Archive for the ‘2011 Irish general election’ Category

Testing the limits of marketing


So the party that is to blame for Ireland’s economic collapse, Fianna Fáil are deciding how to get their hooks back in government.

The article notes that the disgraced party, must make a decision and “decide exactly what it stands for in a changed world”. However a party that has run Ireland for the vast majority of the history of the Ireland has always been a catchall party appealing to wildy different groups. It would not be suprising that party apparatchik’s “decide” on a compromise and the party fails to satisfy any of its previous groups. Indeed, “the electorate has given its answer to the question of the party’s identity: it is more Enron than Apple”.

The example of new Labour is cited, “playing with logos is not enough. The New Labour brand made sense to the electorate only after Blair’s clause-four moment, when he insisted that the party change its constitution and weaken its long-established links with the trade unions.”

Crucially the article notes that “Until such heavy ideological lifting has been undertaken, any attempt to create a new identity for Fianna Fáil is doomed to failure”. Some have questioned what the party can stand on in any future elections, noting that “For a long time its two main aims were national unity – the restoration of the 32 counties – and the restoration of the Irish language. Then they stood for economic competence”. The first two of these are irrelevant to a nation with 15% unemployment and that fact destroys the last possibility with which the party can campaign on.

The article notes that “In 2002 and 2007 Fianna Fáil did its research and the public said they wanted the boom to go on. It didn’t work. What the party offered was based on short-termism”.

These mistakes may, hopefully, prove to be fatal and wipe the party off the Irish political landscape.


Moving forward?


After the party’s election decimation in February, Fianna Fail have been discussing how to recover their position. They will never again be the largest party in Ireland and should act morally for once, do that nation a favour and just dissolve themselves.

The only option


Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Michael Cragg have recently argued that Ireland’s IMF and ECB backed economic plan is “doomed to failure”.

They argue that Ireland allowed itself to be duped by “false economic doctrines advocating unfettered markets”. They note that the new government can still save the Irish economy, and indeed Ireland itself, “but has failed thus far to address the underlying problems.” Yet it should be borne in mind that the new government’s economic policies are exactly the same as those of the hated Fianna Fail government with new faces delivering old policies.

They note that “in more optimistic scenarios, Ireland’s debt to GDP ratio is expected to soar to 125 per cent in 2013, up from 25 per cent in 2007”. This they say with stifle whatever little growth is in the Irish economy as it is. They pull no punches when they say that “the EU recipe for recovery is more of the same: to meet the deficit reduction targets, more austerity – which in turn means still lower growth and still higher unemployment.” They argue, correctly that “It is the system of incentives that underlies the success of a market economy” with the implication being that those that lose money are aware of this and should not be recompensated for the losses they make on their investments.

Their indictment of what had been happening in the world before the crash involved, “those who seemed to believe in markets, started to rewrite the rules in the midst of the crisis. They argued for the socialising of losses, while the gains had been privatised. Such a system of ersatz capitalism is doomed to failure, and is fundamentally corrupt and inequitable”.

As always part of the blame lies the the incompent and moronic government that “governed” during these years, who are now fittingly reduced to 20 seats in the 166 seat parliament.

They go on  to say that “the IMF, ECB and Government must come to terms with imposing losses on the international lenders whose loose lending policies played a central role in the current crisis.  Debt restructuring [default] is neither easy nor costless; but the costs are far less than the alternative”.

Ireland may not default first, it looks like Greece may beat Ireland to it.

Ireland vs EU


Ireland vs EU showdown coming.

New government formed


The new session of the Irish parliament began after the recent general election. As feared, Fine Gael and Labour joined together to form a government and have produced a coalition agreement. Gone is any hope for agonism, for now.

Fine Gael which holds 76 of the 166 seats is expected to receive ten ministries with their coalition partners getting the remaining five in addition to the attorney general’s post. Enda Kenny was elected prime minister by the newly assembled parliament by 117 votes to 27 and has received his seal of office from President McAleese.

