Is Fine Gael’s Track Record in International Equality and Social Justice a Bowl of Moral Cowardice?

Before being president Trump is here welcomed in Ireland by Michael Noonan and a red carpet, singer and musicians as Ireland grovels for a bit of investment

The presentation of a bowl of shamrock by Irish ambassadors and Taoisigh (Irish prime ministers) to the US president on St Patrick’s Day has been an ongoing tradition for over 60 years – doubtless for to invoke some false sentiment and curry favour. However, several politicians have argued strongly against continuing the act this year. Thousands have signed a petition against it. People are asking that we stand up for our integrity as a nation and in solidarity with those who have been aggrieved by the demagogue Trump’s antics and hastily drawn executive orders.

However, this was never going to happen. While Trump might possibly be on the path to becoming the worst US president in history, it is early days yet. Remember, past Irish dignitaries have handed over shamrocks to carpet bombers and warmongers and recently to Bush who used false information to invade Iraq and whose administration re-edited scientific reports on climate change to make them appear less certain. Even the sainted Obama had his drone strikes and his support for the TTIP, so Trump has a lot of work to do before he takes that nefarious mantle.

Perhaps the main reason, however, that this was never going to happen is the fact that Fine Gael (FG) are in Government. Since coming to power with a coalition Government in 2011 and then a minority government supported by Fianna Fail (FF), FG have demonstrated contempt for matters of integrity and social justice.

Take for example:

How FG presided over Ireland’s failure to endorse  a Draft Resolution proposed by Bolivia in the UN General Assembly for dealing with  ‘vulture funds’ and the nefarious manner in which they extract from distressed countries a much higher price than they’ve paid for their bonds. We were one of 11 countries to vote against it while 124 countries voted in favour.

And in 2012 the Fine Gael-Labour coalition rejected the introduction of the Tobin Tax for fear of weakening its hold over its multinational financial sector. EU leaders proposed the tax as a means of minimising the volatility of market speculation. The tax offers the potential of raising billions for use in fighting climate change and funding global carbon reduction .

Speaking of which, in 2016 Climate scientist Prof. Sweeney described Ireland as a ‘delinquent country’ on climate change due to our ‘pathetic’ contribution to the Green Climate Fund in aid of helping developing countries reach their climate targets. While Sweden had contributed €46.65 and Denmark pledged €9.33 per capita, prof Sweeney has written that Ireland “with the second highest GDP per capita in the EU and one of the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita, has pledged €0.53,”

The government has also been trying to promote Irish agriculture as the saviour of the world due to its beef being partially grass-fed in an attempt to not have to deal with the sector’s high emissions. Ireland’s beef will feed the world FG say despite the fact that it is a luxury product out of economic reach of most of the earth’s inhabitants.

Let’s not forget that FG continue FF’s policy of being a tax haven with the country at the head of a global race to the bottom. They have both even appealed against the EU’s ruling that Apple should pay €13 billion in unpaid taxes most of which is owed to this state.

Added to all this moral cowardice there’s been the continued Government’s complicity with the stopover in Shannon of US planes carrying military personnel  to war zones and the abandonment of asylum seekers for years in direct provision centres – i.e. human warehouses.

What all this has in common – from the bended knee to Demagogues to the deference to Vulture funds, to the hypocrisy on climate change, perhaps even to the asylum seekers with the economic threat apparent in politicians’ repeated reference to the ‘floodgates’  – is the fear of loss of competitiveness. The Irish state is a ‘competition state’ that puts foreign investment and agricultural exports before global citizenship, social justice and humanity.

So it would seem FG and FF have been up to far worse things than handing over a bowl of shamrocks to a Demagogue. It might be best not to forget our own governments’ more furtively crafted evils as the world looks on gob-smacked by a president who has all the subtly of a shotgun.