Ireland desperately needs a properly Irish Conservative party: Here’s how we might get it

Is Burke being marginalised? A literary party hosted by the artist Sir Joshua Reynolds in London, 1781. The Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke, considered a founding figure in conservatism, sits on the chair in the centre. Other public figures include, from left to right: writers James Boswell and Samuel Johnson, Reynolds, actor David Garrick, Corsican patriot Pasquale Paoli, music historian Charles Burney, poet Thomas Warton and writer Oliver Goldsmith. From a painting by James William Edmund Doyle. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)


You could look at a line-up – think of a police line-up – of everyone involved in last week’s riot in Dublin.

I don’t mean the thugs and arsonists who overwhelmed the band of anti-immigrant protestors. Just find those criminals and arrest them. Criminals are not part of this argument.

I mean go over to the Dail, the Irish parliament, and line up the suspects.

Start at the far Left with Sinn Fein, who encourage immigrants because they reckon immigrants will vote for them. Keep moving through the leftie-Labour types and Greens, who encourage immigrants because that is what one-world socialists do, and anybody who says No is a racist.

Then shift into the mainstream Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties, who were once nationalists. Now they have no doctrine except being good, which is to say obedient, Europeans.

Whatever immigrant and asylum policy the European Commission says Ireland must take, these once-nationalist parties embrace, giving housing and full welfare entitlements, some of the most plush in Europe, to every newcomer. And anybody who says No is a bad European.

And that’s it. That is the full line up of political opinion in the parliament. There is no one who speaks for the vast thousands of Irish who are alarmed by the wall of immigrants crashing into the country.

Such Irish have no voice in parliament.

A few odd types have tried to start anti-immigrant political parties, but they just form up crowds on streets and shout through loud hailers. They get elected to nothing. Their leaders murmur about foreigners coming in as a “replacement” for falling numbers of Irish babies and that Ireland is a “Gaelic country”.

They are embarrassing. And, also, generally, stupid.

Add them and their loud hailers to the political line-up and walk away. None of them is what Ireland needs.

What Ireland needs are some conservatives, plenty of them, enough to form a political party.

I do not mean the old-style Catholic conservatives, blessed though they were in many ways. Conservatism means more than agreeing with the archbishop and opposing civil divorce.

What Ireland needs is a party that will stand in the Dail and argue against the tide of immigration. Reasoned, conservative argument against pressures on housing, on medical care, on education, against the impossibility of integration. Present the facts, make the argument. Lead.

But conservatives are rare. The word is tainted.

Say “conservative” to an Irishman and his first response will be “Tory.” And Irishmen don’t like Tories. The dislike is understandable. Britain and conservatism mean a history of brutality.

Which is tragic, because Ireland in fact holds its own source of conservatism. It exists in Irish purity, no need to take any kind of British version of it.

I mean of course the doctrine of the Irishman Edmund Burke, from a North Cork Norman family notable for its historic Catholic standing.

There is nothing English about Burke, though he is the source of British conservatism (if you are talking about tainted, the British conservatives have tainted every part of his philosophy).

More, he was the inspiration for the American revolutionaries who slung one in the mouth of the British Tories and established a republic. That is the Burke who ought to inspire the Irish now.

What could Burke offer?

I asked an American historian.

“Prudence should be the defining characteristic of the Irish conservative movement. That basically boils down to informed decision-making based on real-world experience,” he said.

Real world experience. That means seeing the effects of vast immigration. It does not mean embracing the “plenty of room for all” nonsense, because there is not plenty of room for all. Just check the housing shortage. People are living in tents.

My historian continued: “Conservative Irish must avoid, above all else, abstract or metaphysical political principles – particularly vague notions of ‘natural rights.’ It is unwise to uphold first and foremost abstract principles of ‘equality’ without considering circumstances or context.”

This would really get the Dail line-up squealing.

More warnings from Burke’s conservative philosophy, “Employing, above all else, these vague, abstract principles forces a person to disregard circumstances – it forces him to be an idiot.”

Idiot? I give you Ireland’s immigration policy.

Finally, “Those in power often think they should spearhead new and great changes in law and society, but so often those plans are based on untried, modern innovations in values. They ignore the wisdom of a thousand men spread out over a thousand years of Irish history, depriving themselves of volumes of practical wisdom.”

There it is, practical wisdom. That is what all the thousands of Irish people left afraid of unchecked immigration want to hear from their leaders.

But where will Ireland find such leaders of practical wisdom?

I know a few in Ireland, some of them (but not many) academics, some writers, some people who are conservative by nature but will not speak out against the establishment line because, well, because it is bad for business. I can understand that.

I left my American historian and instead turned to a British conservative, but one repelled by the present Conservative party.

How, I asked him, do Irish people pull together a conservative party?

First, he said, “You need a house in the centre of the city where people can meet, have dinner, talk, hold conferences.”

Which is true. Conservatives need to recognise each other, define policies, challenge the parties in the Dail.

Most of all, conservatives, few as they now seem to be, need to know that they are not alone in their philosophy, that as one conservative recognises another, the philosophy spreads.

I know a line from C.S Lewis:

“One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leapt out.”

I give you Irish conservatives, a thousand points of light leading out of the present darkness. Call them the Burke Constellation.