The shots which rang out had been expected. The sound of the execution of the leaders of Sinn Fein, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party echoed out across the courtyard of Dublin Castle, a confirmation that the National Order government was serious. The firing squad had been made up of members of the Celtic Guard, the party’s uniformed paramilitary wing, as they had not trusted the remnants of the Garda and the Defence Forces to carry out what was a political act.
Ireland had not been the only country that descended into extremism after the great economic collapse of 2030, triggered by the electromagnetic pulse terrorist attacks in New York, London, Frankfurt, Paris and Hong Kong which had crippled the global economy and brought such chaos. The Second American Civil War was in its third stalemated year. Great England’s Lord Protector ruled over that nation and its dominions with an iron fist. The communist regimes in France and Italy squared up against the AfD government in Germany. China continued to struggle after Taiwan’s surprise nuclear attack just when it looked like the invasion of Taiwan was about to succeed after months of fighting.
As with so many other places, it had been a well-resourced and charismatic figure, Sean Connolly, who had led the far right to victory. The collapse of the global trade system had overnight turned the Irish economy into a pale shadow of itself, with the establishment parties rotating in a series of elections leading to rapid collapse as each new government failed to confront the reality that the Ireland of the early 21st century was gone.
Connolly, a self-made man of considerable wealth, realised that political power would be achieved not through the usual campaigning methods in the current chaos of high unemployment, public disorder, and the violent collapse of public services. Before he established the National Order party, Connolly created and heavily funded the Celtic Guard. The purpose of the Celtic guard, at least publicly, wants to assist communities in maintaining order and general public services. Starting with just a few hundred men whom he uniformed in boots, khaki trousers and black workwear with dark green baseball caps, the Celtic Guard started to provide security and assistance in targeted areas where he intended to contest the next Dal election. The guard, made-up of semi-skilled young men, many who had skills as electricians, plumbers or carpenters from the now defunct construction industry patrolled streets with batons carrying out checkpoints into large housing estates and assisting the elderly in home repairs and the supply of basic groceries. The guard preceded to grow rapidly as it maintained order for homeowners and small businesses, and responded to petty crime with a certain robustness that the rapidly demoralised and under-equipped Garda Siochana were now seemingly incapable of now providing. It was not long before large numbers of ordinary people, seeing the odd bag snatcher or burglar getting their teeth kicked in rather than be released by an out-of-touch judge, began to pay attention to Connolly.
As ordinary people saw the Celtic Guard provide security protection and later on basic groceries, and mete out physical justice, more and more frustrated young and middle-aged men joined the CG as a possible solution to the nation’s problems. With the expansion of the CG activities and provision of public services where the state seemed incapable of maintaining the same, it was not a surprise that in the first general election the National Order contested a half dozen seats which were won by the party.
Connolly continued a two-track strategy via social media and elsewhere including large public meetings where he outlined a vague platform of maintaining order and restoring stability to the country whilst also suggesting that various undesirable elements within the country would be better off removed from it. The CG expanded rapidly, with Garda attempts to restrain them simply overwhelmed by numbers, and also the fact that many Gardai had sympathy for the CG.
As yet another government collapsed National Order improved its vote sharply winning just shy of 40 seats at the following election as the rapid growth of the Celtic Guard was now becoming a major political issue in the country. FF, FG, SF and Labour all raised questions the the seemingly omnipotent presence of Celtic Guardsman on the streets of the nation’s cities and towns but were met with mockery from Connolly who pointed out that the CG were only on the streets maintaining order and supplying services to vulnerable parts of the community because of the failures of the establishment parties to actually deliver those services themselves.
The third general election in a year finally came, and a mixture of campaigning with a surprising amount of resources and with a falling turnout among supporters of the established parties, National Order won a majority of the seats in Dail Eireann and preceded to form a government.
Connolly moved quickly, rushing through legislation to give the Celtic Guard legal powers comparable to the Garda, including the right to requisition Garda equipment and properties. The protest of the Garda Commissioner was met with his dismissal by the new minister for justice, and replacement with a hand-picked civilian appointee absolutely loyal to the party. To soften the blow, the bill allowed for the early retirement on full pension of any Garda or Defence Forces officer who requested it, the thinking being that it would reduce resistance within both organisations.
The government also passed an Emergency Powers (Public Safety) Act, allowing the creation of temporary detention camps to allow for the restoration of public order. The CG were empowered to physically detain individuals and indemnified against inflicting minor injuries on those individuals.
The opposition parties objected loudly to both the content and speed of the legislation, the chamber descending into chaos as a group on National Order TDs physically attacked some opposition TDs, beating them, as the National Order Ceann Comhairle suspended the public broadcast of the proceedings.
