Anton Savage: what a pensioner and a drug dealer taught me about the referendum result

Rather than trying to guess the electorate’s motivations, we should focus on understand the subtleties and nuance at play in their voting choices.

16th Mar 2024
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Originally published in the Business Post.

An overheard conversation between a pensioner and drug dealer reminded me that we must stop thinking of ourselves as being the same as the UK and the US.

We may share a language, we may share huge amounts of culture, sport, arts and entertainment.

But we are not the same, though in recent years we have lulled ourselves into thinking we are.

We hold conflicting ideas in our minds and hearts in a way that is not matched in Britain or America.

It may be a legacy of proportional representation - or it may be the foundation of it.

But whatever the cause, we as a people do much better when inhabiting the shades of grey, not the blacks and whites so beloved of our neighbours on either side.

We can be fervently puritanical and simultaneously hugely open and forgiving; we are phenomenal at loving the sinner while hating the sin.

We like nuance.

It took the drug dealer and the pensioner to remind me of this.

Sitting on a train to Cork during the week I heard a conversation from the seats behind.

One voice young and American, the other older and Irish.

“What do you do?”

“I sell tobacco products to help people quit smoking. Also hemp products.”

The conversation was interrupted briefly as tickets were checked.

“Do you have travel cards in Ireland?”

“No once you are older than 66 you can travel for free.”

“Oh that’s cool. So as I was saying, I sell tobacco and hemp. Cannabis. I’m a drug dealer essentially”.

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