The following is reproduced from the March 2023 issue of Irish Foreign Affairs magazine. You can read and subscribe to this informative magazine using the links. Our thanks to the comrades at IFA.
The following interview was recorded on 24th January 2023 in the European Parliament building in Brussels. It was conducted on a busy day in the Parliament when both Clare Daly and Mick Wallace had major engagements.
Statements on different topics from both MEPs can be accessed on YouTube and similar platforms, but not so much through mainstream media or otherwise in the form of text. Having their criticism of the prevailing EU narrative reproduced in a written document has the advantage of any document: it can be quoted from and used in commentary and research.
A point I was careful to point out prior to the interview was that contributors to the publishing group behind Irish Foreign Affairs, Athol Books, have often expressed views diametrically different to theirs; that whereas we may be in substantial agreement on some contemporary issues, there are many issues in which we would be in equally substantial disagreement. They were adamant that engaging with people with whom they have differences is an important part of their general approach to politics.
No political comments have been edited out of the interview and the accuracy of the text has been confirmed by Wallace and Daly.
Being an MEP
Alvey: What issues affecting people on the ground should have top priority in the European Parliament at the present time?
Wallace: We work to the best of our ability for a fair society. That involves a number of different strands. I’m a member of four Committees in the Parliament: Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence, Economics, and Environment. Where are the things that matter for people in Ireland in that? They all do!
At present we are seeing a massive increase in the militarisation of Europe, a real concern for all the people of Europe. It’s been driven by vested interests, by the military/industrial complex and is off the Richter scale. The war in Ukraine is being used to increase the amount of European taxpayers’ money spent on arms.
The question is what issues matter, and the answer is everything matters. If I was doing a 9-to-5 job in Ireland now the issues that would concern me are the cost of living crisis and inflation. Going deeper, the direction Ireland is going is a concern. I had a much-publicised argument with Michael Noonan in the Dáil on 16th January 2014 where I said the vulture funds and the formation of REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) would have the effect of forming a cartel that would badly affect tenants. Irish citizens, especially in Dublin, have been held over a barrel because of high rents charged by vulture funds. Since 2011 we’ve had a housing crisis and nothing effective has been done about it.
Daly: From a European perspective, the dominant trend when we stood for election to this Parliament was climate change and the environment. The Greens got more people returned than ever before in that election. But all of that has gone out the door in the need to be part of the proxy war in Ukraine. More fossil fuels are being burned now than before the elections. Yet climate change is still the most pressing issue facing us.
I agree with the point Mick was making. Bread and butter issues are what concern people. They need to eat and heat their homes, not choose between the two. But the only political element listening to that are the Far Right who are going to make an absolute killing in the next elections. People hear European leaders waffling on about European values and it means nothing. There is a growing disconnect, and the beneficiaries will be the Far Right. Responsibility for that lies with the political Centre.
At present €3.6 billion of EU funds are being spent on armaments through a fund called the European Peace Facility, an irony worthy of George Orwell. The fund was initially called the African Peace Facility and contained a prohibition on the purchase of arms, but when the name was changed the prohibition was dropped. EU funds were then used so that Africans could buy European armaments. Conflicts in Africa fuelled by this led to increased migration and the same companies that gained from the sale of arms, gained again by being employed to defend the EU’s borders. This same fund is now being used for the ‘off-the-books’ purchase of weapons for Ukraine.
Wallace: The purchase of arms by the EU is only part of the story. The Member States are also supplying arms to Ukraine.
Alvey: How do you see your own role in the European Parliament?
Daly: I’ve always viewed elected positions as platforms to organise from. We always say that politicians don’t change things, they respond to pressure from the public. When you speak from an elected position it’s harder for the people in power to ignore you. We can be a voice for existing campaigns, we can articulate people’s concerns and give them the confidence to stand up for themselves.
Contrary to the popular view in Ireland that we are sitting in the bold chair here in the Parliament—oh my God we’re such an embarrassment! such a disgrace—we are quite well known here. Mick in particular is very well known across the range of MEPs. Every day we get emails from people all over Europe complimenting us on our stance on the war.
Alvey: Other MEPs as well. You get on well with them?
