Irish political scandals are often as unbelievable as they are mind-numbing. In this sense, Merriongate is no exception. The idea that politicians, lawmakers, and other senior gombeens would be dumb enough to attend a private shindig during a period of perennial Covid restrictions, let alone one in a venue so central and so close to the Dáil, is almost beyond imagination. And yet the reality of its occurrence seems so unimportant that I struggle to find within myself the energy to write a well formulated article on the subject. So, with that being considered, allow me to do what every hack journalist does whenever they lack the will to do even the most basic amount of work: write a listicle!
So, here are five things we’ve learned from the absolute trainwreck that was #MerrionGate.
1: Our Elite are not worried about Covid-19
While this point seemed highly likely after the whole Golfgate fiasco, #MerrionGate has proven without a doubt that the Irish Elite, by and large, do not consider Covid-19 to be a threat to themselves, nor seemingly those close to them, from a health point of view. As the Covid terror marches on, and as the efficacy of current vaccines seems to be on the decline, those at the top of our society saw it fit to not only risk socializing, but socializing in large numbers with their fellow elites. All this, despite their constant fear mongering about the dangers new variants pose for our population.
The big question now is why.
The more conspiratorial among us no doubt will chalk this down to our overlords being party to some monstrous plot. That the #Scamdemic is all about depopulating the #Sheeple so that the Lizardmen and Rothschilds can build some sort of Luciferian world and bring about Armageddon. I myself, however, am not all that partial to this view. That being said, it could be reasonable to believe that a number of these politicians and media spin-doctors are overblowing the current dangers Covid poses for one reason or another.
A more likely reason however is simply that those who rule over us are too stupid to internalize their own advice. Just like how those most scared of climate change are the least likely to be doomsday preppers, our political class, while consciously aware of the danger the Coronavirus poses to their own health, have subconsciously decided to ignore this danger, and act like it simply is not there. Covid is simply something you worry about while on the clock, how could it possibly affect one’s private life?
Whatever the reality is though, it is certain that our elite are not worried about catching, spreading, or suffering from Covid-19, delta variant or otherwise. That being said, a number of these men and women are indeed terrified of something right now.
2: Fianna Fáil knows that they are circling the electoral drain
No party has been doing as much damage control when it comes to Merriongate as Fianna Fáil. Yes, that includes Fine Gael.
While the party of De Valera have yet to have any major heads named as having attended Kathrine Zappone’s bonanza bash, the party has nevertheless been rather insistent on everyone moving swiftly along from discussing the event, no one more so than (supposedly) current Taoiseach Micheál Martin. This despite the fact that the controversy in question mostly embroils Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil’s arch rival/frenemy.
While this trojan defence initially appears mysterious, a cursory glance at party opinion polls reveals one thing for certain — Fianna Fáil are completely screwed.
The latest poll, which shows the party having gone up in popularity by six points, still has them at a dismal 20% of the electorate. Now take into account the fact that this poll was taken long before Merriongate, let alone the host of other botched jobs and slip-ups of the last two months, and it becomes very clear that Fianna Fáil will soon be turfed from power.
With this being the case, the party leadership have found themselves left with two options. The first, and one seemingly most popular with grassroots membership, is to bow out gracefully enough, or at least to go down fighting, pulling Fine Gael down with them as Sinn Féin forms its first government.
However, the party elite have opted for the second option: hold onto any scrap of power for as long as possible, no matter what. This means defending the indefensible, even if the indefensible was conducted by the arch-diva heading up a rival party. While this choice does not look like it will do the party any long term favours, it does appear that it has been a great help for one man in particular.
3: Leo Varadkar is Invincible
I would call Leo Varadkar a cockroach, but honestly, cockroaches have absolutely nothing on our Tanáiste when it comes to surviving disasters. All the way back from the beginning of his disastrous stint as Minister for Health way back in 2014 to the current day, Varadkar has been dodging controversies like he was in the Matrix. Varadkar is so resistant to harm, that if the Irish naval service could make a ship out of his hide, Ireland would become a world power within six months.
I feel like I must add a disclaimer here: I don’t like Mr. Varadkar. Ever since he flip-flopped on the abortion issue, I’ve held the man in low esteem. That being said, he is clearly one of the smartest among the rusty toolbox that is our Oireachtas, and while he may be a bit slimy, at some point you just got to respect the hustle.
