Of course we stand for something! We stand for the Squeezed Middle
‘Ireland has not been at such a critical juncture,” the old man goes, “certainly not since independence. We are about to witness a seismic shift in Irish politics, the emergence of a new force, a quote-unquote party of the people, to challenge the inverted commas big three. New Republic! God, I love that beautiful juxtaposition of words. Helen will tell you – for the past month I’ve been waking up saying them.”
I switch on the shredder, portly because I’ve got, like, 15 bags of documents to dispose of, but mainly to try to drown out his voice. It’s no good, though. The focker could shout down a 747 engine. He just raises his voice a couple of hundred decibels and the Magico High Security Cross Cutter is suddenly fighting a losing battle.
“We’re hoping to field a candidate in every constituency,” he goes. “We have have 30 names thus far! Thirty, Ross! And, well, naturally, I shall be running in my beloved Dún Laoghaire. Might even give Herr Gilmore a bloody well dusting – that’s if he has the courage to face the electorate again!”
I go, “I don’t know why you’re even bothering your hole,” which is genuinely meant as a conversation ender.
You know my old man, though. His face is suddenly lit up and he’s going, “Oh, this is good! This is just what I need! A devil’s advocate, as it were! I’m going to need to be sharp for my grilling by, no doubt, Vincent Browne!” I’m there, “Yeah, I actually meant what I said? You’re whatever age you are now. Why are you even bothering?” He actually laughs at that. Then he goes, “We’re living in desperate, desperate times, Ross. Now, I know you’re an avid student of history.”
I got an NG in history, just to put the record straight.
“So you’ll appreciate better than anyone how, in desperate times, people get dangerous ideas. That’s how we ended up with communism. And fascism. And TDs who turn up to the Dáil in the bloody well clothes they slept in.
“A man with your unerring political nose must smell it, Ross. There’s a whiff of revolution in the air. People are angry. They’re liable to vote for just anyone. Well, I want New Republic to be that ‘just anyone’.” I laugh. I’m there, “So you don’t actually stand for anything?”
He reacts like he’s just been shot. “Of course we stand for something! We stand for the Squeezed Middle – quote-unquote! The dispossessed professional classes. People like your godfather and I, who’ve paid our taxes – well, our arrears plus penalties and interest, in my case – and who are now saying, ‘No more! No bloody well more!’ ”
I switch off the machine, but he continues on at the same volume.
“People who were encouraged to invest everything they had in property and are now being taxed on investments that are as good as worthless. Business people who’ve been driven to the wall by the very banks that they were forced to bail out.