Daly: Totally. In all the political groups we have people that we work with, and we are respected for being active and all that. When we went to Venezuela while in the Dáil – the perception in Ireland may be that we had more power in the national Parliament—but in Venezuela the Irish Parliament was seen as nothing. On the international stage the European Parliament is seen as having more power than it has in law. Our being able to articulate the call for peace in the European Parliament has really stood out.
When we went to Pakistan on a mission before Christmas, two people came up to us in the airport saying they follow what we are doing in the European Parliament, and we get that a lot. In Italy recently we were approached by Italians, Germans and Swedes, all supportive. Contrast that with the way we are being misrepresented in the Irish media.
Wallace: I was buying fruit in a street market in Belgium that I frequent and a fellow came running over to me. For a moment I thought he thought I was stealing. He had poor English so we couldn’t understand each other. Then he took out his phone and played a video which showed me defending Muslims and pointing out the numbers of Muslims dying in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Rightly, Europeans are concerned about people fleeing the war in Ukraine. Unfortunately, there is a racist approach to the others, from our governments. Anyway, the level of this guy’s interest surprised me.
Daly: Getting back to the other MEPs, when we were among the thirteen who voted against the original Resolution on the war, albeit having voted for the section that condemned the invasion, Bulgarian MEPs came up to us afterwards saying: ‘we agree with you but we were afraid to say so.’ At Christmas we shared a taxi with a Maltese MEP and he said that we are big in Malta, that he was being given out to for not being as vocal as us. Then we met a conservative Member from the Netherlands on the same week and he said: ‘I know I wear a suit but I love when you get up and contribute. I don’t agree with you politically but I think it’s great that you’re here.’ Even among interpreters and people working in the institutions we get support. I don’t want to overstate this but these are all true stories.
Alvey: In view of the war that was launched on the Russia-orientated people of the Donbass following the 2014 Maidan coup and recent admissions from Petro Poroshenko (former President of Ukraine) and Angela Merkel (former Chancellor of Germany) that the Minsk Agreements were simply intended to buy time for the Ukrainian armed forces, what alternative did Russia have but to act in defence of the Russian speaking population of Eastern Ukraine?
Wallace: We would say that there’s always an alternative to war. We think Putin was wrong to go to war. We condemned the invasion. We’ve pointed out that invading another country is in breach of the UN Charter. We stand by the UN Charter morning, noon and night, unlike the European Union, unlike the US and unlike the Member States across Europe, who now breach it every goddam day.
It mightn’t be perfect and the UN is far from perfect, and sadly, they haven’t been as independent as they once were. Obviously, Yemen is a perfect example. They actually allowed the Saudis with the Americans’ blessing to start bombing the place in March 2013 for no good reason. But at the same time the UN is as good as we’ve got as an international body and it’s important that it is respected and strengthened. The Charter has to be respected.
The Europeans love to tell us—like the Americans when they ditched the UN Charter to suit their own agenda—that they have come up with their own ‘rules-based order’. But they invent this as they go along and they refer to it all the time. The majority of MEPs and the Commission do not refer to the UN Charter or international law; they refer to an international rules-based order that is being made up to suit Western interests.
Daly: I think the views of Merkel have been misrepresented. I don’t think there was a deliberate sleight-of-hand. I think the Minsk Agreement was real. That Merkel’s view was it was all a con job to buy time—I don’t believe that. I think her words have been twisted since then, and maybe in the era of massive Russophobia that is being accepted as a genuine viewpoint—I don’t think that was a viewpoint at the time. I think it was a genuine Agreement. It wasn’t perfect but there was enough there for everyone, except that the US and NATO made sure that the flames were stirred. But I don’t think that Merkel was part of that.
Wallace: We don’t know and the writing of history must wait until the fog clears on the issue. It’s hard to make it stack up against Merkel who was very strong. We were of the feeling that if Merkel had still been in power the war wouldn’t have started.
Daly: One hundred per cent!
Wallace: We wouldn’t like her politics though she was strong. She ran Germany and the EU, and she ran the EU in Germany’s interest. Now she had a good relationship with the Americans, but never at the cost of Germany. Germany came first, morning, noon and night with Merkel. And if it made sense for Germany to buy cheap gas from the Russians, then Merkel bought it. If it made sense for the Germans to invest in the Nord Stream pipelines which they did—the Russians didn’t pay for it all—then she allowed for that investment to happen.
