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A Revolution in Irish politics?

by Frank Schnittger Mon Feb 3rd, 2020 at 03:39:35 PM EST

Sinn Féin level with Fianna Fáil at 24% in latest opinion poll

Sinn Féin has surged ahead of Fine Gael and is tying with Fianna Fáil for the highest vote among political parties, according to the latest opinion poll published on Sunday.

The Business Post/Red C poll puts Sinn Féin at 24 per cent, up 3 per cent on the previous survey by the same pollsters a week earlier.

Fianna Fáil is down 2 per cent to 24 per cent and Fine Gael down 2 per cent to 21 per cent.

In the space of the two surveys, Fine Gael is down 9 per cent and Sinn Féin up 11 per cent, confirming a trend in other polls.

Sinn Féin secured their first seat in Dail Eireann in modern times in 1997 with 2.5% of the vote. Since then their vote and seats has increased steadily to 14% and 23 seats in 2016. Their fortunes seemed to be waning with the failure of the Northern Ireland institutions and their failure to have any influence on the Brexit debate in Westminster. However since the Brexit withdrawal deal was done and the N. Ireland institutions were restored their standing in the polls has skyrocketed in inverse proportions to the fortunes of Fine Gael.

It's not as if Fine Gael voters are switching to Sinn Féin - the two parties couldn't be further apart on policy and historic origins - but their rise reflects an overwhelming yearning for change among the electorate. 75% of the electorate say they want a change of government with half of those wanting a radical change.

Focus group research indicates that voters are unsure precisely who to vote for with some opting largely for a change of personnel, not policy, in the shape of Fianna Fail, and others opting for more radical change in the shape of Sinn Féin, the Greens, the Labour party or a number of smaller left wing parties.

Sinn Féin have recent unveiled a relatively radical election manifesto promising support for a referendum on Irish unity, tax reductions on the lower paid, and increasing public expenditure on housing, healthcare, childcare, education, pensions, support for small farmers and sustainable energy projects. The cost, estimated at €22 Billion is about twice the "fiscal space" estimated by the Department of Finance to be available for public expenditure on the assumption of 3% growth p.a. over the next five years and the excess is only partly funded by higher taxes on high earners and corporations.

Naturally Fianna Fail and Fianna Gael have criticised the proposals as being economically unsustainable and putting the recovery of the economy at risk. The independent and conservative Irish Fiscal Advisory Council goes much further and warns that downside risks such a Brexit, changes in global corporate taxation rules, trade wars and a global economic downturn put all these projections at risk. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have responded by promising much lower public expenditure increases and to putting money aside in a "rainy day fund." The Sinn Féin proposals allow for no such caution.

But the other problem is more political. Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have pledged not to form a coalition with Sinn Féin because of their relatively recent association with violence both north and south of the border. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have also pledged not to coalesce with each other (thus exposing the lack of policy space between them and handing the role of leadership of the opposition to Sinn Féin). Leo Varadker, at one point, appeared to offer a coalition to Fianna Fail but has since rowed back presumably after a backlash by party supporters.

We could therefore be left with the scenario of the three largest parties by far dominating the Dail but none having the numbers to form a stable government. Even a massive further swing to Sinn Féin wouldn't resolve that problem as the party, possibly fearing earlier polls indicating a collapse in their vote, have nominated only 42 candidates (compared to FF (84) and FG (82) which puts a ceiling on the number of seats they can win in the 160 seat chamber.

That may seem like a colossal blunder, but their surge is a recent phenomenon and the Irish 3,4, or 5 seat constituency single transferable vote system puts a premium on not nominating too many candidates as these tend to disperse the party vote and result in "leakage" to other party or independent candidates. Also, historically, Sinn Féin have underperformed their polls as their younger and poorer voter base have had a propensity to turn out less and their candidates have tended to be less "transfer friendly" - i.e. have benefited less from lower preference votes transferred from other party candidates on their elimination.

So the central scenario, based on current polling numbers, is that Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin will all win c. 40 seats with the remaining 40 divided between Labour, Greens, Social Democrats and plethora of smaller parties and independent candidates. Without a coalition or confidence and supply arrangement between two of the big three, no new Government will be possible, and we may well face new elections within a few months.

Ireland is thus following a European pattern of a decline in the old centre right and centre left "big tent" parties, a splintering of the political system, and a rise of more nationalist parties focused on national identity and populist policies which the establishment says are unsustainable and irresponsible.

