The two largest right-wing parties have won the General Election. Between them, they have more than enough seats to form a stable government. But that would permanently end the Punch and Judy act that has sustained them for decades.
No other combination of parties can form a stable government.
Despite this, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael intend to spend a month or two playing with numbers in an effort to best one another. The game requires deals with Independents and a brawl over nominations for Taoiseach.
The media loves this game and will facilitate the right-wing parties in trying to get us excited about it, as though democracy is a glorified TV reality show.
In this context, let us try to figure out what might be stirring the Irish people.
The electorate is changing. There are many who still vote as they always did, out of tribal loyalty to a party or out of parochial loyalty to a local politician.
But there’s something new. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Perhaps there’s now a sizeable block of younger people who expect more than the Punch and Judy act.
Material things matter, but maybe today’s young have an idealistic streak that was all too rare in the past. Perhaps some among us older ones are sick of being the patsy.
Enda Kenny loves to tell us he has redeemed the reputation of this country. That is not true.
We had the reputation of a country brought to its knees by a reckless political class committed to serving greedy bankers and builders. Today, Ireland’s reputation is that of a tax whore.
The Taoiseach tells us we’re not a tax haven. There are, he says, no brass-plate operations in the IFSC. But we know the truth.
We know that right across the world, from here to the US Senate, it is understood that we have been pimped out by a political and financial class who offer the use of the country for any dodgy practice if the price is right.
Hey, Big Boy, fancy a Double Irish?
Throughout the EU and further afield, we are known for kissing the ass of anyone who might do us favours. In return, we forego our rights. We are known for our cowardice when the likes of Trichet and Geithner come to bully us. Not strategic deference – cowardice.
At the United Nations in 2014, we voted against regulating vulture capital that preys on developing nations. Again, kissing up, kicking down.
Perhaps the younger generation values this country more than that. Perhaps reflecting on the 1916 centenary has something to do with it. Perhaps more of us know that others of our kind once had higher hopes.
There was a time when the promise of a few cent off income tax would win the loyalty of voters. That was the basis of the recent Fine Gael/Labour campaign. And voters threw it back in the politicians’ faces.
Perhaps for many, cheap appeals to greed aren’t enough any more.
We are warned on all sides. Stick to the old firm, trust your leaders.
RTE has been wheeling out relics from the Museum of Useless Politicians We Thought Had Fecked Off Ages Ago – one by one and in bunches, to nod out from our screens and tell us this is how things were always done, this is how things must always be done.
Flyboy Michael O’Leary comes forth to warn us to ignore the “lunatics” who say fresh thinking is urgently needed. And we ask ourselves, has Michael ever strung together a single sentence in public that didn’t have the primary aim of protecting his personal interests and those of his multi-millionaire set?
Ibec warns us to stick to the right-wing course. Ibec prides itself on defending ‘business’. But there is business and business – and not all businesses are equal in the eyes of Ibec.
The small business that makes, distributes or sells, the medium-sized business that provides services, have different interests from the banks who dominate Ibec.
And ‘upward-only’ rent reviews aren’t the only such difference.
The austerity that Ibec championed benefited the banks and attacked the spending power of the customer base of countless small businesses, who, in turn, were driven to the wall.
When I hear of Ibec, I think “bankers”. You may think of a slightly different word.
A bunch of ‘business chiefs’ wrote a public letter promising us a bright future if we stick to the current right-wing course. I Googled the top signatory – his salary varied between €2.45m and €4.1m.
Successful man, no doubt, by his own lights. But his interests are hardly those of the rest of us. Most of those who signed that letter had Ibec connections.
The Irish Examiner last week summed up the fears of the right wing, warning we must not “surrender this country to socialist extremists whose policies would set us back decades, wreck our economy and the social fabric it sustains”.
Right-wing thinking wholly dominated the economic and political culture that created the bubble and the crash. It dominated the ‘recovery’. It won the election.
It created a country with a craven reputation, where medics warn that austerity-driven waiting lists are killing people; where emergency departments are declared dangerous by the people who run them.
The ‘social fabric’ has been shredded, as the banks push up the numbers driven from their homes and queues form for food parcels. Pregnant homeless women plead for shelter.
Last week, Dr Austin O’Carroll told RTE of the terminally ill homeless man in his forties who is turned out of his hostel every morning and must spend the day walking the streets.
The Right who dominate this country have been unable to provide a dying man with a place to lay his head and collect his thoughts. But that’s okay, as long as the country doesn’t fall into the hands of those left-wing extremists.
We have a right-wing Minister for Health, who has sincerely said he believes that depriving hospitals of resources will make them more efficient.
We have a right-wing Minister for Water Tax, who says he is addicted to power and whose grotesque involuntary celebration of victory over his constituency rivals revealed his disturbing mindset.
We have a right-wing Minister for Finance, held in utter esteem by his party, who in the recent election got his figures wrong by two billion. All the while muttering: “Here’s a few cents off yer income tax.”
We have a right-wing Taoiseach who has to be given notes, such as the one urging him to put more “empathy, empathy, empathy” into his public appearances. A man who has to be told what to say – and now what to feel.
They commissioned “modular homes”, basically boxes with windows and doors. And last week they cancelled the tender, unable to provide even this shelter.
Left-wing extremists would have put up municipal housing, as was done in the 1940s and 1950s. The homes would be built by now.
Right-wing ideology demanded that the job be given to private builders.
After wasted months, the private sector concluded it wouldn’t make enough profit and so it simply won’t build the homes.
This is what they’ve done, Punch Gael and Judy Fail; this is what they are doing; this is how they mean to continue.
source: Sunday Independent