view of the anti-Parnellites who were so offended by his affair with Kitty O’Shea that they repudiated his leadership because of his “immorality.”
She also had undue reverence for Éamon de Valera. Dev had some great moments in Irish history, and he was surely a great leader of the independence movement. I think he was something of a coward in his refusal to negotiate with Lloyd George, and instead notoriously sending Michael Collins to do so. But more than this, de Valera personally crafted Bunreacht na hÉireann in 1937, a document that gave women second-class status in Ireland–an albatross that Irish women are still working to throw off of their backs. To enshrine within the Constitution a woman’s place “within the home” remains utterly repugnant. Women have made great progress, but still we have a long way to go. Electing a female taoiseach would be a nice move (sorry, Leo).
And on to Belfast….
While I found Dublin to have been very much the same–same joys; same problems (Ireland and Brexit deserves a separate blog, given the insanity of Boris Johnson)–I found Belfast to be nigh on unrecognizable. The photo above depicts Belfast City Hall lit up in celebration of LGBTQ+ pride. We were in Maggie May’s for an Ulster fry and some fifteens (yum), and my old favorite spot also celebrates pride. These photos are my own:
Fifteens! A tasty treat unique to Northern Ireland.
Maggie May’s celebrates Pride 2019.
So of course I give high marks to my former home city for its embrace of pride–although I’m also aware that this embrace isn’t shared by everyone (hey, fuck you, DUP). More than gay pride, though, Belfast has been utterly transformed.
If someone had dropped me into the city centre without telling me where I was, I wouldn’t have recognized Belfast. There are so many posh shops and cafes and restaurants all over! When did all of this happen? Some of the old favorites remain: Maggie Mays, the Crown, Kelly’s, and Archana (best Indian food ever)….but where did all of these swanky places come from?
I’m glad to see all of the prosperity-truly. But I also know that this is an uneasy coexistence with ongoing poverty in West Belfast and much of Derry (among other places). Belfast has a serious drug problem, and sectarianism continues to permeate much of the city. The poverty is difficult to stomach in the face of such blossoming culture–and my distaste for this dissonance is enhanced by the enduring lack of government in the North that has been the status quo for over 2.5 years now.
Stormont was never a terribly effective government–let’s be honest. But at least the MLAs had a realistic picture of the problems facing their constituents on a daily basis. I’m glad Westminster is stepping in to introduce same-sex marriage and abortion, but MPs don’t really give much of a shit about Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson clearly couldn’t give less of a fuck, and his no-deal crash out of the EU is going to be a massive cock up for the North. Shame on the DUP for letting this happen; they are the reason Boris is holding onto power right now, and they are sacrificing the economy of their own country in exchange for what they hope will be greater integration with mainland Britain. Shame.
And while I’m on the subject of shame….Sinn Féin could also put a stop to this. I understand the lengthy history of abstentionism and the reasons for it. Yet, if they really are a pro-EU party, as they currently claim to be (though historically they oppose Ireland’s membership in the EU), they could send a couple of MPs to Westminster to kick out the Tories. So Sinn Féin, too, is willing to sacrifice the economy and the people of the North in pursuit of their ultimate goal of Irish unity. Will Brexit be a big enough disaster to push people into a united Ireland? I surely hope so, because otherwise this Machiavellian strategy will hurt a lot of people for nothing.
But to return to my point about civility…..despite the sectarianism in Belfast, and the housing crisis in Éire, and the new attempt to collect the TV license fees (joke)…..still, it is all far more civilized than Donald Trump’s America. Climate change is real. Vaccines save lives. Strict gun laws prevent mass shootings.
Yes. We would go back tomorrow if there were a job for Chris teaching science. A better place to raise children, without question.
