Who Dares Speak Its Name?


From top: Nigel Farage and John Waters at the irexit conference in the RDS on Saturday; Dr Rory Hearne

It is incredible how angry supposedly sensible people get when you express a contrarian view point. Or if you even raise questions about supposed ‘truths’ and general ‘commonsense’.

The impossibility of Ireland leaving the EU, or Irexit as it come to be called (or probably more appropriately Eirexit) is apparently one of these accepted ‘truths’.

On Saturday I had the temerity to question this assumption on twitter and got one hell of a reaction.

I posted the simple tweet:

Now to make it clear from the outset, I am not arguing that Ireland should leave the EU, and I am pro-immigration and I actually blame the policies of our own successive Irish governments of various hues of Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Labour/Greens/PDs as being the primary cause of our current problems. Although I do think the EU/ECB has had an important role too.

Clearly then I will have nothing to do with the Nigel Farage/John Waters Conference and any potential new Irexit party. They stand for a right-wing, conservative vision of Ireland and Europe that offers nothing positive for Irish people.

However, what I am saying is that there is a ‘progressive’, outward and forward looking critique of the EU that has real legitimacy, and it is this critique that needs to be listened to seriously.

For if it is not addressed, and quickly, then support for Irexit could grow.

I am also, therefore, making the case that some of those expressing support for Irexit have legitimate concerns that represent a not insignificant proportion of the Irish people.

Rather than dismissing these concerns, the Irish and European establishment should take them serious and engage in a radical overhaul of the direction of Ireland, the EU and its institutions.

There is a problem with our democracy, our political culture and this exists in wider Irish society. We are afraid to question and challenge the status quo. And our government and establishment media even more so.

Our ‘state’ not just dislikes questioning and challenge – it is terrified by it. And that’s why it actively silences dissenting voices – through gag orders on charities such as homeless NGOs or community organisations working on poverty.

And the system likes to portray those who question as dissidents or ‘Left-wing’ in order to try undermine your concerns. Rather than maturely engaging in a discussion there is a hysterical over-reaction. And this is reflected in the response to my tweet.

Why is it not possible to be pro-Europe and question fundamentally the current EU structures and process?

I am involved in the cross-European ‘Re-InVEST’ study into the impact of the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent austerity on the most vulnerable in 13 European countries.

The project aims to contribute to a more solidarity and inclusive EU through an inclusive and powerful social investment strategy at EU level and to give voice to vulnerable groups and civil society organisations.

We have found that:

“As a consequence of the recent economic crisis, institutional trust in these countries has fallen to dramatic levels. In particular, in Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain, the effect of the economic crisis on public trust in institutions is especially prominent…respondents with low subjective incomes, low level of education, and those who are unemployed report significantly lower trust in national parliaments and the European Parliament”.

The reality is that in response to the 2008 crisis the EU institutions focused on macro-economic stabilisation rather than social consequences. As a result poverty and inequality have increased, particularly in the peripheral countries and political trust has declined. There has been a rise in the support for populist, anti-establishment, political parties.

But this is not just something that started in 2008. Inequality has been on the rise since the 1980s and the shift to neoliberal financial capitalism.

The EU has played a key role in promoting the free-market, neoliberal globalisation model. Citizens have become much more insecure – particularly in relation to work, pensions, and housing. The future for their children looks much more difficult than they had it.

There is a sense of going backwards, or not going in the right direction. And there is a sense of loss control over major decisions.

Ireland is changing too and Irish people are increasingly experiencing these insecurities. The generation in their 20s and 30s are scarred by emigration and insecure jobs and unaffordable housing.

Poor communities remain excluded across the country. Who represents these excluded groups? The establishment, particularly as represented by Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael, continues to ignore the excluded and is more focused on trying to stem the tide of change – as Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohue said after the last election –“ That is why it is more important than ever that the centre of Irish politics holds” he wrote in the Irish Times in April 2017.

There is a real danger that if these concerns are not given a political expression then the support for a right-wing xenophobic Irexit could grow.

That is why progressive, civil society, and ‘Left’ critiques of the EU and the unequal Irish model should be given a much bigger voice in the Irish media, and it is why the political left in Ireland need to maintain a strong critical voice in relation to EU – arguing for a Europe of social justice and human rights and opposing the current free-market corporate-dominated EU.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne




Sponsored Link

42 thoughts on “Who Dares Speak Its Name?

  1. ivan

    There are, I should think, massive problems with how Europe functions, but they’re dwarfed by how our own government functions and we’re the ones who directly elect the latter. If, as you say, momentum for an Eirexit grew (and that’s a legitimate point of view to hold) and we did bail, I can only see there being less cake for our own government to share with the very people who clamoured for the exit.

    Meanwhile, many other European countries, in spite of how Europe functions, appear to have somewhat better healthcare/transport/social infrastructure than we’ve managed, so I’m no sure how relevant the EU is to our situation.

