Ireland and the Rumblings of Populism
The quick-fire legislation towards hate speech early next year is a clear signifier that the powers that be in Ireland are becoming rather rattled over an as of yet non-existing populist insurgency. While right-wing populism has yet to make a permanent electoral impact on this island, there appears to be preparation to subdue any impending threat. One would be right to be sceptical about the potential strength of populism in Ireland, but our leaders think otherwise judging by their actions.
The intent with hate speech legislation is the same as elsewhere, to cripple and criminalise dissident right-wing thinkers and activists who stand up to liberal policies. It is legislation largely bought and paid for by an unchallengeable NGO class and rubber-stamped by a jumpy Fine Gael government, keen on buttressing itself against populism. A system that waxes lyrically about how much more tolerant it is than the previous Catholic regime is about to pass legislation that would have made Archbishop McQuaid blush in how extreme it orientates itself.
A cottage industry has exploded onto the media scene in Ireland, decrying and warning against supposed right-wing extremism furtively lurking beneath the surface of modern Ireland. The articles are as tiresome as they are recursive. In the past two months if an Irish member of the commentariat has had a pulse, they have denounced racism.
Beginning with the shock Peter Casey presidential vote, there has been a rising audience in Ireland ready to fall into the populist camp once it appears. Our elites were fortunate in that Casey himself was a half-hearted political chancer, unable to really capitalise on the minor but significant electoral break that he had. Regardless, his runs displayed how easily a significant percentage of the electorate could be cleaved into potentially dissident politics. In particular his vote showed the increasing fickleness of Fianna Fáil voters around the Midland region, the most likely base of electoral populism if there ever were one.
Following soon after the Casey ordeal, a set of self-inflicted crises within the Direct Provision system opened the door to small bands of right-wing actors to influence the national discourse. A chorus of towns the length and breadth of the country played host to pitched battles as locals fought against the imposition of asylum centres in the form of co-opted hotels, climaxing rather remarkably with the erection of barricades by residents of Oughterard.
Most recently there has been the Grealish episode on remittances, not to mention the recent Fingal and Wexford by-elections being suddenly side-tracked into debates around immigration. The recent beef farmers’ protests have themselves been stalked by allegations of ‘far-right influence’ acting in the shadows. Even the hate speech legislation itself has engendered a surprising level of public backlash with mounting street demonstrations against such a law.
Ireland has been remiss regarding populist politics over the past decade but some light is emerging through the cracks. It is early days yet, but while the movement may have been easily laughed off this time last year, the potential for some sort of genuine populist backlash is increasing with each consecutive crisis.
The Failing 26
Regardless of if and when populism really emerges in strength, its necessity is validated by the unending social and political crises of the Irish Republic.
Five years of accelerating progressive activism does little to obfuscate the fact the twenty-six county state is slowly faltering. The referenda on gay marriage and abortion supposedly exorcising the constitutional remains of clericalism are petty distractions in the face of the slow motion disintegration of the Irish State. Our socio-economic system was floored in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger crash and only survived through bail-outs and the embracing of an even more myopic economic model.
Our capital city is basically a Silicon Valley satrap with its social mores becoming that of a Californian frat house. Dubliners increasingly find themselves willing captives to an ill-suited economic model, and their coping mechanism is to binge on alcohol, take-aways and electronic entertainment.
The housing debacle essentially cancels the futures of under 35s in this country. And never mind the abject failure on capital projects like Metro North, the National Broadband plan and the National Children’s Hospital pointing to long term structural faults within the system.
The Irish Farming industry seems to be going the way of the English coal miner, thrown under the bus of industrial scale and global economic rationalisation. Ireland may have avoided the vicissitudes of deindustrialisation, but large swathes of rural Ireland are now simply left to rot.
In the coming twenty years the State will seek to manage the importation of circa a million people, if not more. Not so much by design but rather to feed a transient parasitical economy, and this will slowly force a multitude of crises upon the State. Put succinctly Ireland is about to be hit by a demographic freight train, brought on by a need to add fuel to the fire of an already out of control neoliberal hellscape economy.
