Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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A thumbnail guide to the Irish parties for those from yonder.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 17, 2016 in Election 2016, Irish Politics

With the general election sauntering towards us (could it come any slower?) I thought I’d put together a rough guide for people outside Ireland as to our party system.

Fine Gael: the largest party and main government party. Broadly speaking, centre-right and small “C” conservative, although anchored to the centre. Think Ken Clarke Tories or German Christian Democrats. Pro-Business, pro-farmer, but not anti-welfare. Traditionally the default party when Irish voters get sick of Fianna Fail. Divided on abortion. 30% in polls.

Fianna Fail: Nationalist, anchored to the centre but swings from left to right depending on the political wind. Traditionally the dominant party in Irish politics until 2011 when it suffered its worst defeat ever. Think Gaullists or even New Labour in terms of flexibility. Whatever works. Pretends to be divided on abortion but essentially pro-life. 18%.

Sinn Fein: former political wing of the Provisional IRA, which is still a source of awkwardness for the party. Left wing populist in opposition, but not particularly radical in government for last 10 years in Northern Ireland. Pro-Choice. 18%.

Labour: Social Democrats. Suffering the same problem of social democratic parties across Europe as it loses its working class base to other more radical parties. Traditionally the most socially liberal party in Ireland and responsible for nearly all the great liberal reforms from marriage equality to divorce to contraception. Pro-Choice. 8%.

Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit: A collection of the left, Socialist Workers Party, Trotskyites and populists. In favour of funding everything. Curiously for the left, only in favour of high taxation if paid for by nobody you know. Otherwise almost Ted Cruzian in opposition to tax. Pro-Choice. 3%

The Social Democrats: The nice lefties. Only party to openly support keeping an unpopular tax (The Universal Social Charge) to, you know, fund services. Pro-Choice. 3%.

Renua: Flat Tax, three strikes and you’re out. If not Thatcherite, no.1 with Thatcherites. Pro-life in practice if not in theory. 2%.

Greens: Still trying to recover from the horror of government and get back into parliament. Pro-Choice. 2%.

Independents: whatever you’re having yourself. Some left, some right, some whatever you said to them. A lucky dip. 25%.

 
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Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein: The Race For 2nd Place

Posted by Jason O on Feb 14, 2016 in Election 2016, Irish Politics

pol books2My eye has been caught in recent days by a number of seat projections which have raised an intriguing possibility that isn’t getting as much attention as it should. That is, the possibility of  Sinn Fein narrowly beating Fianna Fail in seats and becoming the leading opposition party even if FF don’t participate in government.

It’s unlikely, admittedly, even if SF narrowly beat FF on first preferences because FF will pick up more transfers, but it isn’t impossible, and it would be very very bad news for FF if it happened.

We can easily forget that the SDLP were once the overwhelmingly dominant party in nationalist politics in the north of Ireland, and their party leader was a household name both north and south of the border. But Sinn Fein diligently whittled away, catching up to them, overtaking them, and leaving them in the dust. No one, no one at all, believes that the SDLP are going to retake pole position ever again.

A scenario where Sinn Fein become the lead opposition party, even with Fianna Fail avoiding coalition with Fine Gael, would have a major psychological impact on Irish politics, especially given the demographics of SF and Fine Gael voters.

Yes, it’s unlikely, but not impossible, and such an outcome would be a much more significant event than the election of 2011 where we just replaced Fianna Fail with a Fianna Fail who went to posher schools.

This would be a game changer, because it would be the first time a left-led government would become a genuine and credible proposition on a future ballot.

Transfers are overhyped in every election, but in this case it really matters. Your final preferences could decide not just who runs the country, but who runs it in future too.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Politics Free Candidate.

Posted by Jason O on Feb 5, 2016 in Election 2016, Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Two types of candidate dominate modern Irish politics. The first is the crook, who is actually in it for the cash. The money is good, and if he plays his cards right, there could be an opportunity for more.

Then there’s that curious creature: The politics free candidate. The enigma wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in a ballot paper. The man or woman who goes into politics even though they aren’t actually that interested in politics in the first place? Surely the same as the first type, you say? Curiously, no. They get the good money, but often they spend much of it getting reelected. They aren’t particularly corrupt, so what are they in it for?

Sometimes it’s family. The father was a TD or councillor, and so they will be. It’s what they do. But ask them where they stand on elected mayors, or a carbon or property tax, or neutrality, and they’ll look at you with the face that says “Why are you asking me this? Why don’t you ask someone in authority?” In short, they tend to not actually have any opinion on the issue. Many of them become cabinet ministers, and still, on day one, arrive in their new departments not with the thought “Finally! Now I can do something about X!” but instead tell their secretary general to keep on doing “Whatever the last fella was doing.” The party tells them what they believe, they memorise the talking points, and you see them three weeks later on The Frontline blankly declaring that loading Jews up on to trucks for “evacuation” is a perfectly reasonable policy.  Not because they are bigots or intolerant, but because that was what it said on the piece of paper.

But here’s the thing: Never mind them. To them, it’s a 9 to 5 job, a means of paying the bills. Ask yourself: Who are the f**kwits who vote for them? Who are the people so devoid of any idea as to what they would like their society to look like that they vote for these guys, the equivlent of a jug of tepid room tempeture water, because iced water would be leaning too much to one side of the water tempeture issue?

See  them? We should be rounding them up on trucks.

 
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An Occasional Guide to Modern Politics: The Young Sellout.

We must work WITHIN the alien's human eating system to achieve change!

We must work WITHIN the alien’s human eating system to achieve change!

His father had been a socialist utopian in his youth, marching in his long hair and droopy moustache For a Marxist Paradise. He grew out of it, of course, and now keeps an eye on his pension portfolio, but there you have it. What’s the old saying? If you’re not on the left when you’re young, you have no heart, but if you’re not on the right when you’re old, you have no brain?

