Mick Wallace & Clare Daly

Mick Wallace & Clare Daly

THE DEMONISATION of Clare Daly and Mick Wallace is essentially a political witch-hunt but the media has created the impression of a political Bonnie and Clyde squaring up to the cops at home and the Feds in Brussels. At bottom, though, the behaviour of the duo and their much more bellicose media critics is a serious confrontation over the craving of members of government, media and the top brass to join up with the big boys in the western military alliance – be it Nato or an EU army.

Wallace and Daly have both come through controversy and what looked like scandal (especially Wallace) which would have finished most TDs. Most ironically, it was the gardaí, in their haste to damage them, that helped to transform the couple’s image from that of hypocrites to victims of, and fighters against, police misbehaviour.

In 2013, as they along with a handful of other TDs including Ming ‘the merciless’ Flanagan, were beginning to place the issue of garda corruption into mainstream debate, Daly was arrested, improperly handcuffed and breathalysed by gardaí at Kilmainham. Many regarded this as a most sinister development, especially as news of the incident, replete with colourful details, reached the media within hours.

Four months later the then justice minister, Alan Shatter, told RTÉ that he knew of Wallace being spoken to by gardaí for holding a mobile phone while at the wheel of his car. Wallace’s previous profile of the socialist tax dodger and small builder that would not pay his workers’ entitlements now looked even worse. Neither of the two TDs nor their Dáil allies (including Ming who in the same period had been shown to benefit from garda discretion in the matter of penalty points in another unfortunate leak) looked admirable.

However, the wheel turned as Daly was subsequently shown not to have been over the limit, rendering her handcuff humiliation and the speedy leak to the media as a travesty. Various garda issues then accumulated over the next 12 months, with high/low points being when Callinan described the whistle-blowers as “disgusting”, and Shatter was forced to apologise to Wallace, who was quickly transformed from villain to victim. Speaking to broader garda issues, Wallace made a tour de force speech in the Dáil, climaxing with the demand, “Go minister and bring the commissioner with you”.

Such clashes with the forces of the state, media and government would require a resilience that not all TDs possess. But these battles are as nothing compared with the hard-left faction fighting that TDs in the United Left Alliance (ULA) engaged in during 2012, and which saw the ULA’s five TDs splinter five different ways. Much of the socialist polemicising and recrimination focused on Wallace’s tax oversights and, here again, Clare standing by her man Mick was not a good look. But this masked the fratricidal behaviour of the ULA and the absolute determination of some of its members to have a split. It caused Daly to depart from the Socialist Party after 25 years or so and the new ‘united front’ of Daly and Wallace was born.

These high-profile clashes with gardaí, the justice minister and government as well as Wallace’s indiscretions and even the far-left disputes were often presented as personality conflicts and character traits of the various players. But it was the couple’s assiduous attention to detail and the reality of the underlying issues they focused on – mainly garda malpractice in this period – that enabled them to outlast their negative public portrayal and the ire of their political opponents.

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani


As well, the pair became active in domestic and global issues like water charges; a visit to Julian Assange when he was holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London; the EU/US Transatlantic Trade and /investment Partnership; a conviction for breaking Shannon airport bylaws (in a protest about US military flights); and myriad other issues.

Similarly, their current portrayal as ‘tools’ of China and Russia is presented by the media in British tabloid editorial style. This may be because Ireland’s Europhile propagandists know that they are not on comfortable ground if the arguments about neutrality and militarisation of the EU are debated in a straightforward manner. Daly, Wallace and others argue that the invasion of Ukraine is a war ultimately caused by Nato expansionism and which, furthermore, is being exploited with breath-taking cynicism by opponents of Irish neutrality at home.

Journalists and government politicians are free to disagree with these views, although most Irish people have clung firmly to a neutrality position in recent polls, even in the face of extremely emotional news coming out of Ukraine and the absence of objective scrutiny in the media. But Irish people are entitled to independent examination of the factors that have led to Russian aggression as well as the arguments against militarisation of the EU to satisfy the industrial arms complex.

However, lurid stories about Wallace and Daly being effective mouthpieces for eastern dictators is what Europhile commentators have resorted to. This has been quite successful in branding the pair as either deranged or as agents of Moscow, Beijing – or both. Such is the media coverage that it will probably come as a surprise to many Irish people that Daly and Wallace both voted for amendments specifically condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine in that much discussed EU parliament motion a number of weeks ago.

The Business Post’s Elaine Byrne argued recently that “Wallace and Daly are tools in a Kremlin and Beijing propaganda machine which seeks to amplify any criticism by westerners of western hypocrisy and Nato expansionism”. Byrne, concluded her article by recommending that as “they [Wallace and Daly] have willingly obliged … voters should be mindful of this at the 2024 European elections”.
The censorious Byrne served on the Young Fine Gael executive, alongside Leo Varadkar and Lucinda Creighton, some years ago but resigned, circa 2005, citing her commitment to political research as conflicting with membership of a political party. She is also a governance consultant with the European Commission.

Even more colourful coverage came from the normally staid Old Lady of D’Olier Street where the eager Irish Times European correspondent Naomi O’Leary lapsed into old-fashioned Sunday Independent mode (à la the late Aengus Fanning) in a diatribe against Daly and Wallace. The IT introduced her recent effort by saying, “A 10-month investigation by the Irish Times to track the international footprint of the two MEPs has revealed their outsized profile in the state-controlled media operations of various authoritarian regimes”.

