The centre ground is where a democratic politician supposedly aspires to be. It is their promised land, the only place where they can win an election. Pollsters, hack politicians and even hackier journalists will all tell you that is the sweet spot, El Dorado, Tír na nÓg, the Magic Mountain, whatever clichéd mystical and charmed place that springs to mind. When the hyberbole drops a notch, empirical weight is thrown in, typically in the form of focus groups. The more sophisticated proponents of the conventional wisdom might seek to measure and calibrate these responses, and, taking into account a nation’s history, its political institutions, its demographics and various cultural signifiers, will then say “Voila! There is your centre ground”.Read More »
In contemporary Europe, threats to democracy mostly emanate from the right. The likes of Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece resemble nightmares from the 1930s. The crisis in Europe precipitated by the gathering mass movements of people from the Middle East and North Africa is providing such entities with more oxygen and greater impetus, with the potential for ghastly consequences that don’t bear thinking about. Though of course we must, because regrettably it isn’t fanciful any more to speculate about the revival of fascist movements.
In Ireland, the opposite applies. The greatest subversive threats come from the notional left, in the form of Sinn Féin and the IRA. We should perhaps be thankful that Irish so-called republicanism doesn’t pander to anti-immigrant sentiment and isn’t organising pogroms against desperate people trying to come to Ireland, but the movement they represent offers plenty of other things for citizens of the island to be fearful of. A reminder of the fragility of Irish democracy came recently with the murder of Kevin McGuigan and the resultant political fallout, with the Ulster Unionist Party quitting the Northern Ireland executive and the Democratic Unionist Party calling on David Cameron to suspend the devolved NI Assembly in Belfast. At the time of writing, there have been 12 arrests in connection with this murder, which has brought up once again the troublesome political question about the true status of the IRA, a question that has never gone away since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.Read More »