Election Time in Ireland!

Yesterday, in response to a request from the Taioseach Leo Varadkar, the Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D. Higgins dissolved the 32nd Dáil Éireann. There will be a General Election on 8th February (unusually, on a Saturday) to determine the composition of the 33rd Dáil. So we now have three and a half weeks of electioneering. Sigh.

The previous administration, headed by Mr Varadkar, was a minority Government led by his Fine Gael party supported in a `confidence-and-supply’ arrangement by Fianna Fáil. These two parties have more-or-less alternated in running Ireland since Independence, and both could be characterized as centre-right, Neoliberal parties. Fine Gael MEPs sit with the EPP group in the European Parliament while Fianna Fáil’s sit with RE (formerly ALDE). In terms of UK politics FG is closer to the Conservative Party (though not as far to the right) and FF to the Liberal Democrats. There’s therefore even less of a gap between FG and FF than their closest UK equivalents. Incidentally Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have their roots in the chaos of the Irish civil war in response to the Anglo-Irish Treaty: FG was pro-Treaty and FF anti-Treaty.

The real question to be answered in this election is whether anything might happen to break the right-wing hegemony that has held sway for so long in the Republic. I would to believe so but, frankly, I doubt it. Despite the Varadkar administration’s abject failures on housing and health (led by two spectacularly useless Ministers), and the fact that these two issues are likely to prove extremely important during the campaigns, I feel the innate conservatism of the Irish electorate will led yet again to another FG/FF combination. One of the worries that comes with that is a continuation of the present chronic underfunding of Irish universities.

I am not sure at this point who I’ll be voting for – I don’t yet know who’s standing in my constituency of Kildare North – but it won’t certainly be either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. The strongest left-wing party in Ireland is Sinn Féin and I like many of their progressive policies. My main reservation about voting for them is that I’m not a nationalist. Although I would love to see a United Ireland, I consider myself to be an internationalist and find some of the rhetoric of Irish nationalism very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I believe it would be good for Ireland to have a strong representation from Sinn Féin in the 33rd Dáil Éireann. Other possible leftish parties include the Green Party, Labour and the Social Democrats.

Incidentally, the voting system for General Elections in Ireland is basically the same as that for the European Parliamentary Elections last year, but with a larger number of constituencies (40 instead of 3). Between them these constituencies elect 159 Teachtaí Dála (TDs) (the equivalent of MPs), an average of about 4 per constituency. There are actually 160 seats, but the Speaker is re-elected automatically. The Single Transferable Vote system is used, meaning that voters have a single ballot paper on which they rank the candidates in order of preference. The candidate with the lowest number of first-preference votes is eliminated and their second preference votes redistributed. Candidates are thus progressively eliminated until the requisite number of TDs is selected.

My constituency is Kildare North which elected 1 Social democrat, 1 Fine Gael and 2 Fianna Fáil TDs last time. This is a primarily rural constituency which is, on the whole, rather affluent, as is reflected in the above result.

12 Responses to “Election Time in Ireland!”

  1. The greens have some very reasonable candidates this time ‘round. Check out Vincent Martin for north Kildare if you’re still in two minds!

    • telescoper Says:

      I think the Greens will be among my preferences. My main issue is who to put first!

      • Cool! Such a shame that the majority of our left inclined parties are filled with mad folk, I feel… I’m still stuck for a few choices.

      • telescoper Says:

        The world is filled with mad folk, so they’re just being representative.

      • “My main issue is who to put first!”

        If the choice is difficult, then it probably doesn’t much matter. Although it’s not PR, with STV, less votes are wasted.

  2. “I feel the innate conservatism of the Irish electorate will led yet again to another FG/FF combination”

    My impression is that Ireland has become more liberal recently. Is this not yet reflected in the elections?

    Based on the parties people vote for, and assuming that they would vote for the same parties, how would things change under PR?

    • telescoper Says:

      Ireland is far less socially conservative than it was, but I still think the electorate is conservatively-minded on economic issues.

      • “Ireland is far less socially conservative than it was, but I still think the electorate is conservatively-minded on economic issues.”

        The a government which is socially liberal but fiscally conservative would seem the logical outcome. Which party is closest to that? Fianna Fáil?

  3. “until the requisite number of TDs is selection.”

    selection —> selected

  4. “The strongest left-wing party in Ireland is Sinn Féin and I like many of their progressive policies. My main reservation about voting for them is that I’m not a nationalist. Although I would love to see a United Ireland, I consider myself to be an internationalist and find some of the rhetoric of Irish nationalism very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I believe it would be good for Ireland to have a strong representation from Sinn Féin in the 33rd Dáil Éireann.”

    They don’t seem very EU-friendly, so it would be sort of paradoxical for you to vote for them. I agree that some of their policies are good, but also there is a bit too much “negative nationalism” as opposed to “positive nationalism”, and the at least unclear status of connections with the IRA and terrorism.

    In contrast with recent changes in opinion in Ireland, they are also a “pro life” rather than “pro choice” party (perhaps because of the Catholic influence).* However, they make exceptions for incest, rape, etc., as do many. I’ve never understood this argument. If abortion is murder, then one can’t make exceptions, however uncomfortable for those involved. If not, why criminalize it at all (at least up to some stage)? Whether or not one agrees with either of them, it seems to be that the only two logically defensive positions are to completely outlaw abortion (except in cases where one has to choose between the life of the baby and that of the mother) or completely allow it up to some stage of pregnancy. I honestly don’t see how “forbidden, because it’s murder, but there are exceptions” or “legal up to 1 second before birth would occur” (yes, there are some otherwise sensible people who have this position) could even be internally consistent (whatever one thinks of them otherwise).

    _______
    * I don’t like either of these terms: “pro life” implies that the others are “pro death” or “anti life”, whereas they would say that a fetus is not a full human or whatever. Even if one disagrees with this, calling oneself pro-life and hence, implicitly, the others the opposite isn’t very useful. Similarly, “pro choice” implies that the others’ goal is to deny choice to women. While that might be true in a really small minority of cases, the motivation of almost all others is not denial of choice, but rather the belief that abortion is murder. Again, even if one disagrees, calling oneself pro-choice and, implicitly, the others anti-choice is not very useful.

    • telescoper Says:

      SF has moved quite a long way in recent years. It backed the legislation that changed abortion law after the referendum in 2018; a faction split off as a result of this and formed a small new party called Aontú.

      On the EU, Sinn Fein was opposed to Brexit (remember it also exists in Northern Ireland). It does however state “”European Union must become a cooperative union of nation states committed to working together on issues such as climate change, migration, trade, and using our common strengths to improve the lives of citizens. ” Despite being a committed European I do feel that the EU needs to reform, so I don’t find their position problematic. The EU’s problem is the same as Ireland’s – that it keeps electing right-wing politicians!

  5. “Other possible leftish parties include the Green Party, Labour and the Social Democrats.”

    Interesting that there are both a social-democratic party and a labour party.

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