Honestly, who’d be an Irish Political Party PR flack, these days? No reasonable person, after all, would expect a torrent of criticism for the announcement of something as banal as a woman’s conference. Here’s the poster Fianna Fáil produced yesterday, and then, swiftly deleted:
What’s the problem, you ask? Well, take a guess.
Senator Eileen Flynn @Love1solidarity has accused the Fianna Fáil Women’s Health Conference, due to take place next week, as a ‘rich woman’s conference’ on Liveline
The lineup for the conference has faced backlash for its lineup, with critics saying it lacks diversity.
— Gabija Gataveckaitė (@gabysayshey) April 20, 2022
Fianna Fáil deleting their self-congratulatory tweet about this (white) women's health conference until they can round up a few token minority women to diversify the speakers list… 🙄
— Rachel W (@walshrac) April 19, 2022
It should be noted here that the Senator complaining about the colour of the women at the proposed Fianna Fáil woman’s conference, Eileen Flynn, is a white woman herself, albeit from a traveller background. One assumes that she does not include traveller women as “white”, though it is hard to tell, these days.
Naturally, the whole thing made LiveLine, where the host was happy to listen to a series of complaints about the attendees at the woman’s conference. And Fianna Fáil appears to have surrendered. It is likely that, by the time you are reading this, the party will have released a revised speaker list with a few people thrown in to make up the numbers and promote diversity.
That this is all very silly is self-evident, but it is worth writing about for a reason. That reason is that this kind of story almost perfectly sums up the state of the Irish political class.
Note well here that the objections to this conference are purely cosmetic. There are no objections to it on the basis of political ideology. It is not a disservice to any of the attendees in the original poster above to note that they have very few, if any, political disagreements. They are very likely all to say some version of the same thing.
That same thing will be, again, some version of the official Ireland NGO-approved narrative: “Great strides have been made in women’s equality, but there is lots more to do in terms of childcare and equal pay and getting more women into politics and corporate boards and media panels”.
It is safe to say that there will be no speakers at this conference who focus much attention at all on women who desire to, or choose to, take a break from their careers to raise their children. There will be very little, if any attention, paid to the issue of crime on our streets, and the risk to women – though there may well be a little focus on teaching boys not to be misogynists. The thing is called a “woman’s” conference, but everybody knows that it will essentially be just another progressive bore-off.
And because there is nothing substantive to talk about – people who attend are going, after all, to listen to the choir, and nod – the only thing left to attack it on is the skin colour of the speakers. There being no substantive disagreement in Irish politics about any of the issues, we are essentially left with political parties competing on who has the greater number of black or traveller speakers at their events. All of this is very important to the political class, and of virtually no importance at all to an ordinary voter.
Across the spectrum, this is the illness: The political parties in the state barely compete with each other at all on issues that matter to the voters but compete with the utmost intensity on the issues that matter to an elitist group of NGOs and lobby groups. Who is more diverse? Who is more feminist? Who can make the grandest carbon pledge? Who is less white?
The media, of course, are happy to indulge this and pretend that it is all very important. But it is not. It is vanishingly unimportant.
Senator Flynn, the objector here, was not elected to the Seanad, but appointed. It is, in fact, difficult to think of an Irish politician who has been directly elected by the electorate on a platform of out-wokeing the opposition. Aodhán O’Riordáin comes close, but even he secured victory mainly on the more traditional Irish platform of opposing new houses in his constituency.
This is a political class that is out of touch, and with its head stuck very far up its own backside. And, in time – perhaps not for another decade or more – the crows will come home to roost. While the young people of Ireland want houses, our politicians are obsessing over the skin colour of conference attendees. They all deserve a good long rest.