It is a strange thing to belong to a country you had always imagined to be more or less normal – whatever that means – and then, all of a sudden, realise that it is anything but. For the past couple of weeks I have been doing something I never thought I would find myself doing: running for election to Dáil Éireann, the Irish national parliament. In that time, I have not merely observed up close the growing inscrutability of our political system and increasing mendacity of our media — no great surprises there — but also encountered a simmering violence in our culture, directed at dissidence, which is deeply ominous not merely for dissidents but for the Irish people in general.
Ireland’s crisis is impossible to exaggerate. Three decades after the crisis of Irish Catholicism first showed its head above ground, and following two dubious referendums in the past five years, Ireland has introduced “gay marriage” and is now among the most radical anti-life cultures in the world. The parlous condition of our economy, grounded in the extremely uncertain policy of attracting foreign direct investment with the bait of, in effect, zero-rated corporation tax; the unprecedented numbers of immigrants arriving in Irish cities and towns; the connected crises of escalating homelessness, fraying health services, gridlock; the attempts by the political class and media to close down all discussion of these connections and, latterly, to propose “hate speech” legislation as a way of punishing those who refuse to fall silent – all these factors were instrumental in my decision to run.
I was running in Dún Laoghaire, on the south side of Dublin, where I have been living for 30 years. I come from the West, and was tempted to run there, but was anxious lest, after 35 years in exile in Dublin, I be portrayed as a parachutist-in. Dún Laoghaire is about the highest mountain I could have picked to climb, consistently the most “liberal” in the country. Although a pleasant place to live an atomised existence, it is not a great place for someone like me to run for public office. Up to the end, I had no idea whether I might get 10 votes or 10,000; as it turned out I got just short of 1,000.
This was the first time I have run for election, although I participated in three referendums over the past decade – the so-called “Children’s Rights” referendum on 2012; the assault on constitutional protections for marriage, parenthood and family to facilitate gay marriage in 2015; and the utterly dishonest “Repeal” referendum of 2018, which resulted in the introduction of abortion. In all three polls I was among a minority (in 2012 a tiny minority) opposing the government’s initiative.
This time, I was officially running as Non-party, though in practice I’m affiliated to the Anti-Corruption Ireland (ACI) movement of my friend Gemma O’Doherty, a fledgling entity that had not been registered at the time the election was called.
The results of the election, though ostensibly unflattering to the smaller parties, may deeper down be telling a different story.
The best analysis I have heard of the outcome comes from the tremendous American pundit Dr Steve Turley who compared what’s transpired to countries like Greece and Italy, in which the dissolution of centrist hegemonies came initially through left-populist parties Syriza (Greece) and Five Star (Italy).
Essentially, what happened in Ireland is that the Big Beasts of Civil War politics, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, have been decimated to the same extent, with the armed republican offshoot Sinn Féin achieving more or less the same level of representation.
Sinn Féin is seen externally as a nationalist party, but in fact it advocates the same policies as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil: mass immigration, transgenderism, abortion, LGBTBlah.
Turley sees in this, as with New Democracy in Greece and Lega in Italy, a preliminary stage in the reawakening of Ireland. My own wish and ambition is to stay with the game until a new kind of party is safely ensconced in Government Buildings.
John Waters is an author and columnist