Saturday, September 8, 2018

Attending the Irexit Freedom Conference

Today, I attended the inaugural conference of the Irexit Freedom Party, a new Irish party in favour of Ireland leaving the European Union. It was followed by the party's first Annual General Meeting, but I left before this, since I didn't want to join the party itself (though I'm not ruling this out in the future).

The conference was held in the Bonnington Hotel in Swords, Dublin. It had a good turn-out; several hundred people, at any rate. There were very many young people at it, and quite a lot of women.

As an Irish nationalist, I am opposed to the European Union on principle. Even if the European Union was everything its most fervent supporters claim it is, I would still be opposed to it. I don't see how E.U. membership can be anything except a diminution of Irish nationhood, and further "integration" can only mean further loss of nationhood. I want us to get out as soon as possible, and I would very much like to see the whole project collapse. I support a world of nations rather than a world of supranational institutions. I also believe that globalist institutions such as the E.U. have a strongly secular and liberal agenda, especially when it comes to life issues and the family--- and that this will only become more pronounced over time.

The event was chaired by Kate Bopp, a tall lady who I recognize from her work defending the traditional family. It began with some music by a young guitarist who seemed to be combining rap and traditional music. Not my cup of tea, but painless enough.

The view from my seat

(In my report on the conference speeches, I can't avoid repeated use of the phrase "he said". I'm sorry if this becomes monotonous. Trying to vary it would be too contrived and artificial.)

The first speaker was Professor Ray Kinsella, an economist who has been almost a lone voice amongst his profession in calling for Irish secession from the E.U.

Ray Kinsella
I was expecting his contribution to be focused on economics, but it wasn't. He complained that the E.U has drifted from its original Christian Democrat vision-- that it has become a "hegemonistic, militaristic behemoth" controlled by a Franco-German axis. He said the risks of continued E.U. membership are enormous. (We are more used to hearing about the risks of leaving.)

He quoted a Harvard Commencement Address by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in which the Russian writer complained that "we turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal." 

He referred to the failed effort to introduce a European Union Constitution, which was rejected by European voters in several countries. He called it a secular Constitution designed to crowd out everything that Europe had been about. He claimed it had been introduced by the "back door" of the Lisbon Treaty (a Treaty rejected by the Irish electorate in one referendum, but ratified in a second referendum, after considerable media and government pressure).

He complained about the "macroeconomics of austerity", and of European elites dismissing populist resistance to this as "right-wing reaction."

Professor Kinsella said there was a flawed monetary system at the heart of the European Union, which puts an unfair burden on debit countries. He said the transfer of power to the "troika" (the European Commission, European Central Bank, and IMF) in Ireland after its bailout in 2010. 

He turned from economics again when he said that the question we should ask of any country is what makes it special, and how that specialness can be affirmed. He said there was greatness in the initial European vision, particularly the Christian values of founders such as Konrad Adenauer, but that this had been lost. He asked how many present had read the Paris Statement, issued by the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton and others. Nobody raised their hand. (I hadn't even heard of it.) He advised us all to read it, saying that it opposed the "true Europe" to a "false Europe" now being proposed by the E.U.

He reminded us that the E.U. had cut the ground from under Ireland in its hour of need (referring to the 2008 recession). He said that it was the IMF, not the European Union, which had advocated against the harshest measures at this time.

What was most interesting to me in Professor Kinsella's speech was the moment when, bemoaning the general direction of government policy in Ireland, he said: "I mourn for a country that facilitates the killing of innocents." This got a huge round of applause, the most sustained round of applause of the conference. There was no doubt but that it was a solidly pro-life audience.

He finished by saying that dependency is never healthy, whether in a marriage or in a political union. Rather mysteriously, he urged us to be humble, and reminded us that, before we renewed our country, we had to renew ourselves.

The second speaker was Ray Bassett, a former ambassador to Canada, who began with a few words in the Irish language. His speech was less focused on abstractions, and more on the E.U. gravy train upon which many of its most ardent supporters are riding, or hoping to ride in the future. As someone who had worked for the government in the past, he said he very much valued the ability to speak his mind now, and said that virtually all academics who produced pro-E.U. papers were being funded by the European Union. (He added that, when people said something was "paid for by the E.U.", they did not realize that this ultimately meant it was paid for by the Irish tax-payer).

Ray Bassett
Mr. Bassett claimed there was a huge European Union industry in Ireland. He said that he once suggested, as a civil servant, that any Irish politician should be debarred from a job with the European Union for five years after they retire, and that this proposal was greeted with horror. If people are such believers in the European Union, he asked, (paraphrasing the British politician Aneurin Bevan). why did their mouths have to be stuffed with E.U. gold?

He said that his knowledge of the Irish government was that it was extremely sensitive to criticism of the E.U. in Ireland, not at all as confident in Irish support for membership as conventional wisdom would suggest. He said he had been told by Irish government Brexit negotiators that Britain was not very important to Ireland, and that Ireland would be on "team E.U." no matter what Britain did. The Irish government, he said, believe we have to be enthusiastically pro-E.U. to free ourselves from any suspicion of sympathy with Britain.

He asked why the Irish government had not used the mechanisms provided in the Good Friday Agreement to negotiate directly with the British government after Brexit, insisting on negotiating through the E.U. instead.

He mentioned an episode after Ireland's most recent recession, in which the Canadian government had been poised to allow special emigration to Canada for Irish people who couldn't find jobs in Ireland. This, apparently, had been squashed by the E.U., who did not want any privileges for Irish people that were available throughout the E.U.

