Way back in the 1960s a question was famously asked: “Is Fine Gael really Irish?”
It has subsequently become a part of the lexicon of Irish politics and looking at the latest headlines one wonders if it needs to be asked again. From a report in the Irish Independent:
“FINE Gael last night moved to limit the fallout from Gay Mitchell’s latest gaffe when he suggested the country join the Commonwealth in return for a united Ireland.
The party stressed such a decision would be a matter for the Government, rather than the president.
Mr Mitchell said he would be “positively disposed” towards the idea if it came in return for a united Ireland.
“If it was the price of a United Ireland I would be disposed towards the idea,” he said during Today FM’s presidential debate.”
Okay. If the Gay Mitchell fan club at the Indo group is reporting this story it must be bad. And it is. Ireland Online is awash with commentary and opinions, most of it entirely negative. If Mitchell’s PR handlers were looking for headlines and an internet buzz they’ve got it. Just the wrong kind.
However, for those of us who’ve studied Gay Mitchell’s politics this latest revelation is anything but new. In fact I wrote about Mitchell’s fondness for eccentric, crypto-Unionist opinions some time ago. In 2006 at the Fine Gael Collins-Griffith Memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery he called for a “long overdue” discussion on the role of the British monarch in Ireland and stated his willingness to envisage the British head of state becoming the Irish head of state in the event of a Reunited Ireland (Fine Gael have now removed this report from their website. I wonder why?). This view was repeated again but this time altered to the slightly more palatable context of an All-Ireland state joining the British Commonwealth, with Ireland accepting the role of the British head of state as the head of the Commonwealth (which means we wouldn’t cease to be a constitutional republic which is what he originally seemed to advocate).
All this talk of monarchs, queens and aristocrats is no real surprise from the Fine Gael candidate. The “champagne and cappuccino” circles Gay Mitchell moves in while being a member of the European Parliament have made him familiar with the nobility of “Old Europe”. After all he is admired and eulogised by the secretive Roman Catholic lay organisation, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, whose patron was the late Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, the former Astro-Hungarian sovereign, whose titles included:
“By the Grace of God Emperor of Austria; King of Hungary and Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia and Lodomeria; King of Jerusalem etc.; Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and Bukowina; Grand Prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Silesia, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, Auschwitz and Zator, Teschen, Friuli, Dubrovnik andZadar; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenburg etc.; Lord of Trieste, Kotor and the Windic March, Grand Voivod of the Voivodeship of Serbia etc. etc”
Hmm, no wonder the idea of mixing with the Blue Bloods looks so attractive (and familiar) to this particular Blue Shirt.
Meanwhile it seems only one candidate in the race for Áras an Uachtaráin is actually prepared to be an All-Ireland head of state, without the input or permission of foreign royalty. According to the Irish Times:
“SINN FÉIN’S Martin McGuinness has said he wants to be the president of “all of Ireland’s 32 counties”.
Speaking during a presidential debate hosted by Today FM and The Last Word presenter Matt Cooper, he said it was wrong as an Irish citizen that he did not have a vote in the presidential election.
He cited the example of Tyrone captain Peter Canavan, who is supporting his candidacy, who said that none of the players who took part in the 2003 All-Ireland final between Tyrone and Armagh had a vote in the presidential election.
Mr McGuinness said he did not subscribe to the “partitionist-type mentality” when asked by Cooper what he would change about the southern Irish character. As a republican, he would represent all of Ireland.”
However not everyone agrees with that:
“Independent candidate David Norris said as a result of changes to articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, it was not possible for the president to be president of all of Ireland. He said he would be the president of the 26 counties, but he would, like President Mary McAleese, build bridges with the people in the North.”
Oh dear. Norris, come on. What has happened to you? Or were you always like this and our liberal views just blinded us to the reality of your opinions?
Meanwhile Gay Mitchell gets his facts wrong again:
“Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell said the Constitution was clear that the president was the president of the State which is the Republic of Ireland.”
Actually, Gay, I think you’ll find that there is no such place as the “Republic of Ireland”. This state is Éire, in the Irish language, or Ireland, in the English language. Its legal status is that of a republic. Only the British call us the “Republic of Ireland” to deny us the status of the nation of Ireland.