Over the summer, a friend of mine asked me probably one of the most complicated questions
you can ask: “I’;ve tried, but I don’t understand Irish politics at all. Can you explain it?”
It’s easy, if you’re into politics and discourse, to forget quite how many people don’t think about
those things, especially if you surround yourself with similarly minded-people. Let’s be clear, I’m
not dismissing the intellect of anybody who doesn’t keep up with politics; it’s similarly easy to
forget that I didn’t know anything about politics once, and getting familiar enough with the Dáil to
understand approximately what goes on in there is a herculean task if you haven’t done it
before. (Even if you continually read up on things it’s bloody hard to keep up. It’s like guessing
the plot of Game of Thrones by only watching spoiler-free YouTube reviews.) If you were raised
by apolitical parents, haven’t joined a society and don’t follow the right people on Twitter, your
gateways into learning how to keep up with current affairs are to hope you know somebody who
As for my friend, they were raised in a non-Irish family, and had tried researching to bolster their
knowledge only to become completely overwhelmed by what they found. I can’t really blame
them. The further you get into the world of current affairs, the blinder you become to the fact that
it’s a mess. A necessary, profoundly important mess, but still. Even putting aside Trump and
Brexit, politics is messy, slow, and really quite dry to follow if you’re not feeling particularly angry
about whatever’s topical. It helps to be passionate, I suppose. Politics are also notoriously bad
for your nerves.
Which makes it all the easier to understand why people throw up their hands and say, “I don’t
care about politics. It doesn’t affect me.” It’s a position often dismissed as being passively
conservative— that people are happy with things the way they are. They’re generally not;
they’re one of two things.
1. They’re hopeless about things the way they are.
2. They’re uninformed about things the way they are.
Sadly, the more complicated and controversial the political sphere gets, the more important it
becomes for people to have a clear, nuanced understanding of it. It’s too easy to fall onto simple
explanations and easy scapegoats, or to give up thinking about it altogether. (I wrote a small
summary of Boris Johnson’s UK parliament this issue and believe me, I understand why people
look for a simple explanation.)
Perhaps we need more people like my friend, who wanted to combat that problem in their own
small way. If you’re looking to start, why don’t you try reading my news section?