Is populism already here?
Sir, – David Thunder argues that the conditions exist in Ireland for a future brand of a “homegrown version of populism” (“Progressive Ireland’ is a fantasy cultivated by elites”, Opinion & Analysis, March 29th).
But maybe that form of populism is already here, but just in a different form?
First, because of partition, we have Sinn Féin, a protest party based around the national question. This is a type of party that no longer really exists in the rest of the West where boundaries have been settled for a couple of generations. The controversy elsewhere is over who to let into the national territory rather than the location or existence of the boundary itself.
Second, we have the rise of the Independents. Due to the almost complete absence of meaningful local government in Ireland, people tend to vote disproportionately on local rather than national concerns. Again the Irish protest vote is going in directions not really seen elsewhere – candidates based around single or local issues. Add these disparate votes together with Sinn Féin’s share and we will come to a figure similar to the anti-establishment or “populist” vote in other western democracies, but one that seems to have manifested itself in a peculiarly Irish way. – Yours, etc,