The row over the protocol shows that the Irish-American bond is stronger than ever
from Gerry Lynch
Joe Biden pledges allegiance to the flag. Credit: Getty.
Another British government bill, another opportunity for American intervention. Late last week, twenty-seven members of the US House of Representatives signed on a letteraddressed to Rishi Sunak, expressing “serious concern” about the UK government suggestions for conditional amnesties for crimes committed by both terrorists and state forces between 1969 and 1998, during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
It should be noted that this last intervention was welcomed by Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill. Seven of the signatories are Republicans — of the American rather than the Irish variety — which is not a party generally known for opposing law enforcement officers happy to escape justice.
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Establishing a moral equivalence between the IRA and the British state during the Troubles was a key project of Sinn Féin, although much of nationalist Ireland remained skeptical of it. This perhaps explains why the Irish government and Northern Ireland’s other unification party, the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP), largely ignored the letter, even though the UK’s proposals were rejected by all opinion on the Island, including the Unionists.
Meanwhile, US interventions into the impact of Brexit on the Irish border have been enthusiastically welcomed across the Irish political spectrum, from Sinn Fein to the ruling party in Dublin to the centrist and tentatively pro-Unionist party of Northern Ireland. All these groups share an overwhelming consensus on the absolute priority of maintaining an open border between the two Irish jurisdictions. Pressure on London to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed between the UK and the EU, I’m coming by President Biden and other key figures in his administration, not just members of the Legislature.
Irish influence in America is not due only to crude political calculations, nor entirely to the large number of Americans who proudly bear Irish ancestry. Technocrats miss these foundational myths of both United States and the modern Irish state are the same story told in a different context: a successful domestic revolution against British imperialism.
Put bluntly, Ireland’s special relationship with America trumped the traditional special relationship because the Irish could tell a more emotionally compelling story to American audiences. It is a powerful tool in an age that reveres narratives with a sentimental charge.
Irish-American ties strengthened as Ukraine war exposes Ireland’s low military spending and vociferous far-left minority politicians publicly infatuated with Putin (and even as the UK showed its strengths, with significant arms deliveries to the conflict zone and large numbers of Ukrainian conscripts training on Salisbury Plain).
As long as administrations in Dublin are headed by pro-market technocrats protecting the investments of American multinationals in Ireland, Washington’s pro-Irish position is unlikely to change and London will simply have to absorb the geopolitical pain. Or, as seems increasingly likely, the UK government will have to accept that Northern Ireland will remain largely within the EU’s regulatory orbit. This will be the price for a final blow to scrap EU regulations in the UK ahead of the next general election.