Ireland first! Irexit-backing Ex-diplomat tells Dublin to stop cosying up to Brussels

Ray Bassett: We can’t avoid a hard Irish border without control

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Ray Bassett has put his name forward for a seat in the assembly, which is equivalent to the House of Lords. The former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas announced his intentions via Twitter on Friday.

And he told Express.co.uk one of his priorities was to reset Ireland’s relationship with the UK, as well putting some distance between Dublin and the EU – while emphasising his belief that the Irish Government has “lost its way”.

Mr Bassett, who argued the case for Ireland quitting the bloc in his 2019 book, Ireland and the EU Post Brexit, explained: “I believe it was always in Ireland’s interests that the UK should be offered a good economic relationship with the EU in a wide range of fields.

“Sometimes during Brexit, it seemed that Dublin was more concerned about looking after the interests of the people in Brussels rather than our national interests. I want to challenge that attitude.

“I have been a constant critic of that Government and now want to give electors a choice on the way forward.

“I want to see much better relations with Britain as a priority and a recognition that a good, mutually beneficial relationship between the EU and the UK, is very much in the interests of Ireland.

“I also hope to highlight the terrible deal Ireland gets under the Common Fisheries Policy and I want to oppose the further transference of powers from the Irish Parliament to Brussels.”

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Expanding on his reasons, Mr Bassett said: “I am running because I believe I want to give something back to my country.

“I had a long and successful career, including my involvement in the Peace Process and assisting in the drafting of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

“I also had the responsibility for overseeing Ireland’s relations with its huge diaspora.

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“I was in charge of the successful evacuation of 200 Irish citizens from Lebanon during the Israeli/Lebanese war.

“I think that these experiences, and many others including my time as Irish Ambassador, will be of benefit in the Senate.”

The 60-seat Seanad, unlike the Dail, is not directly elected – instead, 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach, six by the graduates of certain Irish universities, and the remaining 43 by five special panels of nominees.

Mr Bassett added: “The Upper House is there for revising and scrutinising legislation and I believe that my long experience inside Government will allow me to make a contribution.

“I also believe that the present Government has lost its way. Many of the current administration have been in power too long and regard the State as their personal property. Recent scandals are proof of that charge.

“The University seats were created to allow strong independent voices to be heard in the Irish Parliament. Many of the other declared candidates are very close to the present Government. I have been pressed by many to stand in the contest.”

Mr Bassett said he had been endorsed by among others General John de Chastelain, who was responsible for the decommissioning of weapons from paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, author Tim Pat Coogan and former Senator Billy Lawless.

He said: “Many people regard de Chastelain as the man who removed the gun from Irish politics.

“He has endorsed me on the basis of my involvement in the Peace Process and as Irish Ambassador to Canada.”

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