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Outsiders? February 19, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Anyone read Breda O’Brien in the IT at the weekend? In a piece on the election she made some pointed remarks about ‘outsiders’ and the danger of treating people as such. Now in fairness, O’Brien does outline with some clarity the socio-economic reasons that led to the rise in the SF vote. And it is difficult to disagree with her on any of the aspects she raises in that regard. Not least her support for cooperative housing models.

But… for her there is another issue. Hence her framing the piece as follows:

The general election is a story of outsiders who 20 years ago had 2.5 per cent of the vote and one TD. Most of the media in the Republic poured contempt on them.

Is she making a comparison. Sure is!

And half way through the column she swerves somewhat to perhaps predictable terrain.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin thought that by forcing his party in a socially liberal direction it would finally earn the love of young, urban voters. Young, pro-choice women were promoted in every possible constituency. The electorate did not care.
Fianna Fáil forgot a few vital things. Firstly, hardcore liberals would prefer to set themselves on fire and die screaming rather than vote Fianna Fáil. This did not preclude the same liberals from courting and flattering Fianna Fáil as a means to an end.

Secondly, even though Fianna Fáil was busy telling people that the electorate does not vote on single issues such as abortion, it forgot that the people who do vote on single issues are passionate and willing to poster, leaflet and canvass for anyone that represents their values.

She argues FG made ‘the same mistake’. And she points to the fact that while a number of anti-abortion TDs were re-elected, quite a few pro-choice TDs were jettisoned. Again, in fairness she notes:

Many of them topped the poll despite the Sinn Féin tsunami. I wish I could say it was because they were pro-life.
No, it was because they are perceived as hard-working people who care about for their constituents. It is not that the electorate votes only for selfish reasons. Housing and healthcare are basic needs that any worthwhile government should provide.

But then again a number of strong pro-choice TDs also retained their seats – Brid Smith being one amongst them.

However, whatever about the accuracy or not of that thesis I think she is stretching matters in the following when she writes:

Sinn Féin, of all people, should be aware of what happens when people are treated as outsiders or are left out.
This is a lesson for the right-wingers, too, who want to leave out thousands of decent, hard-working immigrants, despite knowing how many Irish people emigrated longing for a welcome in the new country.
Politicians need to think a bit harder before they decide any group in society can safely be made to feel outsiders, unwanted or backwoodsmen. It only took 20 years for Sinn Féin, even with their frightening and murky history of supporting armed struggle, to repay with a vengeance those who sought to keep them outside the gates. Other political movements might not take so long.

There’s an obvious problem with that comparison. For a start SF’s political turn, as it were, was always one which was more broadly based than simple unity – arguing for a leftist approach from the off, albeit fluctuating between where on the dial it actually was positioned. She mentions the ‘right-wing’ but I suspect she is thinking of a point closer to her heart. And it seems to me that again SF is different to – say, an anti-abortion political vehicle gaining speed in quite the same way. Aontu is the closest we have to such a vehicle and one can already see the limitations – without question the retention of the seat is an achievement. But even SF’s precipitous rise hasn’t brought it close to being able to walk into state power, and it remains at a strong but not entirely commanding 25% of the vote. Time and again we have seen that forces that place abortion at the centre of their political practice do not prosper. Only those that adopt it as part of a suite of issues see real gains. Perhaps her message is that FF should restate those credentials. Or perhaps she hopes for something else. But not quite comparing like with like.


1. sonofstan - February 19, 2020

She did have a rather nice line about how the Irish electorate is fond of independents or whatever stripe who work hard whereas ‘The market for patrician disdain, in contrast, is somewhat limited’


2. Daniel Rayner O'Connor - February 19, 2020

‘Many anti-abortion candidates topped the polls? Only two by my reckoning.


3. tafkaGW - February 19, 2020

Clear nostalgia for traditional Ireland ™; which used to know what to do with ‘outsiders’ – either don’t let them in or drive them into emigration.


4. oliverbohs - February 19, 2020

I sense here a fantasy for a Poland style anti-liberal backlash with rollback of reproductive rights the keystone of such a movement. Maybe the only thing to give it meaning. Maybe a better comparison wd be the Euro sceptics in Britain, who had left and right approaches before the Tories got infected and slowly consumed by it. Hard to see similar in a non-FPTP electoral system tho.
O’Brien is being disingenuous by not spelling out the changes desired. Can women who order abortion pills online get jailed? Can those who provide such info online to Irish people get jailed, and how? Are the rights of the unborn going to lead to women dying in hospitals? Who would vote for a party condoning all this in sufficient numbers?
It’s nice that the IT lets a columnist talk around but never really about all this on a weekly basis. Am sure it makes them feel very plutalist


NFB - February 20, 2020

The pro-life movement in Ireland are one of the worst in the world for refusing to engage with such awkward questions. The fact that so many of them were against repeal but OK with the right to travel was evidence that they were happy to stick their heads in the sand as long as it was “NIMBY”. Same now.

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