Merkel would not have gone down that path if she wasn’t prepared to work with Russia in Germany’s interest, but also I don’t think she actually wanted to be fighting with Russia. The Minsk comments, it could be a bit retrospective on her part—I didn’t see her exact words—but it’s hard to credit that that was the reality at the time.
Daly: On the Donbass issue the week before the Russian invasion we got up in the European Parliament with a colleague from Latvia over the issue of children being killed in the Donbass and the complete denial that war had been raging in that region since 2014. Our Latvian colleague showed a photograph of a four-year-old boy who had been killed. In the days that followed she told us that there had been a huge escalation in the conflict. There was bombing and destabilisation: this was a week before the invasion. Subsequently to that we learned that the Russian narrative was that the Ukrainians were preparing for a major launch in that area.
Daly: We believe there are elements of truth to that. Knowledge on the ground would vindicate that view. However, it’s still a miscalculation in our view on the Russians’ part, because there were divisions between the European countries at that time, particularly between France and Germany and many of the Eastern European states. A week before the war, Scholz [the then newly elected German Chancellor] is on record saying you can’t have peace in Europe against Russia, it can only be with Russia. So, the European powers were divided. France and Germany weren’t on the side of Russia but they were urging caution and there was more and more independent verification coming from international monitors in the Donbass. It would have been better if Russia had stood its ground. By invading they gave the US everything they ever wanted.
Wallace: You are asking what options Russia had. We know that the Ukrainians had killed 14,000 of their own people, mainly people of Russian culture. Putin would have been under pressure from having done very little to help them and from the Right-wing element in Russia.
Alvey: And from the Left. The Communist Party was pressing for the recognition of the Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Wallace: Well, there was a lot of factions. Putin was under pressure. If he had been strong, we think he would not have invaded. He showed his weakness by invading. He had already behaved badly before. We have never said a good word about him. He is a Right-wing, neo-liberal nationalist. What he did in Grozny was horrific and the West supported him because he was killing Muslims. So, he had form.
Russia has never invaded anyone in the EU. It has not been seen as expansionist. Consolidating the security around their borders was hardly surprising and, obviously, after ’91 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was a promise that NATO wouldn’t expand Eastwards. The dogs on the street know the Eastward expansion of NATO has destabilised the region, and as Obama’s protégé, Victoria Nuland, has boasted, the US spent $5 billion attempting to bring about a regime change operation in Ukraine. But Putin should still not have crossed the line.
He wanted a commitment that Ukraine never joins NATO. There wasn’t a prayer of a chance of Ukraine joining NATO in the next ten years before the war started. They may have joined the EU but NATO was a no-no and that’s the reality.
Alvey: In press conferences after a number of UN meetings since the war started, Sergey Lavrov has argued that Russia’s Special Military Operation does not breach the UN Charter, that there are a number of principles recognised as being in conflict in the Charter. One of them is that you don’t interfere in another state’s territorial integrity and another is self-determination. So, self-determination can be in conflict with territorial integrity where millions of people are unhappy about the State they are in. That is Russia’s defence: it is a question of sovereignty. The people of the Donbass went into a defensive war immediately after the coup happened, and the Ukrainian leadership stated: let them go to Russia.
Daly: All I’m going to say is that there are differences at play and that the Russian argument is that these people were going to be annihilated. I suppose my answer to that is that we should have done something about the problem eight years before. They had time to sort it out. But they didn’t need to cross the line by invading.
We know from dealing with the Russians here and in the Embassy that they firmly believe there was a massive assault being planned to move against that area. The anecdotal evidence we know was that there had been an escalation, but did that justify the invasion? I think, given the divisions that were in play in Europe, if the Russians had held their ground a bit longer, they would have gained from not crossing that line.
Wallace: I’d like to have Lavrov there [pointing to an empty chair at the table where we sat] and go through the UN Charter with him. That document makes it very clear that you don’t use tanks and guns to sort out the problem. That is the mistake they made.