As July 12th approaches, Northern Ireland is going through its annual tradition of arguing about sectarianism. Sometimes, people have fought over the question, “Should the Orangemen be allowed to march through Catholic neighborhoods?” An important question to be sure, but this problem has been mostly resolved. Questions of sectarianism have evolved into more subtle manifestations of cross-community sniping. People on both sides of the divide like to claim that their commemorations are cultural, while celebrations by the opposing side are, in contrast, sectarian displays. Can a celebration of the Battle of the Boyne occur in any fashion without being anti-Catholic? As per an argument I saw on Twitter yesterday, can Irish people sing songs that celebrate that Irish Revolution without being anti-Protestant? I believe that the answer to both of these questions, as well as the larger issue is “yes,” but perhaps not in their current manifestations.
An interesting piece appeared in the July 5th edition of the Irish Times titled, “Marching in Donegal: ‘We can be Irish and we can be Orange.'” Unbeknownst to most people, there are a few Orange lodges in the part of Ulster that is within the Republic of Ireland. The lodge at Newtowncunningham, Co. Donegal commemorates the ending of the Siege of Derry and also the 1913 Ulster Volunteers who engaged in military-style training in order to combat Home Rule for Ireland. An Orange Lodge in Éire is indeed an oddity, and in the eyes of many Irish people, a deeply offensive site–so much so that this one was the victim of an arson attack in 2014.
The main figure in the article identifies himself as Irish but also as an “Ulsterman,” and identifies with Northern Ireland as his natural home–yet he does live in the Republic. His self-perception would suggest that his version of commemorating 1690 is not sectarian–and is certainly not anti-Irish. He is pro-Protestant-Irish identity, but not anti-Catholic-Irish identity. His celebration of the Battle of the Boyne shouldn’t be viewed as secular blasphemy.
The question of whether you can be “Irish” and “Orange” ultimately depends on what you believe “Orange” represents.
Some brief historical background: “Orange” derives from William of Orange, the Dutch prince who was married to his first cousin, Mary, the Protestant daughter of King James II. When James II took the throne, he had no male children, and so in general the people of England (not Britain until 1707) worried little, because they didn’t fear a Catholic successor upon the death of James. But to everyone’s surprise, James’s wife gave birth to a son, the future James III, who was to be raised Catholic. Now that was terrifying to the Protestant people of the realm. So, in essence, Parliament invited William and Mary to come over and take the throne from James, which they did in an event known to history as the Glorious Revolution. Supporters of William III and Mary II in Ireland, who celebrated the victory of Protestantism at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, formed the “Orange Order.”
So, Orange-ism can be seen as a celebration of Protestantism and the Plantation of Ulster, in which Irish Catholics were forced off their land in favor of Protestants from England and Scotland, and can thus also be viewed as anti-Catholic or sectarian. From that perspective, it’s difficult to see someone being both Irish and Orange, because July 12th is then a commemoration of forced removal of Irish people from their land.
On the other hand, many historians and Orangemen see the Glorious Revolution and William’s victory at the Boyne River as not only the triumph of Protestantism, but the triumph of democracy over absolutism. This interpretation also has merit. Because Parliament invited William and Mary to take the throne, the legislature acquired symbolic authority over the monarchy; this power was then codified when the king and queen acceded to the Declaration of Right, which limited the power of the monarchy and asserted certain rights for citizens.
The Republic of Ireland in 2019 is a liberal democracy that has no monarch at all, and would certainly endorse the rights of citizens laid out in the Declaration of Right. But, the Glorious Revolution also represents for much of Ireland a period of disenfranchisement, penal laws, and, ultimately, the Great Famine in which wealthy landed Protestants made out okay while Irish Catholics perished by the millions.
How can Orangemen celebrate their culture without simultaneously denigrating Irish culture? The current methods of celebrating, notably the bonfires, are inextricably linked with anti-Catholic hatred in the eyes of many Irish people. Historically, these celebrations have indeed been Protestant triumphalist displays, and so we can understand why many Irish people feel this way. Instead of taking direct shots at the celebrations, though, Sinn Féin has taken to attacking the impact of the bonfires on the environment. True, large fires do pump out a lot of avoidable pollution into the air, but it seems extremely disingenuous of Sinn Féin to use this particular occasion to make this point. Why not scrap the bonfires in exchange for a celebration that has no historical ties to sectarian hatred? Bonfires may be traditional, but they’re not inextricable from the celebration of the Battle of the Boyne. My recommendation: Take the time to read aloud from the Petition of Right, and celebrate the universal good that came with the Glorious Revolution: limited monarchy and rights for individual citizens.
