Where is Ireland after the Election?

1 Mar

So, now that the shouting and the counting are over, where do Ireland and its people stand? Have we ostrich-like stuck our heads in the sand and voted for more of the same but under different brand names? Or, have we struck out bravely in a new direction and voted for fundamental change? Whatever we want, what are we likely to get?

A Seismic Change

In the previous election in May 2007, Ireland demonstrated its continuing historic adherence to conservative right-wing politics. Three parties of the right, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats mopped up a grand total of 71.6% of the first preference vote and garnered 131 of the 166 seats in the Dail.

In last Friday’s election,  with all the seats now filled, the parties of the right, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail (PD having imploded since 2007),  saw their total first preference vote dropping to 53.5% and their combined seats dropping from 131 to 96.

Game Over?

Forget about the shift from Fianna Fail to Fine Gael. That’s just changing the franchise from Spar to Centra with business going on as before. What’s really interesting is the scale of decline in the vote of the right wing parties.

Over 7 in 10 voters backing them in 2007; down now to little over half the electorate.  A total loss of 35 seats. And there’s more. The Green Party, which shamefully colluded in the most destructive and right-wing phase of governance that Ireland has ever endured, was wiped out. Not a single seat remains.

Agreed, the majority in Ireland retain the conservative and status-quo clinging perspective that they always had, but that majority is now very slim in comparison with the past. To understand where we are at, we must understand where we have come from and so quickly. Nearly 72% voting  for parties of the right less than four years ago, now down to 53.5%. That is a seismic change. A great many of the Irish people are not ostriches.

To the Left

The biggest gainer on the left is the Labour Party. It saw its share of first preferences virtually double from 10% in 2007 to 19.4% last Friday and its seats jump from 20 to 37 making it the second biggest party in Dail Eireann.

Did it gain from its mealy mouthed hesitancy to upset the comfortable, tax- phobic classes, its failure to fight for public services, to protect the vulnerable and from its eagerness to compromise with the right?  Arguably not. The striking success of parties and independents not seeking to hide their left wing principles under a bushel would suggest that Labour might have done even better if it had been true to its name and traditions.

Sinn Fein increased its seats in Dail Eireann from 4 to 14. The Socialist Party captured 2 seats as did People Before Profit. Without considering Independents, that amounts to an increase of 14 seats firmly on the left of the Labour Party.  Labour might have stood to gain many of those if it were not so compromised by it’s dalliance with the right.

Independents Day

The increase in Independents in the new Dail, however one classifies them on the left-right spectrum, can only be interpreted as a rejection of the old status quo.  In 2007 we elected 5 Independents. Last Friday we elected 15.

Mick Wallace poster (from irishelection literature. wordpress.com)

Many of those such as Seamus Healy, Maureen O’Sullivan, Thomas Pringle, John Halligan, Catherine Murphy, Finian McGrath,  Mick Wallace, Luke ’Ming’ Flanagan and Stephen Donnelly are either firmly on the left or distinctly disaffected with the right wing consensus and concerned about its impact on Irish society. Even Tom Fleming, a former Fianna Fail member, has publicly voiced his concerns about the direction Irish society has been taking and its impact on the vulnerable.

While cynicism is understandable about former Fianna Fail representatives, Mattie Mc Grath, another escapee from the fold and a small time business man, may as he claims  be genuinely disaffected by the ‘protect the rich at all costs’ policies of the last Government. Free of party clutches he could be found to have a social conscience.

That leaves Shane Ross, Michael Lowry, Noel Grealish and Michael Healy Rae. No difficulty in knowing where former Fine Gaeler  and big business man, Lowry stands – he is a fully paid up member of the right consensus and with an unadulterated track record to prove it. Former PD leader Grealish has the self-same, if not so illustrious, political track record as Lowry. Recent posturing to the contrary will fool no one.  Michael Healy Rae, son of Jackie, can be assumed to have inherited more than the seat. The Healy Raes are big business owners and that is where their loyalties lie when the smoke screen of affected rural guff is penetrated. Jackie supported every appalling decision of the outgoing administration. There is no reason at all to imagine that Michael is any whit different. Still, pigs might fly and, given time, he will have the chance to prove us right or wrong.

Former stockbroker and SINDO business editor, Shane Ross is firmly on the right. There is nothing at all to suggest he cares about equity in society. He does care however about corruption and cronyism and about the rot within the party political system.  No friend of the left or the little guy, he is no friend of the status quo either.

Only three of the elected independents seem wedded to the past. In aggregate, the avalanche of independents entering the new Dail is far more a sign of disaffection with the status quo than any comfort to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in their efforts to perpetuate the ancien  regime.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

What then of the new Government? Will it reflect the narrow majority, which would appear to have voted to follow the old path or will it give expression to the desire of everyone else for serious change? Right now this all depends on the Labour Party which is firmly wedged between a rock and a hard place. The rock is the right-wing status quo in the form of Fine Gael and in the form of Labour’s own hunger for power, which it can only win by compromising its raison de etre. In preparation for just such an eventuality it has already travelled well down that route casting its electoral pitch at just a bit less of what Fine Gael is having (see this piece by Vincent Browne).

Fine Gael wants to kill the public service. Labour is happy to just maim it. Fine Gael wants to do the bidding of the IMF, the ECB and the international financiers. Labour wants to do their bidding but drag its feet a little. The hard place is the new dimension for Labour and leaves it without its traditional scope for retreat and recovery after being squashed against the rock. It takes the form of Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party, People Before Profit and a bunch of unyielding Independents. Mick Wallace has already urged Labour to stay out of government and to instead lead a new left alliance in the Dail.

