Former two-weight mixed martial arts world champion and all-around sporting superstar Conor McGregor may have just become Ireland’s biggest advocate for ‘Irexit’ — an Irish exit from the European Union.
McGregor, who has conquered top-tier opponents at featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight in the Dana White-led Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and became the first fighter in promotional history to claim two belts simultaneously in 2016, declared that it was “time to talk about Ireland leaving the European Union” in a social media post on Friday.
Whether or not he would come down in favour of an Irish exit after having that discussion was left an open question, although he strongly indicated that he would likely be in favour of leaving in a follow-up post lamenting the fact that “We do not have leaders in Ireland, we have messengers. Subordinates.”
Given the context, it is likely that this was a reference to all the areas where Ireland and other EU member-states must surrender their sovereignty to the bloc at large — driven largely by Franco-German interests — with Brussels exercising collective control over members’ national fishing stocks, international trade deals, and much of their migration rules and regulatory regime, among other things.
Indeed, as a member of the Eurozone, with its euro single currency managed by the Frankfurt-based Europea Central Bank (ECB), the Republic of Ireland is even less sovereign as an EU member than the United Kingdom — which never gave up the pound — once was, having only a limited say over its own fiscal and monetary policy.
The more contemporary issue of vaccine policy seems to have been the trigger for McGregor’s intervention, however, with the Irishman slamming his country’s leaders as “EU lackeys” after branding “talk of mandating” vaccines “laughable”.
“The tracks of this gravy train will soon be realigned and sent to its rightful destination of an Irish red brick wall,” he vowed.
Ireland’s reduced room for manoeuvre as an EU member-state was most humiliatingly underscored with the release of the so-called Trichet letters in 2014.
These showed how the then-President of the European Central Bank, France’s Jean-Claude Trichet, essentially strong-armed the Irish government into making a “request” for a bailout — with various punishing austerity measures attached and overseen by the ECB, European Commission, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) — in 2010, in large part by threatening to cut off emergency funding if Dublin did not comply.
“Ireland was humiliated, bullied, picked on first and treated very badly,” lamented Shane Ross, an independent member of the Irish parliament, after the correspondence was revealed.
‘Irexit’ is a relatively small movement at present — as the Brexit movement once was — but gained a shot in the arm when Hermann Kelly, a former director of communications for the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the European Parliament which included then-UKIP leader Nigel Farage and his compatriots, helped to establish the Irish Freedom Party.
“We have swapped one empire (British) for the EU empire,” Kelly said around the time of the party’s launch in 2018, adding: “Ireland needs to be a democratic and sovereign country. EU membership is incompatible with that.”
With Conor McGregor now potentially throwing his weight behind the pro-sovereignty movement, it may begin to gain some major traction among the Irish public — or at least a more prominent place in the national discourse.