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16 November 2015

David McNarry should sort out problems closer to home

David McNarry
David McNarry

I'm an agnostic when it comes to Brexit, but Ukip MLA David McNarry is a proponent of getting out of the EU who could provoke me to campaign to stay in.

Though I'm a Eurosceptic by temperament, I'm aware that if we vote to leave, there could be a break-up of the United Kingdom. If Scotland chose independence, there could be destabilising consequences for Northern Ireland, not least in its relationship with the Republic.

Depending on what reforms Prime Minister David Cameron can wring out of a reluctant EU establishment, we will need a thorough, open, calm and honest pre-referendum debate.

It would help if participants could avoid giving needless offence in the way David McNarry did on the Nolan Show last Tuesday.

I'm not an opponent of Ukip, which I think has done sterling work in standing up for millions of people whose opinions for years were ignored by the political establishment.

So, when I read in this newspaper that Mr McNarry (below)had called for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to "butt out" of Northern Ireland, I was curious to see what was so annoying him. Listening on iPlayer to the first 20 minutes was as much as I could bear.

I've often been a harsh critic of southern Irish ill-informed meddling in matters Northern Irish, but as an Irish citizen I bristled at Mr McNarry's unjustified rudeness about Mr Kenny.

Because of the responsibilities imposed by the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which Mr McNarry supported (until his defection in 2012, his numerous roles within the UUP included being a special adviser to David Trimble), Enda Kenny and his government are obliged to be involved in Northern Ireland political crises.

The foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan, has had to spend weeks locked in talks between political parties who are incapable of working out their own differences without Dublin and London involvement.

Mr Flanagan, who is notoriously anti-IRA and is loathed by Sinn Fein, whom he has accused of "cult politics", deserves recognition from unionists for his fair-mindedness, patience and decency.

With calamity looming in the EU, as millions try to get into it and the British contemplating getting out, he must resent having to listen to squabbles in Stormont instead of dealing with far more important issues.

Enda Kenny has done and said as little as possible about the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. But, clearly, he evoked Mr McNarry's ire by his visit to London last Monday, during which he addressed the CBI and had a meeting in Downing Street with Mr Cameron.

At the CBI, he said that the prospect of British leaving the EU was "a major strategic risk" for the Republic (which it is) and offered as much support as possible to Mr Cameron during the reform negotiations.

After the Downing Street meeting, he made a few bland remarks about hoping for a successful resolution of the Northern Ireland talks and said that he was on his way to Belfast for a meeting with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, who had met Mr Cameron three days previously.

These activities Mr McNarry described, ludicrously, as: "He's buzzing around like a vulture, licking the bones of another nation's business".

Mr Kenny was "a foreigner" who had no more right than a Spanish, or Greek, prime minister "to delve into our affairs".

That was just silly, but what made me cross was that he called Mr Kenny "Edna" and repeated that even when corrected. He later claimed it was a slip of the tongue, but it was obviously a childish joke.

Anyone making the case for leaving the EU needs to address the implications for the island of Ireland, as well as for the United Kingdom as a whole. So far, Mr McNarry is not doing too well.

On the day he was making an ass of himself on BBC Radio Ulster, councillor Henry Reilly - the former chairman of Ukip Northern Ireland, who was expelled from the party after falling out with Mr McNarry - announced he was joining the TUV.

Instead of insulting neighbours who are doing their best, Mr McNarry might be better employed trying to sort out the internal affairs of his own party.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards