Hal­li­gan and rad­i­cal left re­ally are any­thing but ‘well mean­ing’

John Hal­li­gan’s treat­ment of a civil ser­vant and cosy­ing up to a dic­ta­tor re­flect a deeper truth about Ire­land’s rad­i­cal left, writes Dan O’Brien

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - COMMENT -

MUS­SOLINI came to power in 1922 and gave Italy its first ex­tended pe­riod of sta­bil­ity since uni­fi­ca­tion 50 years ear­lier. Hitler came to power in 1933 and dragged Ger­many out of the Great De­pres­sion.

Ex­treme-right apol­o­gists make these points. Right-think­ing peo­ple do not. Any­one who looks at the his­tor­i­cal record knows that Nazism and fas­cism did in­fin­itely more harm than good. Mass mur­der and geno­cide, the in­va­sion of other coun­tries and the crush­ing of all kinds of lib­er­ties make their “achieve­ments” in­signif­i­cant and ir­rel­e­vant.

Thank­fully, apolo­gias for Hitler and Mus­solini are not heard much in Ire­land. Un­for­tu­nately, the same can­not be said of the other major anti-demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal tra­di­tion of the past cen­tury.

Last week, the ex­treme left TD Ruth Cop­pinger tweeted that the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion was “still [an] in­spi­ra­tion to­day”. To de­scribe the event that started 75 years of Soviet dic­ta­tor­ship as an “in­spi­ra­tion” is a gross in­sult to the mil­lions of its vic­tims. It is as of­fen­sive as say­ing the same thing about Hitler’s com­ing to power.

Given all that is known about the record of dic­ta­to­rial state so­cial­ism — in­clud­ing mass mur­ders, mass abuse of hu­man rights, and the snuff­ing out of civil rights — it is as­ton­ish­ing that a mem­ber of the Dail could make such a state­ment, and for it to go largely un­re­marked upon.

Cop­pinger rep­re­sents a lu­natic fringe in Irish pol­i­tics which has low sin­gle-digit sup­port at elec­tion time and in opin­ion polls. If those who are “in­spired” by dic­ta­tor­ship and mass mur­der were con­fined merely to a lu­natic fringe it would be one thing. But they’re not. There re­mains a wide­spread form of rad­i­cal-left chic in Ire­land which too of­ten gets a free pass.

The de­ci­sion by An Post to put Che Gue­vara on a stamp is one ex­am­ple. The Ar­gen­tine was no demo­crat. He was in­volved in tak­ing life through­out his life. For a postal ser­vice in a coun­try on a dis­tant con­ti­nent to give him the sta­tus re­served for sig­nif­i­cant na­tional fig­ures was not only wrong but bizarre.

The only other state that gives Gue­vara of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion is Cuba, where peo­ple have to live with nei­ther free­dom nor pros­per­ity in part be­cause of his role in the regime’s found­ing.

That Caribbean is­land is an­other ex­am­ple of how ex­treme-left chic casts a spell on more than a few Irish peo­ple, in­clud­ing the head of this State, as was to be seen when Fidel Cas­tro died a year ago.

The Cuban regime’s long record of hu­man rights abuses is well doc­u­mented. In­deed, so bad is the record that it has been one of the few coun­tries upon which Ire­land has im­posed sanc­tions in re­cent years. In 2003 the regime ar­rested dozens of jour­nal­ists and hu­man rights ac­tivists. De­spite pres­sure from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, it re­fused to free the dis­si­dents. Ire­land, along with all other EU coun­tries, im­posed sanc­tions and main­tained them for most of the re­main­der of the decade.

De­spite all of this, Pres­i­dent Michael D Hig­gins was quick off the mark to pen a long and glow­ing trib­ute to Cas­tro when he died a year ago. The first cit­i­zen of this State wrote of the dic­ta­tor: “He will be re­mem­bered as a gi­ant among global lead­ers whose view was not only one of free­dom for his peo­ple but for all of the op­pressed and ex­cluded peo­ples on the planet.”

There was no men­tion of the decades of hu­man rights abuses in­flicted on the Cuban peo­ple or of the re­cent sanc­tions the State, of which he is head, im­posed on Cas­tro’s dic­ta­tor­ship. The Pres­i­dent dis­graced him­self, the of­fice of Pres­i­dent and all Irish peo­ple who see dic­ta­tor­ships for what they are.