Polling isn't until next Saturday and there is always the possibility of a last minute swing to one party or the other. Fine Gael are desperately trying to swing the conversation toward the dangers of Brexit and the performance of the economy, two areas where they are widely seen to have performed well. Fianna Fail is putting the emphasis on public health and housing where the government is seen to have failed, and both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are hoping their more middle class electorate will take fright at Sinn Féin's more radical proposals.

Of the smaller parties, the Greens, Labour and Social Democrats are also expected to do well and gain a few of seats. Independents are expected to be the big losers but if the swing against Fine Gael continues, they could also be big losers. It all depends on how much change the electorate really wants, and who eventually turns out to vote.


An even more disastrous poll for FF and FG, and MRBI are probably the most reputable pollster in Ireland ATM. Sinn Fein will be kicking themselves that they didn't field more candidates. RTE have now also included Sinn Fein party leader, Mary Lou McDonald, in a three way debate with Leo Varadker and Micheal Martin Tuesday night. It had been planned as as Leo vs. Micheal head to head. I will probably miss that debate as I will be attending a meeting of candidates in my own Wicklow constituency.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 4th, 2020 at 12:46:36 AM EST
In case anybody is wondering what my attitude to Sinn Fein is, its complicated!

On the one hand its not long ago since they were but the political front for an underground army which had understandable origins but which committed many atrocities in the North and some in the south as well. There is some debate over whether Sinn Fein is still under the effective control of shadowy figures on the "Army Council" even now.

On the other hand, the IRA did commit to the peace process and we have had relative peace for 25 years and Sinn Fein spear-headed the process of converting an armed struggle into a political process. Some of the old IRA men went into organised crime and vigilante groups but have been disowned by Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein itself, from having had strains of far right nationalist ideologues in its ranks has transformed itself into the leading left-wing party in Ireland - especially in the south - with a genuinely progressive policy platform. There are still instances of councillors and TDs resigning from its ranks due to intimidation and threats, and a new Party Aontu has been formed by an ex-TD who disagreed with their liberal stance on abortion and other issues.

Their local councillor once tried to intimidate me when I was chairman of the local community council and campaigning against CRH - one of the largest construction materials companies in the world - quarrying illegally in a natural heritage site (containing the remains of a Norman ring fort) -  and using their old quarries for the illegal dumping of waste materials - including radioactive hospital waste, thereby putting the town groundwater at risk. It seemed as if CRH had certain councillors and Council staff in its pocket.

So you can understand why I am still wary of the party and why FF, FG, the Labour Party and the Social Democrats have all said they won't work with Sinn Fein.

That said, there is a certain hypocrisy expecting Unionists in the North to work with them while we won't. So at some point you have to respect their democratic mandate and work with them whether you like it or not.

I suspect that point will be reached if they get anything close to 25% of the vote.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 4th, 2020 at 11:35:45 AM EST
Seen by Politico.eu (YMMV):

Why Sinn Féin is surging in the Irish election

The story of the once-fringe party's electoral surge began with the global financial crisis that crushed the Irish economy in 2008. This created the conditions for Sinn Féin to move away from its image as a single-issue party on Irish unity.

During an international bailout program that required crippling tax hikes and spending cuts, Sinn Féin positioned itself as an anti-austerity party akin to European left-wing parties like Spain's Podemos and Greece's Syriza. It also became a visible presence in street protests against Ireland's austerity measures.

Sinn Féin went on to cultivate a progressive image, campaigning prominently in favor of Ireland's landmark referendums to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015 and abortion in 2018.


For some Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael voters, preventing Sinn Féin from getting into power would be a popular move in itself. It's possible that the two parties may opt to come together in a governing arrangement once again, perhaps with the support of one of Ireland's smaller, less controversial parties, such as Labour or the Greens.
by Bernard on Tue Feb 4th, 2020 at 09:01:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Complementary headlines assert, more or less, that both FF and FG refuse SF coalition gov.
by Cat on Tue Feb 4th, 2020 at 10:45:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The first quote is on the money. As far as FF and FG getting together - that is not what their supporters want, or even what the general public want. FF and FG used to get 80% of the vote between them. Now they will do well to get 45%.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 4th, 2020 at 11:24:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Cat on Wed Feb 5th, 2020 at 02:43:58 AM EST
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 5th, 2020 at 10:49:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Wed Feb 5th, 2020 at 08:03:00 AM EST
From this side of the pond, one interesting observation is about the lack of EU-wide parties. Here in the US of A, the parties (the main two, plus most of the third parties) are largely national in scope. Some of the organization (or disorganization, in the current case of Iowa democrats) is at the state level, such as candidate selection for state and local offices, but the national party really has most of the say as to policy positions--and has a lot to say about state-selected candidates who don't align property with the national party.

