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Ireland dreams of the collapse of the Labor Party in the United Kingdom

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DUBLIN – For diplomatic purposes, the Irish government does not comment publicly on the winner of the British general election.

But the diplomatic reality emerging from L'Observatoire de l'Europe's recent conversations with legislators and senior civil servants in the Dublin government district appears dispassionate and unanimous: we can't wait for Keir Starmer.

This enthusiasm for change is, in part, the knowledge that the Starmers are deeply rooted figures in Ireland at the heart of the Labor Party.

It's fair to say that the last 14 years of Tory rule have been a bit tough on the Irish.

“Sometimes it's like a nightmare where that neighbor gleefully tears up the rulebook over and over again, never realizing how destructive it all is. “We want to have sensible, sensible and respectful partners again across the Irish Sea because those good relationships are fundamentally important to us,” said a senior government official who was given a position of neutrality in the British election, which was approved. To remain anonymous.

An MP from Fianna Fáil, one of the three parties in Ireland's governing coalition, has been more outspoken about his desire to see the Conservatives ousted from power in next month's general election: “July 4 will be Independence Day for our idiots. It will finally be bastards on the outside and adults on the inside. Finally! »

Such views, shared by government and opposition on all sides, reflect a bleak view of Brexit-era Tory psychodrama and excitement about what a Labor government in London could mean for Ireland.

The sentiment is driven by regret over what many see as a skills gap between Rishi Sunakin's Conservative team in Downing Street and Starmer's Labor inner circle, the damage to Anglo-Irish relations since Brexit.

For the Irish, having UK government counterparts who “understand” the political and economic complexities of Northern and Southern Ireland, as elusive as they have been since the 2016 Brexit split, is invaluable.

When Irish people look at the upper echelons of the Labor Party, they feel like they are looking in a mirror.

If Labor comes to power, as all the polls confirm, people with deep and extensive ties to Ireland will be driven to an extraordinary – perhaps unprecedented – degree.

It starts with Labor campaign manager Morgan McSweeney, who has steered the party away from Jeremy Corbyn's far-left radicalism and back to the political center with Starmer.

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When Irish people look at the upper echelons of the Labor Party, they seem to be looking in a mirror. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

McSweeney, 47, grew up in a village outside the town of Macroom in County Cork, population 4,000, where his father ran an accountancy firm and his mother ran the local bridge club. The family supported Fine Gael, a centrist political movement inspired by Ireland's great “lost leader”, Cork-born IRA rebel commander Michael Collins.

While other members of the family tree were involved in Fine Gael, including an aunt on the local council and later a special government adviser, Claire Mancowan, the young McSweeney was not interested in politics, his father said. Before leaving Ireland. At 17 working on London construction sites.

It had been a fine line for Irish immigrants for decades – but for McSweeney, the election of Labor leader Tony Blair as prime minister in 1997 changed everything.

Although Blair barely campaigned on Irish issues, once in office he fueled peace talks in Belfast and worked hand in hand with then Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern to secure the Good Friday Agreement. In April 1998, the two signed a historic agreement at Stormont.

Inspired, McSweeney took a job as a receptionist at Labor headquarters and soon became part of Blair strategist Peter Mandelson's “attack and counterattack” team. Mandelson completed his service as an exceptionally skilled and effective Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, with British Unionists and Irish Nationalists strategizing to form the region's first power-sharing coalition.

Today, McSweeney is seen as central to Labor strategies and tactics – and he is not the only one in his circle with strong ties to Ireland. Two other veteran behind-the-scenes operators can claim equally strong ties to the neighboring island.

Sue Gray, of 'Partygate' fame, became Starmarin's chief of staff last year after long stints as a senior civil servant in Whitehall and Stormont in Belfast, where she headed the finance department, but turned down the top job.

His mother came from County Waterford in the south-east of Ireland and his father from the border village of Bellcoo in Northern Ireland. Beginning her civil service career in Belfast, she even ran a Borders pub with her husband, a country singer from the county, at the height of the Troubles in the 1980s. Accordingly she could do double duty as a spy.

