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Painting the Irish Titanic Pink

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What’s the most opportunistic thing a country can do in today’s vacant political culture? Elect a youthful face as leader? What about a coloured face as führer? Or an LGBT front man or woman? Forever trying to hitch a ride on the latest capitalist trends – Ireland just did all of the above. And it all means nothing. Ireland could elect the first black female pope as it’s leader and it still wouldn’t change the empty feeling one gets in the Emerald Isle these days.

In June the Irish parliament made Leo Varadkar Taoiseach (leader). At the age of 38 – not only is he the youngest person to hold this position – he’s also the first Irish leader to have roots in the Third World (India). And to cap all of this “exciting” package – he’s also the first openly gay man to lead the country. Indeed, according to Pink News, only three other nations in the world, in recent times, ever had openly gay leaders.

But does anyone care? In an Ireland were economics and geopolitics are untouchable subjects because foreign “experts” (or gangsters – the UK, IMF, EU and USA) know best: a gay and colourful leadership amounts to being a cultural cosmetic or game and nothing more. Why bother play it or endorse it – especially when the gay leadership in question is right wing?

Leo Varadkar is the leader of Fine Gael – Ireland’s most right wing political party. Since the birth of the southern Irish State (1922), Fine Gael – or as it was known back then Cumann na nGaedheal – has been the Irish guard dog of private property. So much so that it worked clandestinely with Winston Churchill during the Irish civil war. And attracted the support of the pro-British (pro-Empire) landlords who decided to stay in the Free State.

In 1933 the Fine Gael brand was officially launched – just in time for the fascist trend. Accordingly some of its members (the Blue-shirts) would go on to fight for Franco in Spain. And the rest would go on squeezing Ireland dry for the sake of profit.

Since the 1930s Fine Gael has been mostly on the sidelines cheering for landlordism – the Irish curse. But in Garrett Fitzgerald it found a late capitalist intellectual (and Taoiseach in the 1980s) who easily stirred the party towards hedge funds and the “values” of the international markets. Unfortunately for Ireland – after those markets collapsed between 2008 and 2010, power fell into the hands of Fine Gael. And instinctively it followed foreign orders and plugged the country back into those failed markets.

This is the political genealogy of Leo Varadkar. And it coincides perfectly with his genes. Fine Gael may be Irish but it’s politics fits into the Indian caste system. As do all capitalist organisations. Varadkar – like Churchill and Gandhi – would say social divisions are written in stone. The rich will always be rich. And the poor always poor. That’s just the way it is.

Sexual divisions are another matter. Apparently these are not written in stone and can be turned upside down. And why not? Capitalism has turned everything upside down. Contemporary capitalists though, while embracing sexual revolution, don’t entertain social revolution. While they’re all for free love – they can’t tolerate free education or free housing. It’s a case of them stealing the freedom of the left while at the same time sticking a knife into the back of the left.

This type of arrogance and hypocrisy from liberated queers is hard to take. One of Leo Varadkar’s first acts as Taoiseach was to attack people depending on social welfare – as if the bank bailouts and austerity are not happening. However we’ve seen many liberated feminists do the same. Hillary Clinton for example. And that queen of reaction: Margret Thatcher. Ireland’s new queen is following their lead. The lesson is the usual one: when it comes to politics one’s social class means much more than one’s gender and sexuality.

The prospects for Ireland therefore are not great. Free love doesn’t translate into justice or even common sense. Varadkar is committed to paying off Ireland’s odious debt. All €200 billion of it. Plus the 8% of government revenue each year that services it. Fine Gael doesn’t question this debt servitude. On a per capita basis – only Japan’s and America’s debt problems are worse than Ireland’s. Compared to these economic giants however, southern Ireland’s pygmy-like reality (population: 4.7 million) is extremely vulnerable.

Varadkar & Co. also don’t question the monetary policy of the European Central Bank – which, while Ireland drowns in sovereign debt and is battered by austerity, pumps €60 billion every month into the European financial markets for free (quantitative easing). The priorities of the EU are clear. The troubled banks are to be indulged while the troubled EU nations (the PIIGS) are to be slaughtered.

But that’s OK for Varadkar! He’s a loyalist. He’s loyal to the Empire. He’s a committed “centralist” like the other new kid on the block, Emmanuel Macron. Which means they both are committed to the needs of the transnational corporations.

In Ireland’s case that means corporate America. That’s why Varadkar is now on the cover of TIME. He’s America’s new man in Europe. Indeed Varadkar was groomed by something called the Washington Ireland Program – a US organisation that “inspires and develops promising [Irish] leaders”. He was in its “Class of 2000”. So the 700 plus US companies with an “international HQ” in the south of Ireland can rest assured. The $343 billion corporate America has parked in and around Dublin – for tax dodging reasons – is safe for the moment.

You could call it a gay conspiracy. Since Ireland’s greatest corporate client – Apple Inc. – is led by the openly gay Tim Cook: the country’s new found sexuality is suspiciously convenient. However there’s no difference between homo-capitalism and hetro-capitalism. We wish there was. But the equality on offer these days is only negative. All capitalists – gay and straight – are equally bad.

The bottom line is that two bad bubbles completely distort Ireland’s rainbow republic. And each one could go pop at any moment. Together they form a uniquely absurd political economy (it’s called “leprechaun economics”). An enormous national debt and an enormous dependence on hot American money do not form the basis for any kind of rationality or stability. And the overall management of it all isn’t even in the hands of the Irish. Berlin and London have Dublin’s independence by the balls. And Boston’s nuclear bombs are raping any chance of a future in which to express Irish independence.

Pink is a pretty colour though. But it won’t scare away the icebergs that are all over the North Atlantic. Ireland floats blindly amongst them – in search of money instead of freedom and safety. It’s venality has already been hit hard this century. And the next hit could be fatal. However, if that’s the only way to finish off the politics of landlordism and “corporate tax breaks” in Ireland: lets have it. Let’s encourage Varadkar as he describes the place as “an island at the centre of the world”. Such cockiness crashed the Titanic. And will do so again. Let’s be ready this time.

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Aidan O’Brien lives in Dublin, Ireland.

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