What if…Ireland elected a socialist government?

Finally. A People’s Government!

It was a combination of global events that swept so many governments from power. The global economic meltdown, the war in Eastern Europe. The invasion of Taiwan. The ruling SF/FF/FG coalition just didn’t have the ability to see beyond “business as usual” and ended up with 40% of the Dail between them as the loose Coalition Of The Left took the majority under its charismatic Marxist leader.

To the surprise of the new opposition parties, the new government moved to introduce legislation immediately.

A right to occupy unoccupied buildings that hadn’t paid their vacancy tax was rushed through in days, as was a bill to nationalise all vulture fund holdings in Ireland.

A bank run started on the night of the election result, with everything from credit union accounts to Prize Bonds to State Bonds being cashed in or transferred out of the jurisdiction of the state to the extent but by the time the new government temporarily banned money leaving the state it was already too late, with the banks and the credit unions and other institutions in serious shortage of liquid cash.

The new government also introduced legislation to nationalise all childcare facilities across the country under a new national child care service which would provide free childcare to all who needed it.

Finally, in its first week, the government introduced a bill to create a state construction company to build public housing directly on behalf of the state. As part of this bill the minister for housing was given the direct power to nationalise building land but compensation to be set at a price decided by the government.

What was left of the European Union objected to many of these new policies on the basis that they interfered with competition or the right of other European Union citizens to conduct business within Ireland. The Taoiseach responded by pointing out as he had in his manifesto that if membership of the European Union was in contradiction to delivery of a socialist republic then withdrawal from the European Union would be a consideration the Cabinet would take under advisement.

Many of the government’s new policies were immediately challenged in the courts, In particular with regard to private property. The new attorney general unveiled her plan to dismiss the sitting chief justice and president of the high court and the subordinate courts as “reactionary obstacles” and to replace them with new nominees who are more in line with the thinking of the new socialist republic.

The AG also pointed out that the government would be appointing dozens of new judges whom she expected the new president of the courts to appoint to hear cases which are deemed to be of particular public interest under the new regime

The Board of RTE was dismissed almost immediately and appointed with loyalists of the various coalition parties who moved to ensure that the state broadcaster would reflect the values of the new socialist era.

Private media outlets found that they immediately lost almost all state advertising and it had a detrimental effect to the extent that within the first 18 months of the new government the great majority of private media outlets in Ireland were in a precarious financial situation. This was then compounded by the new government introducing a media consolidation bill where it offered to purchase the ailing media companies and placed them into a state Media Trust where they would be open to receiving state funding. Many of the media owners saw the writing on the wall, took the money, and ran.

Within a year and a half there was a single private media outlet left in the republic, which was, along with its editor, denounced by the rest of the media as being essentially a fascist organ. That same media outlet found itself under close surveillance by various state bodies to ensure that they did not engage in any acts of hate speech.

The first budget of the new government was filled with substantial increases in state welfare payments and increased income tax for pretty much anybody in employment. The government also announced that it intended to levy a substantial windfall tax on the various foreign direct investment companies currently residing in Ireland, a policy which triggered a heated and angry response from those same companies.

One by one the companies announced that they were reducing their presence in Ireland, transferring employees out of Ireland to other countries, and intending to seek a long term presence elsewhere. The Minister for Finance told the house that she would not be threatened by a load of capitalist “carpetbaggers”, and that she would move to nationalise the aspects of those companies that were physically located in Ireland.

When one of the major pharmaceutical manufacturers in the country announced that not only was it closing its factory but that it was moving the very expensive and very substantial hardware used to manufacture pharmaceuticals in its premises back to the United States the minister announced that she was going to place a compulsory purchase order on both the property and all the equipment present. The Taoiseach then received a phone call from the President of the United States, a man who was diametrically opposed to pretty much every single thing that the Taoiseach believed in, and informed him that if there was any attempt to physically prevent the company in question from removing its property from Ireland that the president would deploy United States Marines to ensure that American property was protected and recovered.

The government did not test the president’s resolve on the matter.

Two and a half years into the socialist regime, Ireland had changed radically.

The state housing company now had nearly 70,000 employees, a quarter of whom were currently on sick leave. The number of total new dwellings had actually fallen year on year as cost per unit had risen to accommodate the public service terms and conditions of employment of the new construction workers in the state company.

The country has seen a drop in population of approximately 400,000, as many highly skilled immigrants who previously worked for the foreign multinationals  have now departed the country.

Many skilled young Irish employees have also chosen to leave the country and are now working in the United Kingdom, other parts of Europe. the United States or Australia.