“Sue Gray knows more about Northern Ireland than any British Prime Minister's chief of staff. It will only be useful in policy making in this area. She doesn't suffer fools, she's had enough of them in this place,” a senior Sinn Féin lawmaker who worked with Gray at Stormont told L'Observatoire de l'Europe.

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Gray's Labor roots will deepen if his son Liam Conlon wins the new south-east London constituency of Beckenham and Penge as the Labor candidate. He is already well versed in Stormont's power politics and is chairman of Labour's Irish Society.

Blair's former political secretary, now the party's campaign co-ordinator and MP for Wolverhampton South East, Pat McFadden completes the Irish trio at the top of Labour. He grew up in an Irish-speaking household in Glasgow, where tens of thousands of Irish immigrants from northwest County Donegal had settled after the Famine.

Addressing the Donegal Policy Conference on the dangers of Brexit in 2019, McFadden highlighted how the plan threatened to upset the fine balance of British and Irish interests in Northern Ireland, which was promoted and protected by common EU membership and the 1998 peace treaty.

Pat McFadden, Blair's one-time political secretary, completes the Irish triad at the head of the Labor Party. | Cameron Smith/Getty Images

The “danger” is that the Brexit process disrupts this delicate agreement that allows people to be British, Irish or both. And it's not just about goods crossing borders. It is also a question of identity.

While McSweeney, Gray and McFadden advise Starmer and his shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Hilary Benn, on Irish matters, they are preaching to converts – mainly two Englishmen who have shown an affinity for understanding Belfast and Dublin.

Four years of fieldwork in Belfast marked the beginning of Starmer's transition from human rights lawyer to politician. From 2003 he advised the newly established Policing Board, overseeing the most sensitive aspect of the complex Good Friday system: the reform of Northern Ireland's militarized and largely Protestant security force into a police force. Catholics.

His annual reports documenting this grueling process illustrated his ability to navigate a political minefield and illuminated his growing sense that diplomatic intervention could be more effective than legal action.

“Some of the things that I thought needed to change in policing, we got through more quickly than strategic litigation,” Starmer told The Times' Patrick Maguire about his time working in Belfast. “I really learned how you can change by being on the inside and gaining people's trust. »

Addressing Queen's University Belfast ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Starmer described it as “the greatest career achievement of my life, without a doubt”, and highlighted the need for close cooperation with Dublin to defend it.

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“Nothing has been more counterproductive than the determination of some Tory ministers to see our friends in Dublin as opponents of Brexit,” Starmer said.

Speaking to The Irish Times shortly after Sunac called the July 4 election, Starmer said he was determined to restore “respectful engagement” with the Irish government over Northern Ireland.

Bobby McDonagh, Ireland's ambassador to the UK from 2009 to 2013, said it would be music to the ears of Dublin, which had grown weary of the Conservative takeover by Brexiteers since 2016.

“Brexit involved a kind of insanity – a rejection of expertise, a lack of rationality, and it manifested itself in driving the best Tories out of the Conservative Party or forcing them to leave,” McDonagh told the Observatory from Europe. “Anyone who is sensible and willing to understand Britain's real interests in the EU belongs to the same people who understood Northern Ireland. »

Like his successors at the Foreign Office, McDonagh expects a rapid improvement in Anglo-Irish relations once Starmer enters Downing Street.

If Starmer and Benn follow through on their promise to repeal the Tory Legacy Act – a hotly contested law that would end all criminal and civil cases related to the Troubles – it will also end the Irish government's EU lawsuit challenging its controversial human rights compatibility. British law.

Keir Starmer said he was determined to restore “respectful engagement” with the Irish government in Northern Ireland. | Carl Cort/Getty Images

Similarly, as Starmer says, if Labor manages to negotiate a bespoke veterinary and health deal with the EU, it will end the primary demand for a so-called sea border – EU-imposed restrictions on goods entering Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland. In Britain, the power-sharing issue stalled at Stormont for two long years.

In the long term, Mr McDonagh said the most effective way to improve relations with Ireland, an extremely pro-European country, would be for Starmer to restore ties with Brussels.

“We expect Starmer to present deep ideas over the next five years about bringing Britain closer to Europe and perhaps even reintegrating it,” said McDonagh, who has held a series of diplomatic missions in Brussels. “It's true that he doesn't talk about it now. First you have to win the election.

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