[Since recording this article appeared : “Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin agree to exploratory talks“.]
FOREWORD : In this post I give my reservations of the PR:STV method of holding elections. Please don’t take them as my discouraging you from voting!!!! It’s the most important thing you can do!!!!! However flawed the method any vote is better than no vote!!!!
Ahead of today’s General Election vote, RTÉ did one of their “Montrose-splain” videos, using schoolchildren to illustrate how the PR:STV system works. Production-wise, it is excellent. Information-wise, I feel it is misleading.
First, just in case there is any doubt, I am entirely in favour of proportional representation voting. The “first past the post” system the UK insists on using isn’t just archaic, nor is it just mathematically flawed; it is downright unethical.
But PR is far from a single entity in itself. And the one used in Ireland, the “single transferable vote”, is so complicated that I reckon as many adults would need the above refresher course as much as children would. Unfortunately, to create their simplified example in the video, RTÉ have both left out and glossed over some of the method’s most undemocratic aspects.
First and foremost, in the example above, there are only two seats on offer, and the “parties” are each running just the one candidate. This means that you cannot have the practices we see today, where the bigger parties run two or more candidates in a constituency and “manage” their voters in an effort to get more than one over the line.
I remember watching some RTÉ election day punditry in years gone by when Willie O’Dea was being interviewed from his Limerick constituency. He topped the poll by a whopping majority, yet rather than be congratulated by his fellow party member Dermot Ahern who was in the studio, the former Foreign Minister gave out to him for not manipulating his loyal voters to make sure a second FF candidate also got a seat.
People should be able to vote for the candidate they want – it’s not rocket science, although as far as election methods go, PR:STV does a decent enough impression and it is totally unnecessary.
For me, the practise of parties running multiple candidates in the same constituency is almost as undemocratic as first past the post. The principal benefit of PR is meant to derive from the fact that voters choose an alternative ideology to their first one, yet with our brand of STV, most of those who vote FF or FG with their first pick will tend to also use it for their second. And to those who say “What if a they don’t like any of the other candidates?” I give this simple answer : “You are free not to offer a second preference”.
All of which means that RTÉ’s truncated scenario is actually more ideal. Two, possibly three, seats should be the maximum in any area. So rather than having 39 constituencies many with 4 or 5 to produce 155 TDs, why not have all 2- and 3- seat ones in around 50 (with a stipulation that no party may run more than one member in each) to produce around 150 TDs or less?
Well it’s not as though my post is going to change the process, but I do believe it should be up for debate. I sense a degree of smugness from general opinion that our system is democratic while the British one is not and if that’s the consensus, and I reckon it should be challenged for two reasons : 1) Do we have to judge everything we do by comparing it to what they do?, and 2) while no method of voting is 100% ideal, I think we can do better than our current brand of PR:STV.
One final point – I really, really want someone to explain to me why I’m wrong, and no doubt someone can. I thought someone was going to make a cogent defense in a twitter thread yesterday but they stopped replying. JLP
Mr Varadkar said he was very concerned about the case of a man who was seriously injured after the tent he was sleeping in was removed from the banks of the Grand Canal by an industrial vehicle.Housing issue dominates first day of election campaign
Paul Cunningham RTÉ.ie
Now that #GE20 is underway I’m planning to keep an eye on the national media outlets to see how they are covering the campaign trail, just to see how balanced the coverage is. For this first installment I have to say things were better than I expected.
On RTÉ’s Nine O’clock news Wednesday, the election featured third in their running order although the piece was related to the second story, about a homeless man who was badly injured by an industrial vehicle which was cleaning a canal area and apparently didn’t know the man was still in his makeshift tent.
This provided a segué into their election coverage as Leo Varadkar was questioned about it on the campaign trail, and in his remarks he suggested a statement from the Lord Mayor of Dublin was appropriate. In response, Micheál Martin accused the Taoiseach of politicising the tragedy since the Mayor is currently from Fianna Fáil.
After watching the quotes from the two men I thought “this is typical – on a classic progressive issue here’s the two Civil War parties finding a way to argue over anything BUT the search for real solutions.”. But to be a little fair to our national broadcaster, for this topic they did at least broaden the scope of opinion.
We also heard from Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who outlined his party’s plans to allocate actual money to address the problem of homelessness by way of improved social housing. The problem with that, of course, is that it’s all very well saying what you;d do if your party held a majority in the Dáil, but the odds of that are slim and none.
Eamonn Ryan of the Greens also chimed in, saying that this was a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Finally Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin appeared more interested in having a pop at RTÉ (re exclusion from debates, something I’d agree with her on if that were the topic) rather than comment on the situation at hand, although it is very possible that the clip was selectively edited.
So no progressive opinion in this piece, although Independent Councillor Anthony Flynn was interviewed for his opinion on the unfortunate homeless man.
As far as I’m concerned, any kind of election coverage that looks for opinion beyond the “Big Two” parties is an achievement by the Irish corporate media. I’ll give them 6 out of 6 for this piece – I wonder will anyone score higher between now and February 8? JLP
Saturday, February 8. Just a few weeks for the Republic to discuss the issues of the day and vote for representatives in what will be the 33rd Dáil. Absolutely shocking.