Clare was saying that the Russians were adamant that the Ukrainians were planning a major assault and it does look like that is a rational explanation. I would say to the Russians: OK let the other side make the first move.
Daly: It would have saved lives in the long run if they had allowed that to happen but that is speculation at this stage.
Wallace: Hindsight is biased. This is the first war I can remember that is being called ‘unprovoked’. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen were never called unprovoked wars. This one is called the unprovoked war because it was provoked.
Alvey: It is often argued that the Ukraine war has two dimensions: a civil war in Ukraine itself and a geopolitical conflict aimed at advancing the position of the US as world hegemon. What is your view on that?
Daly: It is so ironic. I’m on the Ukrainian hit list for being a Russian propagandist and my crimes are saying that sanctions hurt ordinary people and it is a proxy war, a NATO/US proxy war. Both of these views are demonstrably true and supported by evidence. In here you hear people saying this is not a proxy war and going on to say that the Ukrainians are fighting for our values, that it is a war between democracy and autocracy, thereby giving flesh to the view that it is a proxy war.
There are obviously different minorities in Ukraine. Opinion polls done in December 2021 showed that tension in the Donbass was down the scale as an issue demanding public attention. The number one item was corruption. The Donbass was about twelfth on the list. Obviously, for people living in the Donbass it would have been higher.
Alvey: Was peace not the main issue in the Presidential election in 2019?
Daly: Yes, in the Presidential election but in December 2021, just before the outbreak of war, corruption was the issue. We’ve often cited the European Court of Auditors report on corruption in Ukraine, how our own Auditors of European money did an assessment in 2021 and called the common practice in Ukraine, “Corruption on a grand scale”.
Alvey: So there’s an EU Court of Auditors report showing Ukraine to be engaged in corruption on a grand scale?
Daly: Yes, as Europe had pumped billions into Ukraine, it being a stalwart of democracy since the coup, so they had to do a value for money assessment.
Wallace: In September 2021, five months before the outbreak of war, they highlighted that Ukraine was one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. The EU had given them €15 billion and they couldn’t find any evidence that it was used for the purposes for which it was put in.
You were talking about a proxy war. I think people aren’t aware of the extent of this. We were talking earlier about the European Peace Facility donating €3.6 billion to Ukraine. America has given over €100 billion to Ukraine at this stage and most of it is military aid. The process is similar to the war in Afghanistan. American taxpayers’ money is spent on the war and this finds its way to the military/industrial complex back in the States.
The Americans have made it pretty clear they are prepared to fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian and they don’t mind what it costs, notwithstanding that they can’t look after the 70 million people in the US below the poverty line.
Alvey: How do you view the chorus of opposition to Irish neutrality from commentators in Ireland?
Wallace: We talked about the militarisation of Europe. It was unthinkable twenty years ago what is going on now in terms of the money being spent on military expenditure on behalf of European taxpayers. The mainstream media is playing a major role in this. We were talking to German MEPs who are in contact with German business people who are tearing their hair out at what is happening as it is undermining German industry. But they have been silenced by the media. They are afraid to speak out any more. Big business runs Ireland, and runs Germany; it’s part of a so-called democratic setup; vested interests are allowed to make the big calls. But the role played by the media in working up a frenzy over the war is something new. It’s part of the reason we have received the level of abuse we have. There’s something really strange going on.
I go home to Ireland and walk around freely in Dublin and Wexford and I don’t meet the hostility that is being expressed in the Irish media.
Daly: I think there’s always been an element in Ireland that were embarrassed by the fact that the Irish voted against Nice and Lisbon [EU Treaties voted on only in Ireland by referendum] and that we’ve always returned Euro-critical MEPs be it Patricia McKenna, Joe Higgins, Luke Ming Flanagan or the Shinners [Sinn Fein]. There’s always Irish Euro-critical MEPs returned which makes for healthy dialogue and the expression of differing views, and a lot of that revolved around Irish anti-militarism and keeping our independence as the only country in Europe that was colonised by its neighbour—the Baltic states were also colonised but that was a slightly different thing.
There’s a section of the Irish Establishment who see the war as a vehicle to annihilate the Euro-critical view that many Irish people have always had. That’s been a nugget for people all over Europe.