The 10-month research produced a number of statements from the couple denouncing western militarism and their contacts with apparently unsavoury people and entities that oppose the west. And in a lengthy but faintly ridiculous passage it calculated that Wallace had received nearly twice the number of mentions (81) in Chinese language news than MMA fighter Conor McGregor (44), with Daly receiving 118. Leo Varadkar had a mere 10 while Simon Coveney received just one.

One might expect that a newspaper that worships all things emanating from the EU would realise that the Chinese body politic is very interested in the EU as a political and economic rival, while it regards Ireland as a small island off the ‘mainland’ with a relative weight of circa 2%. As well, the outspoken voices of western politicians criticising their own governments and their foreign and security policies is always going to be welcome news to opponents and rivals of the EU and the United States. Certainly, the western media highlights quotes from and champions those in the east upon whom they bestow the title of dissidents. Does the IT editor’s office and foreign desk really not understand this process?

Another, seemingly damning part of the near year-long investigation concerned the pair’s visit to the HQ of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in Iraq last year. O’Leary’s tract went on to describe at great length how Human Rights Watch (HRW) had recently published a report detailing, among other things, 39 cases in which mostly PMF members had attacked LGBT people including cases of murder, disappearances and rape.

It may have spoiled the impact of this part of the investigation if the article had included a section of the HRW report headed, 1. ‘Background’, which explained the make-up and highly disparate nature of the armed groups described as being part of this “umbrella” PMF formation. “These armed groups are not unitary entities, but are comprised of networks operating in disorganised patterns for an organised intent, maintaining the “social order” and policing notions of “morality … The institutionalisation of some armed groups asserts their legitimacy as ‘protectors of the nation’ and ‘enforcers of the status quo’”. And a further blurring of the story might have resulted from publication of the fact that the PMF contains something like 70 different armed factions and more than 120,000 members and was originally established in response to Islamic State’s (IS) surge in the region. Our two MEPs were in contact with the moderate and politically sophisticated elements around Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who actually opposes clerical rule and promotes the separation of religion and politics.

Naomi O'Leary

Naomi O’Leary


An intriguing headline over one section of O’Leary’s investigation into the duo was, ‘Supporting the spy’, a reference to former Lithuanian politician Algirdas Paleckis, currently appealing a conviction of spying for Russia. His case is controversial, involving another businessman who was charged but then became a witness for the state. Daly told a YouTube chat show in Lithuania recently that the case compared to the “worst of times in Northern Ireland” and Wallace said, “If we want peace, we should dissolve Nato”. Alternatively, O’Leary described Paleckis as “once a mainstream MP who became increasingly isolated in his political views over time and is known as a critic of Lithuania’s membership of the European Union and Nato”. Sounds like a bad egg.

O’Leary secured quotes from Lithuanian politicians who dismissed the story as “marginal” (a pro-Russian MP convicted of spying for Putin?). It was like a “traffic accident that happened … in the Congo”, according to Petras Austrevicius, described by O’Leary as “a liberal Lithuanian MEP”. O’Leary felt it necessary to quote Wallace’s demand for Nato’s dissolution and Paleckis’s hostility to both Nato and the EU in this part of her investigation. However, she may have felt that further detail on the ‘liberal’ Austrevicius – he was for years a member of the Lithuanian Commission for Nato Affairs and deputy chair of the parliament’s delegation to the Nato Parliamentary Assembly – was superfluous.

The antagonism of the IT towards Daly and Wallace and vice-versa cannot be reduced to the level of tabloid target practice in which the two MEPs are pilloried without reference to fundamental facts of modern history that have caused the most serious crisis in eastern Europe. And yet it appears that the level of vituperation against the two elected MEPs as a substitute for serious political debate is almost de rigueur when it comes to this topic, despite repeated clichés from supporters of an EU army about the need for an honest debate about neutrality. Instead, readers of the ‘paper of record’ are treated to stories about stool pigeons for the Ruskies and Chinese.

The pair recently lodged High Court proceedings against RTÉ over a discussion on Drivetime about the alleged use by Syria of chemical weapons in 2015, and legal actions can be expected against other media over various criticisms of them.

A sober look at the situation in Ukraine, the EU and Ireland shows that Irish people have huge sympathy for Ukrainians both at home and as refugees fleeing abroad, including to Ireland. We have also not demurred – so far – in opening homes and coffers to alleviate such distress. But crucially, the hopes of aggressive Europhiles that the brutality of Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine would lead to support for abandoning neutrality have been dashed, despite an unprecedented media campaign exploiting the Ukrainian misery – led by the Irish Times. The latest poll on neutrality saw 71% say ‘No’ to jettisoning neutrality and a poll on whether we should have contributed lethal military aid to Ukraine secured just 25% support, while 59% said ‘No’.

The IT’s self-image as a reasonable, enlightened – even peaceful – organ may not allow its ‘thinkers’ to realise that they, not Daly and Wallace, are the extremists. If people would only read (or if such as the IT would only publish) what the latter two actually say they would see that Daly and Wallace are preaching moderation, peaceful politics, the abolition of Nato (and all major military blocks) and a halt to the multibillion arms industry that has fuelled most of the major wars since World War 11. Extremists?

Instead, IT columnists and its own writers persist in deriding the ‘sacred cow of neutrality’; in accusing supporters of neutrality as making ‘hysterical’ predictions about an EU army (although that argument appears to have now gone out of vogue); and throwing about abusive remarks about ‘a free ride’ and even cowardice.

Wallace and Daly are unveiling a series of public meetings defending neutrality in the coming weeks. Would it be too much to expect that the warmongering heroes of Leinster House will engage in this debate or that Montrose and the national newspapers will give these meetings proper coverage?

Related Articles: