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Irish General Election 2016

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 30th, 2015 at 08:56:48 AM EST

The Irish General Election is expected to be called shortly for the end of February with the Government Parties of Fine Gael (Christian Democrat) and Labour (Socialist) fighting for re-election against Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and a plethora of Independents and smaller parties who currently make up c. 20% of the seats in the Dail.

The election takes place against a backdrop of significant economic revival with growth for 2015 expected to come in at around 7% of GDP (by far the highest in Europe), unemployment declining from 15.2 to 8.8% since January 2012, the public sector deficit declining from 12% of GDP to a cash balance in 2015, and the Debt/GDP ratio declining from a peak of over 120% to less than 100%.

Ordinarily, such a rapid turnaround in Ireland's economic fortunes could be expected to result in a Government being returned to office, but there are also significant residues of resentment against the Government due to their policies of cutting public expenditure and introducing new taxes such as water charges, property taxes and universal social charges.

In addition, the recovery is still very Dublin centric with many of the more rural parts of the country feeling little benefit.  Many families have suffered from unemployment, emigration, depressed wages, higher taxes, homelessness, negative equity and the threat of mortgage foreclosure. Many have also been effected by cuts in social and health services for the sick and disabled.


The Government will, of course, seek to blame much of this on the preceding Fianna Fail led Government which introduced the infamous Bank Guarantee and presided over the economic meltdown from 2008 to 2011. But electoral memories can be short and Fianna Fail is expected to make some recovery from their decimation in the wake of that débâcle.

Labour's incorporation into a predominantly conservative led Government has also created a political space to their left which has been filled by Sinn Fein and a number of left-wing Independents and smaller parties. Sinn Fein is vying with Fianna Fail to become the leading opposition party and both are polling at around 20%.  Neither seem to be that interested in actually forming the next Government however, refusing to contemplate any kind of coalition arrangement with each other or with Fine Gael.

Insofar as General Elections (as opposed to bye-elections) tend to focus attention on the composition of the next Government, therefore, there seems to be only one game in town. That is not to say, however, that there won't be a huge protest vote, and that an unexpected change of Government may not result. Enda Kenny is not exactly perceived as an outstanding Taoiseach, and Labour has borne much of the brunt of public dissatisfaction at cuts in public sector pay and social services and will undoubtedly suffer electorally as a result.

Labour will also probably gain little political credit for leading the charge on the successful Marriage Equality Referendum Campaign or for maintaining basic rates of social welfare payments at levels far in excess of those available in the UK. Junior partners in Irish Coalitions tend to suffer electorally even when the majority partner does well.

However while there may be little electoral benefit for pursuing progressive policies, at least no political party is running on an anti-immigrant or anti-EU platform. Whatever else we may say about the Ireland of 2015, at least no racist or homophobic forces have gained any traction on the political landscape. We can argue about growing economic inequality, but social tolerance and solidarity remains the norm.

Irish Political Opinion Polls 2015

Irish Political Opinion Polls 2015 photo polls_zpsdah77qjn.png

Fine Gael have been rising to above 30% in the polls recently whereas Labour continues to flat-line below 10%. Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have been tracking each other quite closely around the 20% mark whereas Independents and smaller parties have been losing ground as the focus increasingly shifts towards choosing the next government, as opposed to protesting against the current one.

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There are commemorations of the 1916 Rising that's so important to Ireland's National Founding Myth coming up this year, so we're going to be treated to a parade of scoundrels wrapping themselves in the flag. I don't think I can bear to watch it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 30th, 2015 at 09:55:13 AM EST
Yep, perhaps I should have mentioned that, but one of the reasons for the election likely to be called for February rather than the last possible date in April is Fine Gael's (and Labour's) distaste for the Easter commemorations likely to be hi-jacked by Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 30th, 2015 at 12:29:11 PM EST
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Here in the US, we don't need a significant anniversary; the scoundrels are flag-wrapped all the time.
by rifek on Thu Dec 31st, 2015 at 08:01:18 PM EST
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As a footnote on the bank guarantee, it looks as if the Government will recover all of the funds loaned to the two major banks, Allied Irish Banks and the Bank of Ireland together with some interest and dividend payments. Bad loans to developers taken over by the national bad bank NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) at an average discount to face value of over 50% are also currently being unwound at a small profit.