Our hero is worse. He has no soul. From the moment he joined the party’s youth section, he was a trimmer with a wet finger in the air constantly turning political direction. He wants to be in politics, but has almost no interest in politics. Ask him what his political values are, and he comes out with phrases that sound like they were tested by a focus group in 1998. He talks about how he is “proud” to be a member of a party, like a 1980s Japanese salary-man singing the Toshiba company song.

Where’s the rebelliousness of youth? Where’s sticking it to The Man? He doesn’t do that. He works with The Man, confidant that The Man will recognise his pragmatic loyalty to the party and reward him with a nomination in the forthcoming local authority elections. Put him on the telly and he wears his confirmation suit and tries to parrot what the party grown ups say. There’s nothing, NOTHING more mortifying than watching a 15 year old come out with stuff like “what young people want is fiscal rectitude and a cut in Capital Gains Tax.”

Remember that old TV series “V”, about the giant lizard mouse eating aliens disguised as humans, who came claiming friendship, and then set up a Nazi youth style organisation? He would have signed up. “We must work with our Alien masters, and as minister of state for Human Consumption I look forward to…”

And most of all, he’ll read this blog posting and think I’m writing about him.

 
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Some things I have learnt about Irish Politics (repost).

Posted by Jason O on Jan 27, 2016 in An Occasional Guide to EU Politics, Election 2016, Irish Politics
I knew your father/mother/social welfare officer well!

I knew your father/mother/social welfare officer well!

The first election campaign I was ever directly involved in was the 1991 local elections, where I canvassed for Jeananne Crowley in the Pembroke Ward, a seat I’d contest myself in the 1999 elections. After that, I campaigned in local, general, European and by-elections, and in a number of referendums. And that’s not counting the internal party elections I campaigned in. Between 1991 and 2005, when I resigned from the Progressive Democrats, I experienced a fair bit of Irish politics, and came across what I would regard as fairly solid general rules of Irish politics. They are general, there are always exceptions, but broadly speaking I believe they’re true:

1. With the possible exception of Sinn Fein and the Alphabet Left, and maybe in by-elections, there is no longer such a thing as party machines in the traditional sense. Successful candidates have to effectively build their own teams of, for the most part, personal loyalists. Many if not most of the party members who turned up to vote at the convention will not end up knocking on doors.

2. Irish people vote for people over ideas nearly always. People are far more likely to vote for a person they like but disagree with politically over a person they agree with but dislike.

3. It is possible to be interested in the politics of ideas, or the politics of winning elections, and never have anything to do with the other. Indeed it is getting more and more likely.

4.  The one characteristic a successful candidate absolutely must have over everything else is physical stamina, and a willingness to keep knocking on doors and talking to people over and over again. It is possible for a stupid candidate to be elected again and again. A lazy candidate will probably only be elected once, and only because he/she is related to someone.

5.  The lack of knowledge displayed by voters, and their pride in that lack of knowledge, about how the political system works, and how decisions are made, will never cease to amaze you.

6. By international standards, it is relatively easy for a small group to change things in Ireland if it has determination, courage and organisation. The failure to bring change has usually been because of a lack of one of those three factors. The Provisional IRA and the Progressive Democrats proved that.

7. Irish people take a masochistic comfort in believing that an uncontrollable force, be it the Brits, the IMF, or potatoes, is responsible for their woes, and are comfortable with people knowingly lying to them.

8. “The Rich” are people who earn €15k more than you per annum. “The Ordinary People” are your friends and family.

9. The fact that we ask candidates the same questions in both local and national elections explains a lot about why Ireland is the way it is today.

 
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State of the parties.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 4, 2016 in Election 2016, Irish Politics

So: eight weeks out, what’s the political landscape looking like?

Fine Gael: the blues are in solid form, with a clear identity, a clear pitch, and a clear electorate. Stability, stability, stability, and keep other people’s hands out of your arse pocket. Won David Cameron an election, that did.

Fianna Fail: in better shape than the media think. If you stop comparing FF to the old days, a party on 17% is doing well in a modern European multiparty democracy. Yeah, there’s a hint of the 1977 manifesto about their pitch, but guess what? There’s votes in that. Don’t forget the FF organisation hasn’t forgotten how to pander on the doorsteps. They’ll do better on the day than people think.

Sinn Fein: If you take the long term view, and they seem to, election 2016 will be another solid step in their Slowly Slowly Catchy Monkey strategy. Put it another way: if Labour had been this patient five years ago, we really would be talking about Gilmore for Taoiseach.

Labour: still not sure what their pitch is or towards whom? Labour feel like the old Irish Home Rule party refusing to believe that things have changed. Pity: they haven’t been that bad in government, but they promised so so much. Don’t forget, this happened to them in 1997, and that was when the country actually had money. Labour thinks so much about getting into government they never seem to imagine there will be a moment when they have to go back to the voters.

Renua/Social Democrats: the sushi parties. An acquired taste that some people are mad about but others wouldn’t touch. Both have a fair pitch, almost a mirror pitch. But will they have enough votes to be more than just what-label-are-they-wearing-today? candidates? Would do well in a list system.

Alphabet Left: will do grand giving it loads, up the revolution and all the rest. And refuse to actually play a role in any decision making after the election. The Madonna’s “Vogue” parties. Go on, think about it.

The Independents: the entertainment. I’ll wager that some of these guys by the next election will be some of the most hated politicians in the country, by their own constituents. Mostly for not being psychic about every single on of their voters’ intimate wishes, running away from unpopular decisions, or bringing down the Dail.

Copyright © 2019 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.