Diverging views on EU pose serious threat to Irish-UK link
Considering the sinister role played by the Tories in blocking an independent all-Ireland parliament a century ago, there is something comic about Sinn Féin joining them and the heirs of the Ulster Covenanters, 100 years on, to fuel the anti-EU paranoia that underpins the British drive for withdrawal.
When Irish voters go to the polls in the inevitable referendum, or referendums, that will be required to sanction deeper European integration, Sinn Féin is again likely to be at the head of the forces campaigning against co-operation with “our gallant allies in Europe”.
Irish voters would have the choice of staying with the EU and the euro or returning to being a British dependency and resurrecting the link with sterling. Just to add spice to the argument, the campaign might even take place in 2016.
If European integration proceeds apace while the UK simultaneously withdraws from the EU, the implications for the Republic will be enormous.
Instead of the Border continuing to wither away it might have to be re-established as an actual barrier for people and trade. How North-South institutions and bodies would continue to operate and how the Irish-British relationship would develop is anyone’s guess, but it would be a very different world.
A range of other pressures, including the campaigns for Scottish and Catalan independence, will also have an influence on the shape of the new European order that emerges from the shock of the economic crisis, but, one way or another, big changes are afoot.
On the domestic front exorbitant pensions paid to a privileged elite continue to hit the headlines with the Taoiseach and his Ministers fulminating about the entitlements of bankers. But they might be well advised to take a hard look at their own pensions as well.
Ministers appear oblivious to the public outrage at their pension entitlements, but the message has got through to Government backbenches. During a Dáil debate on politicians’ pensions, Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell outlined how the pensions of private sector workers had been cut with no mention of the legal difficulties cited to protect the pensions of bankers and senior public servants.
In the same debate Labour TD Róisín Shortall, who resigned as minister of state for health, made a powerful case for tackling pensions paid to the leading lights of politics, business and banking who presided over the economic collapse.
Public service pensions over €100,000 had a 20 per cent levy imposed last year but a strong case exists for a much more substantial tax on all pensions, private and public, over that amount as the first step in a reform of our pension system.