It would have been hard to avoid the sense that some degree of change is on the cards Sunday, as Dublin’s fair city played host to two well-attended Right-leaning events against a glaringly lacklustre response from the Left.
On Merrion Square, UK gender-critic Posie Parker and Graham Linehan not only went toe-to-toe with, but numerically matched a baying mob of trans auxiliaries and miscellaneous government NGOs while a simultaneous conference at the RDS opposing Minister McEntee’s Hate Speech Bill was dubh le daoine in what was by any measure a red letter day for emergent Irish populism.
While change is notoriously slow coming in Irish politics the notion that not just one but two events of this ilk and magnitude could occur in Dublin on the same day 3 years ago would have been optimistic to the extreme.
Not just a success for the general Right, serious questions are likely to be raised internally within the Republic’s so-called “antifascist” response a few months after the state-sanctioned Ireland for All rally was supposed to herald an establishment fightback against growing unease by the general public on asylum matters.
The Burkean hears that the blame for Saturday’s measly and confused showing by the left has been put at the feet of Ruth Coppinger and a cadre of Socialist Party radlibs who ran roughshod over the wishes of fellow leftists who wanted a more broad-based protest against Parker and the RDS conference.
What is even more telling was the transparent lack of muscle usually brought by Sinn Féin or dissident republican groups who opted to cold shoulder and not even advertise the counter-protest against Parker. Solidarity: I think not!
Traditionally an appendage of a wider movement against the British far right the domestic “antifascist” scene has been reliant on red republicans fed yarns about the Battle of Ebro but in recent years has been radically challenged by the arrival of younger activists driven primarily by identity politics.
The generational arrival of these Young Turks we are informed has driven many older republican activists to despair and has eventuated in a quiet but oftentimes public schism behind the banners of activist networks as the right gradually gains cultural ground.
Similar to the right it would be hard to ignore the many problem characters plaguing left-wing political movements with an ongoing political arms race between which side can dispense with their crankish elements in time to trounce the other.
It would be hard not to understate the significance of Saturday’s twin events but disingenuous to exaggerate their importance either. If Ferg from Fair City or the spectacle of Paul Murphy and TCDSU’s Jenny Maguire on Merrion Square is the regime’s last line of defence against populism then change may be coming faster than we think.