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Ireland: The Old Guard Tries to Ignore a Bomb

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The country most affected by Brexit, apart from the UK itself, is the Republic of Ireland. The border between the Republic and British-controlled Northern Ireland will now be the boundary between the UK and the EU, and what that actually means, and how it relates to other international treaties, was one of the sticking points in trying to get a Brexit agreement.

There are also significant Irish communities all over the UK, whose members are “the same but different” to the British, and Irish nationals can still vote in UK elections as a result of the original agreement which established what was then called the Irish Free State. Ireland may have been independent for a century, but the old special relationship applies as much as ever, with neither side considering the other “foreign”, even though they soon will be in practical terms.

So maybe it is not surprising that the recent Irish elections, which might change that country’s political landscape forever, have produced the press reaction very familiar to those who have had Brexit rammed down their throats since long before the 2016 referendum. Just as in the UK, the Irish press barons have decided that if you repeat something often enough, everyone will believe it.

The big winners of the Irish election were Sinn Fein, the left wing party that unashamedly advocates a united Ireland, being also active in the North, and rejects the neoliberal economics promoted by both the traditional centre-right parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. Contrary to all previous precedent, it won the largest share of first preference votes under Ireland’s proportional voting system, only being edged out of the top spot in seats by Fianna Fail voters’ traditionally strict allocation of second and third preferences exclusively to their own party’s candidates.

But for the Irish press, this never happened. The seismic change in the Republic since independence and the subsequent civil war is being treated as merely a bump in the road.

The Irish media are trying their hardest to present the task of forming the next Irish government as a slightly more difficult version of the usual Fianna Fail-Fine Gael stitch-up. Though the two old parties wouldn’t have a majority even in a grand coalition, anyone who simply reads newspapers and watches TV would think that all that has happened is a slight alteration in the maths, with more acceptable smaller parties the only ones to come into any credible equation

It is exactly this attitude which is responsible for having created the Sinn Fein surge. It is no longer a small party that can be bought off by a few policy concessions, now and then, as traditional smaller coalition, partners are so often—and for cheap!

It is promising a future when no one else is – and it is a future everyone in the Republic has always professed to want, whilst wondering why their politicians have never delivered it.

Back to the future

Ireland is like Liberia – it broke away from its colonial master to go back in time. Irish politics has always had a nineteenth century character to it, combining the traditions of the UK with those of South America.

The two main Irish parties are extensions of the sides which fought the civil war which followed the establishment of the Irish Free State. Although they are........

© New Eastern Outlook