Normally, we don’t cover the usual blather from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs here at Gript for the simple reason that it is all rather predictable: You will get condemnations of anything Israel does, bland statements about how great the European Union is, and complete and utter silence on anything unpleasant done in any country that Ireland sells things to, like China, or Saudi Arabia. Simon Coveney, as far as we can see, for example, has never sent as much as one single tweet about the plight of the Uigher Muslims, presently the victims of a genocide by China. He did, however, take to twitter last night to deliver one of his mandatory, multi-annual condemnations of Israel:
Evictions & threatened evictions in Sheikh Jarrah & Silwan, & the brutal response of Israeli security services to protests in Al Aqsa compound, is unacceptable. The right to peaceful freedom of assembly is non-negotiable. Violence & incitement must end. https://t.co/mZ9OiPtmTM
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) May 10, 2021
The right to peaceful assembly is “non-negotiable”, he says, which will come as news to just about everybody in Ireland, for whom it has been very much negotiable for the past year. In fact, that statement came on the very same day when the (probably unconstitutional) ban on religious gatherings was finally lifted. For the guts of a year, Ireland has made going to a church a criminal offence. When Israel stopped people gathering at a Mosque yesterday, Ireland’s Government declared it a human rights abuse.
The hypocrisy is so great that it is hard to put into words: Over the past year in Ireland, protests have been banned, or broken up by force (with the exception of Black Lives Matter protests at the height of the pandemic, which were endorsed and attended by politicians). Just yesterday, a family were fined for holding a wedding. We have opened a phone line in Donegal specifically for members of the public to report their neighbours who peacefully assemble in private, let alone in public. And yet here is the foreign minister, declaring that the right to peaceful assembly is non-negotiable.
It very clearly is not.
Now you might say, “cop on, John, we’ve had a pandemic”. And isn’t that exactly the point? If Ireland can say “we have had a pandemic, so we can restrict your rights”, then why can’t Israel (rightly, or wrongly) say “we have a security crisis, so we can restrict your rights”? The point is not about whether a Government is right, or wrong: It is about what a Government can or cannot do. Coveney is telling the Israelis that they cannot do this, because the right of peaceful assembly is “non-negotiable” – but his own government has done the exact same thing. It does not really matter what the reasons are – Governments either can do this, or they cannot. He made his choice, already. He is now saying that very choice is wrong. That is hypocrisy.
The point here is not whether one approves, or disapproves, of Israel’s actions: That is a much more complicated affair, with deeply held feelings on both sides, than we might want to believe. The point is that for the Irish Government, human rights are not a real, tangible, important thing. They are a tool to be used to score points.
Consider, if you do not believe me, Coveney’s response last year, when he was criticised by David Quinn, the Sunday Times columnist, for being too soft on China:
Its not about PR David, it's about doing what it takes, working with whoever can help us, to save lives here in Ireland – that's our focus, nothing else.
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) March 22, 2020
In other words, back then, it was fine to do business with an authoritarian, genocidal state because Coveney simply did not have time to focus on “anything else” – the “anything else” in question being brutal human rights abuses. Today? Apparently, he does have time.
He need not worry, though.
The contradictions in Coveney’s position, as they relate to Irish policy, and his approach to other human rights abuses around the world, will not be questioned, or challenged, by either the Irish media, or any opposition party. If anything, they will denounce him for not going far enough.
And most voters, too, will ignore it. They will just hear “Ireland good, Israel bad”, and go back to their days, feeling better about themselves.
But this, my friends, is how we end up with so many messes in Ireland: Nobody, on pain of death, has any principles. And certainly, none they are willing to consistently apply. The whole political system is intellectually bankrupt.