I wrote my dissertation on sexual assault against women and teenage girls in twentieth-century Ireland. I’ve published an article on the crime that used to be known as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a teenage girl aged 15 to 17” that demonstrated that Irish law did not really care about this crime. In fact, in almost all cases that were prosecuted, the girl in question had become pregnant as a result of the encounter. The law cared about pregnancy outside of “wedlock,” but did not really care about the trauma to the teenage girls in question, or their ability to say yes or no to sex. Jury verdicts reflected this–in large part, though not exclusively, because juries for most of the 20th century were all male, and girls were seen as tempting Eves.
How far have we come? Well, the following story appears in today’s Irish Times: “Man slept with underage girl his son was dating, court told”. The article describes a situation in which an adult man in his early 40s had repeated sexual encounters with a 15-year-old girl. He took pictures of her in “compromising” positions. She performed oral sex on him, and they had intercourse on many occasions. The man has been charged with 31 counts of having intercourse with a child (under the 2006 Sexual Offences Act). He has also been charged with 8 counts of “defilement of a child” for the acts of fellatio. The man denies all of this, despite the girl’s testimony and text messages that prove the relationship.
There are so many problems here that, as a historian, I’m not equipped to count them all.
The Irish Times should be ashamed of itself for this headline. The man “slept with” an underage girl? No, the man raped an underage girl. There is no legal concept of a 41-year-old man “sleeping with” a 15-year-old girl. By definition, that act is illegal because a 15-year-old girl cannot consent to sex with an adult man. The editors of the Irish Times should know this and the paper’s headlines and writing should reflect this.
The man took photos of the teenage girl in “compromising” positions. Why wasn’t he charged with anything related to child pornography? These photos probably still exist. They could have been uploaded to the Internet (or, more likely, the dark web), and they could still be used against the victim/survivor, who is now an adult woman in her mid-20s.
The article focuses on the fact that the first time the man met the victim, she was wearing a very short white miniskirt, that turned him on. Why is this fact relevant to anything? It’s not relevant to whether the crime took place. It’s not relevant to consent, which is not a factor in statutory rape cases anyway. The only purpose served by the focus on her miniskirt is to sexualize a teenage girl and mitigate the man’s responsibility in the case because she was wearing an outfit that one could classify as “provocative.” [She was likely trying to turn on her boyfriend, the man’s son, not the 41-year-old man.] This harkens back to the old fashioned idea that women were tempting men, and that the male sex drive is so powerful that men simply cannot resist. Surely we’ve moved past that notion in 2019, right?
Why does the law distinguish between sexual intercourse and oral sex here? Both acts are SEX. Both occurred with an underage girl and a man in his 40s. This distinction is absolutely draconian. The acts of oral sex should be classed as rape also. A teenage girl cannot anymore consent to fellatio than she can to vaginal intercourse, and the law should not distinguish between these offences.
Here we can see that there are enduring problems with the ability of Irish law to protect underage girls (and boys, too) from sexual predators. The law doesn’t take seriously the inability of teenagers to consent to sex with older men. Thankfully, the law does accept the legitimacy of consensual sex between teenagers. Progress has been made.
But the law, and apparently the writers for the Irish Times, still buy into gendered tropes about how a girl was dressed and different types of sex (vaginal, oral, anal). I am eager to see the verdict in this case, to see whether the Irish people accept these tropes. Will the jury acquit this man because of the girl’s miniskirt? Will they accept the idea that the 15-year-old girl consented to sex, and therefore the crime wasn’t so bad, even though the law says differently? The girl didn’t become pregnant from the encounters, so if things are basically the same as they were 50 years ago, the jury will acquit the man because without a pregnancy, the crime really wasn’t so bad.
