Ireland spent the first week of June mining its greatest natural resource in preparation for the visit of President Trump, namely the radioactive isotope Sanctimonium, of which the country has almost limitless reserves. Indeed, these probably match Saudi Arabia’s deposits of oil, and since they are endlessly regenerated, no matter how much has already been produced, Sanctimonium will still be gushing from the country’s hypocrisy-wells when Arabia reverts to being what nature intended, the world’s largest dune.
Just as its cousin Strontium 90 causes leukaemia, Sanctimonium produces compulsive moral self-preening. This was once a primary characteristic of Irish Catholicism, but has since been secularised and requisitioned by the Irish Left. Since that faction is the noisiest voice of conscience in the Irish Parliament, the Dail, it creates the backing-track to most public debate in Ireland. Moreover, the Irish Left makes Jeremy Corbyn seem as substantive as Otto von Bismarck.
Irish journalism too is thoroughly irradiated with Sanctimonium. Every columnist agrees that Trump is a bad bad man, while the Greens are good good. As one simpered, “The Greens are a globalist antidote to the nativism and environmental vandalism of the Trump administration in the US, whose antediluvian attitude to climate change and international co-operation has aided the cause of the Greens in Europe.”
Well, despite such hysterical celebrations in the Irish media, the Greens’ performance got only 11 per cent of the vote. The Irish voter has never been given the chance to vote on a major existential issue or person such as Brexit, Trump, Le Pen and AfD, which might (and probably would) reveal the vast gulf between the inhabitants of the self-congratulatory metropolitan bubble and the rest. As one columnist observed in Sanctimonium’s infuriating dialect of piety: “Taking all this together, we are witnessing a Green Wave, not just in Ireland but all over western Europe. Even in the UK, the Greens outpolled the ruling Conservative Party … liberal Europeans are voting for higher taxes to change our behaviour.”
Outpolling the Tories tells you nothing; a party led by Jack the Ripper and Myra Hindley would have managed it easily. And few people vote to pay higher taxes themselves, but for other people to pay them. They certainly do not vote to be poorer, which would be an almost certain outcome of imposing a rigorously effective Green agenda on anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Really Green policies would shut down coal-powered power stations, and the world’s few survivors would spend their final days using their quivering, frost-bitten fingers to follow the ecologically-renewable chalk-scrawl on their ecologically-renewable little blackboards by the light of ecologically-renewable little glowworms.
The Green leader, Eamon Ryan, in denouncing Trump, asked: “His treatment of refugees in other countries, do we just ignore that?” A very good question. About 65.3 million people across the world have been displaced in the past decade. Ireland has agreed to take in 4000 of them—but at the last count, only 311 had been admitted. In other words, Sanctimonium’s favourite sweet: humbug.
One of the few people given asylum in Ireland, an Iranian named Amid Sanambar, soon turned out to be a major asset, well, for Dublin’s criminal gangs. He became a professional hit-man with half a dozen murders to his name before he too became a notch on someone else’s gun. This is the kind of asylum seeker that the media of Ireland studiously ignores, even though the record of “asylum seekers” across Europe has been somewhat, ah, questionable. According to a survey last summer, 16 per cent of all Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe involved asylum seekers; a delightful thought indeed, but one that is not likely to trouble the bien-pensant who dominate the conjoined Irish media and political worlds, and whose primary mood is another Irish characteristic: affable imprecision.
Perhaps the most vacuous group in the Irish Left is People Before Profit, whose intellectual inspiration is clearly Adrian Mole (aged thirteen and three quarters). They naturally compared Trump to Hitler. “It’s critical we have a huge showing of opposition to what Trump represents,” said one of their TDs (MPs), “otherwise we are facing into the dark, horrendous politics of the 30s and 40s that cost humanity very dearly.”
If People Before Profit genuinely feared the rise of fascism, they would surely be campaigning for an increased defence budget, and an armed alliance against the emergence of a Fourth Reich. Of course, they are doing no such thing: one thing unites the Irish Left and the rest of the inhabitants of the Bubble, namely the virtuousness of foreign aid. And the jewel in Ireland’s foreign aid crown is Uganda.
