Last Refuge


Ray Bassett Policy Exchange

Ray Bassett

A RECENT report by British think-tank Policy Exchange describes our foreign security policy as “persistent Irish security freeloading” just as “Russia once more poses a maritime threat to the Western Approaches to the British Isles”.

The belligerent think-tank claims that “the UK also faces a back-door threat from the growing Iranian, Russian and Chinese presence in the Republic of Ireland, a mounting challenge for a chronically deficient Irish security and intelligence apparatus”. The chaps in Whitehall are also worried that a Sinn Féin-led government would be “no friend to British interests”, revealing a most perceptive insight into Anglo-Irish affairs.

It is interesting how this foreign policy analysis mirrors the Irish edition of the Sunday Times in recent years.

Policy Exchange has been described by the right-wing Daily Telegraph newspaper as “the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right”. This, er, compliment gives it the authority to lecture security laggards like the Aawrish about their responsibilities to tool up and abandon neutrality.

The think-tank is stocked with mainly right-wing intellectuals and technocrats and the group’s principles are described as four-fold – prosperity, people, place and patriotism.

How interesting then to find that its senior fellow on EU affairs is an Irish man – actually a former Irish diplomat and ambassador – Ray Bassett. His credentials, as Policy Exchange points out, include a stint as Irish ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Bassett was also part of the Irish government’s team at the Good Friday negotiations.

Other interesting aspects of Bassett’s political activities have included his strident opposition to the EU and his support for a political project that never really got off the ground, Irexit, in September 2018. Bassett and UCD professor Ray Kinsella were the main activists with intellectual clout in the short-lived group but the driving force was Irish Freedom Party founder Hermann Kelly, a former editor of the Irish Catholic, who also worked for Declan Ganley’s Libertas in the 2009 EU elections and with former UKIP leader Nigel Farrage in Brussels.

As the war of words between London and Dublin over Brexit and the backstop got increasingly heated in 2019, Bassett wrote a column for the Irish Sun that accused Leo Varadkar of bringing Boris Johnson to power by “his insistence on an unfair backstop”.

Bassett’s colleagues in Policy Exchange now want to ramp up Britain’s naval and air presence in Northern Ireland “for maritime patrol missions against Russian intrusion”.

The think-tank “also urges the UK and its regional partners to unite and up the ante in pressing Dublin to do its fair share for collective security”.

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