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Help! Elections in Ireland – Who should I vote for?

In the past it was simple: Either you were the type who would vote every time (even if it is your first opportunity) or you are a non-voter. And if you are the voting type, then you probably had a good idea who you would vote for.

But after years of “same old, same old” even if the government was provided by different parties and coalitions, people are quite confused this time. Politicians promise the “sun, moon and stars” before an election and afterwards…they totally disappoint. And the shocking thing is that even the ones that we had put our hopes in will disappoint.

If they all disappoint should I even vote or just forget about it?

Yes you should definitely vote, because the people in government will – without a shadow of a doubt – influence your future quite significantly. And if you are not part of choosing them, then maybe your dim neighbour from down the road or the obnoxious guy in your company might have more control over your future than you do. Not good!

Yes, but if I decide to vote, WHO will I vote for?

Ideally you should compare your opinions with the opinions of the candidates in your constituency to know who to vote for. And there is a website that can help you (and it won’t take long). Go to whichcandidate.ie and answer the few questions about your opinions and then the system will compare it with the answers from candidates. The result will not be a perfect guideline, but might help you to find the right direction.

Can you tell me in general something about the parties?

Sure, the biggest problem in Irish politics is that there is too much of the same. So for eternity Fine Gael (FG) and Fianna Fail (FF) were the only two big parties and they were just alternating in government. FF was in government when the economic crisis happened and a lot of people swore that they will never forget that and will NEVER again vote for FF. But surprisingly (or maybe not), a few years of Fine Gael government (with FF’s full endorsement – they called it a “Confidence and Supply” agreement), now suddenly people will consider voting FF again just to get rid of FG.
Another unexpected thing happened with the emergence of Sinn Fein (SF). Sinn Fein has as bad bad past, considering their direct involvement in the Northern Ireland conflict and the ongoing criminality through their IRA links. But people are so disillusioned by FF and FG that they seemingly are prepared to gamble the house on Sinn Fein.
SF will definitely change things more significantly than any continuation of the FF/FG governments will, but the big question is if that change is not too risky.
“Protest Voting” (to punish a former government) is always a dangerous move, because the party you voted for could win the majority and consequently be in power for the next 4 years.

What about the other parties?

Labour and Greens were part of previous governments and didn’t necessarily impress back then. The Social Democrats and People Before Profit were not yet involved in governments before. All four will never become strong enough to lead the government, so yes, you can vote for some of their candidates, because a coalition will probably be a good thing for the country.

So if one of the parties are not so great, should I vote for an Independent candidate?

No, no, no, no!!! Do not vote for ANY independent candidate. IT is very odd that 20% of the people in Ireland are prepared to give independent candidates their vote because the Independents either achieve nothing or they will or they will sell their soul to the highest bidder of the other parties, which will totally compromise them. Independent candidates are MAYBE good for the constituency, but because they are only interested in getting re-elected, they have NO interest in national politics outside their constituency.

Shane Ross, an independent who helped the previous government, achieved great things for his constituency, but was the worst Minister for Transport.
Michael Lowry, who was once a minister and was kicked out of FG, has been described as “profoundly corrupt”. The Healy-Rae Candidates from Kerry are only interested in Kerry gaining from whatever they do. They couldn’t care less about the rest of Ireland.
So Independent Candidates are unreliable, change their opinion depending on who offers them most and would definitely run the country into the ground…as long as their own voters get an advantage.
Do NOT vote for Independents!!! NEVER! ;-)

Thanks for the advice, but I still am not sure who I should vote for!

I know, it is REALLY difficult this time. I could tell you who I would vote for, but you are not me and your opinions might be different than mine, so even telling you won’t help you much.
So, let me just remind you again of my main recommendations: NEVER vote for Independents. Always vote for the party (or parties) you want to see in government, never vote out of protest for a party that you don’t necessarily want to have running the country. Don’t just vote for a specific party because lots of other people say so! Make your own decision! Be aware that all three main parties (FG, FF, and SF) have a bad historical record and then decide whoever’s bad record you can live better with. Is it ruining the country in 2008 (Fianna Fail) or not making anything better in the last 8 years (Fine Gael) or is it the involvement in the killings in Northern Ireland (Sinn Fein)? You need to decide! On the positive side: Maybe Fianna Fail have learned how to do it better after 8 years in the opposition? Or Fine Gael needs more time to fix things better? Or Sinn Fein is a changed party since the Good Friday agreement?