His Cabinet consists of:

  • Taoiseach Enda Kenny
  • Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore (Labour)
  • Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food Simon Coveney (Fine Gael)
  • Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs Jimmy Deenihan (Fine Gael)
  • Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald (Fine Gael)
  • Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte (Labour)
  • Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn (Labour)
  • Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Richard Bruton (Fine Gael)
  • Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan (Fine Gael)
  • Minister for Finance Michael Noonan (Fine Gael)
  • Minister for Health James Reilly (Fine Gael)
  • Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter (Fine Gael)
  • Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin (Labour)
  • Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton (Labour)
  • Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael)

Kenny has created a new ministry that of Children which previously been a secondary post under the Minister for Health. Notably, the Finance Ministry has been split into two with one being held by a Fine Gael while the other, Public Expenditure and Reform, being held by a Labour. Also notable is the merging of the Defence and Justice Ministries into one. What should be borne in mind is that of the fifteen Cabinet ministers, ten have prior experience in previous governments, albeit, quite some time ago.

Some in the media are arguing that the number of women is low and that they are not given better ministries – this is of no significance to the running of Ireland or fix its current crisis. Commendably at its first Cabinet meeting the government took a pay cut. Kenny’s first engagment will be to “travel to Brussels this afternoon for a meeting with European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, ahead of meetings of the European Council and the euro zone heads of government”. This is notable as at the same time the EU changes its mind, not that is will alter Ireland’s inevitable default.

Any belief that Irish politics has changed is not to be believed. Fine Gael and Labour having a history of coalition government before, though admittedly not with this majority,  and Fianna Fail on the opposition benches.

Labour will be forced to make cuts, often to the poorest and most vulnerable in society, and it is possible that they too will face a Fianna Fail type moment at the next election with massive losses by being attacked by and ideologically much purer party. While any middle class support drifts away to another party, possibly Fine Gael.

What is certain is that Ireland’s politics is in flux with no outcome determined yet.

Irish election – Part III


Now that an outline of the seats held after the Irish election and the make up of the next government have been discussed. Lastly, it is pertinent to discuss the meltdown and future of what was once the dominant force in Irish politics, Fianna Fáil.

How did a party that since 1932 managed to form nineteen governments and along the way craft Ireland’s current constitution, end this year going from 77 to 20 seats, with four short years as its longest period out of office.

What future, if any, is there for the party? There have been numerous accounts of Ireland’s rise and spectacular crash but perhaps the best is What went wrong in Ireland by Professor Patrick Honohan now governor of the Irish Central Bank. It was the property crash that burst in 2008 and took the country down, but it was tying, by way of wholesale bank guarantee, the vast debts of the reckless and incompetent banks who foresaw only rising property prices, to the large but manageable debts of the State, in addition to those of the banks that drew so much anger at the ballot box.

There has understandably been much talk that Irish politics would “never be the same again” and that the “era of Fianna Fáil dominance, which lasted for three-quarters of a century” was over. However, this does not mean that they will not be back in government in four or five years time. All it does mean is that they will not be as strong at the next election. As the author says, “Proportional representation saved Fianna Fáil from total obliteration but whether the party can survive as a serious political force is open to question. One thing is certain; it will never recover its place as the dominant party of power”.

As has been stated here before, “There is an argument in Labour for staying in opposition to try and build the party to a position where it would be a real contender to be the biggest party at the next election” this would mean Labour would be the biggest opposition party and that would allow FF to disintegrate and then be wiped out at the next election.