Alvey: You mean the Euro-critical element in Ireland play a useful role for the EU as a whole?
Daly: Yes, because we’re the only country where you have to have a referendum before you change things [EU Treaties]. During the Nice and Lisbon referendums there were many Italian and German citizens saying please vote against the Treaties as we can’t. To the Irish Establishment that is an embarrassment. We’re the only ones who could take a different line.
I am saying that the war is being used by an element in Ireland who see their opportunity. They want to crush the Euro-critical, pro-neutrality lobby in Ireland. Before this they didn’t have the confidence or the brazenness to pull that off.
Alvey: Have either of you a view on the cause of the attack on the Irish UN patrol in Lebanon that resulted in the death of Private Seán Rooney and the injury to Trooper Shane Kearney?
Wallace: We don’t think there was any intent behind this tragic event. The incident seems to have been a mistake. The patrol should have been attached to a convoy and, obviously, a mistake was made.
Daly: It seems to have been an accident and very tragic. Hezbollah have handed over individuals and are cooperating with the Lebanese State. I’m pretty sure that individuals have been handed over. Hezbollah were at pains to dissociate themselves from the attack.
Alvey: Do you support Ireland’s involvement in UN peace-keeping?
Wallace: Well, they shouldn’t be in the Golan Heights. We have opposed that because it is an illegal Israeli occupation.
Daly: We are proud of Ireland’s peace-keeping role in the UN and we think it’s given us huge international capital but that it has become debased over the last number of years. We were in the Golan Heights last year or the year before. The amount of construction by Israelis in occupied Syria is almost on a level with Palestine. The Israelis are building infrastructure in the Golan Heights, under the watch of the UN, and that is not on.
Wallace: We’ve always said that the Irish have played a very positive role as peace-keepers. In the Golan the Israelis fly overhead and do whatever they like. They engage in bombing as they see fit and the Irish troops don’t stop them—it’s not their job anyway. They are only protecting an illegal occupation; the UN shouldn’t be there.
Alvey: Two other individuals are in the news. Clare, you spoke about Sean Binder and the problems he had in Greece in the Parliament recently. Do you want to say anything about that?
Daly: A great lad and fair play. What he and others have done is search and rescue. We’ve been to Greece a number of times for trials of migrants who have been criminalised under Greek law; it is an abomination. It is a legal requirement under the law of the sea and these people are being criminalised for that. So, he is a young activist who went out to help save lives and ended up in prison and then had a trial going on for years.
The result is bitter sweet. They won some things and lost others. They weren’t completely exonerated. It shows up the shallowness of “European values”. It’s great to see Irish young people doing that. We were out there in Greece working on the front line as it is with a lot of migrant traffic.
Wallace: You should note that the EU is twisting the UN Protocol on smuggling and they are adapting it to criminalise migrants.
Daly: It is a complete breach of the UN regulation what has been transcribed into Greek law that anyone that puts a hand on a migrant is facilitating illegal entry so if you stop someone from drowning or if you save a boat, you are breaking the law. The EU Directive is concerned with stopping smuggling and we all agree with that, but Greek law targets humanitarian workers and the EU does nothing about that.
Wallace: We [the EU] are drowning people on purpose. Over 2,000 a year are being drowned off the Greek coast.
Daly: Who was the second individual?
Alvey: Bernard Phelan who is in prison in Iran.
Wallace: Yes, we should look into his case a bit more.
Daly: We generally try to use what little influence we have as MEPs to defend Irish citizens on humanitarian grounds where that can be of any practical use.
The Irish Political Tradition
Alvey: How important to you is the Irish political tradition in relation to international affairs, especially the neutrality policy (Connolly – Casement – de Valera – Maire Comerford, Dorothy Macardle, Hannah Sheehy Skeffington – Aiken – Haughey), in formulating your views on international affairs?
Daly: Haughey! [laughs]
Wallace: We’ve worked on defending Irish neutrality from the time we got into the Dáil and before it. And we’re obviously not the first to do that.
