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My depressing Irish Election diary.

by Colman Thu May 24th, 2007 at 04:42:28 AM EST

I suppose I'd better do the Irish Election diary I've been promising: voting is tomorrow (May 24th). To be honest, I haven't been paying close attention to the campaign. I'm not really interested in the horse race element of it, I don't have tribal affiliations to any of the major parties and I've been otherwise occupied with moving house and working and other fun things.

I'm going to have a look at the choices I have to make tomorrow. I live in the constituency of Dublin West), which is a three seater - we elect three TDs to the Dáil, the Irish parliament. The Irish system is in the Westminster style, so the elected TDs will choose the Taoiseach from among their number. The electoral system is PR based, so I'll number the candidates in order of preference on the ballot paper.

Promoted by whataboutbob

So, who are the candidates and what do I think they stand for, in reverse order of preference.

First we have Felix Gallagher from Sinn Féin. In principle I shouldn't object too much to Sinn Féin - they're a pretty left-wing party  - but I'm afraid their history and their recent links to murderers, thugs and criminals eliminates them as far as I'm concerned. The expectation is that the party will do quite well this time out and may be in a position to do a deal with Fíanna Fail, the largest party and currently the largest partner in the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's ruling coalition with the PDs. The opposition parties are using this possibility to try and scare people off voting for FF.

For the ever delightful Progressive Democrats, the party of selfishness, we have Mags Murray. The PDs are the Irish wing of the neoliberal consensus - notwithstanding Ms Murray's running a free commuter train feeder service as an election gimmick - and they aren't getting a vote out of me. The party that brought the Irish people the choice between "Boston and Berlin", though at least they're reasonably liberal socially. It's expected the PDs will do terribly this time out, possibly only holding 2 of the eight seats they currently have. That would make me happy.

Fianna Fáil are fielding two candidates in Dublin West, Gerry Lynam and Brian Lenihan, Jr who topped the poll last time and is son of the very popular (and deceased) Brian Lenihan  and from a respected political dynasty here. Fianna Fáil will probably top the poll again and I'm rather afraid they're going to form the basis of the next government. It happens that the economy is still doing nicely, despite the gathering stormclouds and Bertie is generally considered a likeable chap. Now, apart from their little problems with corruption and a willingness to do almost anything to stay in power, that's not a real problem: they are a centrist party, somewhat socially conservative but responsive to whatever gets them votes. What's important is who the coalition partners might be, because that will decide the direction of policy.

For Fine Gael, the other main party we have Leo Varadkar. The main differences between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are not ideological but tribal: they exist because they were on different sides in the Civil War, took political revenge for sometime thereafter and because they have tribal identities and tribal loyalties. Fine Gael is maybe traditionally a bit more the party of the slightly better  off middle class - shopkeepers and larger farmers, professionals and so on, but the difference is small. They're given to pushing an authoritarian "tough on crime" line - like PDs - and are by nature more right wing than Fianna Fáil, who my father has long held are more natural coalition partners for Labour than Fine Gael. Varadkar strikes me as being from the paternalistic end of FG and has spent several years just plain annoying me with the leaflets he pushes in the door. I'll have to give him a preference, as Fine Gael and Labour are running on a joint platform, but it'll be number four. Fine Gael are expected to pick up a number of seats tomorrow.

Roderic O'Gorman represents the Greens, who have never impressed me here, fielding candiates I often just don't like and can't support. He'll get a third preference but he doesn't stand much chance of getting elected.

Joe Higgins is the Socialist Party's sole TD, and a proper Marxist lefty.


Both Socialist Youth and the Socialist Party itself have as key policies the taking of economic power out of the hands of the bankers, speculators and wealthy industrialists. Instead they want to transfer that power to working class people. The Socialist Party stands for public ownership and democratic socialist planning of the key areas of economic activity.

He also has a good line in embarrassing the government and does some really good work - though I wouldn't agree with a lot of their policies. Second preference in the hope of keeping the Overton Window dragged over to the left a bit.

My first preference goes to Joan Burton of the Labour Party, who generally have a social democratic policy base that's reasonably close to my own thinking. They're also the only party willing to commit to legislating on abortion.

