If there was a standout ‘three cheers’ moment during this year’s scary General Election weekend, it was the 11th Count in Laois Offaly when Independent and former Sinn Féin TD, Carol Nolan, was deemed elected after a sizeable chunk of transfers from fellow pro-life Independent John Leahy.
Sinn Féin has been busting to take out Nolan since long before their electoral tsunami showed up on the radar screens. Like Aontú’s Peadar Tóibín, she had voted to keep the Eighth Amendment in 2018 and she defended unborn children throughout the abortion legislation debate. Like Peadar, she suffered the wrath of the higher-ups in Sinn Féin just for voting with her conscience. Hell hath no fury like an unelected West Belfast boss disobeyed.
But last weekend, Nolan, Mattie McGrath, Peadar Toibin, Peter Fitzpatrick and others had the last laugh. And for those who are upset that the 32% support for keeping the 8th Amendment didn’t translate into a third of the seats in Dáil Éireann, here is a clue to the future. Irish voters are pragmatic and many are given, sadly, to a herd mentality. They get angry about social problems like housing and health, and some are prone to manipulation by the media. They don’t vote in large numbers for family values issues. But it is equally evident from last weekend that the voters admire principled politicians who stand up for their values.
There is a lesson here for compromisers – for that sizeable bunch of Irish politicians who desperately follow the latest political fashion, regardless of the consequences for their professional integrity. Some of these have sold their grannies so often that they might be prosecuted for pimping. They have done massive damage to Irish society in a desperate attempt to secure segments of the electorate that, in the end, weren’t there for them. There was no reward for spinelessness from the Irish voting public last weekend. And why would there be? There’s nothing to admire, and nothing to remember, in what these politicians do.
But people like Nolan, who stand up for their beliefs while also doing the hard work in the constituency, get respect. There’s some consolation there in an otherwise tough political situation.
So where do we go from here? People are angry about the housing crisis, the health crisis, the bleak prospect for pensions, and they have voted for change. Will they get the better life they want for themselves and their families by marrying Sinn Fein, or will they repent at leisure?
In my work as a Senator I have warned against simplistic responses to complex problems. In the name of compassion, we often get cruelty instead, and Sinn Féin has been in the thick of that. Now they’re bidding to run our economy.
Their radical solutions may appear to address problems at first, and there may be some short-term satisfaction. But these solutions might wreck the economy and cause widespread suffering in the long run. Those of us elected to the Dáil and Seanad for the next phase must tell the true from the false and always be ready to speak truth to power.
Rónán Mullen is an Independent Senator and a candidate for re-election on the NUI Graduate Panel. Tel. 01 6183930 / ronan. firstname.lastname@example.org