Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Irish election reaction

Via Iain Dale, I came accross this rather interesting rant (warning - language alert) about the result of the Irish general election.

However, while the rant is not surprising, neither is the fact that large numbers of people voted for Fianna Fail (indeed, as a former member, it would have been the party I would have voted for, though I should also add that the two Fianna Fail TDs in my constitutency have never had their integrity questioned).

Michael Moore, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Bush administrations mis handling of the crisis, posted a long rant, aimed at those who had voted for him, asking how they could now justify that decision and if they would still do it. The answer in many cases has to be "John Kerry". In much the same way, the Irish electorate were faced with two choices - keep Fianna Fail and Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach, or replace them with a Fine Gael led Rainbow Coalition led by Enda Kenny (a man by the way who is insisting that he can still form a government, but that almost certainly means he's either very bad at maths or he's keeping open the possibility of inviting Sinn Fein into government, neither of which reflects well on him).

To express surprise at the fact that the Irish electorate didn't punish Fianna Fail for their "corrupt" behaviour is to affect a total ignorance of how Irish politics has worked for years - especially outside Dublin. The fact that Michael Lowry has been returned for three successive elections despite being expelled from Fine Gael for corruption, and that Beverly Cooper Flynn was returned in Mayo after being slung out of Fianna Fail when she lost a libel case against RTE means that even today Irish voters will accept corrupt politicans assuming they look after their constituents (in addition, both have been able to play the Dublin elite trying to put down the culchies card). This is nothing new - it is a fact that Charles Haughey used to be met by his constituents as they left Mass on Sunday morning with the comments "Charlie, you're a corrupt man, but we love you anyway".

With all that in mind - its then no surprise that Fianna Fail held up its vote and its number of seats. They've always been good at "managing" the vote (a concept foreign to the UK political system where we have the First past the vote system - parties don't try to split their vote between your three candidates to maximise the effect). More to the point, despite the many issues identified in the rant, they've presided over one of the best periods of economic growth in Irish history - when I did my Leaving Cert 15 years ago, Ireland was still exporting people to the UK and the US, and there was concern about the knock on effect to Ireland of German reunification, which had effectively closed off one popular destination for Irish emigrants. Now, it's immigration that is the issue - the streets of Dublin when I left three years ago were filled with Chinese, Filipinos and Nigerians, and in the three years since EU enlargement Ireland has become 5% Polish. The alternative to Fianna Fail was the Rainbow coalition, led by Fine Gael. Plenty of people had reservations about Enda Kenny as Taoiseach (though to be fair, not as many as had them about Michael Noonan who led FG to their worst result in decades in 2002), but those with long memories would also remember that one of the worst periods for the economy in recent Irish history coincided with the FG/Labour coalition of 1982-1987 - one of only two periods in the last 30 years that Fianna Fail have not been in government. FG would have been leading a coalition made up of the Labour party and possibly the Greens. Its possible that many people thought that a coalition including left wing parties could be more damaging to the economy than the existing government.

If the answer to why lots of people voted for George Bush in 2004 was "John Kerry", then equally, the answer to why lots of people voted for Fianna Fail last Thursday is almost certainly "Rainbow Coalition".

No comments: