At the end of the week, (February 8th, in case you or rather the MSM missed it), Ireland will go to the polls, in an election noted more for its underwhelming lack of canvassing, than for its substantive grappling with any real crises of the nation: Housing and Rent; Health; and Taxation. However, to understand what is likely to happen in this election, it is generally advisable to understand the political parties, voting patterns and punditry. It is the only Western, plutocratic democracy still dominated by two Civil-War era parties, who have never not been in government since the foundation of the State (even the largest party in the misnamed ‘Rainbow Government’ was Fine Gael (1)).
The first step, in grasping the thorny issue of Irish conservatism, is understanding the two pillars that undergird the Republic: The Church; and Land. Fine Gael has historically been a party of the conservative, land-owning elite, but have since the time of Garret Fitzgerald opted to be fiscally conservative, socially liberal, see the passing of the marriage equality referendum during a time of zero corporation tax, for example. Fine Fáil conversely, are the historically fiscally liberal, socially conservative party of the small, tenant farmers (see the removal of ‘Stamp Duty’, and the refusal to hold any meaningful social referenda). While both are seen as being centre-right parties, and as being to the right of the Labour Party, People Before Profit and Sinn Féin. However, Sinn Féin have recently made a strong showing in the polls, despite accusations of having their main policy decisions made by an unelected cabal of Northern-IRA members, their leader Mary-Lou McDonald has the non-paramilitary, ‘Trouble-Free’ pedigree that her predecessor, Gerry Adams, lacked.
This election will be remembered for a number of phenomena: the lack of any canvassing, publicity or hype; the surge in popularity of smaller, left-of-centre parties (Sinn Féin) included; and, the shambolic showing of both Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party (historically the strongest three parties in the State). Fine Gael seem to have believed their own hype: that voters would appreciate the growth in the economy and the Government’s stance on Brexit; ‘progressive’ referenda on Gay Marriage and Abortion, while ignoring the Rental/Housing Crisis; how out of touch Leo Varadkar appears to be with regards corporation tax and the breakdown of communities (2); and Catherine Noone’s comments on Leo Varadkar being ‘Autistic’, in a comment that offended Autistic People up and down the country (3), being compared to a Neo-liberal ‘Great Satan’ is too much, in fairness. Even still, they remain the third largest party, begging the question ‘Which one of my relatives has cloven hooves?’.
Fianna Fáil are in the unenviable position of being mistrusted by the majority of the population who can remember the last Financial Crash, while simultaneously being ruled by a man with the political CV-equivalent of Harold Shipman’s patients record (4), yet even they are vying for top-spot by virtue of the fact that they are not Fine Gael and, the Devil you Know will probably Screw you, is better than the Devil who has been screwing-you for the past 9 years. The Green Wave looks set to make it no further West than Meath and should top-out at 8%, PBP will be savaged outside the metropolitan zones getting 6%, while Labour are an electoral non-entity, on 3%. While the polls show Sinn Féin in the lead, it’s all to play for. Also, don’t believe the hype, 99% of pundits come from FF/FG Dynasties, and it could all be a ruse, by which FF/FG win by default. While I would rarely advocate a vote, I would suggest, in this instance, for the sake of the sanity of us all, lets do away with the Civil-War era-Parties, vote tactically for someone a little more palatable or, if you know people who are voting for FF/FG, try and have them committed under the Mental Health Act, 2001 (5) before Saturday.
(1) The Government was comprised of Fine Gael (47), Labour Party (32) and, the Democratic Left (6).
(2) https://bit.ly/2Otk8e9, from 59 minutes.
(4) He set up the wasteful HSE, and as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost of living was compared to former-Soviet enclaves.
(5) Mental Health Act, 2001 3.(1) In this Act “mental disorder” means mental illness, severe dementia or significant intellectual disability where:
(a) because of the illness, disability or dementia, there is a serious likelihood of the person concerned causing immediate and serious harm to himself or herself or to other persons, or
(b) (i) because of the severity of the illness, disability or dementia, the judgment of the person concerned is so impaired that failure to admit the person to an approved centre would be likely to lead to a serious deterioration in his or her condition or would prevent the administration of appropriate treatment that could be given only by such admission, and (ii) the reception, detention and treatment of the person concerned in an approved centre would be likely to benefit or alleviate the condition of that person to a material extent.