UK and Ireland’s history ‘tells us something’ about Ukraine conflict – Starmer

The Labour leader said there were comparisons in “understanding what it means to be a country”.

14 March 2022

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said “understanding what it means to be a country” in the relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland “tells us something” about the war in Ukraine.

In a speech at the London Irish Centre ahead of St Patrick’s Day, Sir Keir said it was key to focus on the UK and Ireland’s “rich and long history”.

The Labour leader said it was easy to see the relationship between the two countries “in narrow issues, the (Northern Ireland) Protocol at the moment”.

But he said the long partnership with the Republic, through Ireland’s ambassador to the UK Adrian O’Neill, was important.

Sir Keir said: “This relationship requires respect – equal respect – and understanding what it means to be a country.”

He added: “I think it tells us something about what’s going on in the world, particularly Ukraine, because at the heart of the conflict in Ukraine is a simple thing, the wish of a country to decide for itself its own future.”

Labour Party Irish Society St Patrick’s Day reception
Labour leader Keir Starmer attends the Labour Party Irish Society Annual St Patrick’s Day reception at the London Irish Centre. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Sir Keir said: “I didn’t think in my lifetime I would see Russian tanks rolling into a European country, soldiers kissing their children goodbye as they then stay to fight for their city and for the country, the awful bombing of hospitals. None of us thought we would see that.”

The Labour leader said behind those images was “that sense of democracy, of sovereignty, the right of a country to decide for itself on what it does”.

He added: “But when it comes to what does the UK stand for, what does Ireland stand for, when it comes to issues of sovereignty and self-determination, we stand together in the face of Russian aggression because they’re our deep, deep values.”

Sir Keir also said: “It is about the relationship between UK and Ireland, but it’s also about the way in which we view the world which is being challenged at the moment in a really profound way.”

Earlier this month, Nicola Sturgeon was forced to insist there was “no connection” between the war in Ukraine and the campaign for Scottish independence after prominent SNP members appeared to make comparisons between the two.

SNP president Mike Russell was criticised after he used his column in the National newspaper to liken Ukraine potentially being ruled by Russia to Scotland remaining in the UK as a “result of an eight-year-old referendum”.

First Ministers Questions
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minster’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. (Andy Buchanan/PA)

SNP MSP Michelle Thomson also apologised after tweeting about Ukraine’s application to join the European Union accompanied by the message: “Just goes to show what political will can achieve. Remember this Scotland!”

Asked about the remarks, First Minister Ms Sturgeon told the PA news agency it would be “overstating things” to suggest that comparisons had been made, and she added: “There is no connection between a war in Ukraine and the support and campaign for independence in Scotland.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.