DEIRDRE Clune used to be a harmless sort of politico. MEP for Ireland South, the issues close to her heart once included ‘the battle to beat plastic’ and ‘providing food to the most deprived’. Not anymore.
For instance, she’s raised her profile by controversially endorsing Varadkar’s pro-abortion crusade. That the scion of a true blue, Catholic, conservative family (daughter of Peter ‘Tea Bags’ Barry) should take such a stance was an eye-opener. But more was to follow: an earth-shattering revelation!
You see, behind Deirdre’s dinky political exterior there was another Ms Clune: that of EU war-hawk, sabre rattler and promoter of a belligerent Irish foreign policy! A very scary lady, indeed, and, ironically, the product of a compassionate Ursuline teaching order!
Fact is that she seems to have been recruited by fellow MEPs, Brian Hayes, Seán Kelly and Mairead McGuinness to take Fine Gael along a dangerous, gung-ho route. The four have been entrusted with the task of softening up the people for abandoning Irish neutrality.
In a public document, the novice Horsemen of the Apocalypse demand a stronger military alliance with the EU, the integration of Óglaigh na hÉireann (The Defence Forces) into an EU army, and an increased financial contribution to a common European defence budget.
And why? Because Deirdre and chums believe that Russia is threatening the EU; that ‘terrorist groups’ are threatening the EU; and that gangsters and cyber-criminals are threatening the EU. Wow!
They also warn that Ireland is vulnerable to attack. Consequently, to save us from a fate worse than death and to keep the Russkies at bay, we need to beef-up spending on defence, personnel and military hardware.
Most important of all, the Irish people must be made aware of the “huge threat” Vladimir Putin poses to man and beast. They warn that Russia might be tempted to subvert our elections and, somewhat weirdly, engage in human trafficking!
Details of such militaristic fantasies, complete with gloomy predictions, stock characters and improbable situations, are contained in a ‘discussion’ document entitled ‘Ireland and the EU: Defending Our Common European Home.’ It was issued by the four musketeers, Clune, Kelly, McGuinness and Hayes, as an argument against Irish neutrality.
In a statement to this newspaper, Sinn Féin MEP, Liadh Ní Riada, correctly accused the Fine Gael MEPs of insulting the intelligence of the Irish people. She described their ‘discussion’ paper as ‘an insidious move towards the militarisation of Ireland and the EU.’
Here’s what she said: ‘The language and proposals advocate the use of Irish waters for strategic EU military interests, the creation of a major military-industrial complex and the threat of force to secure foreign energy sources.
‘Worse still, in a single sentence that will appall those concerned about housing, health and other vital infrastructure, the document claims that defence spending “must be prioritised now that the financial crisis is over.” This is Trumpian politics.’
She appeals to people to contact their local FG representative and let them know how much we value Irish neutrality.
But the fascinating aspect of the Fine Gael MEPs’ gibberish is that the Dáil already has voted that Ireland should join a new EU military entity, the Permanent Structured Co-Operation (PESCO). Importantly, PESCO has nothing to do with Ms Clune’s particular version of an EU army of which Ireland would be a member.
In fact, according to the government, membership of PESCO does not have implications for Ireland’s neutrality, nor does it pose a threat to the Triple Lock, which is the procedure whereby Government approval, Dáil approval and UN authorisation must be obtained before Irish troops can be deployed on missions overseas.
Vlad emphatically told the nation that PESCO was not a European army and that Irish participation in the organisation did not mean that our troops would be engaging in expeditionary operations overseas. Ireland, he said, was a peacekeeping and peace-making nation and that would not change.
Yet, within a month, four of Vlad’s MEPs were arguing provocatively that Ireland should form part of an EU army and that neutrality must be scrapped. Which raises this question: are these high-stake meddlers about to land the government in a chaotic international mess; or is it the case that Vlad’s left hand doesn’t know what his right hand is doing?
Shock! Horror! Has the State no shame in its pursuit of respected legislators who owe for the ‘dhrink’ they’ve purchased in two Dáil bars. There’s to be no write-off of the substantial liabilities that inebriated guzzlers have built up, whereas a wink and a nod used do the trick in the good old days and we, the plain people of Ireland, picked up the tab.
But now, largely because of Sinn Féin criticism of what was happening, politicos have to produce either a bankers card to show their credit worthiness, or have a standing order that promises to deduct a specific amount from their wages following a certain length of time – two months. Once this boozing facility runs out, deductions automatically are made from the politicos’ bank accounts.
Up to recently, TDs and Senators could get langers on ‘tick,’ but the problem was that sometimes it was near impossible to get them to cough up what they owed. For instance, last year Varadkar’s own department, the Department of the Taoiseach, owed €965, which was written off, along with €4,500 that had been built up by six politicos, several government departments, two committees, the Government press office and Fine Gael!
The new procedures did not please Gerry Adams. He wants the private members’ shebeen permanently closed on the basis that it is a disgrace that deputies should have access to ‘a bar in a workplace where important legislation affecting the lives of citizens is debated.’ The Sinn Féin leader also demands that Dáil members be breathalysed coming into the chamber!
Not many politicians agree with him. Former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, used call the place the most exclusive club in the land and a ‘sanctuary.’ Indeed, in the private members’ bar, Fine Gael has its own anointed place, Fianna Fáil another, and independents their own area.
During the heroic all-night sitting for the ‘Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill’ in 2013, the bars clocked up over €7,000 in sales. The 48-hour piss-up ended at 5.30am and included a session of lap dancing by FG deputies that was captured on TV and which sparked global headlines. On average, politicos annually spend over €300,000 on spirits, beers, wine, cigarettes, crisps, chicken and chips in the Oireachtas bars.
They even have their own in-house plonk. It costs around €20 per bottle – which goes to show that the Dáil bars are jolly entertaining places and good for storing all kinds of things, except secrets, of course!