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The danger of following feelings rather than fact

Conor Skehan


Populist ideologies have devastated civilisations time after time, so why don't we ever learn, asks Conor Skehan

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Rallying the troops: Donald Trump gives a rousing speech to stir up the crowd during his election campaign. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Rallying the troops: Donald Trump gives a rousing speech to stir up the crowd during his election campaign. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Getty Images

Rallying the troops: Donald Trump gives a rousing speech to stir up the crowd during his election campaign. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

It is easy to forget that between 1915 and 1930 a wave of populism swept the world. We are no longer ruled by kings or churches; we have no vast landlords or centuries old empires. All these things were swept away by a new set of ideas, all based on strong feelings that inequities existed that could only be rectified by fundamental change.

These new ideas - mainly nationalism and socialism - engaged and energised whole populations in a matter of months. In Ireland, the original Sinn Fein party under Eamon de Valera won 47pc of the vote and 75pc of the seats in its first election in 1918. In the same year Russia and Germany were convulsed by civil wars.

These changes brought about ruin. Ireland's economy shrivelled for two generations, mostly under the same party and leader. They were continually re-elected to implement their ideologically directed economic mismanagement that resulted in mass emigration that lasted until the early 1960s.