Last week I got an email from Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso in which he asked me to “please look at 'the bigger picture' today”, every word emphasised but with ‘bigger picture’ picked out.
Ramón Luis is a member of the EPP – the same close-knit European Parliament family as Fine Gael – and is also a Vice-President of the Parliament, in which case you’d say he carries some clout.
Last week also, in Plenary, we heard Manfred Weber, the German MEP who heads up the EPP, and Commissioner Frans Timmermans – First Vice-President of the Commission and thus also an EU heavy hitter – both comment on events in Catalonia last weekend.
For all three, the ‘bigger picture’ is that the Catalan government were in conflict with Spain’s constitution, were thus putting themselves outside the ‘rule of law’ (that phrase came up again and again).
NONE of the three could bring themselves to condemn those who had created the situation whereby a militarised police force was brought into Catalonia to stop people from holding a peaceful vote (Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his ironically named People’s Party, part of the EPP); NONE could bring themselves to condemn the subsequent violent assaults on peaceful citizens (authorised, obviously, by Rajoy and his government); NONE could bring themselves to denounce and distance themselves from the subsequent announcements by Rajoy and his government – and by the King of Spain – that the actions taken were justified.
Oh, they said it couldn’t be condoned. But they couldn’t bring themselves to condemn Rajoy, his government, and his militarised police. If you DON’T condemn it, in the positions in which all those people hold, you condone it.
Why could they not bring themselves to condemn it? Because in their monolithic EU, run by the EPP and its like-minded friends, there is no room for dissent. Protest is slowly but surely being made practically illegal, the police and justice systems increasingly politicised, peaceful protesters demonised by a compliant media as mere ‘populists’, or worse, as confrontational, contributing to their own assaults.
In this monolithic EU there is room only for their neoliberal global corporatist policies – austerity for the poor, rapidly increasing wealth for the few, all those in between set against each other and gradually ground down.
Watching the frightening and disgraceful scenes from Catalonia, let no-one in Ireland be complacent. Not alone can it happen here, it HAS happened here, and no, I’m not just speaking of the RUC and their antics over the decades across the border. Think of the Shell to Sea campaign and the violence visited on the protesters there; think of the water-charge protesters and sometimes bloody scenes as peaceful protesters were attacked by Gardaí protecting the interests of a private company; think of the balaclava-covered black-clothed goons who have accompanied the Sheriff in various evictions around the country; think of our own militarised police wing, the platoons who stood by at the mass water-protests in Dublin.
Think of all the above, and ask yourself – where is all this headed?
Whether or not you believe Catalonia – or Scotland, or the Six Counties, or Roscommon for that matter – should be allowed have a referendum on its own independence isn’t the issue. The issue is the growing crackdown on dissenting voices, the increasing officially-sanctioned violence, justified in the Catalonia situation by Commissioner Timmermans in his speech.
I'm telling you, my friends; with Mr Juncker’s White Paper, with the €5.5billion ‘Common Defence Fund’ announced by the Commission in July, geared towards the greater ambition of a powerful EU army, we’re on a very dangerous road.
I do NOT believe in all this centralised power; I do believe in devolution, in local governments making the decisions that affect local people.
It’s time to pause, time perhaps even to turn back. Visqui Catalunya!