The President’s utterly superficial take on Irish politics is causing fear and dismay in Unionist circles
Published: 7 September 2021
The ignorance and arrogance shown by President Biden in his mishandling of the Afghan withdrawal are evident once again in his approach to Ireland. It is alarming when a lawyer as careful with his language as David Trimble – who put his life, his party and his career on the line to secure the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement – sends an open letter bluntly speaking of the Biden administration’s role “in contributing to the damage being caused to the Agreement through your support for the Northern Ireland Protocol”.
Democratic administrations have tended to have a “green” (i.e. Irish nationalist) tinge, but Bill Clinton’s intellect and knowledge tempered his inclinations and Obama had little interest. Biden is different. “Anyone wearing orange is not welcome here,” the then vice-president beamed on St Patrick’s Day 2015 as he welcomed green-tied Taoiseach Enda Kenny to his Washington home. “Only joking,” he added, perhaps seeing that Kenny’s smile seemed strained.
Unfortunately that gaffe was just another indication of Biden’s utterly superficial take on Ireland: green good, orange bad and not a clue about the history and politics of Northern Ireland other than that the Brits had made the Catholic Irish people The Most Oppressed People Ever.
Apart from Sinn Fein, which wants to destroy Northern Ireland, there is dismay at the EU’s spitefully harsh implementation of the protocol. As Trimble puts it, the protocol “has not only subverted the [Agreement’s] main safeguards,” but is “causing civil unrest and political uncertainty” and “damaging the Northern Ireland economy, disrupting supply chains, inflating prices and diverting trade from our main market in Great Britain”.
Worse still, “by giving the EU powers over the movement of goods into and out of the province,” it “has torpedoed the ‘consent’ principle and risks a return to sectarian strife”.
This is no exaggeration. Demoralised Unionism is in turmoil, feeling betrayed by the Prime Minister and the DUP is crashing in the polls because of its failure to block the protocol, which incites rage. The EU jumped to accept the evidence-free Irish argument that there might be violent consequences if the existing land border with the republic were beefed up. Loyalists learnt a lesson from that: a recent survey of loyalists found that 91.5 per cent fear a return to violence.
The EU – recently supported blindly by Biden – have refused to consider any alternatives to the protocol and accuse the UK of ripping up agreements, yet all that has been requested is that mutually acceptable ways be found to ameliorate the worst aspects of a hasty and destructive deal. Trimble asks that Biden embrace the report from the Centre for Brexit policy proposing a well-thought-out “Mutual Enforcement” deal that replaces nit-picking regulations with mutual trust between Brussels and London to apply the other’s rules to movement of goods.
What is worrying is that the sentimental Irish lobby is not just Biden. This month Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer will launch a fundraising event in Manhattan organised by the Martin McGuinness Peace Foundation.
Does he not know that McGuinness was a mass murderer who made it clear on his tombstone that at the gates of death he was still an IRA Volunteer?
Is it any wonder that Unionists have no faith in this new administration?