I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Steady As She Goes

Steady As She Goes

John Mulqueen
Electoral Competition in Ireland Since 1987: The Politics of Triumph and Despair, by Gary Murphy, Manchester University Press, 185 pp, ISBN: 978-0719097669 The Begrudger’s Guide to Irish Politics, published in 1986, contained a dedication to “those deluded souls who believe that this island has a foreseeable future”. Its author, Breandán Ó hEithir, compared Ireland’s dismal economic record to a smaller island, Iceland. The latter had attained a standard of living similar to Denmark’s mainly by exploiting its fisheries, which it had defended by taking on the Royal Navy during the Cod War. Thirty years later, a similar fighting spirit would be displayed in Iceland’s general election. The anti-establishment Pirates and allies – campaigning against corruption in high places – came close to securing a parliamentary majority. Across the water, mavericks of a different colour, the right-wing toffs Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, disrupted the European project by persuading many English working class voters to leave the EU. And millions of alienated Americans scorned conventional politics and put the outrageous Donald Trump into the White House. Could voters in the stable Irish state launch similar upheavals? Gary Murphy’s study of elections from Fianna Fáil’s return in 1987 to its rejection by the voters in 2011 suggests this is unlikely. And now, with the main opposition party facilitating the government, the centre continues to hold, despite the advances of Sinn Féin and various ultra-leftist groups. Fine Gael and Labour were swept into office in 2011 by an electorate shocked by the government’s performance. To avoid economic catastrophe Fianna Fáil, and the Greens, had accepted an €85 billion bailout from the much-maligned “troika” – the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank. Yet almost a quarter of a century earlier Fine Gael and Labour had been kicked out of government following a deep recession. From near-bankruptcy in 1987 to the intoxicating highs of the Celtic Tiger – peaking in 2008, before the collapse of the banks – there would be one political certainty: most Irish voters would choose a mainstream party in a general election ‑ not that they would always resist the temptation to flirt with a minor grouping or an independent, but many in this category would either disband or join a bigger party. In 2011, as in 1987, the three established parties in the state still dominated the scene. The central question in the 2011 election,…



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