Even by the normal standard of the Free State hypocrisy, our politics has reached a new level of cynicism with the supply and confidence arrangement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the two major parties. Sinn Féin, while formerly and justifiably putting the fear of God into our elites, has taken a pummelling, likely on account of the older provos being put to pasture and a new hyper-progressive, yet hapless leadership taking charge.
While the potential for left populism genuinely exists among the newly politicised Repeal generation, the left remains hopelessly divided. The chance and energy for a left-wing populist revolt came and went with the Repeal movement, as they campaigned with and subsequently celebrated alongside Fine Gael ministers over the death sentence imposed upon the Irish unborn at Dublin Castle in May 2018.
With Brexit comes the chance of the six counties falling into our lap, albeit stitched together into a financially doomed 32 county globalist republic. Taking a wider panoramic view our statelet has the potential to have its economic model trashed should tariffs emerge or should our corporate paymasters decide to move their tax evading operations elsewhere.
Scratch the surface and you soon realise that the 26 county state is a failing state, wide open should a nationalist grouping vanguard get a footing. Outsourcing any real authority to Brussels or the corporate world years ago its lives on as a zombified corpse playing to an electorate that still thinks it has real control.
Populism in its purest form torches the pre-existing political and media structures, grown decadent through years of mismanaged globalisation, and potentially sets the stage for society’s reconstruction under radically different principles. Despite the liberal triumphalism, Ireland could very well be a populist tinderbox in the making.
The Eventual Irish Glasnost
Conservative politics is often as dull as it is redundant. My earliest impression of conservative writers were marked by how pathetic they were in the face of an unyielding liberal ascendancy, gradually rolling over and conceding the whip hand in the post-Crash years.
While the left presented populist policies on economic reform and stopping austerity, we had only ineffectual grumbling on what passes for the post-Catholic conservative right in Ireland. The only point they made was that ‘We are not allowed to talk about X and Y anymore’, without outlining a programme on how to fight back.
However as a litany of personalities like Hooke, Myers, Waters, Linehan and rather surprisingly the hip-hop duo Versatile are put to the sword by deplatforming, one starts to realise how salient their point is.
It’s a well-worn point, but our public discourse is being held hostage by the extreme faction of progressives who do not distinguish between the ‘far-right’ and those who unintentionally sway from the pre-ordained progressive answers. As someone who potentially belongs to the former category in their eyes, this ostracisation presents strategic opportunities.
A decade ago the whole point around the ‘intolerant left’ or ‘PC culture gone mad’ would be the sole preserve of the conservative right, but now it has spread to many centrists anxiously looking over their shoulders. The comedian Dave Chappelle’s recent anti-woke comedy routine is indicative at the schism between the left and more constrained centre on matters of cancel culture.
With characters like David Rubin or Spiked magazine, we see this attempt to break away from the progressive puritans and open up discourse on topics of demographics and immigration, before the ‘far-right’ claims them fully. My prediction however is these centrist types will open a Pandora’s Box by normalising right-wing ideas, as long claimed by the left.
The vista of a Repeal landslide may be indicative of mass public support for liberalism, however I’m sure Soviet Russia may have had similar support right up until the months before it inexorably collapsed.
Under Brezhnev the Soviet Union entered an ossified state of late-stage communism. The entire Soviet edifice was based on lies and intimidation, masking serious faults. Ireland and the wider West are entering late-stage liberalism as much as the USSR was entering its twilight years under Brezhnev. It may take decades but the grip of liberalism will weaken, and it is currently doing so across the European continent from Budapest to Rome.
The USSR entered a death spiral when Gorbachev attempted to open up discourse with Glasnost, once dissidents were allowed to air their beliefs the system crumbled. Similarly the centrists who gradually allow liberal axioms to be questioned may schedule eventual doom of liberalism itself, opening the door for radical elements to take charge.
For readers of this publication the coming years will be rough, and the extent to which the progressive order will go to save itself before being finally dispatched will be horrific. Prepare yourself professionally and personally, and by all means start asserting yourself on the political stage. Nothing lasts forever, even liberalism.
The sad fact is the new cultural puritanism will destroy many livelihoods in the coming years, never mind hate speech legislation. From the Civil War to the horrific smearing of Sergeant McCabe, the Free State has for the past century done very little well except for crushing dissent, and the rush to crush the nascent populist right is no different.