TWO years before I moved to Ireland in the cold February of 1999, the country’s civil war political parties received between them 82 per cent of the vote.
Now almost 20 years later those same parties received something short of 50 per cent.
Quite fittingly the 2016 election has changed everything. Finally, it seems as if the events set in train by 1916 might be over.
For almost its entire existence the Irish state has been dominated by and in thrall to two parties built solely around which side they took on the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are truly different. And like two sporting teams they reserve their most poisonous contempt for their nearest neighbours.
But here’s the rub. There is not a sliver of ideological difference between these two parties.
There is not a slither of difference in terms of political principle or philosophy. They are both centre right parties essentially promoting the same things.
Fine Gael is historically a bit more conservative, a bit more posh.
Fianna Fáil are historically a bit more concerned with the ordinary person and a bit more down to earth. But essentially they are the same.
Indeed there are political parties with members and factions that are far further apart than these two.
Their differences are essentially historical and only historical. Their differences are tribal and only tribal.
This is why election 2016 has been so truly momentous.
The Irish nation has been dominated by people voting on the basis of sides taken in the civil war.
Then the nation was dominated by people voting on the basis of which side their parents took in the civil war, then by people voting on the basis of which side their grandparents were on.
The fact that this attitude has now begun to shrink dramatically is a liberation for politics in this country.
We are no longer in thrall to or held hostage by which side our ancestors took just under a hundred years ago.
My grandmother in Cork city was an out and out Fianna Fáiler because she was a diehard Republican. I respect that, I really do.
I don’t think though that my own politics should be formed by her own particular circumstances and I don’t think the rest of us should be dominated by a political system predicated on which side any of your grandparents took in a war long since finished.
In 2016 our hung Dáil can only be overcome by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael going into coalition. In that way the old fight is finally dead.
And in that way we can finally have a proper politics based on different visions of society.
We can have a left and a right and we can debate who we want to be and not who we were nearly a hundred years ago.
Come on, there is no difference between them anyway. One of them just needs to admit it.