Traditionally it is the sitting Taoiseach who gets to set the date, and I have no problem with this. But let’s be clear on what has actually happened in recent weeks – Leo Varadkar was consulting heavily with the so-called leader of the opposition Micheál Martin over the timing of the election.
Why? Because they have been in a virtual coalition government, that’s why. The official terminology is “confidence and supply” but the reality is that by abstaining on votes for legislation, Fianna Fáil have effectively been supporting Varadkar’s agenda. Now we are suddenly expected to see them as rivals yet again, while those who are actually offering a real alternative to the electorate are left on the outside.
Then there’s our system of voting on these shores. In my opinion, the “PR:STV” method we employ, while it includes the words “proportional representation” in its title and thus creates the illusion of being inclusive, is actually anything but.
In my opinion, offering voters the opportunity to choose a second option* does appear democratic, UNTIL you realise that most constituencies have the leading parties running multiple candidates. If you voted Fianna Fáil number 1, chances are you will also vote them number 2 if you have the chance. So, much like the infamous “first past the post” system used in the UK, the non-establishment parties are generally shut out.
What I would prefer is for something like a merger between the two systems. Currently there are 158 seats. Rather than 3-, 4- and 5- seat constituencies, I would have 158 x 1 seat ones (actually I’d prefer fewer TDs, maybe 150 or less). THEN we can use a simple PR method of voting where there is infinitely less confusion over counts, surpluses and transfers, plus we know for sure that over 50% of voters chose the winner. And to be clear – although I favour progressive candidates, should we employ this method and the FF/FG duopoly still prevailed, I could hardly complain about it, could I.
Anyway, that is of course more of a technical matter – what lies ahead right now is a shortened election campaign, with the ridiculous posters already going up on lamp posts within 24 hours of the announcement being made.
I’m going to do my best to follow the “campaign trail” as best as I can over the coming weeks and see what kind of promises these people will be making (if any) plus how the Irish media is covering it all. JLP
* – yes I know we can also vote for 3,4 and 5 etc but seriously, how critical are those choices when it comes to your ballot being counted?
The election could be held within a month, analysts suggest.Varadkar and Martin to meet amid election speculation – BBC.com
Some, nay many, may scoff at my using the BBC as a source for my post on Irish politics, but our mainstream media here is so complicit in the goings on at the very top that I feel it actually helps us to be reminded every so often in black and white terms.exactly how our government has been run for the past few years.
Why does Fine Gael need Fianna Fáil’s votes?
The results of the Irish general election in May 2016 failed to secure Fine Gael a majority government.
To form a government – a process which took more than two months – Fine Gael sought a confidence-and-supply agreement with opposition party Fianna Fáil.
Both parties are electoral rivals.
But the agreement has seen Fianna Fáil facilitate the passage of four budgets by the minority administration.
This agreement was extended in December 2018 for one more year, which ensured a general election could not be held before 2020.
Just to tack on my personal commentary, their so-called ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement took two months to thrash out because the result of the 2016 election posed a very real threat to the Civil War parties’ duopoly on Irish government. Either party could have formed a majority coalition were they able to persuade enough parties to go with them, yet as it turned out they could only do a deal with each other.
This to all intents and purposes is a coalition government, yet since they need the general public to believe they are mortal enemies as opposed to basically the same party, they conjured up this “confidence and supply” concept to prolong the illusion.
All of which results in the general assumption that Micheál Martin, despite being a prominent member of the blatantly corrupt Ahern/Cowen Celtic Tiger era, is effectively Taoiseach in waiting.
Unless all those keen to break the stranglehold of the “electoral rivals” on Irish government decide to show up on election day, that is. JLP
“The Universal Social Charge (USC) will not be abolished in the next five years, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said. Mr Martin has made clear the charge will continue for the full duration of the next Government’s term.”Martin: USC ‘will not be axed in next 5 years’ : Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner
Happy New Decade, and once again, apologies for the long gap in posting. Things were happening and online priority had to be given to our other site.
But now, our 2020 New Year’s resolution dictates that at a bare minimum we should have 5 posts on Irish politics every 7 days between now and the General Election, and to kick things off, I have been drawn to this article in the Irish Examiner which starts with a pair of jaw-dropping sentences as far as I’m concerned.
This country has been in a political trance for decades now, with the general public fully convinced that the only alternatives for government are the so-called “established” parties. Since FG have been in power since 2011, the air of inevitability that it is now FF’s ‘turn’ is, quite frankly, terrifying, especially when you consider they have been led by a member of the exact same inept government that Enda Kenny used to get into power in the first place. And even then, it was considered his party’s “turn”.
When is this ridiculous cycle going to be broken? When are we going to realise that while the “Civil War parties” may be alternatives for each other, they are certainly not alternatives for the country?
Over the coming months we plan to explore the current political scene here in Ireland with a view to examining the media coverage of the issues, the parties, the candidates and most importantly, the persuading of the general public to actually get out and vote.