Obviously the EU isn't a fully federalized setup, but given that there are members of the EU parliament who need to work together, why isn't there more EU-wide party organization?

by asdf on Wed Feb 5th, 2020 at 07:01:46 PM EST
by asdf on Wed Feb 5th, 2020 at 07:03:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most political action still takes place at the national level so political parties are primarily focused on trying to obtain power through national parliaments. However they are also affiliated to European Party groupings in the European Parliament.

For instance:
Fine Gael is part of the European Peoples party (centre right Christian democrats)
Fianna Fail is part of  the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party
Sinn Fein is part of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left party
and Labour is aligned with the European socialists

There is quite a lot of policy coordination and cooperation between national parties within these European groupings, but the real power is still vested in the EU Council (made up of prime ministers) and the European Commission (made up of Government nominees - usually ex prime ministers or cabinet ministers of the ruling parties in each country).

It's not as centralised as the USA, but within the constraints of the Treaties, national states within the EU are still sovereign. Alao the EU budget is only 1-2% of U GDP compared to the Federal Budget which is c. 20% of GDP.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 5th, 2020 at 11:30:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US federal government was pretty weak until they passed the income tax amendment in 1909.
by asdf on Thu Feb 6th, 2020 at 12:38:05 AM EST
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by Cat on Thu Feb 6th, 2020 at 12:38:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought it was common knowledge.
by asdf on Thu Feb 6th, 2020 at 03:19:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The origins of federal growth are in the Constitutional Convention. But the modern [!] period of growth began with the Progressive Era before World War I
Would that include the period between the first Great Depression (1874 ± 24 mo.) and US entry into WWI (1917)? Formation of the reactionary Progressive Party around Wm. Jennings Bryan and fists fulla silver dollars?

huh. It's true. Metalheads prefer FRB birth in 1913 for every calamity of liberty not specified in the Federalist Papers. Far and few between is the reader familiar with the history of US federal customs tariffs, property taxes [1], [2], [3], [4], and personal income tax collections. Prior to 1913.

No wonder most Americans oppose reparations for slavery.

Me? I always peg it, growth of US federal gov, to the series of acts between 1861-1863--although 1789 was a seminal year for US federal treasury bonds issuance and surety--full faith and credit blah blah spanish dollar blah. The Constitution, to be sure, damaged states' and private bankers deposit and currency businesses, but didn't kill them. For that  there was unregulated, international (FX, rail, and real estate) "investment banking" panics and depressions over the next 50 years.

by Cat on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 12:58:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The phrase for which you might be searching to describe inter-state structure of US political parties' organization imposed on EU governance is

transnational list

such that a political association (club, party), eg. Green, FG, En March, CDU, etc., maintains a nomination committee in each of the EU (nation) states for the purpose of controling candidatures for EU gov public offices, for example, EP seats apportioned to each, every, (nation) state; more pertinent, to consolidate legislative authorities in its party institutional apparatus viz. executive prerogative and reduce or eliminate minority associations and policy credentials among and between each (nation) states' political divisions.

by Cat on Thu Feb 6th, 2020 at 12:37:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even US Federal institutions are populated using elections organised a state level - e.g. Congress, Senate, Presidential electoral college. I think we are a long way off transnational lists within the EU, but they have their advocates.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 6th, 2020 at 12:51:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The function of state committees for each of these private political organizations (corporations, club, association, party) operates on every political division of that state: The two "market participants" monopolize elected (and appointed) offices, colloq "up and down ballot". Conversely, each state's legislature, divided into the two parties representatives, control electoral process--not least of which voters' eligibility--within that state. Were the parties' representatives in the US Congress to grant themselves that authority constitutionally reserved to the states (an DNC initiative which I have denounced), the sham of a democractic polity would completely collapse around the republic, which it is.

Wounding the vanities of some pubic intellectuals and prolific authors of fiction.

Indeed, (nation) states that constitute the EP resist incorporation of their sovereign prerogatives and powers into an unelected executive body politic. This condition--weakness of EU gov--is the principle barrier to transnational organization by "elites."

by Cat on Fri Feb 7th, 2020 at 11:32:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US has been moving, step by step, away from the original republican system for quite a while. There's lots of enthusiasm for popularly elected presidents, for example.