That being said, despite his previous immunity to anything hurled at him, quite a number of people have nevertheless made it their mission to haul him from his shiny pedestal.
4: Irish Twitter can hold a grudge
Some form of anti-Merriongate term or hashtag has been consistently trending on Twitter since the 5th of this month. Considering we live in a 24-hours news cycle (if even), where even the biggest stories rarely outlive a week, the fact that such outrage has been maintained for such a long time is notable. Many on the website are to this hour, to this minute even, calling on the Tanaiste to resign his position over his involvement in Zappone’s little get-together, with some holding positions of relative power in Irish society.
Perhaps the most prominent of those with their crosshairs firmly on Vardkar’s seemingly bulletproof skull is flavour-of-the-month populist Paddy Cosgrave. The ex-Piranha editor turned tech-wiz rose to prominence after Co-Founding the Web Summit, but now seems to have turned his attention towards political excrement-stirring in the Irish sphere. His most recent stunt was to put out multiple bounties in regards to #Merriongate, seemingly in the hope of finding dirt on many within the Irish elite, with Varadkar himself specifically listed as a target of interest in one of the bounty descriptions.
Despite the sustained pressure from those on the site, both prominent and otherwise, such calls for Varadkar’s head have mostly landed on deaf ears. This leads us on to our fifth and final thing we’ve learned from Merriongate
5: Irish Twitter lacks any real power
While this article has been largely tongue-in-cheek, this final point is worth noting. While the efforts of black-flag populists and Shinnerbots have been Herculean on Twitter, their efforts have ultimately been in vain. As of writing, Irish media has largely moved on from the scandal, instead finding it more pertinent to once again go on and on about climate alarmism, leaving critics of Varadkar and co. out in the cold.
In this sense, those on the platform, and those on the left more generally, have found themselves falling victim to a similar ploy used to great effect against the right over the last few years. This being that nothing is important in Ireland unless the press are reporting on it.
In Ireland, you can largely split journalists into two groups: the group that is on the government payroll, either officially or otherwise, and the group that wants to be on the government payroll, again, official or otherwise.
As a result, journalists on this island will frequently tell the public what the government wants them to hear. As a result, if there’s a scandal that the government wants to move on from, and the press see it as reasonable to do so, they will, in all likelihood, move on to other things.
Of course, this is all within reason. If a politician or a party royally screws up, every journo-hack in the country will close in, all desperate for their pound of political flesh. If new evidence of anti-lockdown behaviour emerges in relation to this scandal, there will be no doubt that the press coverage of it will be huge. However, what journalists won’t do is stress an issue, even if it’s an issue that should be stressed.
As a result, those outside the Irish political cabal often find themselves left out in the cold. This was a frequent feature of the anti-lockdown movement in Ireland, where thousands strong marches received little to no coverage by a media who, at the same time, were willing to give various NGOs coverage for their protests which numbered a few hundred hardline activists at most.
The effect of this freezing out is severely felt at the ballot box. While those engaging with politics will often see beyond the journalistic theatre, the sad fact is that most voters only see what’s on the news, and not what’s behind it. As a result, the memory of most voters is almost exactly as long as the journalistic class in the country, and by extension, the political class, want it to be.
This, of course, is all without mentioning Ireland’s utterly draconian defamation laws, which forbids uttering anything but the most cleanly obvious facts during public discourse, even if piles and piles of circumstantial evidence points towards a single conclusion. Thes laws, combined with the poor state of journalism in Ireland, allow the likes of cabinet ministers to get away with metaphorical murder so long as they are smarter than your average lesser spot-nosed monkey.
This is by far the greatest challenge facing dissidents in this country, whether they be on the right or the left. While one can lure themselves into believing that all that matters is truth, and being on the right side of the argument, ultimately, without the ability to reach the electorate, let alone convince them of your viewpoint, any movement is doomed to fail.
Why Merriongate is Unimportant
This, ultimately, should be the key takeaway from Merriongate. While it may feel enjoyable or fulfilling to shout on Twitter for the resignation of some talking head, ultimately, it is extremely ineffective unless the elite class in this country want it to be. As a result, the likes of Merriongate will always be nothing more than a flash in the pan in Irish politics, never being a catalyst for real change. Such is the nature of the world we live in, and we better remember this fact should we want real change to occur in this land.