Daly: We would be a bit conscious of being in a tradition. Of Connolly and Casement, certainly. Someone was telling us recently how revered Casement is internationally. I never would have thought of de Valera until in recent years in the Dáil and now in Europe when the issue of neutrality has come centre stage, that the role played by de Valera in World War Two was absolutely inspiring. So, he’s gone up in our estimation and we obviously worked well with Eamon O’Cuiv in the Dáil who is a great pal of ours.
Wallace: We were on a prison group with him for five years. Eamon would make you think about the development of the State. We would have many issues about the damage done to the country by Fianna Fail but at the same time we respect a lot of the positions that Eamon has on Irish affairs.
Daly: The pacifism of the Sheehy Skeffingtons is something I have admired. The idea of developing a sovereign nation is something we feel acutely here in Europe. Despite being internationalists, we know we come from a country with a separate tradition which we are proud of. But the Irish Establishment are hell bent on reducing us to being puppets of Europe. They just want us to be the best Europeans. Europe is stronger in diversity—we actually believe that. We think that Ireland, as a neutral country, has a lot to offer the world. We’re part of the West yet respected because we were colonised. Ireland fought for bringing China into the international community and there is our reputation as UN peace-keepers.
But all of that is going now. Having won a position on the UN Security Council on the back of our reputation – then war breaks out and we act as lap dogs of the US, and it is left to Mexico to make the case for peace and dialogue. Micheál Martin has been falling over himself to be the most extreme Russophobe.
Wallace: Micheál Martin’s position as an Irish leader has been depressing beyond words. He has not represented the majority who support neutrality.
Alvey: Contrast Michael D Higgins [the Irish President]
Wallace: Yes. Michael D has been great.
Daly: Absolutely! We have often said that Ireland punches above its weight. We could have played a pivotal role in Europe by representing Irish neutrality. We know that from the feedback we have been getting from all over Europe.
Alvey: The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is an important grouping of 120 countries that is often overlooked in Western discourse. India, a country with which Ireland has historic links, is a leading country in it. What is your view of the NAM? Do you think that Ireland should consider joining or cultivating a relationship with it?
Wallace: The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was a brilliant idea. I think it was started in ’62. There was a famous conference held around that time. Vijay Prashad wrote a great book about it. The basic idea was that countries outside the two major power blocs should maintain an independent, neutral stance as between the United States and the Soviet Union. Since the sixties there was as much energy from the West put into countering the Non-Aligned Movement as into fighting Communism. It faced an uphill battle and still does because of the supremacy of the dollar.
Alvey: Something that has become clear in the Ukraine war is there is the West and the Non-West. The Non-West, representing 75 per cent of the world’s population, is not supporting the Western position on the war.
Wallace: A question asked of the US Ambassador to the EU at a Committee session this morning was: what are you going to do about countries not supporting the NATO position? As if these countries have no right to decide their own policies!
When we were in Pakistan for a week in November, we met a member of the Government who had been at the UN. She said her delegation was bullied with regard to a Resolution on the war. The pressure to vote for Ukraine against the Russians was dramatic.
Daly: She said they were bullied to within an inch of their lives but that they held their ground. She said so many other small countries buckled.
Wallace: The reason she said they were able to stand firm—they actually abstained—and hold to a position of not supporting the Russians and not supporting the Ukrainians, was that they wanted peace. She said, ‘The reason we were able to stand firm and not buckle was, there was no element in the Resolution referring to peace’.
Daly: We often raise it here that the countries that contain a majority of the world’s population are not on this “one narrative” being pressed from the West.
Wallace: The Chinese are probably now taking more mineral wealth from poor countries than anyone, but they’re paying for it, and they’re not bringing a gun with them. They haven’t bombed anyone.
Criticism from the Left
Alvey: What is your opinion of criticism levelled at you by the socialist author, Kieran Allen, on the grounds that you are engaged in ‘Campism’ —aligning uncritically with enemies of US imperialism—by the position you have taken on Iran?
Wallace: I don’t wish to be attacking People Before Profit. I think Richard [Boyd Barret] has been doing good work in the Dáil.
Alvey: His criticism of Ursula von der Leyen regarding her position on Palestine when she was attending the Dáil recently was excellent.
Wallace: It was yes. I saw that. If Kieran Allen wants to score points against me, that is the way it works, sometimes.
