It looks almost certain that Fianna Fáil, the party that has dominated Irish politics since independence, is not just going to lose power – it will be well and truly crushed, with exit polls putting it at 15%, in third place behind Fine Gael (the right-wing opposition party) at 36% and Labour (the main party of the left in Ireland, which has never come better than third in a national election) at over 20%. That would leave it on under 30 seats, and possibly even under 20, its worst result ever and an absolute catastrophe for the traditional party of power, which won 77 seats out of the 166 in Ireland’s lower house (officially known as Dáil Éireann) in 2007, which has never held less than 60 seats since 1932, and has been the largest political grouping in the country in every single election since 1932. It is fairly certain that Enda Kenny, current Fine Gael leader, will soon become Taoiseach (Prime Minister), probably in a coalition with Labour.
It’s a political tsunami, in the words of former government minister Batt O’Keefe, and one in which I’m revelling, if I’m honest. As I’ve said in previous posts, Fianna Fáil is a corrupt, soul-less, populist party that’s never actually stood for anything except winning elections. It’s a classic dominant ‘centrist’ party, similar to Italy’s Democrazia Cristiana (which dominated Italy’s politics until the early 1990s), which can be socialist and liberal, conservative and progressive, depending on how the political winds blow and which minor party it needs to ally with to hang onto power. It’s an anachronism, a symbol of the parish pump politics that involves short-term pandering to local concerns while completely ignoring the broader, longer-term issues and challenges that the country faces. And while the economic catastrophe that Ireland is currently experiencing was provoked by events overseas, that it was as bad, as deep and as painful as it has turned out to be is entirely the fault of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, current head of government Brian Cowen, and their party’s approach to politics and governing. So, as I’ve said before, their political destruction is entirely deserved.
Anyway, RTE has live updates that are definitely worth following if you can’t get to a TV that has Irish channels, and you can also listen to coverage on RTE Radio 1 and Newstalk to get a sense of what’s going on.