Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. And it appears that the Irish people, after decades of doing the same thing, have finally decided to take a risk by doing something very different and voting for Sinn Féin in order, one presumes, to get a different result.
Last time out, the electorate took the more conservative risk by voting for Independents. However, that experiment did result in more of the same, as they were 'coalitionised' by Fine Gael. So, is it really a surprise that the electorate went (as some commentators might have it) 'rogue' and voted for the party with the shady past - Sinn Féin? Desperate times call for desperate measures and, in my view, the Irish people are desperate to change, not just the status quo, but the priorities of government.
This was not change for change's sake. This was most certainly not Ireland doing its own version of 'Brexit' or 'Trump', as some British commentators have already labelled it. The fact that our 'far-right' candidates, who traded in the same language of misplaced nationalism we hear in the UK and US, didn't even gain enough votes to claim their deposits back, is clear evidence that Irish people were not just kicking back at the establishment for the sake of it.
We are a politically sophisticated country. We talk politics a lot. Heck, most of us even understand how proportional representation works. We also know our history. So, this swing to Sinn Féin was not some angry reflex, delivered without any thought to possible consequences. It was a much more considered and deliberate move designed to deliver a clear message to Dáil Éireann.
That message is essentially that although we understand that having a functioning economy is vital, we want to live in a healthy society, in all senses of that word.
Someone far cleverer than I might know if it is, as I suspect, our history, our generational memory of disenfranchisement, of hunger, of extreme poverty and powerlessness that makes us very sensitive to the plight of others. Most people I know aren't directly affected by homelessness but they are deeply ashamed that our cities and suburbs are littered with unfortunates who are reduced to sleeping in tents.
Most people I know are extremely disturbed that this country of ours, with our booming economy, boasts just under 10,000 people in so-called 'emergency accommodation', almost half of whom are children. Children living in tiny rooms with their parents and siblings; with no place to play, no space to do their homework, no opportunity to eat a home-cooked meal. We have babies who are not hitting their developmental markers because they have no area in which to crawl or learn to walk. Our modern tenements may have central heating and plumbed indoor bathrooms but they are overcrowded, they are unhealthy and they are most certainly a breeding ground for a myriad of future problems.
The housing crisis is something that affects far more of us. As parents, we worry our children will be living with us forever and may never be fully independent. Many have children and grandchildren living thousands of miles away who are unable to come home because not only will they have nowhere to live, they will have no place for their children in a local school and are too afraid they or their children might need healthcare in a public system that is broken.
This election was about housing, homelessness, health and social inequality. The people knew that this time a political party was needed in order to make the changes that are necessary. Fianna Fáil, besides being cut from the same cloth as Fine Gael, was also the party that propped up the government for far too long as the crises in health and housing kept getting worse. And so, in the absence of any other large enough alternative, the people turned to Sinn Féin.
It now needs to hold the head. It needs to understand very clearly how it got to where it is now. The landslide of votes it achieved at the weekend is not a sign the people of Ireland have signed up to all it stands for. Sinn Féin has been loaned the votes of voters desperate for social justice, for a more compassionate and caring country. Shouts of "up the 'Ra" will not go down well with these voters, nor will a premature rush for a potentially divisive Border poll. Sinn Féin must deliver a more equal Ireland, an Ireland we can all be proud of, a real republic or it too will suffer voter rejection next time out.