Irish Politics Today: A thumbnail guide to the parties.

Fine Gael: It is hard to grasp how quickly Fine Gael turned into Fianna Fail in government, turning from a party advocating political reform to a party now blocking any meaningful sharing of power with the little people who pay for it all. Should  we be surprised, having replaced one middle of the road minimum change possible party with another one?  These guys want to be in government but have little idea about what to actually do with it, having the same lack of imagination as the last crowd, and a bigger menu of things they fibbed about pre-election to fling at them. They will tell you that fixing the economy is their big priority, as it should be, but you can’t help thinking that they spend just as much time avoiding decisions. The problem is that FG believe that them being in government is a great achievement of the Irish nation itself. Pro-Croke Park, and happy to tax people to fund it.

Labour: Once more the mudguard of Irish politics, the Labour party is by far the most interesting party to observe if one is interested in watching a group of people have a collective nervous breakdown. Finally becoming the second party in the state, it’s now dawning on Labour that there is no “nice” way of dealing with there being no arse in the national trousers. Its key constituents, middle class people who watch Nigella Lawson, public sector workers, and the Great National Hand Sticking Out Looking For Other People’s Money are the people who are going to bear the burden, and Labour are going to be blamed. As Labour always are. One day, Labour are going to tell their career minded front bench to hold their whist and sit out being in government during an economic crisis, and wait for the next boom when they can actually spend money on self esteem courses for gay badgers and the like. But this isn’t that time. Still, given the age profile, most of their ministers will probably retire at the next election, so it’s real decent of the young uns’ to give them a bit of a run out. Pro-Croke Park, and also quite happy to fund it by taxing people who work for a living. Especially in the private sector, which some people in the Labour party have heard of.

Sinn Fein: Like the Clann in 1948, or the PDs in 1987, the shinners are the exciting “what if” party, displaying the patience that Labour never had. Like the Worker’s Party during the 1980s. the party is calmly building up its support on the basis of  “just wait ’til we’re in” mixed with the hint of the odd cracked knee. With the exception of security issues (will a SF justice minister put the boot into those guards that actually fought them?) the irony is that the people most disappointed with SF in government will actually be their own voters. Sinn Fein’s economic policy, although left wing compared to FF/FG/Lab, is absolutely tip-toeing towards the centre, but in a clever way, with the lefty sounding Wealth Tax whilst reassuring pretty much everyone that they won’t be paying it. The key to SF is to look north, where they do actually run things, and where they complain about having to cut things because the people they don’t think should be in the country in the first place should be giving them more money, which is as much a demonstration of the theory of Schrodinger’s Cat as it is an economic policy. Pro-Croke Park, and happy to magically tax people to fund it in a fair and equitable way. Like getting kittens to lick the tax off people.

Fianna Fail: That FF cockiness is slowly worming its way back into the arena, whether it’s chanting “we’re back!” at byelections or feigning moral outrage at the government for carrying out the Troika arrangements they signed up to, the glint of the brassneck once more is appearing under the shirt collar. The respectful, soft spoken Fianna Fail of Michael Martin during the 2011 general election is gone. The old “say what you have to say, promise what you have to promise, whatever it takes” FF is back, especially when one looks at the opportunistic attacks on spending cuts and the proposed property tax, both agreed to by the Troika agreement signed by (you got it) Fianna Fail in government. The sad thing about FF is that it knows it has to change. Speak to individual FFers and they will admit that the populist stuff probably costs them as many votes as it wins, confirming the worst Used Car Dealer impression about the party. But collectively, it’s like they’re hooked on “pander” crack. Only this time, they’ll be nicer to the gays. Pro-Croke Park, having written the damned thing, although against funding it with new taxes. Fianna Fail, more than most, should be renamed the Theory of Relativity Party given their ability to pass themselves travelling the other direction in policy debates.

The United Left Alliance: Ah jaysus. Biggest crisis to face capitalism since Joe Stalin started looking at estate agent brochures for Le Havre, so why aren’t these guys at 10-20% in the polls? The answer is that, ironically for a group that turfed out a member for having emotional feelings for another deputy, they just can’t help pandering. Joe and Richard Boyd Barrett just can’t stop promising the sun, moon and (red) stars to be funded by magic money from under Galway Bay or by raiding Denis O’Brien’s Scrooge McDuck moneybin. Why don’t the public believe them? Could it be to do with the fact that with the exception of Joe they come across as the po-faced contestants of a lemon tasting competition? Croke Park doesn’t go far enough. It’s a disgrace that public sector workers are forced to turn up for work at all by their top-hatted moustache twirling bosses.

The Independents: We get two types of independent deputy in Ireland. The first is elected to represent certain political ideas, and the second are John Hurt from “The Field” types, sent to Dublin to steal everything that isn’t nailed down and bring it home to the local parish. If you want to know why our political system let our banking system collapse, this is the mentality, prevalent across the politcal landscape, which allowed it. Croke Park? Sure that’s in Dublin.

The Greens: If there is any proof that there is no justice in Irish politics, it’s the sorry state of the Green Party. This was the party that opposed corruption and dodgy land rezoning, sometimes getting into physical fights in Dublin County Council over payments to councillors. In government, they attempted to investigate dodgy goings on in councils. So what did the Irish people do? Sacked them, and replaced them with people who stopped the investigations.  Having said that, the Greens were their own worst enemy, never quite understanding their own vote base and spending too much time on stuff like climate change (which should be done quietly) whilst not focusing on the populist things that got them elected, like being rude to Fianna Fáil. And why on Earth did they not tell FF to get stuffed over blasphemy? Hopefully they have learnt lessons for the future.  A funny thing about the Greens is that now having becoming more rational and pro-EU, they have widened their potential vote base. Now, if they were to rush into the vacant anti-Croke Park gap…

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