In the 2006 parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, the Party of the Animals won 180,000 votes and two seats in parliament, standing on a platform of animal welfare. Think about it. It was only 1.8% of the vote, but just imagine that group of 180,000 standing outside your house, all of them convinced in a parliamentary election that the one issue that matters above everything else in the rights of animals. That’s a lot of people.
What fascinated me about this is that I’m not convinced you could find 2% of the Irish population willing to effectively sacrifice their votes on such a niche issue. Of course, as our electoral system isn’t truly proportional, we wouldn’t get any TDs elected on this sole platform anyway, but it must say something about the Irish voter. There are Dutch voters voting on obscure issues like this, and setting up parties to deal with them.
Meanwhile, in Ireland 65% of the electorate will vote for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, who stand for, what exactly? Oxygen? The sky? The Earth to rotate around the Sun? When we debated the treaty in 1921 we debated what sort of country we wanted to be. Now, as Emily O’Reilly has pointed out, the Dail doesn’t really even debate anymore. For all the good it does, we’d might as well have a part-time Dail like one of those US state legislatures. After all, after electing the Taoiseach, it does little of actual use.