Noted academic Michael Marsh said that “Political Ireland is now largely a Fianna Fáil-free zone, but remains a long way short of a fundamental realignment of the party system”. He says that the recent election was about “vengeance” but people have short memories and a modern political is not possible until FF are wiped out and Labour take to the opposition benches along with a new electoral system. He does note however that “Fianna Fáil fell from 41.5 per cent of the vote in 2007 to just 17.4 per cent, effectively deserted by six of every 10 people who supported that party last time” as well as the interesting fact that “Proportionally, we would expect a party winning Fianna Fáil’s vote share to win 29 seats, so their total was nine fewer than this. We can often expect a smaller party to get no more than a small seat bonus but not that it would fall so short of an expected share”.

The reason for this he says is that the party ran too many candidates which split the vote as well as the party’s “failure to attract transfers”. He makes the point that “Three-quarters of all deputies are from the three parties who have dominated politics and government to date, but the relative size of these three is quite unlike anything we have seen before”.

A party that has controlled and dominated Irish politics partly because of its flexibility and lack of any clear ideology should be punished in the next election before any real political transformation in Ireland occurs. They are assisted however, by an electorate that simple voted against them this time, rather than for any one else.

It will be interesting to see if the party can rebuild itself from this, let’s hope it can’t.

Irish election – Part II


With the final results for the Irish election in, excluding the speaker, Seamus Kirk, the seat allocation is as follows: Fine Gael 76,  Labour Party 37,  Fianna Fáil 19, Sinn Féin 14, United Left Alliance 5 and an assortment of Independents getting 14 seats. After the last election the parties excluding the speaker were: Fianna Fáil 77, Fine Gael  51, Labour Party 20, Green Party 6, Sinn Féin 4, Progressive Democrats 2, Independents 5,

With the lower house due to meet on 9 March (Ash Wednesday), formal discussions to form a government will be extremely fast with any hope of an FG government backed by like minded independents fast fading. With this, any sort of agonism that was hoped for by having Fine Gael and a number of like minded independents join together is all but gone. The result of which would be to have Labour as the dominant opposition party instead of the disgraced and incompetent Fianna Fail, thereby relegating FF to a long deserved obscurity. Not that it is of any relevance, but FF only have males in the party after the election in addition to only having only one representative for the capital, Brian Lenihan with no MPs in counties Kerry Meath, Tipperary and Roscommon at all, with long time incumbent and prominent member Mary O’Rourke losing her seat also.

However, the 31st Dail should be an interesting one as a small number of Socialists were elected as well as the like minded Sinn Fein and ULA which will challenge the new coalition on every and every measure.

Now it is almost certain that there will be a Fine Gael/Labour coalition with talks already underway but not expected to take more than a few days due to a lack of any real ideological difference between them. FF are the majority opposition party but only just, however it will be interesting to see what FF do, as the manifesto of Fine Gael is so close to that of Fianna Fail that FF should wholeheartedly back whatever the coalition does in office if not FF will rightly be leveled as hypocritical.

Once the coalition talks are complete the ministries will be assigned.

Irish election – Part I


And the results are in. The General Election that was held in Ireland recently has resulted in a decisive swing against the long time governing party, Fianna Fail, that were decimated, though not destroyed as was hoped for.

With only the last remaining seats to be counted it looks as if Fine Gael will have around 76 seats in the 166 seats in the lower house. It was reported that the “share of first preference votes was: Fine Gael 36.1 per cent, Labour 19.4 per cent, Fianna Fáil 17.4 per cent, Sinn Fein 9.9 per cent, Independents 15.2 per cent and Green Party 1.8 per cent.”. These will translate into “, Labour will take 36 and Fianna Fáil will get 25, including outgoing Ceann Comhairle [speaker] Seamus Kirk.  Sinn Féin looks set to take 12, Independents will win 13, the United Left Alliance will take four and the Green Party will lose all six of their seats”.  Turnout was higher than last time at around 70%.

What is extremely surprising is that the electorate carried through with the threat that the polls had been showing for months and decimated FF. Fine Gael won with “electoral meltdown for Fianna Fáil”. It is extremely doubtful that it was really a vote for Fine Gael as opposed to against FF.

