No, Wallace and Daly shouldn’t resign

It was rather cruel, all things considered, for Fine Gael Senator Barry Ward to make this call on the eve of May 9th, the most important date in the calendar for those who are at least sympathetic to Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine:

A Fine Gael Senator has called on MEPs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace to resign.

Senator Barry Ward accused Ms Daly and Mr Wallace of a “campaign of disinformation” after Ms Daly gave a speech at the Roger Casement Summer School this week, where she said that Ukrainian politicians made themselves “puppets of another power” by voting to end their country’s neutrality

Senator Ward said that the two MEPs should resign for the part they have played in the spread of false information in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Why should Wallace and Daly resign? They are, after all, elected by the voting public to the positions which they hold – which is more than can be said for Senator Ward, who was installed by his fellow politicians.

Regular readers might have divined by now that the two MEPs in question are not, to put it mildly, my cup of tea. And, what’s more, Ward is entirely correct – in my view – about the ethics and appropriateness of their views on Russia and Ukraine. Both have regularly made absurd arguments, the latest being Wallace’s offering last week which suggested that the west’s arming of Ukraine was “prolonging the war” – presumably by making it harder for Russia to win. If your anti-war case comes down to the argument that the best response to an invasion is a quick surrender, then you’re not anti-war at all: You’re just encouraging more invasions.

But the trouble with democracy is that people with all sorts of wacky views regularly get elected. They get elected because they represent the views of the voters. There are plenty of people who seem to sincerely believe that Wallace and Daly’s antics vis a vis the Ukrainian invasion will ensure that they are not re-elected, but I wouldn’t be so sure: There are plenty of people in Ireland who, to one degree or another, buy into the “NATO and the West are always wrong” school of thought. I suspect that come polling day both, alas, will do just fine.

One reason for that might be that Wallace and Daly, for all that some of us find their views repugnant, seem at least to hold those beliefs sincerely. That’s more than can be said, unfortunately, for politicians on the other side of the argument. Irish politicians in Government cannot, on the one hand, be appalled by Wallace saying “don’t arm Ukraine” and on the other hand refuse to arm Ukraine themselves. On this particular question, Barry Ward’s own party is aligned with Mick Wallace’s position. So why should Wallace resign, and Ward stay in office? If Ward wants Ireland to arm the Ukrainians, or take more concrete steps against the Russians, then as a member of a party of Government, he can make that case more effectively than most.

And all that aside, why should any politician call on another to resign simply because of the views that they hold? It is the electorate’s job to decide which views will be represented in elected office, not the job of fellow officeholders.

What this is, then, is straightforward enough: Ward knows, obviously, that neither Wallace or Daly will resign. In his heart, he’s probably enough of a democrat to know instinctively that it’s wrong to ask officeholders to resign simply because of what they think. The simple explanation here is that this is an attempt to get cheap publicity (mission accomplished) at the expense of two opponents, knowing that a certain segment of his Dun Laoghaire electorate, justifiably appalled by the scenes in Ukraine, and Daly and Wallace’s European Parliament performances, will lap it up. It’s virtue signalling dressed up as principle.

It’s also another example of Ireland’s weird obsession with respectability: For all the attention Wallace and Daly get in the Irish media, and for all that their views are regularly amplified by some pretty unattractive regimes looking for a PR boost, the fact is that… they don’t matter. Neither of them have the slightest influence on EU policy, or NATO policy, or whether the Ukrainians will be armed. In fact, insofar as both of them are transparently useful idiots for Putin, they probably do the Ukrainian cause more good than harm. Every time one or both of them stand up to parrot the latest Kremlin talking points on the war, they probably do more to galvanise their colleagues behind Ukraine than Barry Ward ever could.

It’s for the electorate to choose who their MEPs are. Not Fine Gael Senators.

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