The 6,967sqm building is currently occupied by Bank of Ireland. the coronavirus crisis on Dublin’s real estate market, which is in part underpinned by US firms.

What annoys liberals about some other liberals/progressives?

It’s not the name-calling; both sides do that.

I’d like to tell a little story from Irish history. I’ll keep it as short as possible.


In Ireland in 1916, three groups of Irish nationalists—the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizen Army—staged an insurrection. They occupied various locations in Dublin and a few other places around the country, hoisted a flag above the General Post Office in Dublin city centre, and declared an Irish republic.

The Easter Rising, as it’s known, lasted a week before the British Army bombed and shelled the rebels into surrendering. The Irish population was, on the whole, not pleased about the whole thing, but then the British made what could at best be described as a big mistake: they decided to try the leaders of the Rising under military law. Ninety of the leaders were sentenced to death, and executions started.

This had the effect of turning popular sentiment against the British and in favour of the rebels. The British hastily cancelled the executions and the remaining rebel leaders were sent to internment camps in England and Wales, where they immediately began planning what to do for Irish independence when they got out.

In the 1918 Irish general election, the party that had been in favour of the Rising, Sinn Féin, won in a landslide. It adopted a policy that the Republic was a Thing, whether or not the British recognised it, and it convened the First Dáil, an independent legislative body which claimed to be the Irish government. The First Dáil had some quite progressive policies, inspired by the socialist politics of the late James Connolly, one of the executed rebel leaders.

The British were not too keen on this sudden outburst of self-government, and so the Dáil had to meet in secret. One of its first acts was to start the Irish War of Independence, by which the Irish sought to harass the British into granting Ireland self-government.

One of the most capable leaders in the war was Michael Collins, technically the Minister of Finance but in practice the head of intelligence. He maintained a network of spies in the Dublin Metropolitan Police and organised what amounted to an assassination unit, ‘the Squad’, which targeted officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

The war of independence was never very pretty but it soon got seriously ugly, and by summer 1921 there was a stalemate. The British policy of using auxiliary police units had backfired because of the units’ reputation for brutality, and the IRA was running out of men and equipment; Collins in particular was sure that they couldn’t go on fighting forever.

Peace talks were held. Many of the IRA regarded these as a truce in which they could regroup, before going back to fighting. However, the result of the talks was the Anglo-Irish Treaty, in which the British agreed to withdraw its forces from Ireland and to allow it to become a self-governing dominion, and the Irish agreed that Northern Ireland would be given the option to withdraw from any such dominion and remain part of the United Kingdom. The British prime minister David Lloyd George, who was head of the British delegation, warned the Irish that if they didn’t sign the treaty, there would be open war. Collins and Arthur Griffith, who were the senior members of the Irish delegation, saw no option but to sign, reasoning that some self-government was better than none, and that they would certainly lose the kind of war that Lloyd George was threatening.

Unfortunately, the head of the Irish government was Eamon de Valera, who hadn’t negotiated the Treaty, and when it was presented to him, he refused to support it. The only option, as he saw it, was that all Ireland should be the new Republic. He led his supporters out of the Dáil. Thus began the Irish Civil War.


For its brutality and for the lingering bitterness it engendered, the Irish Civil War put the War of Independence in the cheap seats. It lasted less than a year, from June 1922 to May 1923, but thousands died, including Collins himself, killed in an ambush in the countryside. The army of the new Irish Free State were so angry about his death that they executed prisoners of the opposing side.

The Free State forces won, but the reaction to the civil war was so strong that there was, in essence, a counter-revolution. The new government was heavily conservative and in favour of order and stability at almost any price. One of its members, Minister for Justice Kevin O’Higgins, was so conservative that he briefly contemplated Ireland becoming its own kingdom under George V, and described the socialist principles enshrined in the policies of the First Dáil as ‘mostly poetry’. O’Higgins was himself assassinated in the street in 1927, while on his way to mass, by three anti-Treaty IRA men.

The Irish Civil War defined Irish politics for the next several decades. The two parties that emerged at the end, Fianna Fáil (anti-Treaty) and Fine Gael (pro-Treaty), remain the two dominant parties in Irish politics, with the Labour Party a close third. Neither of the two main parties were especially interested in civil rights, public healthcare, women’s rights, a strong democracy or any of the things that could have improved life for the majority of the state’s citizens. They were both still tied up in Civil War squabbling, they were both socially conservative, they were both happy to let the Catholic church run numerous public institutions, and when any Irish politician succeeded in actually improving anything, it was usually despite party policy rather than because of it.

If Eamon de Valera had been willing to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Irish Civil War would never have happened. (De Valera was not exactly a ‘liberal’, but his insistence on ideological purity is what this answer is getting at.)

To this day, ‘free stater’ is an insult that some Irish people like to throw around. And to this day, some people are still angry that Collins & co decided to go for what was possible, instead of what was perfect. Here’s a comment on Amazon from an edition of Collins’s articles and speeches:

Seriously. I revere James Connolly. I regret that the Free State government rejected his socialism.

However, ‘jimmy mc ardle’, wherever you are, you’re the reason why the things you wanted didn’t happen.


To finally answer the question about what annoys me about other liberals/progressives:

The conservative vice is excessive pragmatism: doing whatever you have to do to maintain your hold on power. At worst it leads to an amoral refusal to stand by any principle whatever, if you think it’ll lose you support.

The liberal vice is the opposite: rigid insistence on purity at the expense of compromise.

Preferring to fuck everything up, sooner than get anything done.