Young Fine Gael is not an organisation that customarily evokes our sympathy, here at Gript. It is, after all, the youth wing of the largest party of Government – a Government that has, over the past year, led an almost relentless assault on people’s civil liberties and freedoms. Signing up to Young Fine Gael means, de facto, endorsing all of the policies implemented by Fine Gael, and promising to campaign for their re-election. Few of our writers, or readers, could endorse that course of action in good faith.
That said, we do have a commitment here to treating people fairly, and to defending those who are treated unfairly. And there might be no better example of unfair treatment than an article published about Young Fine Gael in the Irish Examiner yesterday, by that newspaper’s deputy political editor, a person called Elaine Loughlin. The article warns the reader that Young Fine Gael is increasingly a home for “pale, male, and stale” young people with “more right wing, anti-abortion, and anti-immigrant standpoints”.
You should read the whole thing, in fairness, before continuing here, but if you lack the time, here are some excerpts:
Posts on the private YFG Facebook forum page, which has almost 400 members, sometimes reflect views that not only speak out against Government policy (which can be a healthy thing) but are ultra-conservative and anti-immigrant in tone.
In a post which linked to a newspaper article reporting that anti-abortion TDs had set up an all-party group with the aim of amending the law, one member said he was “glad to see this” adding it would hopefully “go some way to redressing some of the reckless and inhumane flaws in the current legislation”.
Sorry, expressing support for a campaign to slightly amend the abortion legislation is “ultra conservative in tone”? Meanwhile:
YFG president Art O’Mahony, who took office on Saturday, confidently spins the line that the autonomous youth wing is a broad and welcoming church, but he voted no in the referendum.
Note the use, and placement, of the word “but”. The implication is that you cannot be broad and welcoming if you voted no in “the referendum”.
The whole article fails a basic test of journalism and opinion. It is neither. It is not journalism because it is transparently an effort to damage the image of people who hold anything less than pro-choice views. It is not opinion, because there is no effort to be fair minded, or consider any opposing arguments. What it is, in other words, is a polemic from an activist with a byline.
In Elaine Loughlin’s world, there simply is no place for people with anything other than uniformly progressive views, and certainly no place for them in any mainstream Irish political party. The message that is plainly intended to be sent is “this is our space, it’s not for people like you”, and that there is absolutely no room in Irish politics for people who do not subscribe to the single transferable ideology.
A journalist’s job is to observe politics, not to condemn people for holding perfectly normal political views. We’re living in a country where there’s a constant panic about the far right, and here’s a plainly ideological journalist openly fretting about the rise of the centre right.
This is, of course, a form of madness and paranoia. There’s a constant fear amongst Irish progressives that any minute now, the great unwashed is going to rise up and undo all their good works, and that constant vigilance is required to see off any and all threats to the new Ireland. If those threats are at risk of germinating even in such an inconsequential place as Young Fine Gael, then they must be eliminated.
That is the view of a political activist, not the view of a political editor. But then, in Ireland, there’s not much difference between those two jobs, these days.