John Waters, First Things, 4 February 2020
John Waters is an Irish writer and commentator, the author of ten books, and a playwright.
The Irish general election currently underway is the strangest Irish election in my lifetime—the culmination of a rupture between people and politicians that has been developing for decades.
It is not one election, but two. According to the “mainstream media,” it is the formal, official, business-as-usual contest of parties and candidates; from the public’s perspective, it is a mock battle between objectively indistinguishable actors, a game of musical chairs. Never have I encountered so many people who tell me: “There’s no difference between them. I cannot see anyone to vote for.” These are just some of the factors that led me to declare as an independent candidate in my south Dublin constituency of Dun Laoghaire, long known as the most “liberal” in the country.
For nearly a century, Irish politics has been alternately dominated by two parties, Fianna Fáil (FF) and Fine Gael (FG). The parties are almost solely distinguishable by their roots in the Civil War of 1922, FG having emerged from the winning pro-Treaty side and FF from the defeated anti-Treaty side. In the past, FG represented the wealthier professional and civil servant classes, while FF represented farmers and other workers. But these distinctions have blurred over the decades. These days, the two parties appear to be competing for the “woke” vote, both constantly pandering to liberal causes that a few years ago they would have been vying to oppose. The rest of the field is made up of Labour—now a minor faction after a brief flowering in the 1990s—the Republican-remnants party Sinn Féin, and a handful of mavericks who come and go under varying nomenclature and banners.