Alvey: How do you respond to the accusation that you are ‘campist’?
Daly: What he is basing that charge on is, that we get one minute to base a speech and Kieran Allen will say ‘that’s Mick Wallace’s position on Iran’.
Alvey: You both have been critical of Iran.
Daly: Of course we have.
Wallace: We’ve criticised every Government on the planet. We have repeatedly said we haven’t found one Government that we agree with. We are at pains to point out the hypocrisy of this place and the devastating effect that US imperialism has had on the planet, more so than anyone else.
Daly: The people of Iran, obviously, have legitimate concerns and we fully accept that. Now the current protests are being seized upon to bring about regime change. That does not mean we are de-legitimising the protests. We think the Government in Iran are making a big mistake by repressing protests they should be heeding. By not listening to the concerns of the protesters they are fuelling foreign interference.
Wallace: It needs to be pointed out that Western sanctions have seriously undermined living standards in a lot of countries, including Iran, and that doesn’t help matters. The Americans and the Saudis are boasting about getting guns in through Kurdistan and Iraq to help groups in the protests. That is actually harmful. The vast majority of protesters are peaceful and it is horrific that so many have died. The executions are desperate and we disagree completely with the death penalty. To criticise foreign interference is not making an excuse for the Iranian leadership. I know that over fifty policemen have been killed in the protests, but no protester should be killed for participating. The Iranians have really handled it poorly.
Going back to the Irish situation, some people on the Left, before they can say what they actually think, they say: oh, this is terrible and that is terrible. I think the Irish people like you to be straight. I spent eight and a half years in the Dáil and the media never said a whole lot good about me. But then I got 129,000 votes in the European elections. I had no posters and only one canvasser supporting me. A lot of people who voted for me don’t necessarily agree with me all the time but they find me straight in my approach. People without the backing of a large party machine are better being straight and calling it as it is.
Daly: Kieran Allen has said to me, I don’t think you’ve been hard enough on Russia. They think it important to attack Russia all the time. Our response is that there’s plenty of people attacking Russia. So, we don’t agree with people like Kieran on that point.
The System of International Relations
Alvey: There is a school of thought that says that the world needs to be policed by the United States as means of defending Western democracy. What is your view of that? Do you think that the idea of a multi-polar world order is a recipe for conflict and chaos?
Wallace: The world doesn’t need anyone to police it.
Alvey: Is that not dangerous? Political systems surely need to provide a system of authority?
Wallace: I’m not saying there should be no police force in a country. I’m saying that no one country should be trying to police other countries. The only reason the Americans play that role is to make the world fit for their own exploitation and to further their own business interests. In 1945 there was an important meeting held in the US [Bretton Woods]. It was attended by political leaders and financial representatives. A contributor said: ‘We in the US have less than 4 per cent of the world’s population but we have 35 per cent of its wealth and if you want to keep that equation you need a big military to preserve it’. America has interfered in countries all over the world for the last hundred years, in particular since the end of the Second World War, and it has not been positive for the people of those countries. So, thanks for the offer of policeman, but no thanks.
Alvey: Well, actually, if I might be allowed to say something here. I know something about Roger Casement and a principle he was committed to was, “freedom of the seas”. He thought it outrageous that the British Empire had huge control over international shipping routes at that time [early 20th century]. He had become disillusioned with the Empire through experiences in Africa and South America, and was horrified when he learned that people he knew in the British Government were plotting to start a war against Germany having the objective of destroying Germany, purely because it challenged Britain’s supremacy in world trade. Casement’s belief as an experienced diplomat was that there needs to be a system in international relations which prevents Great Powers from manipulating international affairs in their own interest. That’s what he meant by “freedom of the seas”.
Daly: And look at what’s happening in the South China Sea right now!
Alvey: It’s the same thing all over again.
Have you any thoughts on the idea of a multi-polar world? A system in which international stability rests on agreements between different power blocs?
Wallace: We’d like to see everyone working together for peace. We’d like to see an end to wars and the beginning of demilitarization, and the abolition of nuclear war heads. You might say that is fantasy stuff.