The Republic of Ireland is finally going to hold a referendum on the right of members of the Irish diaspora to vote in presidential elections in Éire. Enda Kenny vetted the idea when he was still taoiseach, and it seems that the Oireachtas, now led by Leo Varadkar, is going to let this referendum go forward. According to RTÉ, the government is currently drafting the referendum, which will be put to the Irish people in October 2019. If it passes, people around the world who claim Irish citizenship will have the right to vote in presidential elections beginning in 2025.
I have a lot of questions in advance of the draft legislation:
Will all Irish citizens around the world be allowed to vote absentee? Or, will it be drafted so that all Irish citizens can vote, but they must be in Ireland on election day in order to do so?
Or, will there be limits on the presidential franchise based on residency and/or duration of time living as an ex-pat? Ireland has fairly lenient qualifications for becoming an Irish citizen if you can prove Irish ancestry. If your parents or at least one grandparent was a natural-born Irish citizen, you can become a citizen of Ireland. And, per the preliminary terms of this referendum, all of these people–approximately 70 million around the world–could be allowed to vote.
Of course, this includes all Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland.
Will there be any provision for non-citizens who are legal residents of Ireland to vote in these elections? Ireland revoked birthright citizenship after 2005, so there may be people living in Ireland who are not citizens but who have much more of a link to Ireland than most of the Irish-Americans or Irish-Australians who will be allowed to vote but haven’t spent even 10 days in Ireland in their entire lives.
I have to say, I’m perplexed as to why Fine Gael would put forward this proposal. Fine Gael will most certainly NOT be the beneficiary of this legislation. Indeed, I think that in general much of the Irish diaspora couldn’t tell you what Fine Gael stands for as a political party, or Fianna Fáil for that matter–all joking aside about the majority of Ireland not knowing what these parties stand for, either.
When the Irish diaspora encounters Irish politics, these encounters typically take the form of Irish nationalism as represented by Sinn Féin and, in the past, of the Provos (IRA). Sinn Féin has a fundraising arm in the United States (Friends of Sinn Féin), and benefits grandly from telling stories of British oppression of the Irish, from depicting the Great Famine as a genocide, and reminding Irish Americans that they have a duty to “their” homeland to support Irish unity. I see this manifestation of “Irishness” on certain websites and diaspora message boards, notably IrishCentral.com, founded by famous American-Irish supporter of Sinn Féin, Niall O’Dowd (who was a key player in getting Gerry Adams a visa back in 1994).
So, of course, Sinn Féin is the political party that stands to benefit most from allowing the Irish diaspora to vote in presidential elections. The president of Ireland, currently Michael O’Higgins, is largely a ceremonial position, but has been held in recent years by some quite illustrious figures, notably Mary Robinson, who went on to become the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Despite the president’s notable lack of actual political power, the president is a visible figure with moral authority. And, Sinn Féin would certainly love to see Gerry Adams elected president of Ireland. Allowing the diaspora to vote would most certainly help to bring this about–as much as most of the Republic of Ireland itself would find “President Gerry Adams” to be quite distasteful. There is a sense among many Irish citizens that Sinn Féin can’t be trusted; that, yes, the party does advance some socially liberal positions such as LGBTQ+ rights and abortion rights, but that the party does so for spurious reasons. [Incidentally, in a nod to Professor Richard English–he suggested to me almost 15 years ago in a private conversation that he thought that Gerry Adams would be president of Ireland someday. I’m not sure this is what he had in mind, but interesting that he predicted it.]
I would therefore propose that there be limits on precisely which Irish citizens are allowed to vote in presidential elections. Surely, Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland should be allowed to vote, as they have a personal stake in the fate of the island. But what of the children or grandchildren of Irish citizens who listen to “Danny Boy” and “The Fields of Athenry” but have never so much as been to Ireland? These are people with no real connection to the fate of the island.
Many countries including the United Kingdom have limits on the rights of ex-patriots to vote in elections. In the UK, an ex-pat can vote for up to 15 years after leaving, so long as that person was registered to vote when s/he lived in the UK. Such limits seem to me to be quite reasonable, as per the “connection to the fate of the country” idea that I discussed above. I hope that Éire will include such limitations, so as not to permit everyone claiming Irish citizenship to participate in a presidential election and sway the outcome in favor of a result that the vast majority of people actually living on the island would strongly dislike.
