Many young people in Ireland seemed to think they were terribly radical and bold by voting for Sinn Fein at this election.
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Newsflash, whippersnappers - your daring anti-establishment pose is nothing new. The young have always tacked as far left as they can at the ballot box in an effort to distinguish themselves from their boring, bourgeois elders. The only reason older people take a different view is that they've been there, done that, and got the T shirt, and know that it doesn't work.
But how to tell young people that? The truth is that you can't. They'll do what they want, and nagging them as to the error of their ways will only convince them they were right to ignore you and follow the Provo Pied Piper instead.
Looking on in dread at the confluence of different forces working in SF's favour during the election campaign, mainstream politicians and commentators of a generation old enough to remember the Troubles decided that the best way to lure younger voters away from the siren call of armed republicanism was to remind them again of the party's continued links with IRA terrorism and criminality.
It didn't cut much ice, partly because a certain group of voters now tends to dismiss all attacks on SF as a smear campaign, regardless of whether the charges are factually accurate or not. As far as they're concerned, they had little enough to lose by voting SF in these days of spiralling rents and fears over climate change.
It's still a puzzle, and a sadness, to understand why they care so little about the brutalities in which Mary Lou McDonald's party has been complicit. The standard explanation is, as a piece in the Guardian by a young Irish writer put it last week, "people who grew up in Ireland in the late 1990s and beyond don't really have a living memory of the IRA or the Troubles".
That may be so, but what type of imaginative black hole must a person be living in to think that the only things which matter are those that impact them directly?
Young people are entitled to conclude that none of this stuff about the IRA is relevant to their lives and vote SF anyway. What they're not entitled to do is ignore it, while still pretending they're so right-on, caring and compassionate.
Young people love to pose as painfully progressive and "woke". They'll "cancel" someone in the public eye for a tweet, or a joke, or something they did that was a bit sexist in the 1970s, or even if they just misuse someone's preferred pronouns. But ask them to give a damn about murder, and suddenly they're rolling their eyes and groaning: "OK, boomer, get over it."
There are plenty of things that young people have no "living memory" of, but still purport to care about, from industrial schools to Magdalene laundries, slavery, colonialism, you name it. Those unmarked graves in Tuam have nothing to do with their daily lives either, but they'd faint with disgust at anyone who dared say they didn't give a fig about dead babies because it happened decades ago and has nothing to do with paying next month's rent.
Paul Quinn's brutal murder wasn't even that long ago. Yet, while congratulating themselves for emoting over the horrors perpetrated by the Catholic Church, they're indifferent at best, and hostile at worst, if asked to show compassion when presented with testimony from victims that SF and its private army did exactly the same thing.
They might think the sexual abuse of children, and the rape of women and men, which was rampant during the Troubles, and which SF helped cover up by spiriting abusers to other parishes, is ancient history. It's not to the victims.
Forgiving and making excuses for the Provos, but not the prelates, is young voters' choice, but it is a choice, and they shouldn't expect to have their hypocrisy overlooked just because SF promises to put it up to "the rich".
Young left wingers are equally unforgiving of Fianna Fail for having "wrecked the economy", and like to think they're keeping it real by continually throwing it in Micheal Martin's face; only to get snippy when it's pointed out to them that there might be equally damaging economic consequences to the socialist policies they're embracing.
The so-called snowflake generation has the knack of appearing vulnerable and sensitive down to a fine art, but deep down they're hard as nails and focused on what they think are their own interests. If the Catholic Church offered them a bunch of free stuff, like Mary Lou does, they'd be in the pews faster than Speedy Gonzalez. They're just selectively choosing what to get outraged about, then berating anyone with whom they disagree for doing the same.
Take Europe. Young people in Ireland claim to love the EU, but were apparently content at this election to ignore whole swathes of the SF manifesto which flirted with Brexit Party lite, eurosceptic language promising to "stand up for Ireland" and "end the Brussels power grab". They should get that cognitive dissonance seen to by a doctor. Looks nasty.
Young people are trying to have it both ways, and there's nothing particularly deplorable, or even surprising, about that. We're all hypocrites about some things, usually those that benefit our pockets. But they should stop kidding themselves that they're morally superior to their parents or grandparents in that regard. Young people backing SF this time round are not bad for choosing to prioritise what they care about, we all do it, but if they want understanding for why they're willing to vote SF despite all the terrible things that republicans have done in the recent past, and still don't think were wrong, then they should be able to make a mental leap by understanding why many people still voted FG despite homelessness, or FF despite the crash 10 years ago.
If they're allowed to play the "get over it, grandad, that was ages ago" card, then so can everyone else.
Fingers crossed young people never have to endure the economic and political repercussions of voting SF; but if they do, then the irony is that it won't be too long before they're the ones facing the wrath of future generations demanding to know why their prospects were ruined by people back in 2020 voting for populists peddling Junior Infants solutions to complex problems while pretending they could magically reunite the national territory in time for the centenary of the Treaty. Good luck explaining that one.