One of the more curious aspects of the debate about Europe and the euro in Ireland is how it doesn’t happen. The Sunday Business Post’s Pat Leahy once remarked as to how short term Irish politicians are in their thinking, and you find no better example of that than in our approach to foreign policy.
In recent weeks, options from rejoining Sterling to forming a federal Europe have been discussed in the media, and not just in Ireland. What’s surprising is that the Irish political system seems not as much incapable of discussing these issues seriously as completely unwilling. In short, there seems to be no Irish plan, no idea as to what it is Ireland actually wants. The government will say that it wants to defend the status quo and the euro, but the argument goes far beyond that, and we seem to have no opinion. Are we for or against a federal Europe? Irish politicans will claim that they are, but only in such a way as to ensure that if that is the least unsavoury option, we’ll sign up. Where is the Irish vision?
The scary thing is that our leaders are only reflecting our stance as a people. Are we committed to Europe? Probably not that much. It has worked well for us, but we’d almost certainly sell out, Bird O’Donnell like, for the next best offer. We’re more comfortable with the Brits than we let on, and if there was a few quid in it…even when we joke about joining the US (with that weird Irish assumption that they’d be delighted to have us, something I do not believe) we know that at the first sign of trouble (legalised abortion, the IRS actually enforcing the tax code on pensioners and conscription to fight in the US-Iranian War) we’d have the blade out and into Uncle Sam’s back quicker than you could say “Benedict Arnold”. Even if the Chinese offered us €5 billion to endorse an invasion of Taiwan, we’d consider it. We’re not big on beliefs or honour. If one of our politicians had been sent to negotiate the US Declaration of Independence, he’d probably never set foot in the hall, trying instead to steal a horse when “all dem udder fellas is distracted with all dat writin’ an’ dat!” After all, we complain about the Paris-Berlin axis. Has anyone ever written the Dublin Plan?