Unfortunately over Christmas and the New Year I found myself back in St. James’s Hospital. Yet again my admiration for those working in the Health Service soared and apart from the care I received they added bounce to my flagging spirits – Thank You.
Lying in my bed I had time to think, and yes, God damn it, Brexit leapt to mind. One thing bothers me about all of this and it is the resulting deterioration in Anglo Irish Relations. Let me turn back the clock. Mo Mowlam, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stayed with us the night after the Good Friday Agreement was signed. She was elated. Now the E.U., and indeed our own government, keep going back to this political agreement as if it is a tablet of stone and it has been used to bolster the argument in favour of the backstop. There are two salient points here. Firstly, the Agreement recognises there are two entities on this island, the Republic and the North as a province of the U.K. This status can only be changed through democratic means. Secondly, there is no mention in the Agreement of borders, customs or tariffs. The Taoiseach and the Tanaiste have been proudly beating their chests about how the E.U. has stood behind us on the backstop and by inference it looks like taking pleasure in bashing up the Brits. This will not be forgotten and is far from helpful as the U.K. remains our most important trading partner and a hard Brexit has the capability of inflicting enormous economic damage on our State. The primary duty of any government is to defend the interests of its people and the fabric of society. Have we learnt anything from our recent past ? Do we forget that the E.U. used us and abused us in the banking crisis, protecting the interests of French and German banks ? Their defence of the backstop has a wider agenda. With an impending financial crisis in Europe they are bound to bash up on any country trying to escape their clutches.
It should have been recognised from the very beginning that the border issue was going to present a problem. It was always going to be about trying to drive a round peg into a square hole. There needed to be a fudge. Instead there is the awful prospect of us sleepwalking into disaster.
There is also another element in all of this. Leo has his eye on the next election and he gives every appearance to be eyeing up the possibility of a F.G./Sinn Fein coalition. Bashing up the Brits fits into this equation but at what cost to the nation? Let us hope that there is some way out of this mess but let me tell you in life, fragile as it is, you need to know who your friends are.
Happy New Year.