Before I start I would like to get this out of the way, I’m not American. Some of you may know this, as I’ve mentioned it before over at the “other” blog. I am, in fact, Irish. Now, why a young Irish person such as myself would be rooting around an American blogsite is a matter for another post. Today, I’m writing because there is a general election taking place in my country. The most important election since the foundation of the state, it’s been said. In this post I’ll share with you the reasons as to why we’re voting, some background information on the parties involved and why I voted the way I did.
To be short: When the banking crisis hit the world market the Irish banking sector suffered tremendously. Property speculation and predatory lending had been the norm and the reckless financial institutions were paying the price. Then, something extraordinary happened. The government issued a blanket guarantee for all bank debt. All sins were to be forgiven, etc. This led to massive government debt and potential financial ruin. However, from over the horizon came the shining knights of the EU and the IMF with their exorbitantly interested loans. However, the governing coalition had clearly lost its mandate and a general election was called for today, the 25th of February.
Now, before I tell you about the parties involved in this election, I have to inform you about the Irish political system. The President holds the ceremonial role as Head of State and is elected to a seven year term. The current President is Mary McAleese, whose second term will expire later this year. The Oireachtas is the Irish legislature and is composed of the Seanad (upper house) and the Dáil (lower house). Most of the power is invested in the Dáil, however due to the Irish party system virtually all decisions are made by the Taoiseach, who is elected in the Dáil by majority vote, and the Cabinet, who are appointed by the Taoiseach, with little input from most TD’s (representatives). Voting in the Republic is done under the system of proportional representation by the single transferable vote, which I shall definitely not try to explain here.
And now, the parties…
The two main parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, are both right-wing – by European standards – and have alternatively been in power under various guises and with various partners since the foundation of the State. The history of these two parties is very complex, but it can be simplified into this statement: Fianna Fáil and Eamon de Valera did not support the “Anglo-Irish Treaty”, while Fine Gael, Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith did support the treaty. There was a civil war, which the pro-treaty forces won. This is the defining division in Irish politics – which is not divided along traditional right-wing and left-wing standards – with people still voting for either party because of historical allegiance. This is very important to understand when examining Irish politics.
Fianna Fáil have been in power for the last 14 years in this country, during which they presided over both boom and bust. In this time they cosied up to senior bankers, property developers, medical consultants and union leaders, fuelling the situation that led to the Crisis. Whereas before they had the support of roughly much of the voting public, their support now is hovering around 10%. Fine Gael, on the other hand, have been enjoying much success in the polls, nearing an overall majority. They have shrewdly capitalised on Fianna Fáil’s failures and are likely to be the dominating force within the next government.
The Left of the political spectrum in Ireland is represented by the Labour Party and various small parties such as the newly formed United Left Alliance. The Labour Party, however, is by European standards barely left of centre. They share many of the neoliberal beliefs of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but their social policies are more progressive. They support gay marriage, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do not. The actual left-wing parties in Ireland, such as the Socialist Part and the ULA, are fucking jokes. They’re composed of wannabe Communists, whiny, populist Trotkyites and people without calculators. There’s not a single decent party among them. It’s pathetic.
And then there’s Sinn Féin, a Left-Wing Republican party that’s headed by a “reformed” terrorist. This party is nationalistic, eurosceptic and unable to perform simple arithmetic. They get votes from a “certain” section of the population. Needless to say, I don’t like them very much, even if they are the largest truly left-wing party in the Republic.
Lastly, the Green Party. This centre-left party was in coalition with Fianna Fáil for the past few years. Basically, they sold out all of their left-wing values for the introduction of a carbon tax. They are due to be obliterated in this election and deservedly so.
In light of the above the only real choices that I had on who to vote for were Labour or Fine Gael. Currently, Fine Gael are strangely endorsing policies that are much further to the left than they where before and also promising not the raise income tax. However, this is a smokescreen to conceal indirect tax hikes. For these reasons and more, I do not trust them.
I voted Labour, the least offensive party to myself. They’ll probably end up in a coalition with Fine Gael with the way people are talking. Whether this will change anything, I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m thoroughly disappointed.
If this seems a little disjointed, sorry, I was in a rush.