An independent member of the upper house stood talking to a small group of people with Trans-Atlantic accents. “We have almost washed out the last of the terrorists,” he announced.
”Has Adams gone?” asked one of the listeners.
“Oh, yes, he has gone,” said the speaker, with an obvious sense of satisfaction.
Not more than two or three seconds had passed when one of the “terrorist” party walked by. Perhaps recognising a stranger in the house, he looked at me and nodded, “hello.”
To be honest, he didn’t look like a terrorist, but, then, who knew what a terrorist looked like? Silver-haired and neatly dressed, he looked the sort of person you might meet in a suburban pub, rather than as someone suspected of being a member of a paramilitary organisation. A Google search revealed that he had been a community activist in a poor area of Dublin. There was no suggestion that he had ever had any paramilitary involvement.
Why had he joined the group that the independent politician had labelled as the “terrorist party?” Why had he joined a party that was more populist than progressive? Why had he joined a party that claimed to be left of centre but was not averse to nationalist rhetoric when such words seemed to suit the purpose?
Perhaps the problem lay with the perception that there was no other party he could have joined.
After its dismal performance in the European elections, leader of the Irish Labour Party suggested that the Social Democrats and the Green Party should form a progressive coalition with his own party. Progressive? The party that agreed that working people should suffer austerity to pay off the debts of those who had lost at their games of casino capitalism. At the time when free market commentators like David McWilliams was suggesting that bond holders should not be recompensed for the bets they had lost, the Labour Party was committing public money for decades to come to cover the debts of the gamblers. Why would anyone want to join with such a party?
The deputy for the terrorist party might have pointed to many other reasons why he would not have wished to join the Labour Party; the problem is that there were few other places to look.
Perhaps the vociferous Independent politician might ask questions about why people join the parties they do. Ireland still lacks a viable alternative to the two centre-right parties – should Fine Gael lose power, they will be replaced by Fianna Fáil. Where would a genial, softly-spoken, silver-haired man go?