Adrian O’Neill, Ireland’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, has criticised a political magazine for lapsing “into an anti-Irish sentiment”, alleging that recent articles about Ireland have been “snide and hostile”.
The latest article in the Spectator that O’Neill refers to, written by Daily Mail columnist Roger Hardiman, questioned Ireland’s decision to join an international French-speaking organisation.
The piece has, unusually, drawn a frank response from Ireland’s key diplomatic figure in the UK.
In an open letter to Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, O’Neill said the magazine had “lapsed into an anti-Irish sentiment” following the publications of a number of recent articles.
The Spectator is a Eurosceptic, Tory-leaning magazine which has a large circulation. Its previous editors have included Boris Johnson and former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson.
Hardiman said that Ireland’s interests would have been better served by re-joining the British Commonwealth instead of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, an international group representing countries and regions where French is spoken.
He listed examples of how the UK has assisted Ireland economically and diplomatically in recent years and said Ireland’s organisations could “plug straight into” the Commonwealth and young Irish people could win “hatfuls of medals” at the Commonwealth Games.
“Ireland… steadfastly turns its back on a perfect vehicle for its international ambitions for no other reason than that it was once run by the Brits,” Hardiman wrote.
“The last thing likely to lure it back on board will be overtures from Britain. But all the other nations are just as keen to see Ireland back in the club — and have said so often.”
Hardiman said that Ireland was joining a group of “flimsily-connected” countries with “deplorable human rights records” and “French-speaking crooks”, some of whom, he added, appeared “at the bottom of every global corruption index”.
“Only the mean-spirited would suggest that little Leo will do anything to suck up to the top gang in the EU playground…,” he continued.
“How odd, then, to see the Irish — usually so quick to take offence at any whiff of imperialism — acting as a cheerleader for French aggrandisement.”
Ambassador @AdrianGONeill’s letter to @spectator @FraserNelson in response to Robert Hardman’s piece about #Ireland and the #Francophonie appears abridged in this week’s magazine. Here’s the full version👇 pic.twitter.com/GexN0FgUdP
— Embassy of Ireland (@IrelandEmbGB) April 11, 2019
In response, O’Neill penned the letter, acknowledging that Brexit had placed pressure on British-Irish relations.
O’Neill claimed that most British people he had spoken to understood the Irish government’s approach to Britain’s departure from the European Union.
He excoriated Hardiman’s piece by claiming it was one of a series of recent publications by the magazine about Ireland which did not fall under its aims to publish pieces to “inform, to entertain and to make people think”.
“I am not unduly thin-skinned but, over the last couple of years, the prevailing tone and tenor of most Spectator articles relating to Ireland have been snide and hostile,” O’Neill wrote.
Hardiman’s piece was an “egregious” example this “prevailing tone”, he added.
“While 17 EU Member States are either members or observers of this international organisation, only Ireland’s affiliation [with the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie] incurs this scorn.”