He said that, over many years in Irish public service, he had seen the attitude of the E.U. change from friendly cooperation to imperial arrogance, and that they now viewed the Irish government as similar to a county council.

"I get criticized for a lack of patriotism when I try to stick up for national sovereignty", he said, "while those trying to sell it off wrap the green flag around themselves." This got a huge round of applause.

He said that the Irish government was now allying with the British House of Lords to thwart British democracy, a hundred years after the same House had tried to thwart Irish democracy.

Mr. Bassett said it was almost impossible to get accurate information about the E.U. from the Irish government, that it took a Freedom of Information request to learn that Ireland was a net contributor of a billion euro to the E.U. this year. He said he had to go to the British government to learn that Irish fishers only fish about twenty-five to thirty per cent of fish in Irish territorial waters.

He spoke about the importance of our connection with Britain. He said that one person in thirty-five in Britain is Irish, that ninety per cent of our goods for export travel through Britain, and that Britain is where many of our own people go when they cannot find jobs in Ireland, that we must not therefore lose the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK. Why, he asked, would we antagonised it? He said he did not want to see a border at the Irish sea and that a "backstop" is unworkable. (I admit I find this whole discussion difficult to follow.)

He said that people everywhere were falling out of love with the E.U., that President Obama said his biggest mistake was listening to the E.U. about Libya, that the "orange and green" dimensions of Brexit have clouded many people's judgement, but that the scales will eventually fall from their eyes.

The third speaker was Paddy Manning, a veteran Irish political campaigner who (Kate Bopp told us) has campaigned in every Irish general election since 1982. Paddy is a gay man who opposes gay marriage, abortion, and liberalism in general. He bounded onto the stage and gave a very exuberant speech, first of all mock-denouncing everybody in attendance for being "Trumpists, geriatrics, and Little Irelanders". He said that all parties in Ireland were agreed on a "grab bag" of liberal ideas, and that Irish journalists are "of one opinion."

Paddy Manning

He shared some research from the Edmund Burke Institute regarding the Savita Halappanavar case-- the case of an Indian woman who died in hospital in Ireland in 2012. This was presented as a case of a woman dying because she could not get an abortion, when in fact she died of medical malpractice and undiagnosed sepsis. The Edmund Burke Institute found that, of 15,600 mentions of Savita on RTE's website, 14,600 mentioned abortion while only .4 per cent mentioned the actual cause of her death. They found that The Irish Times, Ireland's most prestigious newspaper, had 853 articles about Savita, only sixteen of which mentioned sepsis.

He said that David Quinn, the most visible conservative commentator in Ireland, was treated by the meda like "Pol Pot ordained by the Westboro Baptist Church."

Paddy claimed that every journalism school in Ireland is a madrasa for liberals. Echoing Ray Bassett's argument about Irish politicians, he said that every Irish journalist hopes to become a government spin doctor and that there should therefore be a five-year moratorium on journalists working for the government after leaving journalism.

He said that Ireland's Minister of Finance was effectively bringing a massive wheelbarrow of money to the Central Bank to be burnt every year, while the E.U. printed money to raise inflation. (I didn't really understand this reference.)

Paddy advised that, if the new party were to succeed, it must create its own media, independent of both the "legacy media" and the social media platforms which are run by Silicon Valley and from which dissidents can be easily "disappeared". He mentioned the recent proposal by which the Irish government were proposing to subsidise the failing Irish media, a proposal he considered "fascist." (Somebody shouted "Traitors!" at this point.) He recalled the immediate aftermath of the abortion referendum, in which many voices in the media were calling for the silencing of dissidents such as the Iona Institute, saying it was an extraordinary situation in which the media were celebrating a government victory and urging the silencing of opposition-- that such a system had in many ways ceased to be democracy.

I was pleased that he quoted one of G.K. Chesterton's most famous aphorisms: "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."

The final speaker was a young Irish man called Ben Scallan, an internet entrepreneur. I think Kate Bopp said he was only twenty-one years of age. He closed the conference with a rabble-rousing speech, in which he complained that the E.U. takes away both our national and personal freedom. He referred to the recent "article thirteen" controversy, a new E.U. copyright law that threatened fair use of copyrighted material, which he said sought to "take away our memes" or even "the memes of production".

Ben Scallan
He wondered why the E.U. was so threatened by populism, which the dictionary defines as "support for the concerns of ordinary people." He mentioned an incident in which Jean Claude Junker unveiled a statue of Karl Marx, implying that this revealed the Marxist DNA of the E.U. (I wondered if he made too much of this. I am pretty much in favour of statues of everybody.)

Ben received an enormous cheer when he said that the thing Irish people are best at is irritating foreign empires who wish to control us, and that we shouldn't be afraid of the E.U.-- that "we're not dealing with the Black and Tans", and "these people are incompetent." (I'm not so sure of that.)

He argued that freedom was the essence of the Irish character, and asked if we were going to be the generation to let the dream of Irish freedom die. He ended with the rallying call: "Erin go Bragh!", which was very enthusiastically received.

As I say, I didn't stay for the AGM. 

It was exciting to see so many people in favour of Irexit, but after the crippling defeat of the abortion referendum, and bearing in mind the many massive pro-life rallies I've attended, I am under no illusions regarding the hegemony of Official Ireland and the difficulty of challenging it.

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