A statement that, unsurprisingly, is raising eyebrows on the left. Here’s Social Democrat TD Gary Gannon giving Padraig MacLochlainn a scolding:
It is important that we all, especially politicians on the left, unequivocally support those fleeing war in Ukraine and all those in the international protection system. Sowing division to highlight government failure is spectacularly unhelpful as well as utterly unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/dKxFmf9GrP
— Gary Gannon TD (@GaryGannonTD) July 7, 2022
The background to this is that MacLochlainn, who represents Donegal, is naturally enough complaining that the MICA bill does not provide enough money to fix all the collapsing houses. “We’ve no problem finding money for Ukrainians”, he notes, in effect.
That’s very dangerously close to a horrible far-right statement like “house the Irish first”. Which, by the way, I assure you Sinn Fein activists have no problem repeating on doorsteps when they know the Irish Times can’t hear them. There’s a reason they’re hoovering up anti-immigration votes, and it’s not because of what they have been saying in public. At least, not until now. Mr. MacLochlainn has allowed the feline to escape from the sack, as it were.
Gannon’s reaction, though, is typical: Just asking questions like this is dangerous. Which is absurd.
Public money is public money. We live in a democracy. How that money gets allocated is the public’s business. It is the public’s business precisely because that money is scarce: if there was enough money to do everything we might conceivably like to do as a country, then there’d be no need for politics or politicians: Every town could have its own hospital, new school, new playground, and so on, and the dole could be 100,000 a year for those who just didn’t feel like working.
But that’s not the case. The entire point of the political process is to decide how to allocate limited resources. If the idea of spending endless billions on Ukrainians cannot be debated, discussed, and, in the end, rejected, then we don’t really have a democracy worthy of the name.
What’s more: MacLochlainn and Sinn Fein, respectively, have not climbed to their present commanding position on the political ladder without having some appreciation of how the political winds are blowing. Though we might all deplore it piously, the fact of the matter is that there is growing resentment about all the Ukraine-related spending. The media, very dutifully, is doing its duty in a progressive modern democracy and doing its best to hide it, but every radio show in the country is deluged with the same text message every time it discusses this issue: Why are we spending so much money on this when we have so many other problems?
What’s interesting, really, is that we’re not having the discussion. The political parties in Government, and the establishment, in their unrelenting stupidity, believe that not having the discussion is of benefit to them by maintaining the façade of political consensus on this issue. But the truth is the opposite: By not having the discussion, they’re giving Sinn Fein and others a free pass: Free to issue supportive mumblings at national level while unafraid, as we see here, to engage in a bit of Ireland-first Trump-style nationalism at local level, as they please. The absence of a debate allows them to take both positions, cost free.
And so it is, for example, that some poor clown like me who states his position openly is a candidate to be denounced as far right, while Padraig MacLochlainn can go much further than I ever would, and be counted a progressive in good standing.
Anyway, there’s another point here: Gary Gannon’s criticism of MacLochlainn will go nowhere. He’ll get a few sympathetic nods from fellow left-wingers about it, but that won’t matter: MacLochlainn is much better at the political game than he is. If pushed on this, he’ll do what Sinn Fein always do: Pretend that there’s no choice to be made at all: “Obviously I agree with supporting Ukrainians”, he’ll say, “but we should provide that same support to our own”. And, this being Ireland, nobody will point out to him that it is a choice, and that the money is not unlimited.
And the good voters of Donegal will saunter on, down to the box, to vote for him. Knowing, as they believe they do, whose side he’s really on.