  2. Taunton

    Ireland’s inability to create a functional health system or to properly plan and build houses with associated infrastructure is an issue entirely of Ireland’s making. It has nothing to do with bailouts, the IMF, the EU or the Troika.

    1. Fact Checker

      Most of the policy failures mentioned – housing, pensions, labour market – are something where national governments are in charge, not the EU.

      Rory does indeed have a point that many of the fiscal stabilisation policies pursued in 2009-14 had the effect of cutting a cohort of young people off from jobs. This is particularly the case in southern Europe. Most of them, for whatever reason, did not migrate to nothern Europe where the jobs were. The lesson is that monetary unions need better fiscal transfer mechanisms, particularly when labour mobility is low.

    2. b

      I think that’s what most of the replies to Rory’s tweet also said

      blaming the EU for economic or social woes is exactly the type of misinformation that allowed Brexit gain traction.

      1. Fact Checker

        If you look at Europe at a regional level you see very large disparities in incomes and labour market prospects. There are parts of southern and eastern Europe with basically no FDI and very little employment for graduates outside major urban areas.

        The EU has been to some extent a transformative force. Ireland and Portugal looked like the above 50 years ago, they don’t anymore. Single market access and free capital movement have been a huge part of this story.

        Still, it hasn’t worked for the south of Italy and large parts of the Balkans. In the very long term this will have to change or people will just migrate.

      2. curmudgeon

        Oh right they had nothing to do with crippling Greece and oh how about bouncung us into the Lisbon treaty. How did Enda Kenny get on with our “debt write down” again eh?

    3. cian

      Yes, the majority of our problems are due to how our government has run the country for the last 30 years.

      There is also a problem where the government take credit for any positive European-wide measures, but blame the EU for the negative European-wide measures. So we aren’t getting many EU-positive messages.

  3. Daisy Chainsaw

    When you look at the calibre of the speakers advocating this, and the type of people who turned up, Irexit is a very small, niche market of ultra right wing Irish conservatives and Brits living here who don’t see Ireland as a separate country.

    Ireland will not leave the EU, there’s too much funding at stake and it won’t be covered by some sort of “£350million a week for the NHS” bullplop. Mr Charity mustn’t be getting too much by way of grants and premia for his farming to want to leave.

  4. some old queen

    You missed one important point there Rory: Irish Nationalism as it currently exists. The reason why there will never be an Irish version of UKIP is because SF already occupy that space and while they may have a certain Euro cynicism, it will be a cold day in hell before you will hear or see them arguing that Ireland should leave the EU and join the English.

  5. DeKloot

    Enemy of the State he is. He’s only interested in one thing – pushing his agenda of a purer bred and whiter England. Not the UK. England. The majority of folks that think leaving the EU is a good thing were never around in the ploppyhole that was the 70s and 80s in this country.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      That last bit tho…. I thought that in the Brexit vote it was the older generation that voted leave and the younger generations voted stay which would not be the case re your comment on those around in the 70s/80s….
      me thinks…

  6. Rob_G

    All of the Irish ‘hard-left’ parties (for want of a better term) are Eurosceptic – always have been. The European project is fundamentally about liberalising markets and trade, so Rory’s position shouldn’t be so surprising.

    Remember kids, the Trots wanted to nationalise Dell and kill off foreign direct investment entirely, so even if you agree with their position on social issues, try to imagine what Ireland would be like if our main source of international trade was the collectivised turf industry instead of Google and Facebook, and Don’t Vote Trot.

    1. Johnny

      Did the left privatize the entire domestic property industry,resulting in record homelessness,evictions?
      The current most dominant player is a incompetent, secretive state company,yeah bring on liberalized markets and trade…..

        1. johnny

          was it was the left that privatized the entire banking sector,resulting in none them paying any taxes for next 20 or 30 years…

  7. Milton Friedman

    We spent the first 50 years from the states foundation trying to be outsiders with no success. Things are infinitely better now than it was any other time during our history and a lot of this has to do with EU membership. The facts are the facts.

    Also I have to disagree with the sense that things are getting worse. Many recent polls sugggest that the majority of Irish people think that the country is heading in the right direction.

    A more socialist Irexit is what exactly, what are the policies one would do differently? At least I can understand what the like of Farage wants, self determination and border control but what exactly does a left wing or socialist IrExit do? Nationalise industry like it was the 1930’s?

    Then again, the EU has many faults not saying it doesn’t. Globalisation is now a fact of life, you cannot put that genie back in the bottle and we are not going back to the 1950’s and that economic model. Also remember that 1 billion people that have been lifted out of poverty by globalisation.

