Progressive Ireland risks letting the gun back into politics

The history of the modern Irish state is a history of near-constant political violence. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either ignorant or a liar. (EPA-EFE/MOSTAFA DARWISH)

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The history of the modern Irish state is a history of near-constant political violence. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either ignorant or a liar.

From its founding onwards, the gun was the centre of Irish politics. Not ideology. Not economic policy. Lee Enfields. Armalites. Kalashnikovs.

All three of our major political parties were originally linked with paramilitary groups. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are both the children of the original IRA. Sinn Féin, the younger sibling, the provisional movement of the 1960s and 70s. The original members of all three were used to killing others to get their way.

But even before the founding of the Irish Free State (which became today’s republic), there was a desire to see this state of affairs change. Sure, there was something romantic about dying for your cause, your country, but after you see all your childhood friends die in a ditch in the Irish countryside, your views on political martyrdom begin to sour somewhat. Not to mention, it is hard to build a functioning economy when everyone is too busy murdering each other.

Unfortunately, we Irish were not very good at putting down our guns.

We tried numerous times. Our treaty with the British in 1921. The first peaceful government handover in 1932. The Sunningdale power-sharing agreement of 1973. All noble attempts. None ended up working out in the long run.

Then something changed. After a few promising precursor agreements, Catholics and Protestants, Northerners and Southerners, all got around the table and signed the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement. The 1998 treaty was the deal to end all deals. The final nail in the coffin of Ireland’s bloody and barbaric past.

And it worked. Well, mostly.

You still had the occasional bomb scare, and there was the odd paramilitary and terrorist organisation that would crop up every so often. But overall, the shooting stopped.

The shooting stopped, and the economy surged.

Of course, that did not last either. Ireland’s supposed financial genius turned out to be Celtic Tiger stupidity in the long run. But even when the banks collapsed after 2008, the sounds of gunfire and explosions did not really return to the streets of either the north or the south. The then-Fianna Fáil government was gutted, sure, but at the ballot box, not outside of a church or pub.

What’s more, no one seemed surprised by this. In fact, we all expected it.

Ireland was, at that point, truly a Western European democracy. A dysfunctional one, sure, but one nonetheless.

How did this happen? Through hard work and a steadfast commitment to democracy and all that it entails.

If you want to live in a functioning Western state, you need to build up institutions people can have faith in. Your citizens need to believe that when they have a problem with the government, they can vote and campaign their way to a solution. They need to feel that, if they end up in court, they will be treated fairly, and that the central tenant of innocent until proven guilty will be held as sacred.

Of course, modern Ireland has forgotten to do all of this hard work. Our mainstream political parties range from Left-wing to far-Left, with all of the big three now the exact same brand of progressive-Europhile. These parties are now pushing hard for hate speech laws that will prevent people from speaking their minds about certain issues.

To make matters worse, the enforcement of these laws as proposed will throw away the presumption of innocence. If you are put before a judge after being found in possession of an offensive meme in the near future, it will be up to you to prove you had no intention to spread it. If you cannot, you can be found guilty even without positive evidence.

Many have campaigned against this slip away from Western democracy. Groups have rallied around the government’s attempt to attack free speech, and the “Ireland is Full” movement has represented those critical of EU-style mass migration even when every decent Irish political party refused to.

Their success, however, has been greatly hampered by a media so deep in the pockets of both Irish and EU politicians that you’d need a hanger to pull them out. Any attempt to criticise the progressive status quo is met with deplatforming, cancellation and accusations of being “far-Right”.

This is not an unfamiliar playbook. The same hymn sheet has been rolled out across Europe to mediocre effect as far as the Left can be concerned. Germany and France are seeing their populist Right surge. Italy has voted in its populist. The Netherlands may have just done so too.

The oppressive politics of the Left has been met with a robust political response within Europe’s established democracies, and change is being achieved at the ballot box.

But Ireland does not do political change. Ireland does political violence.

Where in most Western countries the resentment for the government would have been channelled into political campaigning and alternative media, in Ireland, it has been funnelled into street warfare. Many have tried to keep to peaceful protest and activism only, but such activities are quickly being overtaken by those who would rather see the whole damn thing burn.

And burn it did.

Last week, in response to the mass stabbing of three young children at the hands of a migrant, Dubliners took to the streets and caused absolute pandemonium. Police were beaten. Shops were looted. Patrol cars were burned. Buses were burned. Trams were burned.

There really was an awful lot of burning.

This has spooked Ireland’s political elite, who have opted to double down on their attempts to censor the “far Right” and the internet. They are dumb enough individuals to think that such a move will actually help the current situation.

But our elite is not showing nearly enough concern as is owed to this situation. For any Irishman, all it should take is to look at who rioted last week to strike terror into your heart.

The rioters were young. Really young. Some just in their early teens. These kids – they are kids – are filled with both boundless energy and a violent hate for the government. The kind of hate that can only be quelled by senseless violence.

In the past, Ireland’s youth gangs often became Ireland’s worldwide drug cartels in a decade’s time. I do not think it is much of a stretch of the imagination that, if these kids are burning cop cars now, they could be shooting politicians in the years to come if something is not done now.

If Ireland wants to maintain its status as a Western democracy, it must pull back on its modern illiberal tendencies. We are not France or Germany. We cannot afford massive censorship laws that stomp on political minorities. When they make such stupid mistakes, all they get is slightly destructive political populism. Ireland gets car bombs.

If we continue down this path, we risk terrorism. We risk going back to the Troubles. Going back to the Civil War.

We fought for nearly 100 years to wrangle the gun out of Irish politics. Our job now is to keep it out. We do that by sticking to the principles of Western democracy. Not by abandoning them.