This splendid country has been governed by President-for-life Museveni since 1986, while his regime has been loyally sustained by an uncomplaining Irish taxpayer. The US State Department reports of Uganda:
The three most serious human rights problems in the country were a lack of respect for the integrity of the person (including unlawful killings, torture, and other abuse of suspects and detainees); unwarranted restrictions on civil liberties (including freedom of assembly, the media, and association); and violence and discrimination against marginalized groups such as women (including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), children (including victims of sexual abuse and ritual killing), persons with disabilities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community …
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and international and local human rights organizations reported incidents of torture by the SSF (State Security Forces) including caning, severe beating, and kicking. From January to September (2012) the African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims registered 170 allegations of torture against police, 214 against the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defence Forces) one against military police, 23 against the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), 361 against unspecified security personnel, and 24 against prison officials …
None of this ever appears in the Irish media, which also stays silent about perhaps the most startling and absurd anomaly that connects the two countries. The Irish Republic has a coastline of 6000 kilometres, and has no maritime air force, whereas Uganda, which is 925 kilometres from the sea, has a squadron of Mach 2 Sukhoi MK2 maritime fighters. These cost that laughable entity, the Ugandan exchequer, some $740 million, while that other laughable entity, the Irish taxpayer, is giving Uganda nearly €30 million a year. Meanwhile, Uganda’s parliamentarians earn sixty times the income of public servants in that earthly paradise.
Yet the bizarre relationship between these two states is a parable of mutually reinforcing dependency, one moral and the other financial: Ireland feels better off giving money it has had to borrow to assist a country which comes 151st out of 176 in the world’s honesty index (that is, it is one of the sixteen most corrupt countries on the planet). Uganda meanwhile feels much better receiving it, as you would.
Meanwhile Ireland, whose Air Corps has no interceptor fighters, requires NATO (or more particularly the RAF) to defend its airspace. Even after the RAF was twice asked to scramble fighters to see off Russian Bear aircraft entering Irish “controlled” air-space, Irish politicians simply ignored this inconvenient truth. Ireland, you see, is officially “neutral”, and is therefore above the squalid arms race that defines the rest of the world. Even Liechtenstein spends more of its GDP on defence (0.4 per cent) than Ireland (0.3 per cent).
You might think this would cause some agitation amongst Ireland’s politicians and journalists, but not in the least. Ignoring inconvenient truths is a favourite Irish pastime, especially if you are routinely bathed in Sanctimonium’s radioactive glow. The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, which is a major driver in this process, justifies the expenditure on aid to Uganda in terms of “the high level of social capital”, whatever that means.
There is a cost to this wanton profligacy, and it has been borne by the Irish Defence Forces, whose members are recruited for their patriotism, which is a noble motivation indeed, but not a particularly adhesive one when the mortgage, school uniforms, schoolbooks and medical insurance all have to be paid for. The Irish Army recently lost the sort of man any army would be anxious to make chief of staff, Commandant Cathal Berry, whose modest rank (the equivalent of major) says it all. He once led the extremely fine Irish Special Forces, the Rangers, in Chad, and also managed to put himself through medical school while still a serving officer. Yet at the age of forty-one, he had only reached the rank of major, whereas in most other armies he would have made at least colonel or brigadier-general. Ireland doesn’t even have a full-time Minister for Defence: the job is currently occupied by a junior politician, an unfortunate named Keogh whom Berry dismissed as “an empty suit”.
Accusations of sartorial vacuity might also fairly be made about Varadkar, whose many personal inadequacies are compensated for by his being a doctor, openly gay and of mixed race. These are blessings indeed in Ireland, which is one of the most politically correct countries in the world and which three years ago voted to make homosexual marriage “equal” to the old-fashioned sort, but without defining what is the equal act of sexual consummation. (Marriage is an almost unique legal arrangement, in that the act which makes it contractually binding in law is usually done without a solicitor present.)
