From top, left to right: Taoiseach Leo Varadakar, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Josepha Madigan and new Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney at Government Buildings inin November; Dan Boyle
It says a lot for most people’s expectation for 2017, that the minimal hope was that it wouldn’t be an extension of 2016.
That was a year that will be seen as a ground zero for democracy, beaten by its biggest contradiction that the best decisions get made by the largest number of those who choose to participate on a given day.
Before I release a chorus of ‘you lost get over it’, I have to admit I still am unaware of any better system. Neither should it be seen that disgust at the triumph of reactionaries be is wholehearted, unquestioning support of any alternative. I’ve been on the losing sides of too many such decisions to believe that it is the system that is at fault.
Where it has fallen down in recent years, has been the strength that self interest has held over any sense of the common good. It has also been a time when so many chose not to inform themselves, relying on instinct in making their decisions. Ignorance has become the preserve of the alt realists.
2017 has seen something of a fight back by the alt. ignorant. Wilders in The Netherlands and Le Pen accumulated large amounts of votes, but nothing like the totals that had been feared.
Although by the end of the year we have the Freedom party in government in Austria, with the AfD (Alternative for Germany) winning one in every seven votes in the German general election.
In that election the immigration scare was played to its highest. The psephological graphs produced on that election showed, that just as with Brexit and Trump, those with least interaction with immigrants, were most likely to have that as the basis for making their votes.
In our neighbouring isle Brexit Britain has become a year long pantomime. Its surreal nature being enhanced by the Democratic Unionist Party who now seem to be providing the intellectual ballast for its future basis.
As a lily livered liberal, long committed to the idea that the notion of Irish unity cannot occur but through the winning the hearts and minds of the Unionist community in the North of Ireland, I find the notion of continuing to placate the DUP component of that community to be completely unrealistic and more than a little infuriating.
There is nothing whatsoever wrong with aspiring to the idea of an United Irish state being realised within my lifetime (I am ten years older than Simon Coveney!). It will never be done through coercion nor should it be ever be apologised for.
On the other side of the pond The Donald gave full vent to his anarcho-capitalist routine. The hope is that his incapacity to act in any way honestly or honourably, will eventually catch up with him. However he may yet survive his entire term, during which he will be able to cause untold havoc.
This year saw the transfer of power within Fine Gael and by extension within Government Buildings. Enda had been a somewhat lucky general. Despite an almost Trump like attachment to the truth, and a lack of willingness to initiate anything, he was there when things happened.
His successor, Leo Varadkar, would prefer if very little happens. He’s unlikely to be fooled by distracting opinion poll ratings. He should have learned the lesson of Theresa May’s bolt to the nation in the UK.
An Irish general election still seems likely sometime next year, as it seems unlikely that Fianna Fáil would want Fine Gael to go to the country on foot of what will be presented as a giveaway budget. When that election gets called it will be more about housing and healthcare than any curiosity with the novel.
Before that we will have again our national obsession over abortion. At this remove it looks like the 1983 insertion into the Constitution may finally have overstayed its questionable welcome. The campaign will, sadly, open many wounds. It may be ugly. One more bout of ugly might have to be endured, if we are ever have sanity on this issue.
At the very least in 2018 we should try to move further from the hate filled societies created by events in 2016. The movement will be slow and small, but should be in the right direction.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle
Dan Boyle’s new book ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.