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OPINION: Varadkar's support for sanctions is damaging

May 7th, 2018 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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BY ARCHON

ALTHOUGH the American publication, Time magazine, has made an international icon of Our Vlad, putting him up there with pop culture darlings like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, actress Millie Bobby Brown (who she?) and snowboarder Chloe Kim, who can forget his make-believe antics that he could change Irish planning laws for his new chum, Donald Trump, with a mere telephone call? 

Despite all that, whatever about turning on the political style for Trump, Varadkar is not cutting it with the Plain People of Aughinish in Co Limerick.

 At Aughinish, the Russian company, Rusal, which employs 650 people and has an annual wage bill of over €50 million, is crucial to the survival of many Limerick villages and small towns; and has been so for 35 years. But the factory and its Russian owner, OIeg Deripaska, have been targeted as enemy participants in America’s insane revival of the Cold War, and the factory could face closure because of Trump’s sanctions-policy.  

Ironically, and for quite incomprehensible reasons (other than the delight in rubbing shoulders with hawks like May, Macron and Trump), Varadkar supports the sanctions.

And, because of his lack of good sense and judgement, a factory that once was lauded as a positive example of what this government likes to term ‘its inward investment policy,’ is now enmeshed in a spurious political entanglement that is not the business of this country. 

 

Neutrality change

Worse still, while Varadkar and crew seem like rabbits blinded in a motor car’s headlights and don’t know what to do, Germany’s Wirtschaftsvereinigung Metalle, a lobbying group for 655 metals companies, has stepped in and called for the Aughinish factory to be exempted from sanctions.

In the meantime, Fianna Fáil is picking up the slack, cynically drawing attention to ‘the genuine fear’ and the ‘catastrophic economic impact on the region,’ even though party leader, Mickey, has never uttered a word of criticism regarding American sanctions and their effect on Limerick.

 Local TD, Niall Collins, has suggested that Varadkar might try raising the issue with his best pal, Trump, but so far the response from our distinguished Taoiseach has amounted to nothing more than an inane grin – as if he has been reading too much of that other famous American publication, Mad magazine! 

His unconcern might well be due to the fact that he successfully nailed his politics to the Trump-May-Macron mast without any public debate and turned Ireland into a fully-pledged player in the new Cold War. He did so sounding like a comic-style Churchill, as he notified the country that we are no longer neutral when it comes to the use of chemical weapons and cyber-terrorism. 

 

The popular will

On that flimsy basis, Our Taoiseach abruptly transformed the concept of Irish neutrality from what it was before, signifying to the public that our long-established policy on international conflicts (cold or otherwise) had become worthless. 

From now onwards, the ‘popular will’ could not be taken for granted and the components of what traditionally constituted Irish neutrality would have to be recreated on the spot – ideally by Fine Gael. They then had to be tweaked to suit the demands and difficulties thrown up by ongoing American-British-French antagonism towards Russia.

So, in one foolish gesture, Varadkar threw non-partisanship, non-involvement, non-alignment and non-interventionism out the window – a tremendously reckless gesture that escaped criticism from Fianna Fáil, his mudguard-admirers in Dáil Éireann. 

 Workers at Aughinish, however, who deserve coherent political leadership, and those of us who believe in a policy of peace between nations and of competition without threat of war, won’t forget.

 

Grim future

The DAA (what a moniker!), previously the Dublin Airport Authority, is the semi-state outfit that owns and operates Cork Airport. Last week it declared itself to be really ‘excited’ about Cork’s ‘growth opportunities’ although It didn’t give any reason for its sudden exhilaration.

Having lost Norwegian Air’s long haul winter service, Cork Airport doesn’t have much to crow about and, indeed, the media has accused the DAA of exploiting to the advantage of Dublin a campaign for a direct Cork-US service that was bravely led by Munster MEP, Deirdre Clune. 

Some argue that the DAA has been an oppressive influence, a dead hand, on the Leeside airport, which has no future other than that of a rural aerodrome if it continues under the control of Dublin. In the meantime, the DAA has put in bids for the running of a number of airports in the Middle East.

 

A bum note

Curiously, although a philistine government is itching to cut the cost of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, there’s been no move to trim the 29-strong Garda Band which cost €5.5 million over the past three years. It performs at ceremonies at the Garda College in Co Tipperary, the Rose of Tralee Festival, and the National Ploughing Championships.

Members of the musical constabulary each knock back an average €59,000 in salaries, plus travel, transport and subsistence expenses; but, most delightfully, they have no policing duties at all.

The RTÉ symphony and concert orchestras last year received €15.6m. Responsibility for the orchestras rests with the Department of Communications, which would shed no tears if the orchestras were axed. In response, last November, RTÉ announced it intended to carry out a review of the operations of both orchestras in an attempt to cut costs.

The recently-published report has recommended that neither of the two orchestras should be scrapped. RTÉ should continue with the Concert Orchestra, which has a broad musical scope, while the Symphony Orchestra, which focusses on classical music, should be established as a ‘National Cultural Institution’ in its own right and funded by the Government.  If such a policy was not adopted, the likelihood was that one of the two orchestras would end up in the ashbin.

 

Wandering fountains!

Ballinspittle has its moving statue, but Cork city goes one better: it has a wandering fountain! Or to be more precise, a fountain that simply disappeared.  

Archives show that it was in place by 1883 at the bottom of Shandon Street in an area known as Brown’s Square, where Leeside ladies sold holly and ivy at Christmas. But, for reasons unknown to man or beast, the fountain disappeared in the late 1970s and was never seen again.  

 Corpo management has no records of its removal – a mystery that so intrigued current members of the City Council that they’ve offered a reward for information relating to its whereabouts: the princely sum of one hundred euros!

In the meantime, the Berwick Fountain over on the Grand Parade is set to enjoy a €38,000 brush-up and lighting system. A half-pint, polygonal structure, it has long been a depository for rubbish, a dance platform for drunks on a Saturday night and a urinal. Let’s hope it doesn’t go walkabout!

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