The new board of RTE (now renamed National Television) quickly appointed a DG loyal to the party, and the national broadcaster now ensured that all current affairs broadcasting was pro-government with the opposition now denied access.
The president, a former FG Taoiseach, immediately referred the Emergency Powers and Celtic Guard bills to the Supreme Court, which promptly ruled both unconstitutional, to cheers from the opposition benches.
When Connolly announced that the Supreme Court was both corrupt and unelected and so would be ignored, the Chief Justice issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the Taoiseach. To his surprise, the new Garda Commissioner informed him that there were no Gardai available to enforce the warrant. He also discovered that the courts were now under the protection of the Celtic Guard, with CG replacing the Gardai in the courts. Every supreme court justice awoke to discover CG now stationed outside their homes “for their protection”. The Chief Justice condemned the action in the newspapers, to little avail. The Taoiseach suggested that nobody was forcing him to be Chief Justice, and that his early retirement could be arranged.
The government moved quickly to deal with the economic crisis. Substantial recruitment into the CG accompanied by public works programmes from cleaning canals to collecting litter to painting out graffiti proved surprisingly popular with some sections of the country was used to replace a much more restricted dole, with large protests by left-wingers beaten severely by the well-equipped CG and then detained in the large detention camps in the Curragh, on Spike Island and in Leitrim. The government appointed magistrates, nearly all members of National Order, to allow for swift sentencing.
Despite the efforts of the government, living standards continued to fall as the global economy shrunk rapidly, and the range and availability of products in supermarkets and other shops is much reduced. The nationalisation of food producers and large farms begins, with a state company being set up to create and market a brand. The advertising of foreign products is soon banned.
The government resorted to the age old trick of finding a scapegoat group in society. In a highly coordinated operation, the CG proceeded to raid Traveller halting sites across the countries, nominally to ensure vehicles were taxed and insured, but in reality to provoke. Young travellers fought back as the CG confiscated unauthorised vehicles, and the CG used teargas, tazers, batons and shields, killing four Travellers in the operation, all live on National Television but edited to only show the CG defending themselves.
Connolly had set up a state-funded Public Views unit within Merrion Square to carry out constant polling and monitoring of public opinion, and could see the effect his policies were having. A small but hardcore of the population was exceptionally bigoted towards the Travellers, and Connolly was going to make them his base. He could not deliver huge economic improvement, but he could fuel their hatred and play it like a musical instrument. The polls showed a substantial portion of the country was horrified at the raids, but a substantial minority was excited at the CG action.
His next move was against foreigners. The government announced that it was to introduce a national identity card as the first stage in the identification and removal of all illegal aliens from the country. This was to be followed by the forced rounding up and detention of those illegally resident in the country. The collapse of the United Nations and the European Union meant that an act against international law and standards had almost no cost externally. The bill also provided for the registration of the current residences of legal aliens for possible use in the future. Polls show the policy to be very popular with a substantial minority.
Despite the popularity of the policies, the reality was that the country simply could not afford the public spending that both opposition and government promises were based upon. The withdrawal of much foreign investment saw a collapse in house prices and tax revenue, and so the government announced it was going to follow the lead of other European countries and leave the euro, allowing the government to introduce a digital Punt Nua through which social welfare and government spending would be made. Legislation was passed to require all businesses and employees to accept payment in the new currency. The government also announced that control of interest rates would pass directly to the minister for finance. Finally, the government announced that the maintaining of foreign currency without a licence would be a criminal offence.
Within 18 months of the new government taking power a brain drain was beginning to be noticed, as skilled workers from doctors to tech specialists started leaving the country for other countries like Canada, New Zealand or Switzerland that were still just about maintaining normality. The government rushed through an Exit Visa bill, again ignoring Supreme Court objections, which required Irish citizens to seek permission to leave the state. Checkpoints along the border enforced what became known as the Emerald Curtain. Having said that, the government’s new National Security Directorate was now maintaining a database of those politically opposed to National Order, and quickly granted those on the list an Exit Visa if required. Indeed, many were gently ( and some not so gently) encouraged to seek one.
Public opinion turned sharply against the government by year three, with the government illegally suspending local elections indefinitely “to permit consensus on reform” as a third of voters told pollsters they would vote National Order. Some speculated that the NO vote was artificially high because many voters were afraid to admit to voting for another party. National Order loyalists were appointed directly as county council chief executives, ensuring that only NO TDs got local support. The Punt Nua collapsed quickly as an international trading currency as the government continued to issue it to fund social welfare and public sector pay, which sharply aided inflation already under pressure from sharp rises in the cost of imported products such as fuel and manufactured goods. Additionally, the government expanded the public works program to include working on the expanded farms sector which was needed to provide food. There was now no dole or indeed unemployment as every works program needed more people, especially as foreigners were now leaving the country.
