Picture credit: Irish Government Information Service
Artillery Row

Ireland’s political stagnation

Ireland is stuck in political stalemate, with few viable alternatives on offer

Ireland is a nation in crisis, in more ways than one.

On a practical level, the country is mired in a crippling housing crisis, homelessness crisis, and healthcare crisis, which have shamed the State for at least a decade, and which have consistently ranked as the most pressing issues on the agenda of voters for years. 

Not only that, but crime continues to spiral out of control, to the extent that entire bus routes have been suspended in the capital city by unions due to grotesque levels of anti-social behaviour and violence. 

The police can’t retain or recruit enough members to sustain their ranks due to frequent attacks on officers, and the prisons are frequently packed to capacity.

The military is haemorrhaging troops at an unsustainable rate. The border is made of swiss cheese, with illegal immigration rife. The agriculture and fishing sectors are being progressively choked by EU regulations and radical climate targets. And none of this has been lost on voters, who have become increasingly frustrated with the non-stop disasters.

Perhaps worst of all, the ruling government in Dublin, instead of doing anything meaningful to address these concerns, continues to eagerly double down on many failed policies despite their clear unpopularity. People have been getting progressively more sick of politically-correct pandering at the expense of real issues for years.

So looking at this situation prima facie, one would naturally assume that the current government coalition — made up of the parties Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens — must be in deep electoral trouble. After all, Ireland has an election rumoured to be coming up in 2024, and in a normal political system, failure on this scale would almost certainly lead to the culprits being turfed out and replaced by voters at the first opportunity — right?

Well, not so fast — last week Ireland’s Taoiseach, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, expressed his view that there’s a “very good chance” his government will be re-elected despite it all. And when you think about it, he’s probably right.

Currently, the only serious rival to the government parties are the far-Left socialist populists in Sinn Féin — Ireland’s biggest opposition party. Sinn Féin had historic success at the last general election in 2020, and until very recently were rising in the polls consistently. Their rise seemed so inexorable, in fact, that some even said that their ultimate victory was a foregone conclusion — “not if, but when.”

However, since late last year, the party has been regularly stalling in the polls on and off, and in some cases even going backwards and losing points

While it’s impossible to attribute this to any one issue, this is likely due partly to the fact that they have rowed in behind the government’s open borders immigration plans, even as liberal immigration policies elicit significant backlash in Sinn Féin strongholds like Dublin’s East Wall. They similarly voted for the government’s hate speech bill, which has also met significant resistance due to widespread fears of abuse and censorship. And they recently called for a new law in Northern Ireland to ensure that puberty blockers can be given to children.

So, in other words, all of the politically-correct mumbo jumbo that is frustrating voters about the current Irish government is equally applicable to Sinn Féin, and people are becoming aware of that fact. Which makes it harder to vote for the opposition, when you know they support the same policies that you’re running from (or worse).

As such, when you look at the current polling, Sinn Féin does not have anywhere near enough seats to form a government. Based on the latest polling, if there was an election tomorrow, Sinn Féin would receive 33.5 per cent of the vote, which would be dwarfed by the current coalition’s combined 44 per cent. 

Even if they were to team up with all of Ireland’s other far-Left micro-parties — the Social Democrats, Labour, and People Before Profit — that would still only bring Sinn Féin to a total 43.5 per cent — still less than the ruling establishment.

And all of that is assuming that these parties even agreed to go into coalition with Sinn Féin, which is a big if. People Before Profit, a self-described “Marxist” party, are a group of radical-Left ideological purists who would fall out with their own shadow over the smallest difference. And many on the Irish Left see Labour as traitors and sellouts to the Leftwing cause, as they once went into coalition with the historically “conservative” parties, which some said caused them to “sell their soul.” 

As such, in the unlikely event that these groups did agree to team up, the coalition would be remarkably unstable and would likely fracture at the first disagreement — “People’s Front Of Judea” stuff. 

Meanwhile, the Irish anti-establishment Right is still (generally speaking) very disorganised and made up of rag-tag micro-parties that will struggle to mount any kind of feasible alternative. With a few notable exceptions, they are currently spinning their wheels. And even if a faction did tremendously well and won seats, it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to form a government.

One possible wildcard is the small but vocal Rural Independent Group, which contains several rural members of parliament who are significantly more conservative than their counterparts, and regularly vote against radical bills and policies. They have vowed to run more candidates like themselves at the next election, and if they secured enough seats, may go into coalition with the government in place of the Green Party to steer the country in a less woke direction. 

But barring that, a return of the current crop in more or less their current form is actually quite plausible, even despite everything that’s happened.

It’s not that most people support the current parties — they don’t. But a lack of reasonable alternatives may well result in a continuation of the status quo. Don’t think that all of the backlash automatically means the government will be turfed out — unless an alternative group or party seriously gets their act together, we may well be looking at another 5 years of the same.

I am personally extremely optimistic about the long term direction of the country. I don’t think “it’s over” or that “we’re screwed” — tangible resistance is bubbling up, and there’s a very live, tantalising possibility of turning things around. Just not at the next election, barring some huge unforeseen change. As much as people hate the status quo, the country is stuck in the mud politically, and it’ll be years before a viable option is available.

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