In 2016 (and 2011, actually) Village editorialised, “You would think from our recent history of some of the most notoriously bad governance on the planet, that we would have learnt that our political classes need to be replaced. In fact, this election time we see no new ideas”.
Sadly democracy in Ireland needs an overhaul every bit as much now as it did in 2016 and 2011. Village remains disappointed at the quality of politics, across the range.
The parties are again fairly easily characterised:
Fine Gael is a centre-right party with an obsession with observing the rights of property that has failed to establish an enticing vision, especially socially and environmentally, of Irish society. In nine years in government it has failed abjectly on housing where there are 10,000 homeless and health where there are more than 500,000 on outpatient waiting lists. It has a tendency to indulge nastiness against the most vulnerable on issues from social welfare to immigration rights. Though heralded as economically competent it is not clear that it was wise for it to facilitate a hard Brexit.
Labour never does what its progressive manifestos promise. Worse, a number of its senior TDs appear ideologically jaded. Because of the elasticity of its conscience Labour has long attracted the wrong type of representatives.
Fianna Fáil is tainted by its reckless and corrupt past and the incoherence of its platform. It believes serving the people, parish and business in equal measure is viable. It has an attractive leader in Micheál Martin though one who only belatedly seemed to demur from the shenanigans of Charlie Haughey and Bertie Ahern under whom he served. Its centre-left incarnation disguises regressive and socially conservative tendencies.
Sinn Féin’s manifesto commitment to a Left agenda is impressive but precarious bearing in mind its preference for irredentist nationalism over ideology, its centrist pragmatism in the North and especially its willingness to coalesce with Fianna Fáil or even Fine Gael. It has been ambivalent about democracy and transparency, and its leaders lie casually about its, and the IRA’s, past. It has not fully accepted an environmental agenda.
Village has had a weakness for the Social Democrats, whose mild but sensible platform is essentially the same as Labour’s, but it has probably blown its chance by personality frictions and policy divisions between an old guard centred on quality of life and a younger cohort focused on identity politics.
The radical Left offers the huge appeal of integrity and seriousness but its opposition to property taxes is inexcusable, and its focus on opposition to the loathed water taxes rather than a broader anti-inequality platform, including opposition to the iniquities of Nama, corruption and the resurrection of the developer classes wasted time and energy and diverted its revolutionary ideology. As Oisín Coulter’s piece shows it may be happy avoiding power.
The Green Party’s policies are often radical, and its agenda mature, but it is not hard-minded and the implications of its failure to realise how little it achieved the last time it was in government means it is difficult to be enthusiastic.
The Independent Alliance (or whatever it’s called, formerly Shane Féin) is utterly incoherent of policy and membership; and appears moribund.
Village believes promoting equality of outcome, sustainability and accountability are the most important policies; and it is difficult to be optimistic about their immediate Irish prospects. A radical new venture is needed.
Against this backdrop, we would again not presume to advise readers precisely where to direct their votes.
However, we can say the non-ideological, non-visionary parties of the pragmatic centre hold little appeal, even when the non-vision seems to be a slightly left-of-centre non-vision.
A coalition of the parties of the Left, radical Left and the Greens would, as always, best promote Village’s agenda, if no doubt imperfectly.