The entire system will require re-work when the climate catastrophe becomes obvious enough.

65 degrees F in Antarctica isn't enough, though, apparently...

by asdf on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 01:11:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US has been moving, step by step, away from the original republican system. The very one that consumed its junior partners in Greece.

I say again. Let Walter Scheidel draw you a picture. Your challenge, evidently, is to describe how the US Congress (1789-present) has not recreated the Roman republic --its social structures, legal institutions, Ponzi economy, cliens, protector(ates), patroni, and coloniae among the ahh united nations.

Waiting for the entire system to re-work--by WHOM?--when the climate catastrophe becomes obvious enough--to WHOM?--a strange proposition, somewhat antithetical to shady principles of Enlightenment which have seized the imaginations of doctrinaire liberals for several centuries.

By which "systemic" -ism would you prefer to address human civitas after the next crisis? Polis state has a ring to it, yes?

by Cat on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 02:43:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm pretty sure the original US system was not a clone of the Roman republic.
by asdf on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 04:12:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The founders had read Gibbon. They were aware of the problems present in the Roman state and provided some institutions, hopefully, to prevent the recurrence of those problems. The most significant difference was a written and ratified constitution. The Roman Republic had an unwritten constitution.

The second difference was that institutional tension was formally built into the system. Each of the three branches was reasonably well defined and each had its own prerogatives which each could be expected to defend. The weakness of that system has turned out to be exactly what the founders feared - extreme factional partisanship.

They could have been more explicit in defining norms of public behavior. This should, IMO, have been included in the Preamble, stating explicitly that elected officials, during their tenure, serve the public and the public interest and that serving personal interests through the power of their offices was grounds for immediate removal by impeachment. As it is at least half of the US electorate does not seem to apprehend the requirement. Public service in the public interest should have been enshrined as the highest public virtue.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 05:23:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Cat on Sun Feb 9th, 2020 at 03:14:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Feb 14th, 2020 at 11:55:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I voted for Flowers over Chris Van Ho in '16. How about you?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Feb 14th, 2020 at 11:57:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The short answer is that it isn't in the perceived interests of the national governments, therefore the "government parties", centre left and centre right, make sure it doesn't happen. It is only currently possible to register as an official EU party if you already have elected representatives in several jurisdictions, which means that only federations of national parties can exist. Having lived through an attempt at bootstrapping a genuine EU party, I can attest that the status quo is tightly locked down.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Feb 14th, 2020 at 12:31:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Cat on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 08:36:30 AM EST
Even more important than politics ...

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 04:14:55 PM EST

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 06:30:43 PM EST
by Bernard on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 07:13:58 PM EST

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 07:17:48 PM EST
Irish election: A United Ireland, a Disunited Kingdom?
"The other two have ruined everything," one voter told DW on a street in Tallaght, a major suburb of Dublin. "Why not give someone else a go?"
Brexit itself may also have become Sinn Fein's perfect storm: Not only has it locked the two larger parties into an extended problematic marriage, but it has also left the prospect of a United Ireland looking far less remote. Northern Irish voters chose Remain in the 2016 referendum but are now outside the EU anyway. Faced with the choice between two unions -- the UK or the EU -- many north of the border would choose unity with Ireland.
 "How would we pay for that?" one voter asked DW. "Sinn Fein are promising all these tax cuts now, but what happens if we take the North back in again? It costs England billions of pounds to keep that place going already. We don't have that money."
by Cat on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 09:46:21 PM EST
Irish Times: Election 2020 exit poll: FF 22%, FG 22%, SF 22% - three-way tie for share of vote

So, the two establishment parties will unite to keep out the challenger, because that's what establishments do?

by IdiotSavant on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 10:02:59 PM EST
Who knows? All we can do is wait for the count and then see who was bluffing about not going into coalition with who. Election counts are a blood sport here, so the politically engaged are going to enjoy that first.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 8th, 2020 at 10:23:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
160 total seats. min 81 declares majority to pass anything.
Irish general election: Exit poll predicts 'tie' between three main parties
It also suggests the Green Party secured 7.9% of first preference votes, followed by Labour (4.6%), Social Democrats (3.4%), Solidarity People Before Profit (2.8%). Indications are that Independents took 11.2% of first preference votes.
Will they toss coins over heads as in IOWA to decide a gov by party ?
by Cat on Sun Feb 9th, 2020 at 01:12:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by generic on Sun Feb 9th, 2020 at 05:28:35 PM EST

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