There are two differing poles of thought as to what Ireland’s relationship with the European Union should be amongst the right-wing; one is that of the aptly named and self-explanatory “Irexit” and the other is adopting a political stance similar to that enacted by the Visegrad bloc of central and Eastern Europe.
“Irexit” is often lambasted as being a carbon copy of British nationalism, a cardinal sin in Ireland. Perhaps some of that critique is warranted about how the Irish Freedom Party may aesthetically present itself, but it is not necessarily a sound argument as to the bones of the policy itself. Whereas adopting a Visegrad type stance may sound like an intriguing political strategy and, on the face of it, seems rather practical, ultimately is not a viable strategy for the long-term; the ability of Ireland to replicate such a strategy is doubtful for several reasons.
We must consider firstly that the Visegrad bloc are culturally, ethnically, and religiously interlinked with one another and all collectively suffered under extensive Communist rule for half a century, representing a distinct section of European civilisation moulded by a common history and identity, of which Ireland does not belong to.
There are also more contemporary realities to take into consideration; Ireland for instance is now a net contributor to the European Union budget, whereas all four Visegrad countries remain substantial net beneficiaries, Poland and Hungary especially. This economic prosperity undoubtedly is a large incentive for Visegrad nations to maintain its links with the European Union, which Ireland used to enjoy when it was once a net contributor.
But the starkest reality to confront is the most tangible and observable difference in Irish society over the past 20 years, immigration. Eastern Europe does not have a mass immigration problem, it has a mass emigration problem, and a large section of its emigrants live in Ireland.
The largest EU member state minority in Poland, a country of nearly 40 million people, is around 20,000 German nationals. In the Southern state, eight times smaller in population than Poland, the largest EU minority is nearly 125,000 Polish nationals. Even in the North, which comparatively speaking to the South, has almost been virtually untouched by mass immigration, there were approximately 45,000 EU nationals living in a state of 1.86 million according to the last census taken a decade ago.
Most of the immigration into both North and South over the past two decades has come from within the European Union via freedom of movement, most particularly from the accession states of 2004 onwards; and this becomes even starker on a local level.
For instance, in the county town of Monaghan, 13% of the town’s population are Lithuanian nationals alone, and over a quarter of the town’s population are EU nationals. In the town of Ballyhaunis in County Mayo, which is one of the few where the Irish are a minority, 23% of the population are EU nationals. In the Northern town of Dungannon in County Tyrone, 18% of the town’s population were born in the European Union.
Thus, in a most simple axiom: we cannot replicate Visegrad because we are not Eastern European. Our geopolitical, economic, and national characteristics do not match, in some instances our interests conflict. I would like to see the look on the right-wing Polish government’s faces if a future right-wing and hopefully all-island Irish government decided to start cracking down on remittances.
INTERPOSITION AND NULLIFICATION?
The policy of interposition and nullification has been proposed by some; the nullification of any laws binding on the Irish people by any authority other than the Irish nation. It is noted that European law is not conventional law, but rather a voluntary agreement between its member states from which at any point consent can be withdrawn, this understanding I do not necessarily contend with.
But let us say that in the event of a right-wing nationalist government, it decides to withdraw its consent from freedom of movement, rejecting the right of nationals from the other EU member states to work and reside in Ireland. The other EU member states would almost certainly respond in kind, rejecting the right of Irish nationals to reside within its national territories and would shut Irish goods off from the single market, of which freedom of movement is interlinked with.
There may be no mechanism to formally expel a member state, yet there are mechanisms via Article 7 of the EU Treaty to restrict any right of membership, including voting rights and even representation in the European Parliament. It would be unsurprising if countries such as Poland and Hungary were some of the most zealous in such an initiative, fearing the potential legal repercussions for its nationals that would be currently working and residing in Ireland.
It is thus very possible in such a scenario, that Ireland, although technically remaining within the European Union, would effectively be treated as if it were not. There would be no practical difference if Ireland decided to formally enact Article 50 and exit the European Union altogether.
I believe that one of the first acts of a nationalist government should be to end freedom of movement as part of a wider principle of restricting immigration, both within and outside of the European Union. But it is evident that we cannot have our cake and eat it. If we see continued mass immigration as one of the existential crises of the Irish nation, then we must act with the practicable means we have; the only such means in regards to EU immigration would be to leave the European Union outright. A policy of interposition and nullification for countries such as Poland and Hungary are only useful for as long as they are politically and nationally expedient; Ireland does not have such luxuries.
OURSELVES ALONE — THE NEED FOR IRISH EUROSCEPTICISM
It is argued by those who reject a full exit of the EU that leaving the European Union would only have us within the orbit of the Anglosphere. As if Ireland is not as entrenched within the Anglosphere enough as it is already. We are the headquarters of every recognisable English-speaking American megacorporation we can think of. We are already infected with as much Americanism and Anglophilia as a national body politic can take. It is as if we believe our trade with the Continent passes through a massive stretch of sea between Ireland and France, unfettered by any other land mass. We may wish the latter to be the case, but alas, life is cruel. The point remains that staying within the European Union does not inoculate Ireland from Anglo-American soft power or even economic reliance and that leaving the European Union will probably not compound it any further.
I do not agree with Hermann Kelly on many things, indeed on many things I am very critical of him and his party. But I will not criticise him for wanting to leave the European Union. I also do not believe that “imitating England” serves as a particularly useful or convincing argument as to the question of maintaining our own national sovereignty or what remnants of it we can be said to have.
As for what happens to our tax evasion scheme that we like to give the title of “the economy”, I could care less. It does not serve the Irish people in the first instance, and I am a believer anyway, as Arthur Griffith and Friedrich List were, that the Nation should be the first concern when talking about economics. Until we have a worthy economy that fulfils the sole right of the Irish nation to the land of Ireland, I will continue to defer to the late Supreme Leader of Iran Ruhollah Khomeini (pbuh) as to my views on economics.
Leaving the European Union is not a panacea to everything, and no sensible person believes this to be so anyway. But it is undoubtedly a starting point in extirpating ourselves root and branch from the neoliberalism that will devour this land if left unchecked.
We should imitate neither London nor Budapest nor bother with any futile reformist action within a neoliberal superstructure but act independently as Ireland and Ireland alone, carving out our own destiny, we ourselves.