By Paul Goodman
"Within five years, both Civil War parties are likely to have been brushed aside by a hard right, anti-Europe, anti-Traveller party that, inconceivable as it now seems, will leave us nostalgic for the, usually, harmless buffoonery of Biffo, Inda, and their chums."
Very few articles from the Irish papers are tweeted and re-tweeted across the UK blogosphere, but a recent piece by Morgan Kelly, Professor of Economics at University College Dublin – from which the quote above is taken – caused a sensation in Ireland and made an impression here.
Kelly's thesis in a nutshell is: Ireland is bankrupt. And – worse for the Irish – won't be bailed out by the European Central Bank, which will make an example of its relatively small economy pour encourager les autres.
Since the consequent burden on Irish taxpayers will be too great for them to bear, a great wave of them will default on their mortgages, leading to "a social conflict on the scale of the Land War" – as those who borrowed prudently resist baling out those who didn't.
Ireland, he wrote, is "no longer a sovereign nation in any meaningful sense of that term". (He didn't deal with the role of the Euro, unlike Allister Heath both earlier during the autumn, and again in the aftermath of Kelly's piece.)
The Irish Independent claimed that his piece "let itself down by its failure to throw the public service into the stew of all our ills" because Professor Morgan Kelly is himself part of the problem, a highly-paid public servant in an overpaid university sector who teaches for a few hours a week".
However, there was more to Kelly's diatribe than the Swiftian savagery of its writing (Anglo and Nationwide were run by "crooks and morons"). He predicted Ireland's housing bubble-and-crash and, as another academic noted, "woe betide the person who takes him on."
A half-thought half-flickered through my mind when I read the Professor's article. Why shouldn't Fianna Fail and Fine Gael be brushed aside, if at all, not by a Party of the hard right, but by one of the hard left (though one not averse to a reactionary nationalism) – namely, Sinn Fein?
Admittedly, that party hasn't soared in Ireland's polls during the last few turbulent months. Labour, which is relativelty uncontaminated by the Irish degringolade, is performing well. But Adams sudden move to resign his Westminster and Assembly seats, and fight a Dail by-election, must be seen in this context.
Sinn Fein is apparently putting it about that it may not win the forthcoming Donegal by-election which it's been pushing to have held. And Adams may not triumph in Louth, either: some see the move as a last throw of the dice by an ageing, sidelined politician.
Over ten years ago, when writing for the Daily Telegraph, I and others were haunted by the vision of "Weimar Ireland" – in other words, of our neighbour's main political parties being shoved aside by a resurgent Sinn Fein, then on the rise in Northern Ireland.
Ireland's boom laid that possibility to rest. Now the bust has arrived. As I say, Sinn Fein remains at the moment a fairly marginal party in the Republic, with Labour occupying the new space in the country's politics which is opening up on the left.
Remembrance Sunday saw the Enniskillen horror well over 20 years ago. I doubt if it's disturbing the thoughts of Gerry Adams today. Instead, as the Republic's establishment denies bailout talks, he'll be pondering how to "brush aside" – to borrow Kelly's phrase – the larger parties and "take power in Ireland".