Wallace: We are going to do things around the environment. As Clare said, environmental climate change is a much bigger crisis than any war going on at the present time. The environmental challenges are incredible and we are going to have to make calls, if we are to survive, which would have been unthinkable thirty years ago.
At a meeting of the Security and Defence Committee before Christmas the topic of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine came up. I asked the expert addressing the session, Bruno Tertrais of the French Foundation for Strategic Research, a number of questions. I asked if the European countries and the Americans were to give Ukraine enough support so that the Ukrainians could try to re-take Crimea, do you think it would increase the risk of nuclear weapons being used? He said yes but if you are asking me should we refrain from helping Ukraine to take back Crimea, then I say no. In other words, we are prepared to risk a nuclear war just to facilitate a US/NATO proxy war.
The EU’s Direction of Travel
Alvey: Finally, what are your views on the future of the EU in the light of the direction of travel it has taken in the war in Ukraine?
Daly: I think it’s a bulldoze approach to creating the US/EU as a bloc, a rock that the EU will perish on.
Alvey: The EU as a puppet of Washington?
Daly: Totally, a puppet of Washington. There are huge tensions in the EU between the former Soviet states and the old colonial powers and, ironically, we stand outside those blocs. We could have played a useful role from being in that position. In the short-term the EU is not going to break up. They’ll hang separately. I don’t see the Euro collapsing in the short-term. But I do see the next European elections, as I said earlier, electing a tranche of Far-Right candidates which will have the effect of making the Parliament dysfunctional.
Wallace: We’re accused of being anti-EU. We wouldn’t have come over here if we were anti-EU. We see a lot of problems with it. We like the idea of the European Project—countries working together for peace and cooperating in the economic field in a way that helps the smaller countries to get to a better place. But it hasn’t worked out like that.
Alvey: It worked for us!
Wallace: I would disagree with some of that. There were huge investments made. I look at Ireland today and I see half the country are struggling to pay their bills. It’s a great country for some people, but not for others. Having said that, it has become a bit of a neo-liberal club. Through the Treaties over the years, neo-liberalism has become enshrined in a way that favours business over the citizen.
On the geopolitical side of things, we are here nearly four years. When we came here first, we noticed a bit of racism towards China and Russia. I didn’t think it was that mad strong at first but it gradually increased and what you had was the US trying to drive a wedge between Europe and Russia and between Europe and China.
Let me give you an example of what’s wrong with the EU’s direction of travel at the moment, and I’ll finish on this. On the Security and Defence Committee you can see the level of engagement that Europe has in Africa—it’s as if colonialism has never stopped—more and more European money is being spent on military activity down there to clear the field for European investment.
I went to Mozambique in October with the Security and Defence Committee. We were only there for two days—thirteen meetings in two days. We went to EU training missions to see Mozambique soldiers being trained. What is the EU doing, training Mozambique solders? There was a huge gas field find in Cabo Delgado in the North of the country some years back. It turns out it’s a mostly Muslim area. Anyway, big huge gas field, offshore and on land. The Government there brought in French company TotalEnergy and Italian company ENI to explore the fields. The companies decided they wanted to clear a huge space. They started moving 2,000 farmers off the land. They hired mercenaries to move them and it didn’t go down great, and fighting started. Islamic groups from neighbouring countries came in to help the locals and before you know it, a small war had started up.
Then TotalEnergy couldn’t operate because there was a war going on. Part of our [the EU’s] engagement down there is to help the Government of Mozambique deal with the so-called Islamic terrorists that are coming into the place. The truth be told, Mozambique suffers dramatically from the impact of climate change. All the advice from UN bodies is that no new gas fields should be opened. This gas field in Cabo Delgado should not be opened. If it is opened the chances of the profits dwindling down to the people of Mozambique are pretty slim. The European companies will make most of the money. A country suffering from climate change should not be opening new gas fields.
Alvey: Thank you both for your time. That was great.
Editor’s note: Dave Alvey has written two other articles based on his visit to the European Parliament: ‘Wallace Asking the Right Questions in Brussels’ is in the March 2023 edition of Irish Political Review; and ‘Clare Daly and a Brussels Exhibition’ will be issue Number 152 of Church and State which will be published shortly.