DUBLIN – Brexit poses a huge threat to Ireland’s economy, particularly with the potential for a hard border disrupting trade between the republic and Northern Ireland, so just about the last man you’d expect to be cheered by an Irish audience would be Mr. Brexit, Nigel Farage.
Yet there was Farage, in the flesh and being lionised by hundreds of people at the Royal Dublin Society auditorium in Dublin on Saturday for a conference to promote Ireland following in Britain’s footsteps — Irexit.
“We couldn’t have dreamt of a crowd not just of this size but hey, of this enthusiasm,” Farage said, after describing a meeting he’d held in England early in the Brexit campaign for which no one showed up.
“So you’ve got something. There is a gap in the political market here in Ireland and, tell you what, you lot, I think, are going to fill it,” Farage said to cheers from the mostly male audience at the “Irexit: Freedom to Prosper” event.
Opinion polls show that Irish support for the EU is the among strongest of any nation in Europe. A poll commissioned by a pro-EU group and published in May found that 88 percent of Irish people think Ireland should remain in the EU while 82 percent thought the UK should have voted to remain in the EU.
Several speakers acknowledged such poll findings but said they were based on a misconception among the Irish that the EU had been a huge boon to the country. Dr Karen Devine, a lecturer in international relations and EU politics at Dublin City University, said that that Irish fisheries produced catches worth some 200 billion euros between 1975 and 2010, but because of EU policies mandating the fisheries be shared, Ireland only got eight percent of that revenue.
“Our fisheries have been raped by the EU,” she said.
Trinity College professor Anthony Coughlan, a longtime campaigner against Ireland’s membership of the EU, said that leaving the pan-European body would “let us take back control of our laws, our border, our currency, our neutrality”.
“The EU is doomed,” he said, adding later that he was certain that Britain would leave the EU. “And when they do, the Irish will wake up,” he said.
John Waters. a former Irish Times columnist and magazine editor, said the media did a disservice to its readers by presenting the EU in a favourable light.
“The press has become a wrecking ball…and has turned upon the people it is supposed to serve,” Waters said.
Later, in a one-on-one conversation with Waters, Farage said the surprise victory for Brexit in Britain, and of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election, showed that the elites of Brussels, Washington and other world capitals were out of touch with the electorate.
“The point is that EU globalist politics does nothing for ordinary men and women,” he said.
— Michael Roddy