Most of the funds (c. €30 Billion) given to Bondholders in Anglo-Irish Bank, the developers bank, seem unlikely to be recovered. This means that the total cost of the Bank guarantee and associated bail-outs is likely to come down from an initial €70 Billion to less than €30 Billion, and this will help to significantly further improve the National debt/GDP ration in due course.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 30th, 2015 at 01:16:04 PM EST
European Tribune - Irish General Election 2016
Whatever else we may say about the Ireland of 2015, at least no racist or homophobic forces have gained any traction on the political landscape. We can argue about growing economic inequality, but social tolerance and solidarity remains the norm.

Good for you. Wish it were the same on the continent.

by Bernard on Thu Dec 31st, 2015 at 01:03:40 PM EST
Well yea, but misogyny is pretty much standard text for Irish government
 

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Dec 31st, 2015 at 04:52:52 PM EST
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Care to elaborate?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 31st, 2015 at 05:02:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Viciously anti abortion to the point of letting them die. Is there even contraception?
What are the rights of married women?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Dec 31st, 2015 at 05:24:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There will be a referendum on abortion in the next term of Government which will hopefully see some liberalisation of the current regime. Abortions can be carried out now but under v. restrictive circumstances where the life of the mother is deemed to be at risk. The Savita Halappanavar case demonstrated that in some cases this may result in doctors being too slow to act to protect the mother although it seems that a failure to adhere to standard medical protocols was the primary contributory cause to her death.  In any case, it is not the Government, but the Constitution which is the problem here.

Contraception is freely available. I'm not aware of the rights of married women being any different to these of unmarried women -  or men for that matter - excepting the issue of abortion above.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 31st, 2015 at 06:03:43 PM EST
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My understanding was that the law change was worded to seem sweeping but, in the real world, seems to have made such little difference that Savita Halappanvar would still die today from doctors being too fearful of prosecution.

Maybe I'm overly cynical, but I simply cannot see the subservience of your political system to the catholic church being overturned that quickly. The public may have become disgusted by the church's hypocrisy but politicians, as a group which seeks power for themselves, are always more respectful of and deferential to existing power groups within their societies. In Ireland that means bowing to priests.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jan 1st, 2016 at 05:50:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Far be it from me to defend the Irish political establishment from charges of undue deference to the Catholic Church.  My late wife lost her job as a Community Education Centre Manager due to such deference many years ago (for refusing to remove leaflets giving information on all options for dealing with Crisis Pregnancies from the Centre Library).  But I think your comments are quite a few years out of date.

Enda Kenny, as Taoiseach and leading conservative politician had this to say in 2011:

"Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic...as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.

And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism....the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.

The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation'.

Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict's 'ear of the heart'......the Vatican's reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer."

Years earlier, in 2002"

JUSTICE Minister McDowell bluntly told the Catholic Church yesterday that its canon law had the same status as that of a golf club and did not have superior rights to the civil law of the land.

In a strongly worded comment setting out the Government's stance on the issue of which law takes precedence, the minister said there was only one law to which all of us were subject."


These are leading figures in the most conservative part of the establishment we are talking about here.  Few people. outside Ireland, seem to appreciate the sea change in attitudes to the Catholic Church that has taken place here in recent years (unlike say, in Spain or the USA, where deference to the Church still seems widespread).  That is why the Marriage Equality referendum passed so resoundingly in 2015 in the teeth of Church opposition.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jan 1st, 2016 at 06:39:34 AM EST
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