A former Ukip MLA has defended the party’s ex-leader Nigel Farage after the Brexiteer was accused of “not having a clue” about Irish history by RTE presenter Claire Byrne.
avid McNarry said Mr Farage – who is a presenter on GB News – has “great” knowledge of the topic which was evident when the broadcaster was leader of Ukip.
“When I was [Northern Ireland Ukip] leader, we had many a conversation regarding Irish history and he had a great understanding,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“And I think that was how he was able to grasp a hold of his brief on Northern Ireland. You can’t really talk about Northern Ireland unless you have a knowledge of where we are – particularly now we’re celebrating 100 years.”
He added: “He’s more scholarly on Irish history than I am.”
RTE presenter Claire Byrne accused Mr Farage of “not having a clue” about Ireland or Irish history after he questioned why the nation was still part of the EU during his appearance via video link and claimed the Republic is “governed by the EU”.
The interview came on the heels of a video on platform app Cameo emerged in which the broadcaster was duped into sending a belated 71st birthday message to ‘Gerard’, which some people suggested was a reference to ex-Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams.
He also said the phrase ‘Tiocfaidh ar la’ – which means ‘our day will come’ in Irish and is associated with the Irish republican movement.
The message also spoke of Brighton, which some suggested may refer to the 1984 IRA bombing which targeted the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and her Conservative Party colleagues during their party conference.
Mr Farage had said he is “happy to say anything anybody wants” as long as they pay him £100, adding he thought the Irish phrase was the name of an establishment in Brighton.
Earlier this month, Mr Farage was also tricked into saying ‘Up the Ra!’ in another clip, which was played during RTE One’s Claire Byrne Live programme on Monday, after he had questioned why the nation was still part of the EU.
Speaking to Ms Byrne about the effects that Brexit has had on Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Mr Farage questioned why the Irish had fought the British for “500 often very bloody, difficult years”.
He added: “What was the point of it if you’re now governed by European commissioners?”
Mr McNarry, who said Mr Farage’s ‘Up the Ra!’ remark was “cringing” and he had apologised for it, said the point he was trying to make had been “overshadowed” by the playing of the clip.
“I think the interviewer, who is very knowledgeable and top notch in her job down there, was extremely aggressive and I don’t know what point she was trying to prove,” he explained.
“If the point was that Nigel Farage has little knowledge about Irish history, she failed as far as I’m concerned. Whether her audience agreed with her is another matter.”
The former UUP MLA said the Brexiteer was merely asking a question that any unionist would pose.
“Their economy [the Republic’] is a basket-case. They cannot survive without EU subsidies. We in the United Kingdom have chosen a different course. We in Northern Ireland cannot survive without British subsidies.
“I think the point he was making, and I think he made it, was: ‘who are you? What is your identity… Are you Europeans? Is that your lot now, is that who you want to be’, because the United Kingdom has decided we’ve tried it and don’t want to be that,” he said of Brexit.