by Frank Schnittger
Thu Dec 31st, 2020 at 01:59:44 PM EST
Denis McShane (born Josef Denis Matyjaszek, 21 May 1948) is a British former politician, author and commentator who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Rotherham from 1994 to his resignation in 2012. A former member of the Labour Party, he was Minister of State for Europe from 2002 until 2005. He was convicted in 2012 of submitting false invoices for expenses and was sentenced to 6 Months in Prison. He was a supporter of the Iraq war and has been accused of dishonest behaviour on a number of other occasions.
Without noting this background, the Irish Times has given him space to expound his views on how British Irish relations should develop post Brexit, He is the latest in a long line of columnists in Irish papers warning Ireland to stay close to mother England in case those perfidious continentals should take advantage of us. Apparently he has detected a rise in Schadenfreude and Anglo-phobia amongst his Irish friends. I have responded in a draft letter to the Editor below and [Update] an edited version has been published here:
A Chara, - Denis McShane (Get ready for the Brexiternity, Opinion, 30th. December) makes much of his English heritage and Irish passport and accuses us of Schadenfreude and short-sightedness in failing to realise that "as the offshore western islands of Europe [we] are all part of a common whole, and if England or Britain loses so too will Ireland".
In many hours of discussions with both Leavers and Remainers in the UK and supporters and opponents of the EU elsewhere, I have failed to detect any great sense of Schadenfreude or a denial of the UK's right to leave the EU if it so wanted. To me these are red herring or straw man arguments of no great merit or benefit to either side.
What there has been is lots of debate about the advantages and disadvantages of Brexit from various points of view, and particularly on its impact on the peace process in N. Ireland and Scotland's long-term future. As far as I can see, most Leave supporters don't have a problem with an independent Scotland or a united Ireland either.
English nationalism is no more meritorious or wrong-headed than Irish nationalism or any other nationalism. It is a political choice citizen of a nation are entitled to make, just as it is a valid political choice to create a European Union of nations which has been spectacularly successful at reducing the wars and conflicts that had been endemic in the centuries prior to the creation of the Union.
It is clear to me that many in the UK never subscribed to the overarching peace-making ethos of the EU, and in that context, they are better off not being a member. What they shouldn't expect, however, is that the EU will now still have much time for the concerns of a non-member state. Whether the UK sinks, or swims is now its own business.
Contrary to Mr. McShane's assertion we are now no longer "part of a common whole, [with] England or Britain" and being a neighbouring island does not make it so. We are members of a European Union and our interests will be increasingly tied to that Union.
We have managed to hold on to the Good Friday Agreement, a common travel area with Britain, an open border with N. Ireland, and customs free trade in goods with N. Ireland. But other than that, our relationship with post Brexit Britain will be little different to that of Germany, France, or the Benelux countries, for example. Irish people will be, increasingly, living and working in the EU, just as in the past, many emigrated to Britain.
If Mr. McShane wants to honour his Irish citizenship he should be looking to support our interests, and not those of a greater England outside the EU. We didn't choose Brexit, they did, and in so doing chose to erect greater barriers with neighbouring states.
Denis McShane is the latest of a long line of commentators writing in Irish newspapers who may be said to have been afflicted by RABIES - Rejecting All Brexit's Inevitable Effects Syndrome, whereby others are blamed from the fall-out from Brexit - even by arch Remainers such as McShane. It is not Ireland which has insisted on greater barriers between Britain and Ireland and the rest of the EU, but the UK. Yet daily we are accused of Anglo-phobia, Schadenfreude, and failing to realise that our interests lie with the UK.
If there is one thing which will drive a majority of the Irish electorate into the arms of Sinn Féin, it is British people trying to claim we are but an extension of Britain after all.