Since the formation of the Irish State its government has been led by either Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or as we have now, a combination of the two. Or to put it another way, the country has only even known a right-leaning government.
Meanwhile the left has always been fragmented, marginalized and kept at arm’s length in a variety of different ways, and calling the ruling “Civil War” duopoly out has always been difficult to do without finding yourself branded as “radical”.
Well fair play to Independent TD Catherine Connolly of the Galway West constituency for not only telling both Taoiseach and Tánaiste what she thinks of their policies, but also for doing it with amazing dignity. This is what the Dáil is meant to be for, representing the people, and I’m pretty sure there are a whole lot of Irish people who would like to say those words to this pair.
Next step is convincing enough voters to elect a government that can lead us away from the FFFG mindset (and btw many include the Irish Labour Party in that, one which Connolly herself used to be a member but left in 2006).
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 10 for this piece – I wonder will anyone score higher between now and February 8? JLP
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