Both Mary Hanafin and Barry Andrews lost in their shared constituency as well as Dick Roche and the disgraced John O’Donoghue not only that the Green Party returned no MPs at all.

Also eliminated was incompetent deputy prime minister, Mary Coughlan, who shared a constituency with “Pearse Doherty [who] was comfortably elected on the first count having won the seat in a byelection last November. He won 14,262 first preferences, almost a third of the vote”.

Unsurprisingly the population of greater Dublin did the most damage to FF with only former finance minister Brian Lenihan retaining his seat, with “Labour’s Pat Rabbitte stormed to victory, being elected on the first count” not only that but “Independent senator Shane Ross topped the poll in the five-seater Dublin South.  He was elected on the first count, having exceeded the 12,108 quota by almost 5,000 vote”, exceedingly rare in the PR-STV model that Ireland uses to elect its MPs.

Interesting times ahead.

The Church still has much to teach us


Reflection of the Irish Bishops Conference on the impending election there.

Estimates for the 31st Dail


People are finally coming to terms with the view that Fianna Fáil will do better in the election than opinion polls suggest.

Not only that but Fine Gael will probably do less well off than expected and fall short of an absolute majority and need Labour to join with them, giving FF a chance to regrettably come back from the brink of extinction.

It says that “Fine Gael’s position is solidifying (not surging) and Labour is slipping slightly (not falling). The Greens look unlikely to return any seats. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin also seem not to be moving”.

Predictably people should “consider that all polls are underestimating Fianna Fáil for a number of reasons. One is that people will be shy of admitting to vote for Fianna Fáil, particularly in face to face interviews because of a stigma attached the party now”.

Sadly, “It’s difficult to come to any firm conclusion about whether Fianna Fáil estimates are about right or systematically below the real vote intention. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see Fianna Fáil closer to 20 percent in the final results”.

This would translate into “Fianna Fáil return 25-29 TDs (incl. Seamus Kirk [speaker]); Fine Gael would win 65-69 seats, a good deal lower than the estimates Adrian Kavanagh predicts; Labour would win 33-37 seats and Sinn Féin 17-21 seats”.

This is perhaps the closest realistic estimation that has been seen. Previous figures quoted here by others put FF on 16 seats while FG were on the high 70s, neither of which is likely even after all that has happen to Ireland.

Unless Labour see the light and has has been discussed here before, stay out of government and make sure that FG are squeezed in government and FF fade into irrelevance in the opposition, while Labour bide their time for the future.

With the most likely possibility of a FG/Labour coalition offering no policy/ideological difference hopes for agonism in Ireland remain a distant dream.

Labour under pressure


Finally the centre is being squeezed out of Irish politics, or at the very least is under pressure.

In an interesting post about the Labour Party’s increasingly slipping poll numbers, the author describes  how the other party with which is it vying for the largest number of seats, Fine Gael, is not in the same position.

Fine Gael it says “has had very little policy competition. The PDs are gone, which removed an old threat for Fine Gael whenever it moved too close to the centre”. Thus FG are free to roam the centre ground as they see fit, Labour on the other hand have the problem of “If it wanted to position itself in the centre, it had to be careful not to concede too much ground to ULA or Sinn Féin candidates”.

Not only that but FG have skillfully warned Labour’s large group of middle class supporters that Labour is a high tax party. However this should not be all that surprising being a party of the left, yet not when the middle classes are so heavily involved it its support base.

If that were not enough Labour has to be careful as should “be careful not to concede too much ground to ULA or Sinn Féin candidates” on the left. The author goes on to say that “each time Labour mentioned more tax than cuts (to protect its left flank) Fine Gael could attack it as a high tax party”.

Whether any of this will happen and FF support will really collapse and at the same time FG will manage to get enough seats only to need support from independents and keep Labour on the opposition benches is too soon to tell, with the Irish electorate keeping their real intentions, for want of a better word, in pectore.