Thursday, February 25, 2010

The 30th Dáil is Doomed - What Chance Electoral Reform?

The Green Party - it'll take more than an umbrella to save them from the delugeThe 30th Dáil is doomed. It bears the unmistakable mark of Cain. An Spailpín Fánach cannot see the Government lasting until the summer. Even Easter might now be a bridge too far. "Events" happen, and Governments fall. This is the lesson of history.

Does anybody really believe that the Albert Reynolds Government was hiding a paedophile priest? That’s the issue that brought it down. The end of a Taoiseach that established the peace process and talked the IRA into laying down their arms. It fell over nothing. Political pouting and posturing. Over the cliff it went.

Six months ago, the three huge hurdles the Government faced were Lisbon, NAMA and the rotting reputation of Ireland abroad. Lisbon was passed, NAMA has been passed and an article in the Economist at the start of the year suggested that Ireland had at least managed to put on the brakes in its economic decline, in a way that Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain have not.

And now it’s all about to go wallop. The Greens are broken. They’ve spent two and a half years in Room 101 and they’re just not able for it any more. They may have calmed down somewhat over this extraordinary Trevor Sargent business, but the next bump in the road will explode the bus. There’s no way Paul Gogarty will hold his water to see this thing through.

And then a Fine Gael / Labour coalition will go in, and they’ll find out very quickly just how hard it is to keep all these corks under water. To say nothing of Eamon Gilmore’s problem with several union leaders expecting their man to deliver happier times. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

But the worst thing is that there may be no other way. The last non-Fianna Fáil government was elected in 1982, twenty-eight years ago. And in an adversarial democratic system, that’s too long to wield power. It is.

The problem is that the opposition have failed to provide an alternative, other than “at least we’re not the other crowd.” And that’s not good enough.

Therefore, An Spailpín suggests that electoral reform be the first question on every householder’s lips when the canvassers come to call. Ask all candidates what they will do to introduce electoral reform in this country. The answer will be a big fat nothing of course, but all we can do is hope that word will percolate back to the top brass that there are votes in this. Nothing gets politicians attention quite like that.

The second thing to hope for is that somebody can rise in the system, as Gorbachev did in the Soviet Union, who is willing to destroy the system that made him for the greater good, and draw a line under the civil war and clientelist politics for ever. There is, of course, no sign of that now, but then nobody saw Gorbachev coming in the USSR either. It’s not much to believe in, but right now it’s about all we have.

In the meantime, An Spailpín’s advice is to stock up on the non-perishable goods and prepare for hard times. Fianna Fáil certainly created the mess, but they’ve been doing their best to repair the damage. But that’s not how we judge politics or politicians in this country. Up Glawngreeshkeen and to hell with the country.

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