Social Democrats and longing for the long ago.


Nostalgia appears to be all the rage, especially political nostalgia. The latest proponent is the new leader of the Social Democrats. The SocDems are a party for whom Irish history only began in 2015 when they were formed. Everything before that is viewed with misty eyed longing and blurry understanding.

The new Social Democrats leader said in her first speech as leader that “I am a member of the first ever generation that will be worse off than our parents.” Her parents would have come of age in Ireland in the 1980s. A time when the chances of getting any job were much lower than now with close to 20% unemployment, of getting a middle class type job that requires a third level qualification and pays accordingly even lower again, most women didn’t work outside the home, divorce wasn’t legal, interest rates were multiples of what they are now and income taxes on average wages significantly higher than now. Taxes that paid for an underperforming public service where it took 18 months to get a telephone. When you did get a phone and rang a public service number no one at all might answer or if they did you had to tell them everything about your enquiry all over again, and again, and again. While we did have more hospitals, they were often more places for your loved ones to go to be cared for while they died than to be treated and cured.

True, we had more available housing, only as a result of a decades-long pattern of emigration. Few double income households meant that a good single income between a couple could get a basic first home, but not a forever home and very few single people were buying homes in their 20s. High unemployment meant that labourers were paid comparatively little to build what new housing stock there was. It was built to a standard the current generation would consider rudimentary and environmentally unsound. Finally, unlike today, previous generations didn’t spend their time bemoaning the lack of housing in their area while also objecting to new housing developments in that same area.

The SocDem leader really thinks the 80s in Ireland were better? If so then whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, the Social Democrats are not the least bit interested in solving it. They’re interested in two things and two things only: making you think it was better long ago and lying to you that those currently in charge are solely to blame for things being worse and for nefarious reasons.

This nostalgia, which the Guardian has termed “Binmenmisn“, was a driving force behind Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. We could well do without it here in our political discourse. There are all sorts of reasons to criticise the government of the day, that things in Ireland were much better long ago is not one of them.

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