Populist Watch Ireland: an exercise in accountability

Paul Meade seeks to draw attention to shallow politicking through his Facebook page

In the dark, downstairs livingroom of a house in one of Dublin’s suburbs, a lone keyboard warrior has had a busy election campaign.

A MacBook Air sits on a coffee table, open and ready for action.

Populist Watch Ireland is a Facebook account run by a quiet spoken, 45-year-old man who goes by the name Paul Meade. It has grown from 733 followers on the day the election was called, to 1,480 today. Last week, it achieved 270,000 page views – and all that from a standing start last June.

Postings are invariably sharply focused and supported by evidence – whether one agrees with the views, which are expressed calmly but with conviction.


Meade, which is not his real name, chose the pseudonym because he knows from recent, steep-learning-curve experience the level of aggressive blowback that would almost certainly befall him and his family were his true identity or address to become known.

“I have blocked 300 Facebook and 400 Twitter accounts and last thing I want to do is go public with my identity. I have annoyed some pretty petty people. But I am happy to go with a pseudonym I use regularly,” he says.

Populist Watch Ireland is what it says it is: an online exercise in political accountability that seeks to draw attention to what Meade sees as shallow and dishonest politicking; the positions people and parties took once, and what they say now.

It is also determinedly against the hard left and Sinn Féin.

Last Monday, the page took a cut at Louise O’Reilly, a Sinn Féin candidate in Dublin Fingal. It reminded readers what O’Reilly said when pressed during a recent radio interview about Pearse McAuley, the IRA man convicted of assaulting his wife and, specifically, for his role in the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe.

“Claire,” O’Reilly said to her interviewer, “war is very, very complicated. We don’t have the time or the scope to go into that.” And asked whether she thought the killing was right or wrong, she replied: “I don’t think it’s that simple,” there were “rights and wrongs on both sides”.

“No,” wrote Meade on the Facebook page, “there were not. An unarmed garda was shot dead by a psychopath who Sinn Féin lobbied hard to have released from jail and who went on to stab his own wife 13 times. This is Sinn Féin.”

The posting got 139,000 views, and was shared, or commented upon, by 28,700 people, a notable online engagement for a page that has had no publicity outside Facebook and Twitter.

So who is Paul Meade?

“I’m nobody,” he says. “I’m a guy who grew up in Ranelagh in the 1980s. I’ve worked as a bicycle courier. I’ve worked in shops. And I’ve worked in property.”

Of the left

He went to London, made some money (enough to buy his house outright) and came home in 2014, a father of one daughter. He describes himself as being of the left, but not the radical left.

He admires economists such as Seamus Coffey of UCC and Karl Whelan of UCD, both of whom have written about government and national economic policies, analysing the effect of proposals and reading the runes of past decisions.

“They really get it,” he says.

Having been angry with Fianna Fáil, he says that now he can see merit in that party, despite its role in the collapse, as well as in Fine Gael, Labour and also the Greens. He will not say which way he voted but, as is clear from the Facebook page, he is strongly against Sinn Féin because of the violent past of many leading figures in the party, its association with the IRA and the populist policies he says the party espouses.

“Sinn Féin and their supporters don’t care about the past. They will say anything to win votes,” he argues.

“There’s a whole generation of people out there under 35 who don’t remember Enniskillen, who don’t even know what Enniskillen was,” he says of the 1987 IRA bombing in which 10 people and a police officer were killed and 63 others wounded.

The organisation later apologised, saying the bombing was a “mistake”.

Meade is against the radical left because, as he sees it, they want to be all things to everyone.

“We will still have our market economy, they say, but basically, we can also have this, and this, and this – everything you want; free this and that but without saying how it’s going to be paid for. They look at Scandinavia and take the good bits, the free medicine etc – but not the 60 per cent tax rates.”

He is disturbed at the standard of online discussion, the easy recourse to abuse, invective and vitriol which he thinks is very bad for politics and good government.

“There’s been huge negativity in the past few years,” he says. “When I started spending more time doing this, there was a tsunami of hatred towards the political parties. RTÉ might lead [a news bulletin] with some foreign story and the water protesters will come in with comments ‘why aren’t you reporting what happened in place X about water’ and such like.

“A good society needs to discuss the issues of the day and they are not always the protest some minority is obsessing about.”

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times