Every Labour sell out will now be pounced on. There will be no respite and no defence in or out of the Dail except by adherence to firm principles of the left. Labour must make the wealthy pay, protect the vulnerable, increase progressive taxation and shift the emphasis from private to public expenditure. In coalition with Fine Gael it must punch way above its weight or face being gobbled up by the opposition at the next election. It must learn the lesson the Green’s couldn’t grasp and be ready to walk out of government when its principles are under threat.

This election saw the destruction of Fianna Fail and the Greens. Only Labour can save itself from a similar fate in the next election. Its price for that must be exacted from Fine Gael. In the past, disaffected Labour voters had nowhere to turn to but the right. Now they will have a very credible set of left alternatives. If they leave , they will not return. There will be no recovery for Labour.  Its next 1997 will be a one-way street.

Debt Default Looms Large

Of course the great elephant is still in the room. The insupportable debt burden looms over all. No political party can hope to survive in the longer term while wedded to the fantasy that Ireland can repay the gigantic banking debts.

Fine Gael is blind to this truth. It is suffused with far too servile a psychology. Labour must make it face up to the inevitable. The Government must go to Europe and make it clear that default is inescapable. Any other option means heaping misery upon misery on the Irish people to no avail whatsoever.

Default will inevitably come sooner or later. Either Labour bites that bullet very soon or it will go down in flames. The scary thing is that if it doesn’t bite the bullet quickly it may well take the lot of us down with it.

The Savage Eye – He Fixed the Road

1 Mar

The Word is Out: A Cloud From Here…

23 Feb

David McWilliams on Bank Debt Default, Sovereign Funding & How Safe are Bank Deposits?

23 Feb

Mary Fitzgibbon (Independent Candidate, Kerry North/Limerick West) has participated in two economic webinars with economist David McWilliams .

These online clinics are provided by the People’s Economy network which provides economic advice about realistic solutions to Ireland’s crisis.

Mary Fitzgibbon says that the international financiers who recklessly gambled their money on runaway banks must bear their own losses. We must act immediately to separate the private bank debt from the sovereign debt of Ireland. We can then start the economic recovery and create jobs and better public services.

A Stark Choice: Bank Default or Sovereign Default?

David McWilliams explained at last Friday’s webinar that “the sovereign default is a disaster but the bank default is simply reinstating the rules of capitalism. If the ECB were to behave like good Europeans what they would realise is that there is a long game here and you shouldn’t penalise the Irish people for the gambling debts of Deutsche Bank and some of the other German banks who lent to the Irish banks.”

Replay the People’s Economy Webinar Here:

Would a Banking Debt Default Leave us with No Money?

Mary Fitzgibbon: Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael repeat the mantra that we ran out of money and that a banking debt default would leave us with no money to pay public servants such as teachers, nurses and gardai. How can we counter this propaganda?

David McWilliams: This is complete and utter nonsense. If we separated the bank debt from the sovereign debt our debt to GDP ratio falls to 73%. This is the debt to GDP ratio which is the crucial figure because it’s your ability to pay which is lower than France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium and of course Greece and Portugal. Continue reading

TV3: Vincent Browne Interviews Enda Kenny With “The Gimp”

22 Feb

Enda Kenny finally agrees to an interview with Vincent Browne. Enda blathers vacuously about the ‘five point plan’ until…

The People’s Economy – The Minister for Economic Truth

21 Feb

Deenihan Plays Dodge on Public Service Redundancies Plan

20 Feb

I'll see your 30,000 and raise you 10,000

Mary Fitzgibbon (Independent Kerry North/West Limerick) has challenged Fine Gael Deputy Jimmy Deenihan to be honest about his plan for public service job cuts in his constituency.

Deenihan (an FG front bencher) has claimed that if he gets into government he would cut 12,000 less public service jobs than the 30,000 that is already targeted in the Fine Gael manifesto.

He gave the commitment during a Radio Kerry debate with the other election candidates in Kerry North/West Limerick. He was responding to Mary Fitzgibbon who challenged him about precisely how many public service posts in Kerry/Limerick that Fine Gael would cut.

Deenihan claimed that the Fine Gael manifesto “mentioned 30,000 but 12,000 are gone already so there would be only 18,000 redundancies”. However, the clear policy in the Fine Gael manifesto policy is to cut an additional 30,000 public servants on top of the 12,000 that were already removed up to 2010.

Deputy Richard Bruton (FG Enterprise Spokesman) has repeatedly confirmed that the Fine Gael plan is to cut 30,000 additional posts. However, Deenihan continues to contradict his front bench colleague with his renegade claim of 18,000 redundancies and refuses to specify where the public service job cuts will be in Kerry North/West Limerick.

Deenihan is misleading his constituents about the Fine Gael plan for the public service. He is on the front bench and he knows full well that Fine Gael want another 30,000 public service redundancies on top of the 12,000 that Fianna Fail already cut. It’s time for Jimmy to be honest about the Fine Gael manifesto and for him to identify what jobs will be lost in Kerry.

A total loss of a 42,000 posts under Fine Gael would decimate public services and would see at least 1,000 jobs go in Kerry North/West Limerick including nurses, gardai, teachers and other public servants. It would  have a devastating effect on the local economy in a region where employment is so scarce.