What's going to happen? I'm guessing that the proposed Fine-Gael-Green-Labour coalition won't have enough votes to form a government and that we'll end up with either a FF-Labour coalition or a FF minority government supported by Sinn Féin. Either would be more left wing than the current coalition. Worst case is re-election of the current FF-PD coalition or, if the gods are really out to get us, a single party FF majority government.

Whatever happens, we're going to get a centre-something government of people that don't impress me very much. Irish politics is depressing.

If you think that's depressing, you should try looking at my voting options last time or next time around...

To be honest I'm wary of commenting further for fear of illustrating my ignorance about the situation in Ireland these days.

All I know is I have the impression of "growing pains" rooted in economic growth and immigration. On a practical note, do you think a Labour influenced coalition can implement some useful policies to address the infrastructure and housing issues?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 01:20:30 PM EST
It's a better option than the other options. At least that coalition wouldn't be ideologically inclined towards privatisation for privatisation's sake.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 01:28:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the second election I ever voted in, when I was about 20, I didn't even know how bad my choices were, which led to the biggest voting disaster of my life.

The Republican incumbent in my ward was just a step above Jesse Helms, which put him about two steps away from being the Antichrist.  The insiders on Capitol Hill used to call him "the honorable Representative from Phillip Morris."

Well, I certainly wanted that guy out of there.  Naive soul that I was, I assumed that the other candidate on the ballot was a Democrat.  So I voted for him.  Only to find out later that he wasn't a Democrat.  The Democratic Party, in its infinite wisdom, had ceeded my district to the GOP and wasn't even bothering to field a candidate there.

The guy I voted for was a LaRouche candidate.

Imagine my horror.

That was when I decided I needed to start paying more attention to local & regional politics.  The problem then, I discovered, is that when you're paying attention and there still are only gawdawful choices, it gets terribly, terribly depressing.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 01:48:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to agree, this sounds like a pretty reasonable mix of parties and personalities.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 05:07:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Second preference in the hope of keeping the Overton Window dragged over to the left a bit.

That's good on you!

Polemics in action, that's what that is.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 02:45:28 PM EST
I have Finian McGrath, an independent TD, to give my first preference too. However, I fear that he may not win re-election this time round. My constituency, Dublin North Central, has been reduced from four TDs to three and Finian came fourth that last time.

The last time round the other three TDs were Fianna Fail's Sean Haughey  (progeny of the exceedingly corrupt Charlie ), Fianna Gael's Richard Bruton an Fianna Fail's Ivor Callely.

I will probably give my other preferences to the green candidate and the Labour candidate.

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying

by RogueTrooper on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 03:38:07 PM EST
The Irish Republic has a better voting system than the UKs collection of different systems for every institution. The only problem is that the constituencies return too few members to be as proportional as would be ideal.

Naturally the politicians from the larger parties prefer to restrict the opportunities of the smaller parties and independent candidates. Originally in the 1920s there were three to eight member constituencies, but in modern times the range is three to five members. Mind you the Scottish version of the same system limits the local government constituencies to three or four members. Politicians do not seem to want to maximise popular choice, for some reason.  

by Gary J on Thu May 24th, 2007 at 11:30:23 AM EST
The politicians tried two or three times to do away with PR by referendums to alter the constitution. The people told them to fuck right off.

Three seaters are a bit small, and Dublin West is far too big now to be a three seater, since it's where a good portion of the country's population growth has concentrated.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 24th, 2007 at 11:49:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All political systems are compromises. "Ideal" proportional representation can have the property of making reasonably stable governments difficult to put together. As it is local patronage has a disproportionate influence. If the geographic constituencies are too large politicians don't have a link to their voters.

What would you consider ideal?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 24th, 2007 at 11:53:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Each system has different flaws and people coming from different systems tend to focus on fixing the flaws of the system they're familiar with. Personally, having exparienced closed party lists with large constituencies (Spain) and first-past-the-post (US and UK) I think I have seen the worst of the two extremes. I personally would favour an additional member system with single transferable voting for local constituencies plus party lists for global proportionality. (see, for example, this comment)

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2007 at 12:05:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would see the ideal size for an STV constituency as something like 5 to 7 seats. Large enough to be reasonably proportional but small enough for the concerned voter to have some chance to differentiate between the candidates.

The power and convenience of the voters is the important thing, not that of the politicians.

by Gary J on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 12:38:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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