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Irish MP Matt Carthy today lambasted the European Union for its silence over the political crisis in Catalonia and called out the political establishment of the entire continent: not a single European leader, he said, has "stood up for democracy, human rights and justice" in the Catalan conflict. “It is utterly shameful,” he said in a speech to the Irish lower house.

The Sinn Féin MP recalled the Catalan independence referendum of 1st October 2017, highlighting that it was held by the Catalan government to honour the election mandate under which it had been elected. And he explained that the referendum was met with violence from Spanish state forces: "Voters were physically attacked as they made their way to vote, in what were unprecedented scenes in modern Western European history", and that, despite everything, two million Catalans voted for independence.

"The reaction in Spain was excessive and destructive," he added, "The Catalan parliament was dissolved and political leaders imprisoned - jailed for that heinous crime of organizing a democratic vote."

The Irish MP observed that since then, community leaders, political activists, and even musicians had also been jailed for taking part in peaceful political activities, and he explained that the Spanish government was also trying to remove three pro-independence MEPs from the European Parliament.

Europe's double standard

Carthy's description of these actions by the Spanish authorities was that they were "disappointing but not all that surprising". However, it was the response by the European authorities - or rather, the lack of one - which particularly incensed the Irish politician.   

"If the events that I have described were occurring in certain parts of South America or Asia, the outcry from EU leaders would be deafening", he said in Ireland's Dáil Éireann. 

Carthy stressed that the Irish people are well aware of the consequences that ensue when "powerful governments deny the right to self-determination", and he described the violence and oppression, and finally the partition of the country, that Ireland endured after voting for independence 100 years ago. He warned that that failure still has consequences today, something that the EU has learned as well, as a result of Brexit.

For all these reasons, he considered it "tragic" that the Spanish government has not learned from "the mistakes of their British counterparts". But, again, while accusing Madrid, Carthy pointed the finger of blame most forcefully at Brussels: "It is utterly shameful that the EU has allowed the Catalan crisis to fester", said the Sinn Féin representative. "Not a single European leader has stood up for democracy, human rights and justice on behalf of the people within the EU."

Catalan MEP and president in exile Carles Puigdemont, leader of the government which held the 2017 referdendum, will be taking part tomorrow in a virtual conference in the city of Derry, to talk about independence and state repression.