The cattle boat became a perfect image of the ambivalence of Irish freedom: a profitable export in the hold, a bitter exodus of people on deck.
In the first post on this blog, I made reference to Fintan O’Toole’s book Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, from which the above is taken from the Introduction. One can infer that the human population of rural Ireland was and perhaps still is as expendable as the cattle being exported for slaughter. The book is long since out of print, but I obtained a copy nonetheless, with the intention of finding out about EEC/EU farm subsidies and exactly where the money ends up, as I was aware that Irish beef production exceeds domestic and export demand with the result that carcasses are stored in deep freeze for several years, these being part of the ‘beef mountain’.
Driving people off the land to make way for grazing animals is not unique to Ireland, the Highland Clearances in Scotland were for the same reason and the same process still goes on in developing countries to feed the greedy supersized gullets of developed countries. Detailing the history of ranching in Ireland, O’Toole references F. S. L. Lyons in saying that the power of the old (Anglo-Irish Ascendancy) landlord class was already in decline by the late 19th Century giving way to a ‘fresh breed of hard-fisted graziers, the bulk of them Irish and not a few from Catholic and Gaelic families’. These are the power brokers in rural Ireland and the reason why Irexit, the possibility of the Republic leaving the EU, which is being increasingly discussed in the twittersphere, is unlikely in the forseeable future.
This is by way of introduction to the following video, which features Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, an Irish politician with a maverick reputation who supports Brexit, but doesn’t quite go so far as to support Irexit, instead talking about ‘a fundamental review’ of how the EU is run. Flanagan is from County Roscommon and received the most first preference votes to represent a predominantly rural part of Ireland as an MEP in the multinational, multilingual talking shop bereft of legislative power that sits in Brussels.
He has recently become more widely known for trying to access details of the TTIP and for posting a blurry video of this on youtube. The problem ultimately is that Flanagan knows that the economy of the area he represents would collapse without continued EU farm subsidy, even though this in itself keeps its dependence on large agri-business. Look beyond the outward appearance and you have just another parish pump politician, an Independent who sits with the ‘Green Left’ group because genuine independents are not allowed in the EU ‘parliament’, an advocate for turf cutting in the face of the EU directive which forbids it. The supranationalist corporate ‘greens’ with whom he sits obviously overlook that; though those who enjoyed a spliff during their ‘radical’ youth might approve of his support for the legalisation of cannabis. But at least he is batting on our side and trying to persuade Irish people resident in Britain to vote for Brexit, something which Irish yuppies who are only here on a transitory basis (which begs the question why they are permitted to vote) are unlikely to; though Irish builders long permanently resident in Britain who face competition from Polish builders might prefer to turn the clock back to pre-2004 and hence vote for Brexit.
Support for Irexit appears to be growing – as is opposition to the EU throughout the rest of the EU – as it has become apparent to increasing numbers of Irish people that their country will be asset stripped through the privatisation of its infrastructure by orders of the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund). The most contentious issue at the moment being the imposition of water charges, which other countries have, but which in the Republic have been paid for through central and local government taxation.
Finally, Dublin’s chattering classes, to whom O’Toole belongs, like to talk about Irish people not knowing whether to look to ‘Boston or Berlin’. The reality is that the Irish proletarian classes don’t look to either; they look to Liverpool and Manchester, London and Glasgow, even Birmingham and Coventry (though their football teams are crap). For all that the Irish like to get one over on us, they know that their economic interests are more closely tied to Britain than to anywhere else. They certainly wouldn’t support the Republic rejoining the UK, or us migrating en masse to the Republic to vote for it to rejoin, but they might tacitly support Brexit and a future Irexit, where they could trade with us as equal partners.