Suddenly, everyone in the right of centre media is an expert on Irish politics – in their own minds anyhow. The fact that Irish politics means as much to the British centre-right all of a sudden is testament alone to how well they have played their hand in the Brexit negotiations so far – not that these centre-right Irish politics “experts” are self-aware enough to have gathered this much.
The bad takes obviously support their Brexit position and have several common myths that run through them all. Here are the most prominent amongst them. Note: I myself am not an expert on Irish politics, nor do I wish to present myself as one. But I know the basics, which is enough to demolish most of the crap being peddled in this country about the Irish election.
Myth 1: Varadkar failed to get a majority, which is supposed to be extraordinary. Except that his party, Fine Gael, didn’t come into the election with a majority and would not have expected to have got one this time round. They expected to do a lot better, but under an STV voting system in a multi-party system, getting a majority is really, really difficult. Whenever this myth appears in an article, it shows that the pundit in question probably isn’t even aware that Ireland has PR electoral system and you can pretty much ignore the rest of what they have to say as a result.
Myth 2: Varadkar was “punished” by the Irish electorate for his Brexit stance. This comes in a few flavours. One is a straight up Brexity fantasy that the Irish electorate just rejected Fine Gael in large part because Varadkar was anti-Brexit and sided with the EU over Britain, and the rejection occurred because the Irish really, really want to leave the EU. For reference, the most recent poll I’ve seen on this issue conducted in Ireland had 92% REMAIN, 7% LEAVE, 1% DK. Most right of centre pundits are smart enough to avoid this ridiculous overreach and instead peddle a softer version – that Varadkar went “a little too far” in siding with the EU and that this annoyed Irish voters. There is nothing to suggest this is true and a lot to suggest it isn’t. What seems most likely is that the most important part of Brexit from an Irish perspective – avoiding a hard border on the island – has been avoided (although the British government seem to be rolling back on commitments here, so who knows, really) and job done, Varadkar isn’t needed on this front any longer. A bit like how the UK elected Attlee to be PM after the war instead of Churchill – now that the war is over, a wartime leader isn’t needed and what the people want sorted now is housing and healthcare. The greater vote share for the left of centre party, which is how a lot of younger people saw Sinn Fein, suggests that bread and butter issues loomed larger than Brexit, which makes sense.
Myth 3: Connected to Myth 2, that somehow any other Irish Taoiseach would have played the Brexit game any differently. That Varadkar was extreme in this sense. Wrong – anyone else doing the same job would have done the same things almost to a T. Irish politics demanded as much.
Myth 4: That Ireland has been “hung out to dry” by the EU. This one seems to stem from the fact that Ireland is now complaining about higher contributions post-Brexit. This is basic European politics and is another one of those things the Eurosceptic Right cling to as a sign that the EU is falling apart in front of our eyes. Ignore.
Myth 5: That the EU has been malicious in asking for alignment in avoiding a hard border between the north and south in Ireland. The example given here is Switzerland, which supposedly has a “free-flowing” border with its neighbours while not being in the Single Market or Customs Union. One, it doesn’t have a free-flowing border at all – it has extensive customs checks at the border, which anyone who has ever crossed it, particularly in a lorry, can attest to. Also, it is only as “free-flowing” as it is because it took ten years to nail down a sector by sector deal with the EU that keeps it in the SM in several sectors. Last time I checked, the UK do not want to take ten years to nail down something similar. I should mention that a lot of the same pundits peddling the “free-flowing Swiss border” myth at present are the same ones who a year ago were telling us that the Canada-US border is “free-flowing” as well. If you have ever crossed between either of those two countries into the other one by land, you will understand how ridiculous this whole argument is – the Canada-US border is one of the most restrictive, hardcore borders I have ever crossed.
I could go on, but I’ll leave it there. 2020 seems destined to be dominated by Brexit-orientated fantasies on the Right of which their bad takes on the Irish general election are only a subset. The Brexiteers won their election, so I suppose I should let them have their victory lap. Reality bites in 2021.