      1. f_lawless

        Seems like he didn’t really read the article.
        Hearne “Now to make it clear from the outset, I am not arguing that Ireland should leave the EU”
        MF: “A more socialist Irexit is what exactly”

  8. b

    “respondents with low subjective incomes, low level of education, and those who are unemployed report significantly lower trust in national parliaments”

    ….and are encouraged to do so by the ‘political left’ who represent them. For their proportion of votes, the likes of AAA/PBP get disproportionate amount of air time and do not use it to make reasoned or nuanced critiques of EU policy like what Rory is saying in the article here, so i’m not sure what giving them a bigger voice in media would achieve

  9. Clampers Outside!

    Could you explain your pro-immigration Rory?
    I’m pro-immigration too, but not open borders. I’m for free movement of the people within the EU. Outside EU immigrant applicants should be checked and a qualifying standard before entry should be met.

    Are you pro-open-borders borders Rory?

    Could you comment on Germany and Sweden’s immigration over the last few years and whether you think that was a good idea or not.

    Basically, I’d like a clarification, thanks, as just saying I’m “pro-immigration” without qualifying it can clearly mean anything these days, in fairness.

  10. Joe Small

    This is the left-wing nonsense that Corbyn shares, when he stood like a mute during the UK’s Brexit referendum, secretly happy to watch the British vote to leave on the basis that the EU is a big dirty capitalist conspiracy, while the Tories convinced themselves it was a big Socialist conspiracy.

    I actually blame Corbyn for Brexit. I expected nothing less from the Tories but was maddened by Corbyn doing nothing to convince core Labour supporters that the EU was worth fighting for.

      1. Rob_G

        Corbyn has been very vocal in the opposition to the EU for 30 years as an MP. And Labour’s campaigning against Brexit in the run-up to the referendum was tepid at best.

  11. Clampers Outside!

    ” Rather than dismissing these concerns, the Irish and European establishment should take them serious and engage in a radical overhaul of the direction of Ireland, the EU and its institutions ”


    So Rory, when the majority of Europeans say they want LESS immigration from outside the EU, will you listen to them?

    For info see: “Attitudes towards immigration and their antecedents” on Europeansocialsurvey.org
    See also, Chatham House research – https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/what-do-europeans-think-about-muslim-immigration

    It would appear the elite in the EU ignores the wishes of the ordinary European. Will you Rory be baking the people on this or just going your own way?
    Be great to know if you support the people of Europe or if you are taking an elitist view and you are going to tell them to accept mass immigration.

    Where do you stand Rory, thanks.

  12. Owen C

    “Significant minority of Irish ppl (38%) do not trust EU”

    This is an awful statistic. 80% of people don’t trust government ministers and 77% of people don’t trust TDs generally (according to a 2014 poll reported on by The Journal). You’ll find much higher levels (than 38%) of distrust in government, politics, and the media across the globe, and even our own civil service (45%). Its not an Irish or EU thing. Its more about working and middle class angst at what they perceive (somewhat true, somewhat not) that the “system” is not fair a lot of the time. It could only be taken as a specific distrust of the EU or as a subconscious “progressive support of Ireexit” by a complete moron. Comparatively speaking, people have much more trust in the EU than in most of our common institutions.

  13. KM

    I was amazed at the hostility at Rory’s comment on twitter. Is this not the lesson we learned from Trump and from Brexit etc? If the establishment/Twitterati/general public did not learn this lesson, then we are destined to repeat it.

    Adam Smith warned about it. We saw it in 30’s Germany. We see it now with Trump and Brexit. When people’s future is getting darker and darker under the neoliberal ideology, isn’t it easy for them to point at the struggling immigrant, the other, and say it’s their fault? It is then easy for the Neoliberal ideologues to dismiss them as cracked, racist, ‘deplorable’. This, in turn, drives them further into the arms of Farrage/Trump/LePen and right wing racist exrtremism.

    What Rory and many others are not asking is why Trump/Farrage/Johnson/Wilders/LePen etc are given such oxygen, such air time?
    Is it that they are simply clickbait or ratings bait? Having these dangerous useful-idiots on air/in print means more and more people tuning in/buying papers.
    There was more airtime of the podium that Trump was about to speak at during the primaries, than of all of Sander’s speeches, etc during the same time.
    Isn’t it true then that the Neoliberal/the conservative and sections of the establishment find more common ground with the far right and that the media feed them oxygen for profit?
    And if the “centrist” Neoliberals and conservatives, along with a compliant, profit driven media help to establish the far right as the opposition, is it such a leap to think that the likes of Farrage and Trump and Le Pen could find footing in Ireland?

  14. Jim Monaghan

    “That is why progressive, civil society, and ‘Left’ critiques of the EU and the unequal Irish model should be given a much bigger voice in the Irish media, ” This is of course correct. But the choice is then on whether to lead and indeed create a profgressive alliance across Europe to reverse current policies and indeed for a start get a Marshall Plan type development programme. Or leave, leap into the unknown, into a world dominated by Trump and the like. Frying pan and fire choices. SF and other leftwing parties across the EU, are right that the feasible and realistic plan is not accepting the EU as is, but pushing for alternative ploicies within it. There is a need to create a progressive coalition across tthe EU of trade Unions, eftwing parties and people’s movement sof all kinds to push for change.

Comments are closed.

Sponsored Link