It looked like Joe Biden was about to make it through his trip to Belfast and Dublin entirely gaffe-free. Almost. That was until last night, when the US President congratulated his distant cousin, Irish rugby player Rob Kearney, on “beat[ing] the hell out of the Black and Tans“. A heck of an achievement considering the Black and Tans disbanded about a century ago.
The White House has quietly corrected the record in their official transcript, adding that the 80-year old leader of the free world actually meant the All-Blacks. For the benefit of Joe, the Black and Tans were British recruits sent to Ireland during the War of Independence. They had a habit of beating and torturing patriotic Irishmen who sought their country’s independence. The All-Blacks are New Zealand’s national rugby union team. To be fair to Biden, the Irish rugby team did give the All-Blacks an historic beating on their own soil for the first time last summer, dubbed the ”Disaster in Dunedin’ by local Kiwi media. The country practically went into a state of mourning, with the New Zealand flag outside their rugby ground even lowered to half-mast. Easy to confuse the two…
As the Irish Taoiseach welcomed the 2023 class of the Washington Ireland Program, some two decades after he served in the office of congressman Jack Quinn via the same program, Leo Varadkar said he believed he was looking at the leaders of the future, and urged them to enjoy the city which prepared him to begin the political career which has seen him twice lead his country. So far, so platitudinous.
The Taoiseach, on a rooftop just across a lawn from the US Capitol, joked about the fact that he interned in the last year of the Clinton presidency “when parents might have had cause for concern about what happened to interns” in the city. Varadkar made the comment just two hours after meeting Hillary, and after he had confirmed the Clintons would visit Northern Ireland next month to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which Bill Clinton was pivotal in securing. The Irish press has gone to town on the clanger.
Irish politicians value their US relationship dearly and always exploit St Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to visit the White House. Even more so with President Joe Biden self-identifying as Irish. He will also meet Vice President Kamala Harris. Which will see two people of Indian descent in positions of power meet to celebrate St Patrick’s Day!
Leo Varadkar is back as Ireland’s Taoiseach, following a coalition deal switcheroo, and is already turning to the neverending problems seen with the Northern Ireland protocol. At a press briefing in Dublin, he told hacks that all parties – the EU, Ireland and the UK – “made mistakes in the handling of Brexit.” He specified that one error was designing the protocol as “perhaps… a little bit too strict.”
“We’ve seen that the protocol has worked without it being fully enforced.
“And that’s why I think there is room for flexibility and room for changes and we’re open to that and up for that, and I know from speaking to President Von der Leyen and Maros Sefcovic, that’s their position too.
“So, we are willing to show flexibility and to make compromises. We do want there to be an agreement.
He also tried to improve his poor image among Northern Ireland’s unionist community, many of whom blame him personally for the protocol problems:
“And, you know, I have spoken to a lot of people who come from a unionist background in Northern Ireland over the years.
“I do understand how they feel about the protocol. They feel that it diminishes their place in the Union, that it creates barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland that didn’t exist before.
“And I do understand that and I do get that.
Reacting to Varadkar’s honest statement, this morning John Redwood has said he is “glad Ireland now admits they and the EU made mistakes”, asking “will the EU now end its intransigence and drop the Protocol?” Guido reckons John will have to wish on tonight’s expected Quadrantid meteor shower to see any chance of that happening…
In March this year Sadiq once again asked ministers to devolve him the power to introduce a rent cap in London. Thankfully the government has not acquiesced. We’ve already how badly the policy worked in Berlin, however despite the evidence the London mayor continues pushing for rent controls. Berliners had a miserable time at the hands of their rent cap; real estate analysis revealed it crashed supply by 41% and drove demand up to 172%. It also led to the phenomenon of ‘shadow rents’ where landlords and tenants would agree one rent complying with the cap, and a separate rent significantly above it, sometimes paid in cash.
Thankfully the cap was ruled unconstitutional by Berlin’s courts and scrapped. If Sadiq and socialists still think the cap would do anything to alleviate the housing and renting crisis in the capital they could take a look west to the Republic of Ireland. The country introduced multiple rent pressure zones between 2016 and 2020, with 55 local authorities being allocated the status. In December 2021 those houses inside the zones had rent rises capped by 2%. Unsurprisingly the rental market has gone exactly the same way as Berlin’s.
A report commissioned in May this year by the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers concludes the attempt to control rent rises has “backfired”, with landlords leaving the market and rents rising as a result of the policy. The latest DAFT survey found “The number of homes available for rent across Ireland has dropped to a new all-time low and led to a further spike in rents around the country”:
“In Dublin, 712 homes were available to rent at the start of this month, less than one-quarter of the average seen for February over the last two decades.
Outside of the capital, DAFT notes that availability is less than one-third of the pre-pandemic level of February 2020 with 685 homes available to rent.
The average rent nationally now stands at €1,524 per month, an average of 10.3% higher than the same period in 2020.”
This devastating market effect isn’t just seen in statistics, it’s felt in real life. Last week 150 people were photographed queuing for a three-bedroom house in Dublin.
There are now just 716 properties to rent in the whole country according to property website DAFT, with the country’s largest private landlord on Thursday saying he could have recently filled a new apartment block 30 times over. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Is Sadiq Khan insane?
Guido has some sympathy for the British Foreign Secretary over her mispronunciation of the Irish Prime MInister’s title as “tea-sock”. If his daughters and wife are being particularly exclusionary they will talk in Irish over the breakfast table and mock any attempt by him to join in. It is headline news in the Irish press that Liz Truss mispronounced Taoiseach. Further evidence to feed the national meme that the British don’t understand Ireland…
It should sound like “tee shuhk”, though there are regional variations. Here is some guidance:
Incidentally Liz, if you do get to first name terms when you meet the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, do be careful. His name is pronounced “mee-hole”. Honestly…
Guido is not sure this alternative historical analysis is widely shared in Ireland or America…
UPDATE: Chris Hope comments “I was not trying to make light of the Irish famine and never would. I was simply trying to draw attention to Biden’s connections to his ancestors in Ireland. That’s all.”