The Telegraph

Its image is changing fast thanks to its cheap shots against countries like Israel, Britain and Taiwan

Published: 9 February 2024

Ireland, which loves to be loved, is seeing its reputation transformed into one defined by a sullen, mean-spirited pettiness.

Every week we seem to witness yet another example of the ugliness that is fast taking over public life in the country, in which innocent bystanders are forced to take sides on a purely political matter. This time it was the turn of a women’s basketball match in Latvia.

Like so many other sports teams in Ireland, and like other apolitical targets of the sinister Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, the basketball team had come under heavy pressure from Irish Sport for Palestine to boycott fixtures against Israel. But for the Irish team this was a vital EuroBasket qualifier. Had they boycotted it, they’d have been effectively banned from competition for the next five years.

Some players chose not to travel. Then a member of the Israeli team said in an interview that the Irish side were “quite anti-Semitic and it’s no secret”. Cue absolute outrage from Irish commentators, and the Irish team deciding not to partake in pre-match arrangements like exchanging gifts and formal handshakes. The game was played behind closed doors.

It’s a telling incident. The Emerald Isle has built its tourism industry on visions of friendly, welcoming citizens. The reality is a country that is becoming increasingly nasty.

I disagree with my countrymen on many issues, because many are congenital virtue-signallers who love to support the popular, easy side of any controversy. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is a perfect example.

Fuelled by rampant Republican anti-Semitism over the years, what had been a low-key distrust of Israel in parties such as Sinn Fein seems to have turned to hatred. And hatred is what the Irish Republican leadership excels at spreading, whether it takes the form of terrorism (as in the past) or the propaganda they still devise and popularise so brilliantly.

They have long attempted to identify their cause with others who similarly claim to be freedom-fighting victims of oppression. But the role of these carefully selected “oppressed” groups – Palestinians, South Americans or whoever else comes in handy in the pursuit of power in Ireland – is purely to follow slavishly the Republican script.

Sometimes, this leads to bleakly amusing scenes. I had to laugh when I saw that Palestinian activists were apparently ejected from a Solidarity Rally for Palestine event in Belfast on Wednesday night because they were noisily demanding that Sinn Fein boycott the White House on Saint Patrick’s Day. If you ride two horses, you are liable to fall off.

And it’s not just Sinn Fein. Perhaps nowhere is modern Ireland’s new character better summarised than in the current Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. When he’s not calling for a ceasefire, or carefully avoiding mention of why an Irish-Israeli girl was missing (answer: she had been kidnapped by brutal terrorists), he’s cosying up to China, insisting that Dublin’s position is that the small democracy of Taiwan is “part of China”.

An odd position for an Irish politician to hold, given the country’s own history with Britain, but fully in keeping with how pressure from Republicanism is corrupting politics.

Of course, some things don’t change. The Irish government has spent the past few years taking cheap shot after cheap shot at the UK, over Brexit, over Northern Ireland, over the Troubles and frankly over anything else you care to name.

Anglophobia is always a winning card for Irish politicians, and inflaming dislike of their neighbours a small price to pay for those precious Republican votes.

Ireland’s reputation as a friendly, good-natured country is going up in smoke. If things carry on this way, it’ll soon be gone for good.

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