A riot in the huge holding centre in the Curragh, caused by the now filthy conditions in the camp, was put down by the CG with live ammunition, shooting dead 72 inmates including 9 children.
“If they don’t like it here, they can leave.” the justice minister, a former radio DJ, announced. The Dail was in uproar at the news, order only being restored after the Ceann Comhairle allowed riot-gear equipped CG into the chamber to beat opposition TDs.
A smuggled clip of the scene, taken on an opposition TD’s phone smuggled into the Dail chamber, got out to the country and was widely circulated on social media, causing an outrage. To the surprise of many, perhaps even themselves, many Irish people took exception to the scene, especially of two former Taoisigh, of Fine Gael and Sinn Fein, being viciously assaulted. Within hours large crowds were assembling outside Leinster House.
Connolly had treaded carefully, maintaining the veneer of democracy, but he had not expected this, and recognised it as a pivotal moment for National Order. He knew that approximately one third of voters were almost excited at the radicalism of NO and its inflicting pain on various scapegoat groups, but it simply wasn’t enough to win an election. He could back down, apologize, blame subordinates, or he could double down, and send such a signal to the country that the pretence would no longer be necessary. He decided on the latter.
At an agreed moment, the CG opened fire on the crowd outside Leinster House and Merrion Square, killing twenty people and scattering the crowds in terror. Connolly ordered the CG to commandeer the Defence Forces armoured personnel carriers and drive them to Dublin in a show of force against the civilian protests. This, he told the cabinet, was to be their Tiananmen Square, the moment the republic ended and the New Order began. National Television carried images of the column of vehicles leaving the Curragh and heading towards the city.
The leaders of the main opposition parties were seized by the CG. The president fled Aras an Uachtaran just minutes before his arrest was supposed to occur, his army and Garda protection long replaced by the CG. The leaders of the various small far-left factions were left alone, with Connolly deciding that they were so ineffectual and faction riven that keeping them in the Dail allowed for a semblance of debate.
A handpicked squad of CG fanatics were detailed to escort the party leaders to Dublin Castle, where they were bound and put up against a wall, and a firing squad lined up.
“Any last words?” a CG commander asked one of the leaders.
“Yeah. Go fuck yourself. Up the republic.”
The squad lined up, and then shots rang out.
And the firing squad, to a man, lay dead.
The Army Rangers on the roof of the castle provided covering fire to the other ARW operators who moved across the courtyard, freeing the four leaders.
Connolly’s office door burst open to see a red faced National Order official race in, informing him that the long column of army personnel carriers were fighting its way through CG checkpoints in the city centre. It turned out that the Celtic Guard, whilst enjoying posing in paramilitary gear and beating unarmed civilians, were no match for actual professional soldiers who shot back. Their attempt to seize the DF’s equipment had been put down by force.
The president emerged from one of the Defence Forces APCs, as they approached the city centre, and addressed the country via social media. To some surprise, National Television carried the speech live on all channels. It later emerged that NO loyal staff had been locked in the toilets.
The president informed the country that he had learned of the attempted coup, and as commander in chief had made direct contact with senior military officers, who were not fans of the CG. Surprisingly, aside for requisitioning weapons and equipment, the NO government had not paid much attention to the Defence Forces. They were now about to discover that Ireland had a small but well-trained professional army.
Now accompanied by the party leaders, all badly bruised, the president informed the country that he had ordered the arrest of Connolly on attempted murder charges, and that the Defence Forces were on their way into Dublin. He asked the public to cooperate, and called on the Celtic Guards to surrender.
All across the country ditched CG uniforms were being found, as the DF and Gardai moved against them. Most CG melted away. The ones who did fight were quickly overpowered by the public and the security forces. A small number were actually lynched. In National Order headquarters, the memberships records were captured by a Garda ERU raid before they could be destroyed.
The crowds in the city centre cheered the army as they approached Merrion Square. The CG in control of the building opened fire, causing crowds to stampede, but sustained machine gun fire from the APCs allowed soldiers access to the building, where the CG again proved no match.
Connolly fled the country in a private jet that was never identified. It was later speculated that he and National Order had been financed by an American tech billionaire who had wanted to create a white supremacist state in “the old country”.
That was certainly a line of defence put forward at the trials of many of the NO officials. .