Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Getting My Irish (political knowledge) Up-Spent some time today getting somewhat of a handle on Irish politics, it's interesting. The James Reuben Haney links are useful, as was more official links. Ireland has an election coming up this spring. Like Britain and Canada, the constitution mandates an election every five years or less and the last election was July 1997. May 9th is mentioned as a likely date. The lower house is elected on a proportional basic in 3-5 seat Constituencies. Let’s see if I get Irish politics-the current ruling party is the conservative Fianna Fail party, ruling in coalition with the more libertarian-leaning (at least less Catholic) Progressive Democrats. Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern is the Prime Minister or Taoiseach. On the right, this reminds me of the Christian Democrat/Free Democrat coalition commonly seen in Germany. The left is more splintered than in Germany- The main center-left party is Fine Gael, whose poll numbers are dwindling, losing ground to the Labor, Greens and Sinn Fein (the IRA socialist party). The fear that many Fine Gael voters have is that Sinn Fein might get enough seats to make a center-left government impossible without them; if Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein make up a majority, and Sinn Fein is persona-non-grata, then Fianna Fail would have to be in the government. This would then make Irish politics look like Cold-War era Italian politics, with a Christian Democrats forming coalitions with everyone but the Communists, staying in power for all of the post WWII era until the disintegration of the party in the early 90’s. [Correction 1/31-I had the Labor party as a desendant of the old Sinn Fein-it's the Worker's party that was old Sinn Fein-thank JRH for the correction. This is a bit "ahistoric", since I just boned up on the current stuff for now] If you see Haney trashing Noonan, he’s not going after Peggy, but Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan. Noonan seems to be pandering to various coalition partners, with many people fearing that they might consider supping with Sinn Fein. The Web sites of the two parties seem telling, with a more confident Fianna Fail site contrasting with the position-paper neolib Fine Gael site. Fine Gael seems to remind me too much of American "New Democrats"; they're not sure whether to be socialists or free-marketeers, somewhat morally traditional but afraid to be moralistic. One doesn't lead by position-paper, and that seems to be what Fine Gael seems to be doing. For more secular free marketeers, like JRH, the seeming implosion of Fine Gael leaves them with the small Progressive Democrats or holding their nose and voting Fianna Fail.

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