The departure of most of the foreign direct investment from Ireland has led to a very substantial collapse in the country’s gross domestic product, gross national product, and also in tax revenue. This has required the minister for finance, who has largely been increasing spending quite substantially under her leadership, to increase borrowing substantially to the point now where the bond markets are beginning to question the sustainability of the Irish national debt.

The Taoiseach, in response to this, has led a large demonstration outside Leinster House condemning the international bond markets and demanding the United Nations take action against these “unelected masters of international finance”.

Those within government in Merrion Square are aware that the next budget will require either very substantial tax increases on ordinary PAYE workers, given that many high earners have actually departed from the state, or substantial cuts in public spending, in particular, on social welfare, pensions and public sector pay. Irish exports have fallen quite substantially as foreign direct investment withdrew from the state.

In foreign policy, the government has pursued a radical agenda. It has recognised Palestine, and called Israel’s Bluff by welcoming the 30,000 Palestinian refugees that the Israeli government shipped to Ireland. They are currently being kept in a substantial tent city in the Phoenix Park, which locals have now taken to calling Pairc Arafat.

One of the first acts of the new Taoiseach was to ban United States Air Force aircraft from entering Irish airspace. The United States government, despite having withdrawn many of the United States’s forces from Europe, has still nevertheless chosen to completely ignore the ruling by the Irish government and US forces, both air and naval, continue to enter Irish territory without challenge.

The minister for foreign affairs has sent a very strongly worded letter to the United Nations Secretary General to complain. The government has recently announced a new treaty of peaceful cooperation with Cuba, including military cooperation which has involved the deployment of 5000 Cuban military advisers to the Curragh to assist with training with the Permanent Defence Forces.

This arrangement has not been met with enthusiasm within the defence forces, nor has it been enthusiastic received by the United States Ambassador. The same ambassador is facing constant calls from government TDs for his expulsion.

On the question of immigration, the new government has, as it promised, during the election campaign, abolished direct provision and instead given every asylum seeker the automatic right to seek a job, in both the public and private sector upon arrival into the state. This has reduced some pressure with regard to labour shortages, as the great majority of asylum seekers are very eager to work.

As the local elections approach along with a referendum on Irish withdrawal from the European Union, the public sector unions have announced that they will seek very substantial pay increases and a reduction in working hours as a sign of solidarity with the working class from the socialist government.

The minister for finance has accused senior officials in her department of pursuing a neoliberal capitalist agenda when they informed her that the amount of tax revenue received by the state is now seriously in deficit compared to the amount of money the state wishes to spend on public services. Instead she is preparing legislation which will allow her to retire early senior civil service officials whom she feels are not ideologically disposed towards the aims of the democratically elected people’s government with their “neoliberal mathematics that sees the cost of everything and the value of nothing”, and points out that social capital should be recognised as a resources in the budget.

She informs the house that she is confident that with more ideologically flexible senior officials in place it will become more likely that the state can balance its books between what it wishes to spend and what tax revenue it receives.

The government confronts the falling tax revenue problem by declaring that the issue is not too much state control of the economy, but not enough. Supermarkets and other large private firms are profiteering and must be taken into public ownership. The now docile Supreme Court agrees, and the foreign owned supermarkets pull out, their buildings but little else taken into public ownership by Connolly Stores, the new single state-owned supermarket chain.

The new company immediately finds itself fighting with international grocery suppliers who insist upon being paid upfront before they will supply. Sparse shelves and limited choice becomes the norm, with talk of rationing.

A black market in goods from Northern Ireland becomes very prosperous, to the extent that the army is deployed to the border to ensure tariffs are paid on incoming “luxury goods”.

As the general election approaches, the coalition is now way behind in the polls. The minister for finance sums up the issue. Economic productivity has collapsed. A substantial  proportion of the working age population is now permanently inactive and on welfare payments.

In addition to that, there is now a serious brain drain as the country’s most talented and highly educated are fleeing the country for more prosperous shores and greater opportunities abroad.

One of these is a massive draw on public funds, and the second is contributing to a massive reduction in incoming tax revenue to the state.

The Minister pauses for effect.

We are reaching the point, she says, that we are going to have to start to question the idea that highly productive individuals are doing the patriotic thing in leaving the state just to enhance their own personal wealth abroad.

We have to ask ourselves whether their right to travel abroad is greater than the right of the community as a whole to require them to remain in Ireland and contribute to the community as a whole true their skills and efforts.

It is with this thinking in mind, the minister continued, that we should consider the introduction of exit visas, on a temporary basis only, of course, but to ensure that those people remain in the country until the current economic emergency has passed.

I commend these proposals to the Cabinet.

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