Watching yesterday’s performative politics in Dáil Éireann I was reminded of the words of the Mock Turtle’s song from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?”. So far the Establishment parties are resolute in their determination not to link arms with Sinn Féin and step lively into a new history-making government. But what about keeping the levers of power within a slightly expanded, slightly rebranded version of the old Golden Circle? There is a distinct whiff of game play and theatrics to the actions of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as both coyly eye up the other in the news media, with the Green Party fairly fizzing at the thoughts of joining an ideological threesome of the centre-right that will likely leave the whole country well and truly screwed. However with Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan apparently setting the scene to hustle Leo Varadkar into a tripartite coalition, strictly in the “national interest” you understand, an FF-FG-GP-Maybe Other administration looks more likely than not. It’s that or a return to the polls, and the formerly two big beasts of Irish politics are less than eager for that outcome, suspecting that the only beneficiary of a new general election will be Mary Lou McDonald and company.
Meanwhile, editorials, opinion pieces and reports hostile to Sinn Féin are coming thick and fast in the press. Some are very well deserved, some are barrel scraping, and some reek of Establishment paranoia. How long can we continue with a media that wilfully fails to represent a quarter of the electorate when it comes to policies that broadly align with those of Sinn Féin, and nearly half of the electorate when it comes to left-of-centre politics in general? The neo-liberal, socially progressive and economically reactionary hegemony that has dominated Irish newspapers, radio and television for the last twenty years must be challenged, and challenged with vigour. Freedom of the press also means having the freedom to disagree with a press that does not think as you think, does not speak as you speak, and does not care as you care. And we should be alarmed by those politicians, journalists and business figures who argue otherwise.