On his personal blog, Gerry Adams has asserted that there should not be a border poll in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland until there is a cogent plan for what a united Ireland would actually mean in practice. In his view, we all learned a lesson from Brexit: “A referendum without a plan is stupid.” Maybe there should be a border poll in the near future, but Adams doesn’t make a terribly convincing case in his blog post.
Certainly, the debacle in the aftermath of the Brexit vote has shown Adams to be correct that there should be a clearly defined plan in place in the event of a vote for Irish unity. He also said that it is the “duty” of the government of the Republic of Ireland to plan for that poll and the potential result of a vote in favor of Irish unity. To support his optimistic claim that Ireland is on the verge of voting for unity and an exit from the UK, Adams cited data fro the 2011 Northern Ireland census. Specifically, he notes that only 48% of respondents in Northern Ireland self-identified as British; a professor who examined the results noted that there is a “measurable trend” towards a Catholic majority in Northern Ireland. Adams seems quite optimistic that those two ideas combined translate into a majority in favor of Irish unity.
I’m not so sure. A look at the summary report from the 2011 census (found here) shows that only 25.26% of the population self-identified as “Irish only” and 20.94% of the population identified as “Northern Irish only.” That’s about 68% of the population that does not self-identify as Irish. There are other statistics with smaller numbers for people who self-identify as more than one of these three groups. But I think the statistic for “Irish only” is important: only ¼ of the population of Northern Ireland believes itself to be exclusively Irish. An additional 2.74% of people include “Irish” in their self-identity, along with another category.
From these statistics, it’s impossible to determine how people will vote in a border poll. Adams is certainly too optimistic in his blog post. That doesn’t mean a border poll shouldn’t happen though–certainly it should happen in the next few years; indeed, wouldn’t it make sense to hold a poll on a periodic basis, with other elections?
But what of the notion that Éire is duty-bound to plan for unity? What does such a plan entail?
Safe guards for Unionists are essential, but I foresee the fear of persecution being greatly exaggerated. Adams notes, too, that dialogue must exist to make Unionists feel as though they will be safe and their rights will be protected in a united Ireland. Éire is an increasingly diverse country, and I see no reason why northern Unionists/Protestants would be persecuted–indeed, if anyone has anything to fear, it’s non-Irish immigrants to the island, based on deep-seeded prejudices that are not unique to Ireland. Éire is a liberal democracy that is not dominated by the Catholic hierarchy, and I have every reason to believe that Unionists will be welcomed.
The exchequer also requires great planning. Currently, the North receives a millions of pounds per year from the UK purse, and it could lose that money upon Irish unity. In theory, it would lose that money. Might there be a plan to slowly ween the North off of British money? Also: what of the civil servants in the North who will probably lose their jobs when a single government takes over?
Adams doesn’t seem to have considered money in his call on the government of the Republic of Ireland to prepare for Irish unity with a detailed plan. He’s right that a plan is necessary, but I think perhaps many people in Éire would object to putting money toward that when there is a housing crisis; rural populations lack access to the Internet; and a massive percentage of people want the government to take meaningful action to help stem the tide of climate change. Plus, by most accounts the British NHS is far superior to healthcare available in the South, and I don’t imagine northerners want to give that up–so surely the South will have to pour a lot of money into improving health services. That’s a lot of work already, and all of that costs money. Will the people of the Republic want to allocate valuable resources toward planning for Irish unity? Maybe, but I definitely don’t think I’d bet my house on it. (And on this subject, the statistics Adams gives for the percentage of people in the South who favor Irish unity is somewhat absurd in its interpretation, even if the raw numbers are accurate.)
So now to address the optimism Adams expressed about the triumph of Irish unity in the event of a border poll. If we can return to the comparison with Brexit for a moment: we are left with the question, “If there had been a plan for Brexit-ing and post-Brexit UK, would the people still have voted to leave the European Union?” Maybe the plan would have resulted in a greater number of people supporting Brexit, as they could have been reassured of their economic security in advance of the vote. But, on the other hand, maybe tangible details would have scared people in the UK and eliminated much of the vote for Brexit that was essentially “protest” vote. We have no way to know, but I think this possibility is possible for an Irish-unity vote, too. Plans for unity may be comforting and reassuring, or they might scare people. So again, I think people who foresee Irish unity on the immediate horizon (that is, within a couple of years) are overly optimistic–particularly if Brexit never pans out at all (October is the next deadline).
