We’re 22 odd months away from a general election, which is quite a while, to be honest. Having said that, there’s no harm in having a quick look at what’s actually on offer to the Irish voter:
Fianna Fail/The Greens: I’ve included them together, as it’s fairly likely that if they (miraculously) got enough seats they’d go into a second term. FF would continue with the unimaginative but courageous (for Ireland) and unavoidable cuts in public spending, with the Greens finally finding their feet and beginning to get some traction on reform issues.
Fine Gael: Some tinkering with political reform, a referendum on abolishing the senate and reducing the size of the Dail (neither of which I believe will actually happen) and a compulsory universal healthcare insurance plan which will get bogged down in a quagmire when FG realise that the “money following the patient” will very likely result in the closing of smaller rural hospitals in favour of more efficient regional hospitals (that is, Mary Harney’s policy). Economic policies? Same as Fianna Fail with “Fianna Fail” scratched out and “Fine Gael” written in. In crayon.
Labour: A convention on a new constitution. Unlike FG, Labour tends to deliver on big idea stuff like this. Only problem is that the document that comes out of the convention will have had so many Labour-friendly NGOs going at it like a hungry octopus trying to open a jar of pickled gherkins that it will be transfer the actual running of the country from the cabinet to the supreme court. Don’t be surprised to find the right to compensation if you’re having a “feeling fat” day shoehorned in. Labour will be hoping that the economy will have begun to recover so that they don’t have to shaft the Hairy Hoxhas of Liberty Hall by not throwing large bags of money at them.
Sinn Fein: This will be a tricky election for the shinners, as Labour’s resurgence is mopping up SF friendly voters, and the fact that SF is in government in the north means that the usual “if only we were in power” spiel doesn’t have quite the same traction, especially as SF will be bringing in cutbacks. The irony is that there probably is room for a nationalist, anti-immigrant, far right party in Irish politics, but SF has now indoctrinated itself so much onto the left as to be (thankfully) incapable of making that political backflip. Unless the lads in Thames House say otherwise, of course.
The Lefty Allsorts: The Higgins/Boyd Barrett jamboree will do alright, although you can’t see them taking more than four seats between them on a really good day, and given the expected ascension of the FG/Labour regime, kinda pointless…