The Republic of Ireland: colonised by commissioners

As part of the financial bailout, Ireland has been annexed by the Great Power that is the Brussels bureaucracy. Where are the protests?

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

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Yesterday in Europe, a small nation was annexed by a Great Power and nobody batted an eyelid.

The Republic of Ireland, a supposedly independent sovereign state, was taken over by ‘men in black‘ (or ‘the Germans‘ as some Irish angrily refer to them) from the European Commission (EC) and its bank. These men in black will now effectively be the highest authority in Ireland, at liberty both to scrutinise and ‘modify’ (EU-speak for overhaul) the Irish government’s austerity package and economic recovery plans. Dominated for centuries by Britain, Ireland has now been re-colonised by commissioners, downgraded from a sovereign entity to an insolvent business in need of a banker’s stern rebuke.

There are at least two extraordinary things about the so-called bailout of deeply troubled Ireland. First there is the extent of the authority, the power of the clout, of the men and women from the EC, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who arrived in Dublin yesterday. These unelected individuals will have the right to pore over, line by line, the elected Irish government’s economic plans. Indeed, Ireland has delayed its four-year austerity budget so that European officials and the IMF can go over it first, in myopic detail, to ensure that it meets the requirements of the Brussels bureaucracy. The officials will carry out ‘intensified, short and focused’ preparations for an Irish bailout.

It has been clear all this week that, even as Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fail government was saying it didn’t need an external bailout (no doubt a face-saving exercise on Cowen’s part), in fact one was already being prepared by what the Irish Times aptly described as Ireland’s ‘new masters’. On Sunday, Ireland’s trade minister said Ireland was confident that it could fix its economic problems, adding: ‘It’s been a very hard-won sovereignty for this country and this government is not going to give over that sovereignty to anyone.’ Didier Reynders, Belgium’s finance minister, knew differently. Revealing that a bailout plan for Ireland was already under way, he mocked Ireland thus: ‘Now we have the answer, we are just waiting for the question…’ For some European leaders, it seems, Ireland’s protestations of sovereignty, and the idea of sovereignty itself, are a pathetic joke, something to be made fun of in public.

Whatever you think of Ireland’s current government (I’m not a fan) or of Ireland’s economic problems (very bad), you should nonetheless be alarmed by this elbowing aside of Ireland’s elected government by officials from Europe, this effective obliteration of Irish popular sovereignty in the name of saving financial institutions and making the books easier to handle at the European Central Bank. One European magazine says, rather softly as it happens, that ‘through their mission to oversee Irish austerity and budget plans’, the European delegation will ‘maintain a degree of authority over the elected government of Ireland’. An editorial in the Irish Times put it better. Ireland, it said, will once again be ‘subject to the decisions of others’, as this so-called bailout calls into question the very principle that ‘the Irish should control their own destinies’.

The second extraordinary thing about the bailout is the secrecy of the people who will maintain this ‘degree of authority over the elected government of Ireland’. At least in the past the Irish people knew the names and faces of the British kings or colonial chiefs whom they were being dominated by; they will have no such right to know anything about the men in black come to save their economy. An economic spokesman for the EU made clear that nothing will be revealed about the EC, ECB and IMF officials taking the reins in Ireland, not even how many of them there will be. ‘There will be more than two but fewer than 10’, he graciously revealed. Pressed for more info, he said: ‘These people do not need to have a public profile… They do not need to speak to the press.’ But who are they, these individuals who will have authority over a government elected by a majority of the Irish people? ‘They are simply the best-placed experts to receive information from authorities and discuss with them the preparations of an eventual programme’, he said.

Once, Ireland was dominated by Empire – now it is dominated by experts. Once, the Irish people’s right to govern their affairs was thwarted by British rulers who said the Irish were too childlike and/or savage to be trusted with self-government – now it is thwarted by faceless European bureaucrats who believe that the Irish do not have the necessary expertise to resolve their economic problems. A spokeswoman for the ECB haughtily declared, ‘We are not giving details of who is participating in the trip. Do you ever get to know who is there from the IMF in Latin America? This is the same thing’ – brilliantly signalling in the same breath European officialdom’s contempt for political rights and autonomy in Latin America and also for modern-day Ireland, which is now openly treated more like a Third World state than an equal European partner.

This public mocking of the idea of popular sovereignty has not come out of the blue. It follows a pattern in recent years, where any member state of the European Union whose people have dared to assert different interests to those of the EU has been subjected to a tsunami of slander and threats. So when the Irish people voted against the EU’s Nice Treaty in June 2001, they were described as ‘treacherous’ by members of the European elite and made to hold another referendum in 2002. When they said ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, they were widely discussed as ‘ungrateful bastards’ who didn’t know what was good for them, and again made to hold a second referendum. Again and again, the EU oligarchy has demonstrated contempt for the institution of popular sovereignty. Now, under the pressures of the market, that contempt can become more explicit still, and can even be acted upon, as European officials discard even their pretence of respect for Irish sovereignty and send a mission to take over Ireland’s financial affairs.

In a speech at the weekend, considered by some to be aimed at Irish ministers who were then still foolishly asserting what they called their ‘hard-won sovereignty’, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, declared: ‘In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion: it is a lie.’ Behind Van Rompuy’s pseudo-internationalism there lies a profound disdain for the idea of national governments expressing the popular will of their peoples. He also called for a war against the ‘danger of a new Euro-scepticism’ – EU-speak for shutting down anyone who dares to criticise the elite EU project.

Many of us who supported the cause of Irish national independence did so because we believed that people should run their own affairs, because we believed that people should only be governed by those whom they have freely chosen and given their consent to. Today, the Irish people are being denied that right once again, not by invading Brits, or even by an invasion launched by the European elite and its creepy bureaucrats, but rather by a combination of the Irish government’s disarray and Brussels’ contempt for and desire to override popular sovereignty. As the Irish Times says: ‘Having obtained our political independence from Britain to be the masters of our own affairs, we have now surrendered our sovereignty to the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.’

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Read his personal website here.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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