This Saturday marks a potential shuffle in the electoral deck of cards in the 26 county state, but not in the way one might think. Since the gunmen went away, Irish elections have never really mattered, and even less so now that the state has outsourced so much power to international bodies. However a potential exists for a shift in the future political trajectory of the state.
The cynical political party duo that has dominated the Oireachtas since De Valera entered the Dáil appears to be approaching exhaustion. A third nebulous bloc of left and hard left parties stands to potentially spearhead the next Dáil, and could be the primary opposition suggested by the more tactically minded actors like Saoirse McHugh.
Amid a dysfunctional housing market and the failure of a post-Brexit boost to materialise, many in Fine Gael probably want out. Without an effective opposition and with Brexit as an obscuring device, the 32nd Dáil has been marked by a heightened level of state ineptitude even by Free State standards.
Supply and confidence clarified the long held cliché that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are just two factions of a larger amoral centrist bloc, hoovering up votes based off a network of electoral clientelism and parochialism.
The chance to dislodge these two zombie parties should be jumped at by those on the conservative right, even if forcing us to endure the ordeal of a left government for the best part of a decade. The existence of civil war politics 100 years after the event is a source of national embarrassment for our polity, with the price paid for it in emigration and state incompetence.
In Ireland liberalism has always been something of plausible deniability. A false dichotomy is presented between jaded gombeen capitalism and enlightened progressivism, ranging from social democracy leftwards.
In actual fact liberalism has been the governing ideology of the Irish state from an elite level downward since the time of our parent’s birth. The Eight Amendment was lobbied for and secured in the 1980s as certain Catholic activists understood that the rot of liberalism had taken root, making a pro-life amendment a necessity.
Contrary Saorise McHugh, Ireland already has a de facto progressive government by stealth, brought about by a vast nexus of NGOs acting as a shadow government. Having a formal progressive government will leave the left with no place to hide when crisis hits, and will spur on a genuinely radical right as an alternative once the civil war parties are vanquished.
Fine Gael are simply liberals of property, and subtracting some miniscule differences around economics and housing, are functionally the same as any left of centre political party.
Fianna Fáil at a leadership level are no different than the Social Democrats, only humouring a caucus of conservative minded voters through figures like Éamon Ó Cuív. To put it bluntly, in the period of this Dáil Stephen Donnelly didn’t join Fianna Fáil rather Fianna Fáil morphed fully into the Social Democrats.
The entirety of our political and media establishment, bar a few pariahs, gelled together in pursuit of abortion similarly to how they close ranks on matters of Europe or immigration. In Freudian terms, Irish politics is propelled by the narcissism of small differences, the minutia of divergence between the parties exaggerated to the point of supporting our political-media complex.
The End of the Provisional Project
Rather strangely, despite our politics being entirely co-opted by globalism root and branch, the spectre of the national question, and with it the question of militant republicanism, still haunts Irish politics. Sinn Féin is written off justifiably as being a generic progressive party by those on the Irish right, however this neglects the degree of bad blood existing between Sinn Féin and large swathes of our media and security establishment.
Thirty years of an armed campaign has built up a store of hatred between Sinn Féin and various strands of Irish political life. Not merely do middle class Fine Gael voters despise the party, but many on the left regard them as a thinly veiled ethno-sectarian party with fascist tendencies. The chance of Sinn Féin at the cabinet table has stirred up an intense media campaign against the reformed provisional movement, despite the fact that we on the anti-globalist right understand these differences are only cosmetic.
Contrary to the paranoia of Irish Independent hacks, there is no dormant Sinn Féin Army Council waiting to trigger another armed campaign. Mary Lou MacDonald is not an Irish Le Pen, and no amount of Irish Times periodicals can change that fact. Sinn Féin leaders are not only in government in the 6 counties, but are present at PSNI photoshoots epitomising the extent to which they have been neutralised as a real outside force.
Wherever one stood on the provisional campaign, we can all agree that modern Sinn Féin is more Fintan Warfield than Seán Mac Stíofáin. It’s a 32 county globalist party, with only a residual scent of semtex differentiating it from the SDLP.
That being said for Sinn Féin to command the potential whip hand electorally in Irish politics north and south of the border is an astounding achievement. Cashing in on the armed struggle at the right time electorally and building up street cred through the water charges movements and among urban youth voters highlights a remarkable political feat. The provisional project of normalisation is coming to an end resulting rather anti-climatically in a Mary Lou Cabinet position.
The week or so leading up to polling day has led to a heightening of the tired old tactic of anti-Sinn Féin hysteria perpetuated by the elements of our media class that has not left the 1980s. Old stories about Army Councils and dissident links have been trotted out to an ambivalent under 35 demographic.
While strands of our security state and journalistic class in the Republic are still at odds with Sinn Féin, they have shown themselves to be of no great difference to the status quo north of the border.
To attack Sinn Féin on the charges that they are eating from the same liberal troff as the rest of the established parties would reveal the hand of many of the commenters bringing up mention of the provisional campaign. The reduced Euroscepticism seen within Sinn Féin post-Brexit, as well as commitment to hate speech legislation and the LGBT agenda in schools, is of actual concern but is never mentioned by the media.
In what is now a slightly dated paper, the political scientist Eoin O’Malley examined the failure of Ireland to develop a radical right party unlike so much of the European Continent. To simplify his findings, Sinn Féin and the space they occupy politically among nationalist minded voters of a lower socio-economic class are the greatest block in the development of a radical right in this country. The voters in Tallaght and Donegal who invest their trust with Sinn Féin currently would be voting for the populist right in a normal European setting.
Getting Sinn Féin with a loose warring coalition of progressive into government sets the stage for populism to rise over the course of this decade. Through this, the noose will tighten on the civil war zombie parties and open up space for the populist right by discrediting the notion that modern Sinn Féin is a radical alternative.
Saturday will not witness a sudden surge in populist parties. The various anti-globalist groupings will be simply getting their foot in the door for future growth. However much like chickenpox, it’s best for the Republic to get through the yoke of a left alternative government now instead of one by proxy though the civil war legacy parties. Irish politics is a nightmare we are trying to awaken from, and it’s time for it to leave its century long ideological stasis.