Potential for new political movement led by comedian is no laughing matter
Step forward, Mrs Brown, your time has come. Your country needs you. Beppe Grillo in Italy has shown the way. Ireland requires a comedian to channel its mood for political protest, and who better than Brendan O’Carroll? Not only is he our most commercially successful comic genius, sure wasn’t his mother a TD in her time?
Dara Ó Briain could also be a contender. He himself is of the 40-something negative equity age bracket. He’s extremely articulate – a former Irish Times debating champion, no less – and he holds a degree in theoretical physics to boot. He has lived abroad in recent years but so have much of Ireland’s younger generations.
There is also a plethora of possibilities among those Irish comedians based at home. Des Bishop has already cut a dash with television campaigns for various causes, including preserving our national language and, more recently, tackling our alcohol problem. Mario Rosenstock would come with much experience at playing the role of a politician. If you’re looking for someone with the social media savvy of Grillo, then Abie Philbin Bowman fits the bill. He’s also a journalist, and being the son of a venerable broadcaster could also help his standing.
When I floated on Twitter during the week the question of whether and which Irish comedian could lead a new party to 25 per cent in a general election, I was met with the above examples. I was also met with many predictable responses such as the view that our political parties are already led by comedians.
It is worth reflecting, however, on events in Italy in the context of whether there is an opening for a new political grouping in the Irish party system.
One of the great unknowns of the 2011 Irish general election is what would have happened if Fintan O’Toole and Eamon Dunphy had held their nerve. In late 2010 they had been privately working with others, including then senator Shane Ross and the celebrity economist David McWilliams, to launch Democracy Now.
This was to be a loose “non-ideological” alliance of new candidates who would subscribe to five core principles but otherwise be free to vote as they wished. The movement, it was said, was designed to reform Irish politics but in January 2011 O’Toole and Dunphy announced they were abandoning their plans because the date of the election had been brought forward a month.
My guess is that, had they run, the O’Toole-Dunphy group could have won as many as 20 seats. It would have made the 2011 election all the more interesting and it would have been fascinating to watch them trying to co-ordinate the various strong personalities involved during the life of this Dáil. It’s likely to have been at least as entertaining as the travails of the technical group of Independents.