A bizarre episode occurred on 1 May in Cork, Ireland. Taoiseach [prime minister] Leo Varadkar was due to speak at a meeting organised by the ruling Fine Gael party as part of its campaign for directly elected mayors. The meeting had to be adjourned for a period when members of the Connolly Youth Movement (CYM) – the youth wing of the Communist Party of Ireland - disputed proceedings.
Initially, the CYM’s intervention seemed fair enough. A woman stood up and called for a minute’s silence for two homeless men who had recently died on Cork streets. That was agreed by the chair. Then other CYM members began denouncing Fine Gael and the other main Irish parties for support of what the protesters called “European militarism”. They described Varadkar’s government as a “ruthless blueshirt regime”, a reference to the organisation that in the 1930s provided protection to political parties that became Fine Gael. Blueshirt leader Eoin O'Duffy attended the 1934 Montreux Fascist conference in Switzerland. He then founded the National Corporate Party, and later raised an Irish Brigade that took Franco's side in the Spanish Civil War. What exactly “European militarism” has to do with the austerity policies that led to the deaths of homeless men in Cork, was not explained. Nor was the idea that Varadkar’s mainstream centre-right government can seriously be described as “blueshirt” (i.e. fascist).
The incident was reported (with evident approval) in the Morning Star under the headline “Communists blast Varadkar’s ‘Blueshirt regime’ at stormy Cork meeting”. The explanation for this strange incident can only be the Communist Party of Ireland’s obsessive opposition to the EU. The CPI has accused the Irish government of “siding with the EU against Britain, which also happens to be our largest trading partner, and against the decision made by its citizens to leave the EU.” The CPI also echos the Tory ultra-right and the DUP in blaming the EU for threatening a hard border inside Ireland.
Having opposed the "backstop" intended to prevent a hard border (again like the Tory Brexiteers and DUP), it argues that the problem is all down to the EU: “We must remember who’s doing the threatening. It is not Britain’s border, or Ireland’s border: it is the EU’s border. It is up to the EU to sort out this problem in the interests of its members, in other words Ireland, the only member affected by it.” As one Irish Marxist blogger commented, “The idea that the border of the EU in Ireland affects only the Irish state and not the rest of the EU demonstrates such as ignorance of the issue at stake that it is hard to work out what this (CPI) writer actually does understand.”
The CPI’s extraordinary complacency over the threat of a hard border and the possible collapse of the Good Friday Agreement (which for all its faults, is surely preferable to a return to a sectarian free-for-all) has led the Morning Star to effectively adopt the stance of the Tory ultra-right and DUP on Ireland. For instance, a recent editorial (headed “the merry-go-round of Irish border warnings is not what it seems”) contained the following dismissal of concerns over Brexit’s effect on Irish peace as an “establishment-backed” conspiracy: “This week the warnings connecting Brexit with the Irish border, the GFA and a revival of violence have been delivered by US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi in speeches in London and Dublin…
“Yet the whole ‘Brexit-border-GFA-terrorism’ nightmare scenario is a concoction of cynical and reckless politicians, commentators and top bureaucrats. “Its intention is to undermine Brexit in general and justify the Irish backstop in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement in particular.”
That appeared in the Morning Star on 19 April – the very day that the world learned of the death of Lyra McKee at the hands of the so-called New IRA – a group that boasts of having “capitalise(d) on the opportunity” provided by Brexit. The fact that the publication of that editorial coincided with such a tragedy just adds to the sadness and anger that those of us who care about peace and unity in Ireland, North and South, are presently feeling. The Morning Star must be named and shamed over this at every opportunity.