The standout politician of the General Election was Sinn Fein's Eoin O Broin.As Sinn Fein spokesperson for Housing, he presented as thoughtful and erudite, very much on the side of ordinary people. He looked and sounded like he had answers which, if given the chance, he could implement to the betterment of us all.
ut there may be more to Eoin O Broin and his political philosophy than meets the eye. In 2012, O Broin responded to a claim that Sinn Fein's opposition to austerity was 'populist'. He was unequivocal. Sinn Fein's entire political project was, he wrote, "populist, and unashamedly so".
Populism seeks "to mobilise disparate social actors by linking their individual concerns into a single coherent popular movement" and it pits "the people against the elite".
It is always "a challenge to the status quo" and is most powerful "when a political or economic system is in crisis". It is "subversive of the existing order of things and the starting point for radical reconstruction of a new order".
For O Broin therefore the housing crisis is not core - rather, it is a means to an end. And that end means subverting and undermining the existing order.
Housing shortages, homelessness, patients on trolleys are the legitimate concerns of the population and in any civilised community must be addressed. Put simply, the centre believes and expects that everybody has somewhere to live securely, and that everybody has access to healthcare - regardless of their status or wealth. These are among the basic minimums that we expect of ourselves and our society. The ills in society which deny these necessities to all citizens are ills that must be addressed and remedied.
But for the populist - bad news is good news; just as good news is bad news. The populist, in other words, turns the world on its head.
When, just after the election, Rebuilding Ireland announced that 53,000 new homes had been completed in the three years to the end of 2019, O Broin scoffed at this obviously positive news, tweeting that targets had been missed which was "one of the central reasons why the crisis continues".
Later, he was happy to re-tweet the grossly false statement describing politicians like Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe as "the crooks that's in there now".
Given that O Broin openly seeks to subvert the existing order, it is appropriate to ask what kind of order he intends to replace it with.
When people voted for Sinn Fein or for "change", it is obvious that they were voting for more housing and hospital beds - but were they voting to subvert the State? Were they intending to go that far?
For those wanting detail from O Broin, they will be disappointed. The populist never describes the new order, other than in slogan.
Populism feeds on legitimate societal ills, sowing distrust and division, only ever offering platitudes and slogans as solutions to whatever ill it exaggerates.
It is at once a psychological reaction deep inside a person who sees enemy and conspiracy where there are none.
It is divisive and corrosive of society.
Every iteration of populism has claimed to be on the side of poor and weak against the rich and powerful.
Trump calls for the swamp to be drained, and Johnson will 'take back control'. Both push against the boundaries of the system itself - always in the name of 'the people'.
Both are clowns at the whim of some ideologue or some inner torment.
O Broin is an ideologue guiding Sinn Fein. He does not seem a die-hard republican - the sort associated with beating a young man to death in a shed in Monaghan, or the omerta that follows such wickedness. But Sinn Fein, as a political movement, is fertile ground for a different form of subversion, the sort identified by O Broin.
He writes that populism can be "progressive and democratic" or "regressive and authoritarian". But he is wrong. All populism is or becomes authoritarian or it dies - there has never been an exception.
The great western political systems have in-built protections against the populist. Trump will rail against Congress or the courts or the free press, but he is hemmed in. Weaker systems collapse into chaos as the populist storms rage against them proclaiming a dystopian future, energised by the so called "will of the people". Authoritarianism inevitably follows.
Ireland will survive this scare. The centre will hold.
This is not the centre of Fine Gael or Fianna Fail but the centre at the heart of Irish society which is moderate - which wants problems addressed but does not buy the 'them and us' lie or see the State as the enemy needing to be broken.
O Broin may look and feel like he is a problem solver - but his well-rehearsed and considered language points in a very different direction.