What is Nigel Farage for, apart from serving as a grinning prop for a pint or an early-period Trump? Recent incarnations summon up a garrulous travelling salesman hawking "Dr Freedom" snake oil from a lizard-skin suitcase. But anyone capable of leading a cult that splits 66 million souls down the middle and transforms the mother of parliaments into a cacophonous joke will always be a curiosity.
So last weekend he was welcomed to a packed house by the College Historical Society, at Trinity in Dublin, and next morning to RTÉ's Marian Finucane show and its 350,000 listeners, before stepping up to rapturous applause at Freedom to Prosper, the Irexit conference organised by his own Ukip-led grouping in the European Parliament – and all of it diligently reported by national journalists. Not bad for a man and his sidekicks who moaned incessantly about being silenced by a mainstream-media conspiracy.
Not good for them, however, is the European Movement poll that suggests just 16 per cent of Irish people would follow the UK out of the EU – specifically, 14 per cent of all men and 18 per cent of women. So where were all the women on Saturday? And what does a chap like Farage have to offer that roomful of purposeful-looking Irish men and smattering of women? A glimpse into that fun Farage lifestyle, maybe, funded handsomely by the public institutions he has made a lucrative career out of opposing? In the age of Trump it has become routine to overlook brazen hypocrisy if someone is offering a role in the patriot game with lilac in the spring.
The great philosopher and historian gave his analysis of the unfathomably sappy will of the Irish people
A Breitbart News interview with Farage on Monday carried the headline, "If Ireland wants to be an independent state it can't stay part of the EU". The great philosopher and historian gave his analysis of the unfathomably sappy will of the Irish people: "You can't measure the word freedom, you can't measure the word independence, you can't measure the word democracy, but there is an extreme irony of centuries of struggle against the British to get rid of them and now suddenly they're being run by Brussels!"
The below-the-line merchants got it, though, with fan-boy shout-outs for Jacob Rees-Mogg – “JRM” or “Moggy” – and dead Irish patriots, plus guff from the Brexit hymnal.
One of these commentators on Breitbart, who goes by the name Clubo, had the following to say: "They refuse to give us a referendum vote on staying in the eu cause privately they know they would loose it. So they and the media peddle FAKE POLLS that say we support it by 80% but that's pure BS!!!!!!. It's sad that we spent over 1000 years trying to free our country and when we did we only kept it for 50 odd years before handing it over to the very same types only from europe, our leaders from the 20's would be turning over in their graves at what our quisling corrupt politicians have done!!!!!"
The word “quisling” – meaning a traitor who collaborates with a hostile occupier, after a Norwegian who played a critical role in applying the Nazis’ final solution in his country – gets frequent airings in these circles. The Ukip MEP Gerard Batten rages about “quislings in the British parliament” trying to crush the great Brexit project.
At the RDS the term was trotted out by the economics commentator Cormac Lucey when he addressed himself "to those who say – and there are some, the sort of the quisling faction – that we would be better off governed from outside . . ." He later tweeted that the comment was aimed, "for example, at those who would rather the troika was still running things to democratic self-rule, rather than supporters of the EU". But can we hear more of this intriguing troika quisling tendency?
Farage should be interviewed and debated with, like any influential public figure. And we should remind ourselves ad nauseam where this story ends
Some of the RDS speakers have a point, of course. We should be debating the direction of the European Union, corporate tax rates, ever closer union, the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement between the EU and the United States, and neutrality. But, ironically, that will not happen as long we remain united against the ignorant commentary emanating from Brexiteers and watch a great country tear itself apart on the instigation of our weekend lecturer, whose values are going mainstream.
Farage remains the chief dog whistler of a party that regurgitates its own poisonous innards daily. He is also an 18-year member of the European Parliament, from which he draws more than €100,000 in salary plus a €300-a-day living allowance, is ranked 748 out of 751 for attendance and, following an investigation by financial controllers at the parliament, will reportedly have to repay about €95,000, with a fellow Ukip MEP, for alleged misuse of public funds intended for staffing his office.
He had "absolutely no hesitation" in backing the gun-flashing, homophobic religious zealot and alt-right darling Roy Moore in the US Senate special election in Alabama, endorsed Marine Le Pen and the far-right Alternative für Deutschland, and defended Donald Trump's retweets of racist Britain First hate posts, arguing that "the level of outrage from the liberal elite" in Britain was "out of all proportion" – although he was surely aware that the MP Jo Cox had died hearing the words "Britain First" from her killer's mouth.
This is not a case for censorship. On the contrary, Farage should be interviewed and debated with, like any influential public figure. And we should remind ourselves ad nauseam where this story ends.