I’ve just returned from a visit to Dublin with a delegation from the EFD Group, ahead of Ireland’s May 31st referendum on Merkel’s Fiscal Union (FU) pact.
The group included two other UKIP MEPs — Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall — but also the charismatic Danish MEP Morten Messerschmidt; the very sound Finnish MEP Sampo Terho; Irish Press Officer Hermann Kelly; and my Italian staffer Francesca Salierno. With delegation members from five EU member-states, it was much more difficult for Dublin’s pro-EU media to complain about “English interference in Irish affairs” as they have done in the past. They seem to have no problem with all sorts of EU Commissioners and MEPs (and truckloads of EU funding) coming to Dublin to tell the Irish people to vote YES, but woe betide anyone who dares to suggest a NO vote.
Francesca bites back: At our Wednesday Press Conference, one journalist had clearly decided that Francesca was only there to add a touch of glamour to a men-in-grey-suits line-up, and decided to ask a mildly challenging question. Francesca wasn’t having any of that. Her answer made it clear in no uncertain terms, first that she was a fully-qualified lawyer with an IQ to match, and second that she had very clear and cogent criticisms of the single currency project and the damage it was doing to Irish citizens. Well done Francesca.
The press conference seems to have been successful. Certainly we had a great deal of press coverage in Ireland the following morning.
That evening we dined at the Shelbourne Hotel, in their “Constitution Room”, the very room where in 1922, under the Chairmanship of Michael Collins, the Constitution of the Irish Free State was drafted. We were all very conscious of the irony. Here we were, in a room which had played so great a part in the achievement of Irish independence, and on a mission to remind Irish voters in the 21st Century that the freedom and self-determination that their great grandfathers had fought for was still worth preserving in the face of Brussels’ hegemony. I wonder what Michael Collins would have thought of Ireland (or indeed the UK) as an off-shore province of a country called Europe.
The tragedy is that while the EFD has more than once gone to Ireland to support the No Campaigners, there is no genuine centre-right pro-independence party in Ireland today. The mantle of euro-scepticism has gone by default to Sinn Féin, a socialist party with blood on its hands, and with which I should never wish to make common cause.
Irish voters have been badly let down by their mainstream parties Fianna Fail and Fianna Gael, both sell-out Brussels lap-dogs offering no real choice to the people. It’s another irony that these two parties, which historically grew out of opposite sides of a Civil War, now seem to be in a Civil Partnership.