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Caru On February - 25 - 2011

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.

P. S.

If this seems a little disjointed, sorry, I was in a rush.

Written by Caru

I don't really have anything of note to put in here... Oh, I won a bar of chocolate once.

28 Responses so far.

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  1. PocketWatch says:

    Since I’m part irish on my mother’s side (Kennedy’s from County Armaugh) , I’ve always been interested in Ireland, but don’t know much. Thanks!

  2. Khirad says:

    Irish general election turns into slanging match with parties divided

    STV voting system turns colleagues into rivals as Fine Gael look likely to fall short of Dáil majority


  3. Khirad says:

    I’ve got a pretty good handle on British politics, but the two dominant parties of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil I’ve never been able to tell the difference of.

    Someone once said that Fianna are like the bumpkins and Fine talk like adults. I don’t know. All I know is I never thought there was much of an actual choice in Ireland.

    Good luck to Labour… even if I still wish Sinn Féin could move on to be a responsible left-wing party.

    Oh, and an Irishman explains the economic meltdown.

    • Caru says:

      There isn’t any significant difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

      As I said, Ireland doesn’t conform to the usual left/right split as other countries do.

      • Khirad says:

        Crap, I almost got myself into a lot of trouble there.

        I meant to say I get British but not Irish politics, not that the Republic of Ireland is British!

        So is it really all about Valera v. Collins?

  4. jkkFL says:

    Being a visual student- is there a way for a simple diagram of the government power structure?
    OK- I realize I said simple and government in the same sentence- my bad!
    Is there a diagram showing power distribution?

  5. BlueEyedBull says:

    Hi Caru. Off topic, but just wanted to mention that I was born in Castlepollard.

  6. Thank you, from an person who has Irish ancestry!

    The transferable vote process is one I would like to see in America. For those of you who did not follow the link, think of it as an instant run-off. I’m still wondering about the legislature selecting the Prime Minister, as it seems the Prime Minister and the legislature would always be controlled by the same party, which is not always good (as we saw when W had a GOP-controlled legislature).

    I have watched some broadcasts of the British parliament, and I do appreciate the traditions there which encourage civility. The US legislature would probably die en masse at such a prospect, however.

    • jkkFL says:

      And that would be a Bad thing??

    • Caru says:

      The Prime Minister, and so their party, controlling the Legislature is a major problem here in Ireland.

      Virtually no debate takes place over pieces of legislation and the Presidency has never, in the history of the state, used its power to refer the legislation to the public.


      Oh, civility.

      Yes, “unparliamentary language” is not encouraged:


        • Caru says:

          He was on my ballot. A Green Party member. I didn’t vote for him.

          • Admitting that what he is voting for will get him canned, but he is going to do it anyway because it is good for his country, takes a lot of courage.

            I am assuming this was about the IMF “bailout”. I don’t see where they had a lot of choice at that point. The damage had been done.

            • Caru says:

              Actually, I think that the bailout was handled very badly, but I appreciate his honesty, at least.

      • Khirad says:

        I totally remember that.

      • jkkFL says:

        Caru- what a fascinating article!
        I don’t claim to understand your political structure; but I now have a reference point.
        I would love for you to continue to submit more articles on your country. I think it’s imperative to get better acquainted with the rest of the world.
        As for civility in government, I would far rather hear a representative tell a fellow representative ‘Fuck You!’; than have representatives silently sell themselves and their constituants for corporate clout.
        There’s a country that has an open window for us- and while we sort of know it’s beautiful; you could bring it to us!

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  7. KQuark says:

    Wow you describe a system more effed up than ours which is very difficult.

    To put an American spin on politics in Ireland. Republicans before the financial crisis lauded Ireland, even called it the “Irish Miracle” when they were going through their boom period because they slashed corporate tax rates. Of course they jumped off that boat when the government took the completely fascist move of backing the banking system totally with taxpayer money. Yes there is a difference between nationalizing banks socialism and fascism where government and private industry colludes so they are indistinguishable.

    The bright spot I guess at least in your system is that you can have more than two viable parties as fractured as they are.

  8. Mightywoof says:

    Wow -- thanks Caru!! A first for the Planet -- an article about Ireland from Ireland. I’m confused as to what the Taoiseach is though.

    I’m afraid the Fianna Fáil have been no different, with the possible exception of Germany, than all other western governments -- they’ve all bought into the ‘greed is good’ ‘bigger is better’ ‘mega-corporations will save the world’ memes. I’m just sorry that Ireland got dragged down into this sorry mess.

    I hope you’ll write some more on Ireland -- both it’s politics, it’s history and anything else you care to mention -- even if you don’t want to touch proportional representation

    • Caru says:

      Oh, sorry. The Taoiseach is basically the Prime Minister.

      You’re right about the Western World. Ireland has fallen into a massive hole.

      A problem I had while writing this article was how to explain politics in Ireland without detailing the history. I hope I overcame it; as I said, I think that the article is a bit disjointed.

      • Mightywoof says:

        Caru -- the article is great! Just enough detail to understand and whet our appetite. I was born and raised in England -- so I heard about N. Ireland but Eire was hardly ever mentioned. I’m really looking forward to learning more

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