As Brexit chaos unfolds one thing has become clear. Jeremy Corbyn is a disappointment to those Irish people who thought he might be different to all other British political leaders that have gone before.
It all began with promise. While campaigning for the Labour leadership in 2015 he came to Féile An Phobail and was given a hero’s reception. Possibly because he had been one of the few English politicians to challenge the censorship of our political representatives when it wasn’t popular, and he stated there should be British withdrawal from Ireland. So, when he was subsequently elected leader of the British opposition it seemed perhaps here was an Englishman who may care, understand and articulate something fresh and important.
What we have instead seen and heard has been hugely disappointing. Not once has he raised the constitutional crisis we face since the collapse of the institutions during Prime Minister’s Question Time. Despite the Peace Process and the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement being an unquestionably lonely feather in Labour’s pitiful hat when it comes to Ireland, he has ignored the abject failure of the Tory government to meet its obligations as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. It’s an open goal he refuses to kick the ball into. It’s as if it isn’t on his Momentum agenda.
But even if you gave him the benefit of the doubt, which he would be due given his history, it isn’t like he deputised effectively to another capable member of his front bench. Can you name the shadow secretaries of state for the north since he has been appointed? You would be a better political anorak than me if you can. Well, sorry, apart from Owen Smith MP, who actually did come here and made some noise about the uniquely detrimental effects of Brexit to the majority who had voted to remain. But then Corbyn sacked him for being too anti-Brexit about it all.
While Labour’s position on Brexit is undoubtedly an enigma wrapped up in a riddle, the truth has been that the interests of the citizens living in Ireland don’t count one iota compared to the interests of Labour MPs from English constituencies that voted leave. And that is not even a conversation I believe they have had. They didn’t make a strategic decision on Irish interests because it has never been on the radar.
And of course, now the inevitable has happened. Corbyn is flirting with the DUP and their ten MPs as he searches to find relevance in the middle of Theresa May’s impending Brexit Armageddon. DUP human rights records and scandals mean nothing compared to the potential political opportunity those ten votes might hold. The flirtation reached fever pitch last week when Labour’s commitment to the Union and no border down the Irish Sea was hailed by the DUP. While coalition with the DUP was a natural bed for Tories to jump into, Corbyn’s erstwhile support of victims of abuses that the DUP defends, had seemed mutually unlikely. But now it looks like Corbyn’s previous positions were an exercise in radical chic.
However, that leaves us exactly where we always knew we were. Our future lies on our own island with our own people. No British parliament or party leader will ever defend our interests. Not even the nice guys.