On this note: will Sinn Féin support membership in the EU in the event of Irish unity? Sinn Féin is historically opposed to the European Union, because, as per the party name that translates to “ourselves,” they want the island of Ireland for the people of Ireland, and therefore oppose intervention from Brussels. I think Sinn Féin needs to do a bit of soul-searching itself as they push for a border poll and plans for unity–and let the Irish people know exactly what their vision is, as the most vocal advocates for reunited the island.
In an apparent abdication of her connection with reason, Queen Elizabeth II invited Donald Trump for a state visit to the UK, which is supposed to happen starting Monday. Leave it to the Orange Sphincter (thanks, Bill Maher) to manage to arse this up just days before arriving, by calling Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, “nasty,” when he was informed of remarks she made a few years ago that expressed distaste for the then-candidate Trump. Most of the rest of humanity will now consider that the Duchess has fine character and good judgement. I already thought so, as she is a Northwestern alumna.
In response, the Queen should certainly cancel the state visit and chastise the president for his utter lack of decency.
In addition, Leo Varadkar should refuse to meet Trump when he is in Ireland visiting one of his own golf courses. This rejection has nothing to do with what Trump said about the Duchess. Instead, there are other issues here:
If Trump had been president in 1847, he would have reviled the Famine immigrants and tried to keep the starving people from a “shithole country” out of the United States.
By publicly visiting one of his own golf courses in Ireland, he is bringing it publicity from which he stands to profit, and is thus violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
(By the way, that’s an impeachable offense. Speaker Pelosi: Take note.)
The people of Ireland think Trump is an ignoramus, who undoubtedly has no idea that the Irish prime minister is called Taoiseach, and definitely cannot pronounce the word at any rate. Guaranteed he doesn’t know that Ireland is a dual-language country, and will make some idiotic remark about the signage in the country. (Okay, the second part would be funny and just confirm that he’s a moron.)
Sinn Féin has been pushing for an Irish language act in Northern Ireland, to give legal parity to the island’s native tongue. There is a small protest at Stormont this morning:
But given SF’s recent losses, one might infer that the party’s intransigence in regards to restoring powersharing because of the Irish-language act (or lack thereof) is being perceived as a political ploy to avoid restoring the Assembly. Without the Assembly, the state of Northern Ireland will continue to deteriorate, and they will then be able to use that to push for Irish unity–I believe this is also why they are so tied to marriage equality and abortion rights. All of these reforms-language, same-sex marriage, and choice-would be great, but people do care about motivations, and Sinn Féin isn’t being transparent.
In the recent elections for the European parliament (MEPs) and Irish local elections, Sinn Féin got trounced in the polls, winning only 81 seats across the country–about a 50% loss from 2014. The party’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald, has been woefully unprepared to discuss the party’s losses and put forward an innovative vision for the future of Ireland.
(Graph from The Independent)
Sinn Féin is not doing itself any favors by insisting upon a recount in the MEP election for Ireland South, where it appears that SF’s Liadh Ní Riada has lost. The recount is going to cost approximately €1 million, enraging many people who believe the government should be using that money to help homeless people find housing, fund environmental initiatives, improve education, or basically anything else.
After recounting 200,000 ballots, it does appear that this recount won’t yield the results that Sinn Féin is hoping for, yet despite the cost, I have to support the recount anyway. For representative democracy to function, we must ensure that each individual’s vote is counted, and that it counts equally to everyone else’s vote (we can discuss gerrymandering elsewhere). Democratic institutions are crumbling around the world, including in the United States under the morally bankrupt Trump administration. Ireland is doing the right thing by demonstrating to its people and to the world that this country will not allow the integrity of its democratic institutions to be impugned by any semblance of controversy over an election.