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Ireland went through a period, post 1933, where Fianna Fail was the natural party of government chiefly because it was seen to be not part of the economic elite and on the side of small farmers, rather than big, the self employed, labourers, and those viscerally opposed to the 'Anglo-Irish aristocracy' who still wielded considerable influence through control of property, businesses, and the professions.

Then Fianna Fail came to be seen as being corrupted by its own success, in league with nouveau riche property developers and corrupt businessmen exploiting their connections to the new Fianna Fail elite. Charlie Haughey, taoiseach around the 1980's exemplified this change. Nationalism came to be exploited for personal gain. The Troubles in N. Ireland polarised opinion.

His acolyte, Bertie Ahern, reinvigorated the brand with the advent of the Celtic Tiger in the 1990's and encouraged a neo-liberal "let it rip" economic adventurism where dissent was for losers and everybody, supposedly had the opportunity to make money. The brand was almost totally destroyed by the 2008/9 crash and subsequent banking bail-out which let their civil war rivals, Fine Gael back into power 2011-2020.

But Fine Gael have never been forgiven for their earlier, more elitest, roots in the comprador bourgeoisie, who prospered under British rule,  continued to be strongly represented in the propertied, business and professional classes, and were perceived to represent the new establishment.

Despite bringing the economy back from the brink, growing it almost as fast as during the Celtic Tiger era, and bringing in some much needed social reforms, their neo-liberal model left many people feeling left behind, and relatively if not absolutely poorer than they were before.

Sinn Fein repositioned themselves from a quasi-fascist, nationalist, anti-EU and militarist organisation to an allegedly progressive, reforming, and social democratic party to fill the vaccuum for those who could forgive neither Fianna Fail nor Fine Gael. They have sucked almost all the oxygen out of the air for the Labour Party and previous  incumbents of the social democrat space.

So now we have two old established parties, both perceived as as conservative, who are used to being in government, and a very fragmented left many of whom have bitter experience of being co-opted by the conservative parties as junior coalition partners, and subsequently judged redundant by the electorate.

No one knows how the Covid-19 crisis will play out, and most are running from the responsibility of leading the national response. Many of the measures taken by Fine Gael to combat the crisis are measures the left have been proposing for years, so either Fine Gael will end up stealing the left's clothes, or more likely, as many suspect, it will revert to type afterwards.

Either way politics in Ireland is in turmoil, with a lot of sturm und drang, with a lot of shouting from the sidelines and few willing to weather the storm of conflicting political aspirations and economic realities. Everyone knows things will never be the same again but no consensus has emerged as to what those changes will be or who can lead the change process. Vested interests will fight furiously to protect their interests, and it is doubtful whether the political system will be strong enough to overcome them.

Interesting times...

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 6th, 2020 at 12:31:35 PM EST
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