Commentators have missed the’silent revolution’, which is an insidious change in the mindset of the average Irish person (of which the water-tax protests were a symptom). The working classes and the squeezed middle are now radicalised and militant. They realise that they have been let down by bankers, politicians, senior civil servants, the Central Bank, the Financial Regulator, and the European Central Bank, and they are not happy.
We have suffered pay cuts, the universal social charge, pension levies, property taxes, water charges, and stealth taxes (like budget increases in the price of cigarettes and proposed increases in the price of alcohol).
Resentment at our treatment has being growing like pressure in a cooker. Sinn Fein has tapped into this and has made significant gains in opinion polls. Unfortunately, Sinn Fein terminology is creeping into the ‘silent revolution’ and the recent subjection of President Michael D Higgins to abuse was alarming. He was described as a “legitimate target”.
Such terminology was used daily in Northern Ireland during the ‘troubles’ to justify murder, destruction of property and to make Northern Ireland ungovernable. Disillusionment with the major parties is running the risk of the Republic of Ireland becoming an anti-authoritarian state. We now have scant respect for politicians, heads of State or for the Gardaí, who have the unenviable job of keeping the peace in the midst of civil unrest.
The gardaí, too, have suffered pay reductions, and have been affected by the same savage cuts as you and I. Politicians and gardaí are now being targeted by the anti-water tax movement and people are being asked to supply particulars of their private addresses.
This is unacceptable. Again, this is a practice that has its origins in the long history of the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland.
Given this change in mindset, it is probable that none of the major political parties will receive a mandate from the Irish electorate to govern on their own.
The only option is a government consisting of the remnants of the major parties and a raggle-taggle bunch of independents and Sinn Fein.
The major parties have created a major mess. But will the ‘silent revolution’ lead us into an even bigger one ?