This will merely be a short analysis of the entertaining results of the Presidential Election. As I write, the counting has yet to even begin. Despite that, what is clear is that a candidate polling at 1% for the majority of the campaign appears to have skyrocketed to 20% of the vote or more. Why?
Irish Presidential elections are a curious thing, the office of the President is essentially powerless. The position is little more than an international goodwill ambassador and a face for the nation at various international functions. The pros and cons of this system can be investigated another time, but one thing that is undeniable is that it has been a most uncontroversial office for a very long time. On many occasions, we didn’t even have elections, relatively erudite cultural figures ran unopposed – and when we did, turnout hovered just under 60% on average.
This year, all that seems to have changed. Not only was the line-up highly unusual, with three Dragon’s Den stars, but every establishment party backed a single candidate too. Originally, they didn’t even want a vote to take place.
As soon as the campaign began, murmurs of dissatisfaction breezed across the nation, not concerning anything particularly serious, but more a tone of general derision towards the Presidency. After all, what does it matter relative to the wider political scene? Why waste our time with it as the future of the country hangs in the balance?
It probably didn’t help that the government tied a referendum to the date as well, us Irish are thoroughly sick of referendums based on my experience – especially irrelevant ones like blasphemy.
All was well with the campaign for a long time, and by ‘well,’ I mean monotonous, uninteresting, and lifeless. That is, until Peter Casey, Dragon’s Den star and businessman from Derry, made a comment about Travellers and housing that was uncontroversial to everyone in the country except the ascendant left-liberal elite.
He dared to speak his mind on a topic that many people view as simple common sense. In a housing crisis, it is unacceptable for a group of Travellers, or any group, to refuse government housing because it doesn’t meet their exact expectations. I have yet to meet someone who took issue with his original comment.
Yet the media seemed intent on demolishing the man for his simple words. He put a toe beyond the line of establishment orthodoxy, probably without even thinking about it, and breached a sacred tenet of the politically correct consensus – never criticise minorities.
It was not so much the content of his comment that spurred the reaction as the fact that he dared say it. If he can speak freely on a topic which they do not want us speaking about, well then anyone can – and that is the nightmare of the ruling class.
So, they came down on him like a hammer on an anvil. The Irish media treated Peter Casey to the journalistic equivalent of an orbital nuclear bombardment, and by doing so spread the name of a man polling at 1% to every household in the country.
What they failed to realise, is that virtually everyone agreed with him. Be you a Right-winger, a Left-winger, a moderate, an unaffiliated or utterly apolitical – his brief point made sense. ‘Don’t reject free housing in a housing crisis, even if you are a minority.’
The ramifications of this are much more interesting than the fuss itself.
By catapulting a previously unknown Casey into 2nd place in the Presidential election, the establishment has shown the underlying hostility that Irish people bear towards their government.
Within a week, a candidate went from the prospect of receiving a few thousand votes, to 20% of the electorate. God knows what might have happened should the campaign have been a few weeks longer.
It exposed the fact that people are annoyed. Not necessarily angry – not yet anyway, but annoyed. Dissatisfied. Few people are passionate about Michael D Higgins despite his inevitable victory. It was undoubtedly a ‘best of a bad lot’ vote for most of the country, and no one enjoys that. This is shown very clearly by the incredibly low turnout.
I don’t know yet what it will be, but there’s a good chance it will be in the region of 40%, perhaps less. What can this demonstrate other than pure apathy, if not mild hostility, from vast sections of the Irish nation towards our political system? For a supposedly modern democracy, such a poor turnout is pathetic.
Friday’s vote was a crystal-clear demonstration of deep-rooted flaws within the Irish political system. It exposed massive media bias, establishment hysteria, and public apathy towards the democratic system.
All of these are signs of a nation in decay; of a society and a democracy with structural problems so widespread and obvious that barely more than a third of the electorate bothers to participate (though I’m sure it will be higher in the next General Election).
It also shows there is a market here for the straight-talking populism taking the world by storm, whether Casey every intended to showcase that is doubtful, but it happened anyway.
To the political and cultural elites, Ireland represents a sea of liberal calm in an ocean of worldwide political turmoil where the establishment consensus is being attacked and jettisoned at every turn.
If nothing else, we now know that an upheaval is beginning to brew here as well. It may yet be small, formless and leaderless – but have no doubt that it is here – and that it gathers strength by the day.