Sometime last year when I was engaged in an argument regarding Irish attitudes to China, an old acquaintance chided me for “being on the same side now as Mickey McDowell.”
This was a Godwinian allusion to the Senator and former Minister for Justice and I having once been literally “on opposite sides” regarding what was once euphemistically referred to as the National Question.
Which is true enough, but then it is also true of substantial and growing number of current Sinn Féin members including elected and unelected representatives and staffers who had likewise been on t’other side back then.
Well, I make no apology for being on the same side as Senator McDowell when it comes to one of the key issues of the day which is the behaviour of the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party.
On Wednesday, Senator McDowell proposed a motion in the Seanad seeking approval for the findings of the tribunal into the genocide of the Uyghur peoples that was held in London last December. The tribunal had confirmed the opinion of the former United States administration under President Donald Trump, and other international bodies such as the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy that the treatment of the Uyghur population in the Xinjiang “autonomous region” does indeed constitute genocide, with all the atrocities that implies.
The sheer scale of what is taking place in Xinjiang is comparable to the genocides with which the world is already sadly familiar. Up to 2,000,000 people have been sent to “re-education” camps; 800,000 children forcibly separated from their families and send to state boarding schools; Uyghur women subject to gang rape and then forcibly sterilised and made to have abortions; the almost complete destruction of Uyghur mosques and libraries; the widespread use of torture, along with almost complete electronic surveillance of the “free” population.
This is being carried out by the regime that people are happy to help celebrate by participating in the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the regime that that the Irish state has seemingly agreed to pay a ransom to in return for the freeing of an Irish cirizen; and also the regime that the sanctimonious beacon of Irish left liberalism the Irish Times was happy to run a full page ad for in celebration of the “achievements” of its murderous ruling party.
In short, China totalitarianism is a regime that a range of chancers from gombeen property speculators to latter day lobotomised leftists are only too happy to idolise, either for pecuniary or ideological motives.
To top it all, we have a government which attempted to amend McDowell’s motion in such a way that the only conclusion one might arrive at is that it was to prevent offending the Chinese Communist Party. The amendment sought to delete the substance of the motion which very succinctly stated that the Seanad accepts the findings of the December tribunal; that is, that it agrees with its conclusion that the treatment of the Uyghur people does indeed constitute genocide.
The government amendment substituted a long-winded and mealy-mouthed expression of “deep concern” and called on the Chinese state to “allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers.” In fairness to Senator Gerry Horkan who proposed this shabby evasion of the substance of the issue, he stated that it gave him “no great pleasure” to do so. In that case, he ought then to have had the gumption not to have done so.
Minister for State at Foreign Affairs Thomas Byrne followed that by engaging in semantics over the use of the word genocide, and that his government’s refusal to apply this to what is happening in Xinjiang has to do with the fact that this has not yet been “established by a final decision of a court in Ireland, by a judgement of an international court, or where there is international consensus on the matter.”
Perhaps such forensic reservations also explain Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan’s similar refusal to use the word genocide – nor did he directly oppose the government amendment which fell by default – and to muddy the waters by reference to a totally unrelated issue in the middle east and by allusion to his “own direct experience of what happens when a community is dominated by a political system which seeks to subjugate a people through discrimination, persecution and murder for political, economic and sectarian reasons.” There were death squads stalking London trade union officials or disappearing them to labour camps? Who knew?
Sinn Féin’s actual relationship to the Chinese Communist Party is similar to that of the gombeens who have an economic self-interest in benefitting from “the great achievement of General Secretary Xi,’” as gushingly tweeted last year by South Down Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard.
As Senator Ronan Mullen succinctly stated during the debate: “Ireland’s approach to China is craven and sycophantic.” Not only that but it stretches across the political spectrum. It is not every day that you will find Senators Mullen and Lynn Ruane stating the same things and taking the same stance.
I have not checked but Wednesday was surely almost unique in that the government allowed its amendment to fall by default by virtue of the fact that, as the record shows; “no tellers have been nominated for the Tá side I declare the decision to be decided in the negative.”
They were shamed into this small expression of solidarity for a people who may very well be on the verge of historical extinction; if not completely in demographic terms then in any meaningful sense of what a people constitutes rather than a museum exhibit of slaves and cowered slaves who are happy or tormented into justifying it all. #