Brace yourselves for Adams in the Aras
The rise of Sinn Fein means all bets are off and suddenly anything is politically possible, writes Jody Corcoran
Leo Varadkar, the Fine Gael TD, soon to be government minister, said recently that bankers had done more damage to the economy than the Provisional IRA and that therefore they should be "treated like subversives".
He was immediately accused of populism, a trait to which he is occasionally prone, but which is sometimes necessary to make a point.
And he had a point, of sorts. The heads of the banks can be seen as subversive because they have undermined the State.
In many ways, they are already being treated as subversive by the public, if not by the law of the land. The latter is, I think, what Leo had in mind -- files may go to the DPP any day now, we are assured -- two years on.
Varadkar's comparison of Seanie FitzPatrick to, say, Gerry Adams, is unfair to both men for different reasons, however, in that it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges -- or dynamite to semtex, if you prefer.
For all his faults, I would wager that FitzPatrick did not wilfully set out to undermine the State so that its sovereignty has been diluted to the extent it has with the arrival of the EU-IMF.
While there is little doubt that the bankers have done more damage to the economy per se, there should be no doubt that the Provisional IRA did more damage to the State, in its broader definition, and did so wilfully, with dark intent in its black heart.
One of the ironies of the current economic -- and, by extension, political -- crisis is the ease with which Sinn Fein has turned to the apparatus of the State, the courts, to further its democratic mandate. These are the same courts that only a few years ago it refused to recognise.
For younger readers, I should point out that Sinn Fein is the political wing of the Provisional IRA, the terrorist organisation which is on ceasefire but still in existence and which was responsible for the murder of around 1,800 people, about 630 of them civilians.
The ceasefire is probably permanent and Sinn Fein has moved towards democracy in almost all its forms, although a few slow learners have been left behind to engage in criminality or to look elsewhere to indulge bloodlust in the name of republicanism.
The Provos may have been consigned to history -- it would be churlish to deny it -- but it would be equally wrong to airbrush the murder of 1,800 people, among them the mother-of-10 Jean McConville, who was shot and then 'disappeared'. Her remains were only discovered quite recently in the constituency which Adams now seeks to represent. And he was reportedly at the heart of this most shameful event, although he denies any involvement.
It was with a relative measure of surprise then that I heard normally sensible men declare in recent weeks that they intended to vote for Sinn Fein in the general election, now just two months away.
The men I have heard say this would not countenance a vote for Sinn Fein in normal circumstances, but their level of frustration at most recent events is such that they intend to so vote for that party or, after a pause, they say they are seriously thinking about it.
It should not be entirely a surprise then to see Sinn Fein rise in popular support, as measured in the Red C opinion poll published by the Sun on Friday.
Support for Sinn Fein is recorded at 16 per cent, three points higher than Fianna Fail, just eight behind Labour. Its surge, I would imagine, has drawn from both the left of Labour and from the more diehard republicans in the remnants of Fianna Fail.
The most recent events to which I refer are the arrival of the EU-IMF or, more to the point, the apparent capitulation of the Government in the face of the demands placed upon it by these organisations.
The argument as to the choice, if any, should be left aside for the moment.
So the rise in support for Sinn Fein can be put down to a growing anti-Europe sentiment among the electorate here and what you might also call the stirrings of latent nationalism.
Of course, these sentiments are entwined and are the lifeblood of Sinn Fein.
If you want to dumb it down, the apparent ascendancy of Sinn Fein could be ascribed to a single issue: to default or not.
Sinn Fein, alone, has nailed its colours on this. In effect, it has said that it would run the EU-IMF out of the country and default, either entirely, or in large part, on the billions in bank debt that has been heaped so unfairly upon the citizens.
The consequence of such immediate default would be "cataclysmic", according to Martin Mansergh, representing, as he does, the elite of Fianna Fail which walked us into this mess.
The problem is that nobody believes the elite any more.
So when Mansergh and others, like the Taoiseach or the Finance Minister, say that it would be cataclysmic, the citizens are minded to just shrug and say: "Let's default anyway," perhaps without realising that if that were to happen, the ATM machines might be empty in the morning.
Here is a thing I thought I would never say: despite the dire consequences, real or imaginary, Sinn Fein might just be right on this one.
There is a persuasive body of opinion which says that to default or restructure or to reschedule our debt is, indeed, the only way to go, if not now, then soon and almost inevitably so.
It will happen when the fat cats who run Europe, who tell us we will be fine but who have actually sold us out -- not without a little schadenfreude -- finally realise that they can no longer keep a finger in the dyke.
The truth is that nobody knows anything for certain -- specifically the fat cats in Europe or their proxies at home, who are still clinging to a grand but fatally flawed ideal that was devised and foisted upon us without them or us having grasped the pitfalls that are now so manifest.
At a remove, it could be argued that we are living in a most exciting time.
Almost all the old certainties have been torn away and exposed as the shibboleths that they are. It is no longer certain that the elite know even what they are saying, let alone what they are doing.
The question now is what new certainties will be devised, and who will devise them, to fool the people all over again? At the moment, the electorate is turning inward, away from the old orthodoxies of Fianna Fail, of course, but also -- I believe, by the time the votes are counted -- of Fine Gael too.
It is difficult to predict what we will be left with, but I would say this: after the election we may be left with a political mess to match the economic mess. Such instability awaits.
As of now, it still seems more likely than not that Fine Gael and Labour will form a new Government, but that is only as of now. There are many shifts to occur between now and the election.
In that campaign, I expect Fine Gael to lose further support when its leader, Enda Kenny, is exposed as the man he is, which is of another time. The leaders' debate should be fascinating in that regard.
If the most recent elections, local and European, told us anything, it was that the people were willing to give the Left its chance, even the hard left of Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party, People Before Profit, and a host of Independents, along with Labour, who between them control Dublin City Council, for example.
I expect Labour, Sinn Fein, and the hard left to achieve a strong minority in the general election -- not enough to form a Government, but enough to dictate what that Government might be.
There are all manner of options open, including the one I believe to be held most dearly in Labour: to force Fine Gael and Fianna Fail into a Government which will have to impose the harsh realities of austerity, thus ultimately paving the way for a proper left-right divide.
It is doubtful that a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail Government would last more than a couple of years, by which time Labour, Sinn Fein and the rest, strident in opposition, will assume power by 2016.
Gilmore's overarching ambition is to break the tweedledum-tweedledee dominance of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael once and for all. Never before has such an opportunity presented itself.
Of course, the pundits are still thinking as the establishment thinks -- a Fine Gael-Labour Government within months.
They may be right,but events are happening at such a pace and with such consequence that all bets are off.
In other words, folks, brace yourself for Taoiseach Gilmore, Tanaiste O Caolain and President Adams; for a new centre-right party of old Fine Gael and old Fianna Fail, led by Varadkar; for a return of the punt and of the old, great EEC; and for all of this by 2016.
Brace yourself too for the economic crisis to continue another 10 years beyond that, and for heaven knows what else might happen -- with 'the markets', still all powerful, still all knowing, but having long since run for the hills, where they will stay until the dust settles upon the dustbowl that would be such an Ireland.