Moreover, Ireland prides itself on its affable imprecision as much as it does its dedication to the European Imperial Project. Why a state which so ecstatically celebrated the centenary of the Rising against the British in 1916 (in which all the early deaths were of Irish people, both in uniform and out) on the one hand, yet on the other, and with equal enthusiasm, embraces the loss of sovereignty to Brussels, Strasbourg and most of all Berlin, would be difficult to explain without resort to psychobabble. One could murmur words like “cognitive dissonance” and “denial”, though perhaps “Ugandan Air Force” and “Irish Air Corps” would do the trick just as well.
Certainly, the tedious, quasi-racist disdain exhibited for the entire Brexit phenomenon across the media and the political classes in Ireland has been salutary indeed. Such studied contempt amongst the British politico-media elite towards any such Irish plebiscite outcome would be denounced as racist by the ever-querulous Irish embassy in London, which formally complained about the critical tone the Spectator was taking on the Irish attitude towards Brexit.
One of Varadkar’s more baffling observations about Brexit was that the UK might now forfeit the right to fly over Ireland. Was he unaware that Aer Lingus is now based in the UK, namely Belfast? Was he equally unaware that Britain actually lies athwart the routes between Ireland and its beloved European partners? So if British aircraft couldn’t cross Irish airspace, the quid pro quo would surely be that planes bound for Berlin or Paris from Dublin would have to fly south for a couple of hundred miles into the Bay of Biscay before heading east. Still, his wittering on the subject proves that just because you’ve passed your medical exams doesn’t mean you’re not an idiot.
The Brexit debate that has split Britain neatly in various forms of binary divisions—age/geography/region/race—has had no echo here. However, ordinary people outside the Dublin metro-bubble sympathise with Britain’s tortuous dilemma.
My own feeling is that sooner or later geography will trump all, as traditional economic and cultural realities reassert themselves. London is still a prime destination for Irish emigrants, and the London–Dublin air route remains the busiest in Europe. Moreover, Britain is the only land-bridge from Ireland to Europe; how will the Irish feel if the British start levying tolls on through-traffic from Irish ports to the Continent?
The borders of Northern Ireland are where the writs of London and Belfast meet. The endless propitiation (affable imprecision again) of the Provisional IRA during the peace process caused both governments to tolerate spectacular levels of republican lawlessness, including serial murders and the biggest bank robbery in Irish or UK history. The resulting backlash in the Protestant community at this spinelessness electorally destroyed the moderate Ulster Unionists (who had negotiated the peace deal of 1998) and they were replaced by the hard-line Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP is now the obstacle to an all-Ireland solution to the backstop issue of policing trade over the border. All deals have their price: the abject weakness of London and Dublin towards the IRA has created an almost insurmountable barrier in Ulster to a rational, island-wide resolution of the great Brexit dilemma.
Moreover, that same Irish culture of affable imprecision also explains the collapse of the Irish banking system ten years ago, requiring a state bail-out of the country’s six main banks to the tune of €100 billion, or nearly 60 per cent of the country’s GDP. Affable imprecision has similarly fed the compensation culture which gives Ireland the highest insurance rates in Europe. Possibly affable imprecision was what caused the government politician Maria Bailey to get onto a swing in a hotel gymnasium with a drink in each hand several years ago; and thus encumbered, she duly fell off. She sued the hotel because it had neither supplied instructions on how the swing worked (a seat on two ropes, as in a children’s playground) or a member of staff to ensure the safety of every person who sat on it (as in no children’s playgrounds whatsoever). Bailey then claimed that she had been disabled by the fall and had not been able to run, whereas she had actually run a ten-kilometre race three weeks later. Yet more affable imprecision. The lawyer she chose to take the case is yet another woman politician and now a cabinet minister, Josepha Madigan: her portfolio, Arts and Culture, might even include swings.
So not merely does the leader of the Irish government apparently not know that Britain lies between Ireland and mainland Europe, his party members think they should sue whenever an adult falls off a child’s swing with a drink in each hand. Sometimes such affable imprecision looks remarkably like cynical appropriation, and one besetting problem in Irish life is that there is often no way of telling just where one begins and the other ends, even unto Uganda.
Kevin Myers lives in Ireland. Among his books is the memoir Watching the Door: Cheating Death in 1970s Belfast.