Adding in­sult to in­jury was his marked si­lence when a true po­lit­i­cal gi­ant died a few weeks af­ter Cas­tro. Mario Soares was one of the ar­chi­tects of Por­tu­gal’s peace­ful tran­si­tion away from dic­ta­tor­ship in the 1970s. While the 500-word shower of praise for the dead Cuban dic­ta­tor still be­smirches the Aras an Uachtarain web­site, the Pres­i­dent did not deem the pass­ing of the great Por­tuguese demo­crat wor­thy of a sin­gle line of ac­knowl­edge­ment. The ab­sence is all the more cu­ri­ous given that Soares was a mem­ber of the same Euro­pean po­lit­i­cal fam­ily as Hig­gins’s Labour Party.

The lat­est bout of the hard left’s fas­ci­na­tion with dic­ta­tors over democrats came from the Min­is­ter of State John Hal­li­gan. For a mem­ber of an Irish Gov­ern­ment to pro­pose go­ing to North Korea on a sup­posed “peace mis­sion” beg­gared be­lief.

The ut­ter ab­sur­dity of Hal­li­gan’s delu­sions have been rightly lam­pooned and de­rided over the past week. But an as­pect of the now-can­celled trip that re­ceived less at­ten­tion was Hal­li­gan’s in­sult to the wishes of a demo­cratic part of the Korean penin­sula.

While Hal­li­gan made con­tact with the North Korean em­bassy in Lon­don which is ac­cred­ited to Ire­land, a spokesper­son for the In­de­pen­dent Al­liance con­firmed that no con­tact had been made with the For­eign Min­istry in Seoul or with its em­bassy in Dublin. No ef­fort was made to hear from that friendly na­tion whether the pro­posed trip could help of hin­der the de-es­ca­la­tion of ten­sions on the penin­sula. Hal­li­gan has no in­ter­est in Seoul’s views on whether mem­bers of the Irish Gov­ern­ment go­ing to Py­ongyang could make the sit­u­a­tion worse.

Ire­land has a long-es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ship with South Korea and there are few East Asian coun­tries with which re­la­tions are bet­ter. One rea­son for this is South Korea’s thriv­ing democ­racy, well il­lus­trated re­cently by the re­moval from power of the sit­ting pres­i­dent for abuses of power.

Many other coun­tries in the re­gion are not democ­ra­cies. North Korea is an ex­treme case. De­spite this and Hal­li­gan’s pro­fessed in­ter­est in Korean af­fairs, his in­ter­est has al­ways stopped at the 38th par­al­lel which di­vides the penin­sula’s dic­ta­tor­ship from its democ­racy.

Hal­li­gan’s hard-left vices do not stop at cosy­ing up to dic­ta­tors. A pose com­mon among the dem­a­gog­i­cally minded of both left and right is to trum­pet their sup­port for the down­trod­den. Hal­li­gan is a clas­sic ex­am­ple, al­ways set­ting him­self up as a cham­pion of the lit­tle guy. But, as is so of­ten the case with pos­tur­ers of his ilk, the rules which pro­tect the weak, and which ap­ply to ev­ery­one else, need not ap­ply to him.

“I know I shouldn’t ask you this,” Hal­li­gan told a civil ser­vant he was in­ter­view­ing for a job be­fore go­ing on to ask her whether she was mar­ried or had chil­dren. There are many de­press­ing as­pects to the dis­crim­i­na­tion case taken against the ju­nior min­is­ter, but his ap­par­ent be­lief that his in­nate virtue means he can flout rules de­signed to pro­tect oth­ers from dis­crim­i­na­tion is among the most de­press­ing.

Over the cen­turies, mech­a­nisms of ac­count­abil­ity have be­come more com­mon­place and more ef­fec­tive across the world. From the ab­so­lute power lead­ers al­ways wielded in the past, checks and bal­ances of var­i­ous kinds now ex­ist and are be­ing strength­ened. Abuses of power that un­til re­cently were deemed ac­cept­able are in­creas­ingly be­ing called out.

Those of a hard-left mind­set have been slow learn­ers in this re­gard, as in so many oth­ers. But be­cause they are sup­pos­edly “well mean­ing”, they are too of­ten in­dulged. The au­thor­i­tar­ian strain in the hard left is any­thing but well mean­ing. It should never get a free pass.

‘Those of a hard-left mind­set have been slow learn­ers’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.