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Eilis O’Hanlon: 'The launch of a new socialist party is the laugh that we all needed in worrying times'

Top of agenda: Murphy splits from himself

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Paul Murphy. Photo: Collins Courts

Paul Murphy. Photo: Collins Courts

Paul Murphy. Photo: Collins Courts

Paul Murphy leaving the Socialist Party to form his own new mini-grouping is surely the light relief we all needed at this moment in time. Need it? Hell, we deserve it.

Elsewhere, the political stakes couldn't be higher. There are only weeks to go until a no-deal Brexit. The talk is all of recession and civil disorder. Now along comes this welcome reminder that there are corners of Irish politics where the stakes literally couldn't be smaller.

What was it that Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges said about the Falklands War? "It's like two bald men fighting over a comb." Now the baldest of them all has set off in search of a comb of his own.

How is anyone, who's not a political trainspotter, expected to keep up with all these changes? Thankfully, most normal people don't have to. Mainly because they don't care. These groups have had more line ups than Spinal Tap. What's another make over?

Murphy insists that his new group intends to have an "amicable and cooperative relationship in the future" with those he's left behind, in what he calls "the interests of working-class people". It's just a pity that the working class never gets people in government to represent them, because those who claim to speak on their behalf are always splitting off to form ever smaller groupings which can only be detected by electron microscopes.

To be fair to Paul Murphy, he seems to be on the pragmatic side of this latest fracture, which is reportedly over whether smaller left-wing parties should work together with Sinn Fein and the Greens on forming a possible coalition after the next election. The answer to that question has always been a no-brainer. Of course they should. How else are they ever going to get within a sniff of power? Instead, the ideological wing of the left in Ireland has always looked on the prospect of running actual departments of government in much the same way that the Pope might regard the offer of a coalition with Satan.

Indeed, the least surprising part of this story is that the TD for Dublin South West says the decision was taken after "an extensive debate within the Socialist Party". Well, of course it was. Debating is all that these self-righteous class warriors ever do. Having made this shift, they'll just start another debate within the new alliance over whether they should be willing to also work with the Labour Party or even, pass the smelling salts, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. Then they'll split over that too. Breaking up isn't hard to do on the left. It's the most fun part of any relationship.

There's no point trying to analyse what this new Comrades R Us party will mean politically one way or another. That's a task which would only be of interest to about half a dozen people in Dublin with nothing better to do with their time than fight over whether the revolution should start next Tuesday lunchtime or leave it until after the pubs close on Friday.

Monty Python's Life Of Brian had the last word on this tendency when the Judean People's Front admitted that their greatest enemy was not the Romans, but the People's Front of Judea. Capitalism may one day collapse under its own contradiction, but it has nothing to fear in the meantime from Trotskyists.

It's best to see Paul Murphy's announcement as an expression of consumerism, akin to Google's latest product launch. Every year, Google gathers together tame journalists and shows them a range of new gadgets, and every year they oooh and aaah as if they're the first eyes ever to see the Sistine Chapel.

This year the products included a new phone that uses radar to pick up hand movements so you don't even have to touch the screen any more, just wave over it. None of these gizmos are actually necessary in your life, they're just ways to give pampered middle class consumers more useless choices on which to squander their money.

Think of the Irish left in the same way. No one is crying out for what this multiplicity of groups has to offer, but they give middle class voters in Dublin an illusion of choice when pondering on whom to waste their first preferences. It's all designed to suit the demands of an increasingly atomised age of competing identities. Soon there will be one faux radical party for everyone in the audience.

Sunday Independent