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Dublin Mid-West TD Gino Kenny RollingNews.ie
Policy Matters

'People Before Profit are not eurosceptic, we’re euro-critical’: Gino Kenny on party's EU stance

On Israel and Palestine, Kenny said he has lost faith that a two-state solution will be possible.

WELCOME TO POLICY Matters, a series from The Journal that takes a deep dive into the ideas and solutions proposed by Ireland’s politicians on some of the biggest issues of the day.

As part of the series, The Journal sits down with different spokespeople from across Ireland’s political parties to take a deeper look at what they believe needs to be done across areas like housing, health, the environment and childcare.

Last time around, we spoke to Fine Gael’s John Cummins who told us that there is “no question” that homelessness remains the biggest challenge in housing. 

This week, we sat down with People Before Profit’s foreign affairs spokesperson Gino Kenny to discuss his party’s stance on Ireland’s record on the international stage and his view of the biggest foreign policy issues facing the country.

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PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT’S Foreign Affairs spokesperson takes umbrage to the idea that his party is a eurosceptic one. 

“I’m not sure I would use that term,” Kenny said.

In his view it is a term that has been captured by the far-right. 

“We’ve been very euro-critical on a number of issues,” he said. 

Indeed, the party, which has representatives in Northern Ireland, supported Britain leaving the EU and campaigned for a ‘Lexit’ (left-wing Brexit) in the run up to the 2016 referendum.

On the People Before Profit website you’ll find references to the “imperial agenda” of EU leaders and Brussels’ desire to “push neoliberalism”. 

But Kenny said while he isn’t anti-EU, he is against the direction the EU is heading in.

“Most people in Ireland would be supportive of the European Union, that’s fact. And if there was a referendum to leave the European Union it would fail,” Kenny said.

“I would say I’m pro-European, you know, but I’m not pro-European in terms of the European Union and the direction of the European Union.”

Kenny said this comes down to his view that the EU is a “corporate entity” rather than one focused on social advancement. 

He suspects that anti-EU sentiment is growing somewhat in Ireland but that this can be categorised in different ways, with people who are perhaps anti-EU for immigration reasons on one side, and people who are anti-EU for reasons relating to its capitalist nature on another.

“The European Union is pro-market, it’s pro-capitalist. People Before Profit would like to see less of all those things and more of a socialist project where European states are run on the basis of need, rather than a capitalist and consumerist model,” Kenny said. 

Does this mean People Before Profit would like to see Ireland leave the EU? 

“I don’t think that’s where we are at,” Kenny said. 

“I don’t think the public would be on the side of Ireland leaving the European Union.”

For now, People Before Profit wants to engage in the European system.

Despite having no previous electoral success at European level, the party plans to run a candidate in the Dublin constituency next May and possibly a second candidate outside of Dublin too.

But Kenny is tight-lipped on who these candidates will be, saying “nothing has been finalised yet”.

Palestine and Israel

When it comes to foreign affairs, the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza is unsurprisingly top of Kenny’s lists of concerns. 

Next week, he and party colleague Bríd Smith TD were to travel to Egypt as part of a convoy to the Rafah crossing where they hoped to attempt to press the Egyptian authorities to allow more aid to pass through to Gaza. That trip has now been postponed.

People Before Profit supported both the Sinn Féin and Social Democrats’ motions last week to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court and expel the Israeli ambassador to Ireland. 

Kenny said he was disappointed but not surprised that the motions did not pass but noted the strong public support for both motions. 

“I’ve never seen the amount of emails that came into the Oireachtas, it was incredible. The only kind of parallel that I’ve seen in my time here was the situation with the Mother and Baby Homes and that was a fraction of [the emails we got],” he said.

People Before Profit has been at the forefront of demonstrations held in support of Palestine, with this weekend being the sixth weekend in a row where thousands plan to take to the streets of Dublin.

Kenny said to his mind it is comparable to the anti-war sentiment that existed in 2003 around the Iraq war. He noted that these pro-Palestine marches have drawn engagement from people who wouldn’t normally go to protests but who feel particularly angry about the situation.

“Going out and protesting and marching, it’s not going to stop the war, but [people] feel like they’re doing something and that’s the dynamic that’s at play at the moment,” he said. 

On where the situation goes next, Kenny said a ceasefire has to be the next step but beyond that he has lost faith that a two-state solution is achievable. 

“Most Palestinians would accept that a two-state solution is just not possible. 

“There needs to be a one-state solution where people just can live together. Now, that seems very simplified. But I think that is the only solution where people can live together,” Kenny said.  

The Dublin Mid-West TD said while there was no justification for Hamas’ brutal killing of approximately 1,200 Israeli people on 7 October, the attack needs to be viewed in the context of the history of Palestine. 

“You have to give it context because otherwise the whole picture is distorted,” he said.

“Palestinians, particularly people in Gaza, have been living under blockade for the last 16 years. It’s an open prison. And when you do that to a cohort of people, people will do things that me and you will never agree with.

“I’m not justifying the seventh of October, but when you brutalise people so, so much, people will do things that I don’t agree with or no rational person would agree with,” Kenny said.

Ireland on the global stage

Speaking about Ireland’s performance in the global arena in general terms, it’s Kenny’s view that the country “punches above its weight” when it comes to things like international aid.

He said Ireland is seen internationally as neutral and an honest broker.

“Our history can be shared with a lot of countries in the world in relation to our post-colonial past.

“We have huge empathy in relation to those that have been oppressed and those that have fled from famine and those that are fleeing from poverty,” Kenny said. 

“We have a unique position, because of our history. And I think our future is that, as a people we try to help address injustice, not only in Ireland, but internationally,” he added. 

Bringing the conversation back to Palestine, Kenny said this is why Ireland should do more to be a leader on pushing for a ceasefire and peace. 

He referred to comments made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil this week when he said that Ireland would lose influence by going too far out on a limb in relation to sanctions on Israel. 

“This is the moment to be out on a limb,” Kenny said.

He pointed to Ireland being one of the first countries in the world in 1987 to introduce legislation to ban goods from apartheid South Africa. 

“Ireland was a leader in relation to that. So we can be a leader again,” Kenny said.

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