It’s tempting to view everything though our own personal or political experience. Social media is littered with examples of British commentators with little or no understanding of Irish history or politics doing just that, forcing the general election into their own world view.
Here’s Naomi O’Leary on why it’s a mistake to see the phenomenon of Sinn Fein’s electoral success as an example of populism like England’s Brexit experience or “Trumpism”:
“Political scientists usually consider populism to be a tactic – not a political position as such so it can be used by both the left and the right. Essentially populism is when you define yourself as the voice of so called ‘common man’ or ‘ordinary Irishman’, and you define yourself as against a corrupt elite that somehow doesn’t represent the common people. So its the pitting of a kind of ideal country man against an elite. That’s populism. Now Irish media sometimes describe Sinn Fein as ‘populist’ – but they use it with a different meaning, what they actually mean is “playing to the gallery” – they mean this is a stunt to win popular support. That is a rather cynical support for whatever policies are popular with the public even to the extent of being ideologically incoherent. So you might start simultaneously holding both right wing and left wing economic policies, just because they’re both popular with the public. It’s often used when it might not feasible – for example to both cut taxes and increase public expenditure.
It’s important not to see the rise of Sinn Fein as part of what’s been going on internationally with the rise of the nationalist nativist right. Sinn Fein is not nativist. Nativist meaning it privileges an ‘indigenous’ population against incomers. Like so “Irish for the Irish” – “Netherlands for the Dutch” etc. Sinn Fein comes from the anti-colonial tradition – it’s left wing – it shuns anti-immigration policy – its manifesto had proposals to improve the conditions of refugees for example in the country and to introduce hate-speech as an act of solidarity with immigrant an minority groups.”