Irish Politics in a paragraph.

A thumbnail sketch.

A thumbnail sketch.

Over the weekend, I set myself the target of writing a single paragraph to describe the values of each party. Not the policies, but the end-objective values that lead to a policy. I’ve had difficulty explaining this concept to Irish political activists, who are obsessed with the minutae of policy differences. What I mean is this: There’s a reason, for example, why FG would be very unlikely to propose nationalising the nation’s farms, because FG holds as a value a belief in the right to property.

To give you an idea, I started by writing a paragraph for the US Republican and Democratic parties, two parties with clear values, to clarify in my own mind my task.

Republicans: Low tax, pro-business, anti-union, pro-defence spending, anti-social spending, pro-gun, socially conservative, pro-death penalty, pro-certain religions.

Democrats: Low tax for most, moderately pro-business, pro-regulation, pro-union, pro-social spending, moderately anti-gun, moderately socially liberal, pro-death penalty, moderately secular.

You get the idea. Now for the Irish parties:

Fianna Fail: Moderately low tax, pro-business, moderately pro-union, pro-social spending, socially moderate, pro-European.

Fine Gael: Moderately low tax, pro-business, moderately pro-union, pro-social spending, socially moderate, pro-European.

Labour: Moderately low tax, pro-business tax, pro-union, pro-social spending, socially liberal, pro-European.

Greens: Moderately low tax except for resource taxes, pro-social spending, socially liberal, pro-European.

Sinn Fein: Pro-business tax, pro-tax on high earners, pro-social spending, anti-European, relaxed about law enforcement. Uncomfortable with current relationship with UK.

The Communists: Pro-business tax, pro-tax on high earners, pro-social spending, anti-European, relaxed about law enforcement, immigration controls.

What’s interesting, and hardly surprising, is the fact that FG and FF are almost identical in values. Both (despite protests) have pretty much the same vision of Ireland, an Ireland not that radically different from the one we live in. Having said that, those visions are pretty much the visions of the majority of the Irish. It’s the great ugly truth and the heart of Irish society: Despite all the flaws, the child abuse, the corruption and incompetence, most Irish people want things to stay the way they are if the alternative involves them making a sacrifice.  

4 thoughts on “Irish Politics in a paragraph.

  1. The Communists, judging by their past record in other countries, would certainly not be “relaxed about law enforcement” if they ever got into power. That’s just rhetoric on their part.

  2. I wrote it based on what they actually do: FG in govt has continued the social partnership process, and implemented almost no public sector reform. That’s pro-union! Same with FF and the EU. They don’t believe in it, but by measuring what they actually agree to, by British standards they’d be federalists!

    I didn’t do state intervention because every party in Ireland is pro-state intervention. Public spending and quangos grew under the PDs too.

  3. Another very useful contribution.

    What about the law ‘n order spectrum ? There are differences there.

    Also, the “liberal agenda” has different levels of support. (I include immigration in this).

    Fine Gael as moderately pro-union ? Don’t make me laugh !

    How pro-EU is Fianna Fáil, really ?

    Finally: for an ex-PD, I’m surprised that you have not classified the parties on State intervention.

  4. The similarity between FG and FF speaks to a lamentably fragmented right in ireland. Only by discarding civil war divisions and adopting a laissez faire social and ecomomic model can ireland emerge from the doom. Anyone suggesting that Labour have any clue about how to fix things ignores the reality that no economy in history has taxed its’ way out of recession. Labour (through their proxy / paymasters the unions and the powerful civil servants who they control) have effectively been shared power since the start of “social partnership” (under the Program for Prosperity and Fairness in 1997), and the social partnership experiment (we know now) was a cleptocratic shake-down in which a public service aristocracy deemed it fair that they could reap the rewards of capitalism without taking any of the risks. The exposure of the fraud at the heart of HSE and Fas payments to unions exemplifies this culture of greed and entitlement, and speaks loudly to the lack of respect for precious state resources.

    Those that propose a scandanavian model of social democracy as a solution to our hopeless public services fail to see that -at this time- those charged by the state with deploying resources and providing services, for the large part, seem not to be sufficiently conscientious or intelligent to do so in a way that demontrates an understanding that service users, and not state employees, are the reason those resources are collected in the first place. In short, lazy, greedy paddies are the problem. End of.

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