In 1993, in Canada, the Progressive Conservatives, the government, went into the general election with 151 seats out of 295 in the federal parliament, and came back with 2. Yes, 2. Now, in fairness, the Canadian electoral system is first past the post. It’s possibly the dumbest voting systems going if you have more than two parties, but it shattered Canadian politics for a decade. Are we heading that way?
Fianna Fail won’t be annihilated, because there are people who A) Don’t seem to understand that voting for Fianna Fail candidates gets you a Fianna Fail government, and B) will always vote Fianna Fail, although you do have to wonder what exactly would Fianna Fail have to do to not get these people’s votes? “Eh….that chopped up body was already here when I got here. And I don’t know who put those puppies in the microwave. And that MAY look like me on the CCTV with that bloodied knife but it isn’t.” But let’s be honest, Fianna Fail are now heading into what has been escalated this week from a very bad election result into a “They’ve blown up the Death Star? With the Emperor on-board? Really? ” moment.
This is the election so many of us have waited our whole lives for. The end of the regime. Hugging in the streets. Music. Hairy Jim Henson puppets dancing everywhere. And yet…
And yet, there’s something missing. See, when the Americans do change, they do JFK, or Bill, or Barack. I cried when Barack was elected. Actually cried, tears down my face, telling people that there was something in my eye as they cried and choked out “It’s very dusty in here, isn’t it, sob!” Even when Tony was elected in 1997 there was a feeling that something special had happened.
So we get to topple the Cowan-Ahernists, the people who led our country to global humiliation. But then it all judders to a halt?
As the smoke clears, as FF tanks burn in the steets, and FF footsoldiers wander bloodied and dazed looking for someone to surrender to…Enda comes out of the smoke? Enda? Ah, here…
I’m sorry, but this is not good enough. We can’t have the most important election in the history of the state since 1948, an election that is a pivotal turn in our national story, and end up electing a crowd of guys who were Fianna Fail and would still be if Dev had had any bottle and said “You know Mick, you’re right. We can do something with this treaty.” We can’t hand over the country to fellas who have only ever excelled at losing. We can’t put in power people that all of us who aren’t in the Cult of Fine Gael know would have done little different in the last ten years. We know that, and the fact that they don’t is evidence enough. We can’t elect people who are are only winning not because we want them but because the other guys are banjaxed.
If there is one thing that comes out of this election, it has to be that change can come to Ireland.
So how? Well, we’ve never had a Labour government. Now, I’m not a fan of Labour. I think they are anti-business, in hock to the public sector and the unions, and regard people who actually create jobs and wealth with suspicion.
But I’ll tell you one thing about Labour: they have a story and a direction and maybe even a picture of what it is they want to do. They do not measure themselves as The Not-Fianna Fail Party. And maybe, just maybe, Labour are smart enough to realise that this is an Indiana Jones grab your hat from under the closing stone wall moment to reach out beyond their comfort zone, to entrepreneurs, to employers, to businessmen and women who can make a profit AND treat their customers and employees decently. These are the people who will create the growth that funds the taxes that allow for social justice. This is the blink of an eye moment where Eamonn Gilmore could build a grand FDR Democratic Party coalition that does not speak just for the unions or the public sector but speaks for all of us who want a society built on fair opportunity for those who want to work hard and to get on, and a society that will care for those who can’t.
This could be Labour’s Time. But they have to reach out, and confront their own inner sacred cows and demons, but if they do so, they may well find that, for the first time ever in our history, in this extraordinary time, there will be people who have never looked at Labour before now willing to reach back, and transform Labour from being not just the party of the left or of progressivism, but the party of Ireland.