There is a general election in 9 days. It was announced approximately a fortnight ago – there’s one thing to be said for Irish elections – they are pretty zippy – none of these yearlong campaigns that seem in evidence in certain larger countries across the ocean to the west.
I’ve already described my adventures in getting my vote transferred to Dublin and how I intend to vote for candidates based entirely on their looks.
You may be relieved to hear that I was exaggerating slightly when I said that. But 9 days before the vote I am flummoxed.
In most countries there has traditionally been a split between the left and right with both sides jostling for position. In some places there has been a shift to the middle, with both sides abandoning their traditional positions to become the blandest, safest, most centrist, most business friendly party (because keeping business happy seems to be the most important thing in politics).
Ireland is slightly different. To simplify the situation I suppose the easiest way to categorise the political divide is not say who is the left or right, but the 2 largest parties were born from the side they took in the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s.
And that seems to be the main difference.
Fianna Fail were anti the Treaty in the civil war (ie they opposed the partition of Ireland). They are a centre right party with a very strong rural base, and a history of corruption, and greasy banknotes in dirty brown envelopes exchanging hands between ‘friends’ when favours needed to be done.
Fine Gael were pro the Treaty in the civil war (ie they supported the partition of Ireland. They are a centre right party with a strong rural and middle-class urban base and a history of corruption and ‘favours’ such as mobile phone licenses being handed out to their chums in business.
Neither party is big enough to rule on their own which means we have as a 3rd party, the Labour Party – a centre left party with its origin in the trade unions. Its main function is to act as the bullied younger sibling which will be exploited to make up numbers to allow one of the bigger parties to get into power.
Fianna Fail were annihilated at the last election – they were in power for the 10 years before the economic crash and were rightly blamed for it. Fine Gael won the last election in 2011 and went into coalition with Labour. But it’s clear that had they been in power before the crash they would have behaved in the exact same manner as Fianna Fail.
Neither party can be trusted. Nor can Labour which seems to decide its policies depending on which way the wind is blowing.
I can’t vote for any of them.
So what does that leave me?
Well there is Sinn Fein. Now while I like some of their economic and social policies, it is a party with way too much baggage from the Troubles up North. And said baggage probably contains a few severed limbs and kneecapped legs. Their refusal to remove the old IRA guard from the party leadership means I can’t vote for them, out of a sense of conscience.
The pickings become slimmer and slimmer.
Renua is a new party but is led by Lucinda Creighton – a rightwing, homophobic dingbat – Ireland’s answer to Sarah Palin – she’s not even getting a joke vote.
So I guess I will be voting for the Social Democrats and the Greens. The Greens are pretty minute – and will be lucky to get a seat or 2. But they are reliable one to fall back on.
The Social Democrats are more interesting – a centre left party formed last year. I don’t know much about them as they are new. But their deputy leader Roisin Shortall used to be in Labour and used to be the Junior Minister for Health, but quit the party in protest at the Senior Minister for Health rewarding his own constituency with health facilities (which is Irish politics at its core).
Another key member is Catherine Murphy, who not only has an unimpeachable surname, but she used her parliamentary privilege to name a non-domiciled obese billionaire who was paying bribes to the government.
And the Social Democrat who is standing for election in my constituency is quite hot. So I can still maintain I am voting for a candidate based on their looks.