• Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

Conor McGregor has given Ireland’s anti-migrant voters a voice

Conor McGregor has given Ireland's anti-migrant voters a voice

DUBLIN — President McGregor?

Don’t rule it out.

For the past few months, MMA fighter Conor McGregor has emerged as the lone voice of Ireland’s silent majority. 

Speaking out on everything from lockdowns to immigration, “The Notorious” has stepped out of the octagon and entered the political arena, throwing punches every which way. 

“Ireland, we are at war,” he tweeted, following the sentencing for the savage murder of an Irish woman by a Slovakian migrant. 

A few days later, the stabbing of three children by a naturalized Irish citizen from Algeria triggered some of the worst rioting Ireland’s recent history. 

Some sought to blame McGregor for stirring discontent. 

The truth?

Years of neglect and dismissal of people’s legitimate concerns about migration blew up, with McGregor serving as a useful scapegoat. 

Since then, calls to investigate the athlete for “incitement” have been numerous, and Ireland’s police reportedly opened a probe. 

McGregor’s response to the rioting?

“Innocent children ruthlessly stabbed by a mentally deranged non-national in Dublin, Ireland today.”

“There is grave danger among us in Ireland that should never be here in the first place, and there has been zero action done to support the public in any way, shape or form with this frightening fact. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.”

He condemned the looting as “despicable.” 

On X (formerly Twitter), he’s hinted at the possibility of a presidential run, mocking detractors in true Donald Trump fashion.

When an Irish senator said she “wouldn’t nominate him to wash the dishes,” he retorted, “Senator, I nominate you to brush your teeth.”

Recently, X CEO Elon Musk lent him support, noting he could “shake things up.” 

Sure, McGregor may be simply teasing folks about running, for kicks, attention — and to boost his branded “Proper 12” whiskey sales.

Meanwhile, though, for Ireland’s emerging single-issue voters, he’s their leader. 

Per recent polling, close to half the public holds views about immigration they wouldn’t dare express in public. 

The silent voter now has a loud voice: the tempestuous McGregor. 

Of course, polite society hasn’t been thrilled with his entry into the political realm: Ireland’s deputy prime minister called him a “disgrace.”

“I’d like to take this time to apologize . . . to absolutely nobody” is just one of his many memorable sayings that infuriate the establishment.

Yes, many dismiss and mock his presidential aspirations, yet the migration issue may give him a shot. 

Already, more than 20% of voters say they’d vote for an anti-immigrant candidate/party.

Why hasn’t Ireland already experienced a right-wing populist movement as some other European nations have?

Sinn Féin

The left-wing populist party has managed to entice nationalists with a promise to reclaim the six counties that encompass Northern Ireland. 

Yet as immigration becomes an increasingly hot topic, Sinn Féin’s omertà on the issue has sapped its support: In the most recent poll, it recorded a 28% approval rating, down three percentage points from the last poll. 

When voters head to the polls in 2024 for the local elections and 2025 for the general election, it’s highly likely that immigration critics will emerge victorious. 

To win the presidential nomination, McGregor would need either 20 members of the Irish Parliament backing him or the support of four local authorities known as county councils.

At the moment, senators and independent pols are all refusing to back “Mystic Mac,” but the dynamics of the next election could see a resurgent right-wing force enter the parliament, potentially lending support. 

Could McGregor actually win?

Well, he wouldn’t be the first rabble-rouser to step into the ring. 

In 2018, the controversial “Dragons’ Den” star (Ireland’s “Celebrity Apprentice” equivalent) businessman Peter Casey ran for the presidency. 

Despite his initial lacklustre support, Casey’s statements on Ireland’s Romani community and welfare state sent his approval ratings sky-high.

In the end, the “anti-woke” candidate secured more than 20% of the electorate, placing him second behind Irish President Michael D Higgins. 

Indeed, the current president himself is a populist who mirrors Bernie Sanders in style and substance. 

A Marxist, he has backed the Sandinistas and Fidel Castro. 

So never underestimate the ability of the Irish to embrace the wildcard. 

McGregor once said, “Look at everybody. They’re trying to dress like me, talk like me — they’re trying to be me!” 

If Sinn Féin and the other parties decide to pre-empt the presidential election and adopt McGregor’s hard-line rhetoric on immigration, filling the current vacuum, it could throw a monkey wrench into the works for his potential campaign. 

But if not, the Irish could be calling him President Conor McGregor before they know it.

Theo McDonald is based in Dublin and writes about economic and social issues. 

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