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Ireland is paying the price for its Brexit arrogance

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Leo Varadkar left his job as Irish prime minister last month with compliments being lavished on him from all directions — especially the White House — for his triumph over Brexit Britain in forcing the retention of an open land border on Northern Ireland. 

For many, the damage it did to relationships with unionists was a matter for satisfaction – one up on the old enemy. But while the Irish are traditionally uninterested in the law of unintended consequences, the results this time are potentially catastrophic.

The “Ah-sure-it’ll-be-grand” cheery optimism of my countrymen can be very attractive, but it’s no way to address major crises. Take the Ukraine war, and the subsequent massive displacement of people. 

The Irish love visionaries and virtue-signallers. Angela Merkel became widely admired as a heroine when in 2015 she opened her arms to 1.2 million refugees, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Europe has been reaping the consequences of such a cultural upheaval ever since. 

Ireland was as open-handed when it came to welcoming Ukrainians. A country of 5,000,000 took in more than 100,000. There was much self-congratulation for its generosity along with sneering at the mean-spirited Brits. But so unstinting were the benefits showered on Ukrainian refugees that some already safely in the EU relocated to Ireland.  

And as Dublin’s reputation for being an even softer touch than London grew, non-Ukrainian applications for asylum (aka international protection) showed a 186% increase from 13,651 in 2019 to 2022.  

Now practically every little town in Ireland is seeing hotels and hostels commandeered and packed out, and there are unfortunate asylum seekers sleeping in tents in front of government buildings in Dublin.  

Making everything worse is the unintended consequence of the border. The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, has had to admit that more than 80% of people applying for asylum in the Republic are pouring over the border from Northern Ireland and she clearly has absolutely no idea what to do about it.

On top of this, the Irish government, apparently deeply unbothered about preserving the country’s sovereignty, has decided to opt into the EU Pact on Asylum and Migration without giving any but the most cursory parliamentary scrutiny.  

According to Senator Michael McDowell – the distinguished lawyer who almost single-handedly recently persuaded the Irish electorate to reject two ill-thought out and deeply foolish referendums – it illustrates the “massive black hole” in Ireland’s legislative relationship with the EU. 

For a country that mocked Britain’s desire for sovereignty, and sought to use obstinate insistence as an open border as a means for punishment, it is a brutal comeuppance. Ireland’s elites are being hoist by their own petard.

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