In his first 55 days as Taoiseach, Micheál Martin has been repeatedly beset by distractions and controversies. The latest saw a series of senior po
In his first 55 days as Taoiseach, Micheál Martin has been repeatedly beset by distractions and controversies. The latest saw a series of senior politicians attend a plush gold club dinner in flagrant contravention of the newly agreed coronavirus restrictions, piling further pressure on the country’s fragile coalition government. Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary tendered his resignation after details emerged, while Fianna Fail leader Mr Martin also withdrew the party whip from Paul Daly, Aidan Davitt and Niall Blaney.
Deputy leader and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, Mr Martin’s predecessor as Taoiseach, likewise withdrew the whip from three of his party’s senators: Jerry Buttimer, Paddy Burke and John Cummins.
Mr Buttimer also resigned from his post as Leas-Chathaoirleach, deputy chairman of the Senate, Ireland’s equivalent of the House of Lords.
Additionally, Phil Hogan, currently serving as Ireland’s European Commissioner for Agricultural Affairs, also faced severe criticism, with Mr Martin demanding his apology.
As the coalition between Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Greens looks more precarious than ever, a recent report by the think tank Bruges Group shed light on Ireland’s “unique” position within the EU, arguing that the country’s post-coronavirus future has already been compromised.
Policy expert Cristopher Lim wrote that in order to understand Ireland, it is key to understand the evolution of Fianna Fail and its relationship with the European Union, as to what federalism meant and still means to Fianna Fail and Ireland is so vastly different to the UK’s view.
He wrote: “Ireland matters to the UK because it shows what would’ve happened had we remained a member during this pandemic. It shows a European Union going in the same, old, centralising direction that it was going in before.
“The reason why this issue is important is because the Irish Taoiseach only recently implied the possibility of the EU Commission getting tax-raising powers during a meeting on the EU coronavirus budget.
“Europe needs to give far more detailed consideration to other proposals, including…a digital tax, clearly signalling that the Irish government would approve the plans to centralise taxation across Europe.”
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Over the course of their membership of the EU, Mr Lim wrote, the leaders of the party have slowly eroded Irish sovereignty, to the extent to which that now the benefits are no longer present.
He further explained: “What does this mean? It means that Ireland can no longer chart its own path to recovery and success, and that the prosperity that existed for decades, particularly under Fianna Fail governments led by Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds, and Bertie Ahern, cannot be emulated again.
“Public polls showed that centralisation was never a major concern in Ireland, but there were areas of conflict which demonstrated how economic outliers didn’t rub nicely with the European Commission.
“Yet, during a pandemic, these tax-raising powers are being floated as viable. The mere floating idea suggests a change in direction by the Fianna Fail Leader.
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“It shows that, if anything, even a member like Ireland was willing to cede to the EU, and was thus an acknowledgement that the EU is bound to be under attack in the long term. Hence, the logic would be that ceding such powers was necessary to justify the European project. It is, however, with those concerns in mind that it becomes clear these moves will be the European project’s undoing.
“It highlights a lack of understanding or reflection in the aftermath of Brexit and the refusal to change course. The longstanding belief that a more centralised Europe, led by the commission, is automatically a more united Europe. Even though the EU hasn’t taken any moves and it isn’t likely tax-raising powers will be their primary concern, among other issues, we should expect it to be part of the long-term plan.”
Mr Lim concluded that regardless of political leanings, the necessity for all nations to be able to chart their own path, with their own decisions, couldn’t be more important.
He added: “This, more than ever, shows that Britain’s future outside the EU can only be beneficial, if done right. Ireland’s precarious position has shown that the UK wouldn’t be able to play it both ways, were it still in the EU. A ‘different’ political and economic culture with a clearly different orientation simply doesn’t fit into the EU’s agenda of further centralisation.
“The party which sees itself as the face of anti-British rebellion, of Irish nationalism, is now on its way to making a turnaround. This proposal makes clear that post-COVID, power will lie in Brussels.”