Disclaimer: As you probably know, I am a foreigner and therefore I have no clue anyway (according to some commentators on public news forums), so because of that, feel free to discard my opinions completely. ;-)

Labour Party Minister hurts his voters and sides with the rich

The previous government was bad and we all thought that it can only get better, but it is amazing how incompetent and useless the majority of the Irish politicians are. Many were hoping that the Labour Party would give a social component and a balance to the policies of Fine Gael, but then Pat Rabbitte became Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and he just seems to screw up everywhere.

I had hoped that a Labour Party Minister would be a little more careful with Ireland’s Natural Resources, but identical to his Fianna Fail predecessor Rabbitte just gave licenses for oil and gas away for nothing, squandering the few resources that Ireland has and giving them as a present to big commercial companies. But if you thought that was enough of a screw-up you were wrong. Rabbitte, who is also responsible for RTE and is in charge of the TV licence re-organisation is again showing his incompetence. I dare to say that apart from the job holders, nobody thinks the ridiculous salaries in RTE for people like Pat Kenny, Marianne Finucane, Ryan Tubridy, Joe Duffy etc are justified. Nobody apart from the people themselves AND Pat Rabbitte. Because instead of sorting out RTE, reducing their budget and forcing them to justify their existence, he wants to give them MORE money.

The TV licence fee should be a thing of the past. It might have had its justification when the TV and radio stations were not commercial entities, but RTE is as commercial as TV3, just that RTE delivery in a lot of aspects even worse quality. So, the TV licence fee should be reduced or abolished OR if it stays in place then ALL TV and Radio stations should be allowed to apply for part of the funds and get fair subsidies. It is ridiculous that each household is financing a commercial Radio and TV station with EUR 160 per year.

But it comes worse! People that can’t afford licence fee and cable TV charges etc currently have the option not to have a TV and then don’t need to pay. Rabbitte wants to change that. Probably from around middle of this year he wants to force everybody to pay a “Broadcast fee”. And all that money goes exclusively to RTE! So even if you never in your life watch RTE or listen to RTE, you will have to pay them a minimum of EUR 160 per year. The justification that Rabbitte uses is that we don’t need to have TV anymore to watch RTE. But has he not realised that young generations are not interested in RTE in its current form anymore?

Now, who are the people that currently don’t pay the licence fee and will have to pay it in future? The majority is people that have limited financial means. The rest has a TV and already pays the licence fee. So the Labour Minister has left his social principles and ideologies in the cupboard and instead sides with the rich and overpaid in RTE. Odd!!

Interestingly RTE has estimated that up to 15pc of households do not pay the TV licence fee – even though 99pc of houses allegedly have a TV. So that means the government is incapable of getting the money and for that reason they a new fee is introduced. If the RTE figures are right, then Rabbitte’s argument that the new fee is needed to capture the people that have no TV is a lie. He even claims even those without a TV, benefit from “publicly-funded, public service broadcasting”. Nonsense!
www.independent.ie/irish-news/broadcast-charge-to-hit-all-homes-even-those-with-no-tv-29096806.html
www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/kim-bielenberg-why-the-breaking-bad-generation-wont-pay-rabbittes-broadcast-charge-29098836.html

Undemocratic Ireland

I am shocked about the lack of democracy in Ireland. I never thought that the level of democracy is not much higher than one of these dodgy countries where international observers need to supervise the elections. This statement might seem a little harsh to you, but read this:

1) The Constituency Dublin North has 5 seats. 3 candidates of Fine Gael were elected in Dublin North (Peter Mathews, Alan Shatter and Olivia Mitchell). 3 out of 5 candidates means that FG got 60% of the mandates, but in fact they only got 36.3% of the first preference votes. How is a system that allows situations like this a democratic system?

2) A total number of 2,220,359 valid votes were counted and there are 166 TDs, that means that each TD represents 13,375 people. But the tiny amount of 6,206 voted, for example for Richard Boyd Barrett from the ultra-left People Before Profit. He got elected and now represents more than double the voters than the amount that wanted him to get elected! Overall he got a mandate from the tiny amount of 0.28% of the voters. Should he be in the Dail? I don’t think so! I know he was not the one with the smallest number of votes, that dubious honour seems to be reserved for Kevin Humphries from Labour who just got 3,450 votes.
But the reason why I picked Richard Boyd Barrett is because his party got overall only 21,551 votes, which is 0.97%. His party won 2 seats with 0.97%, while the Greens with 1.8% and 41,039 votes didn’t get any seats.

3) Further up it is not better: Labour got 19.4% of the votes and won 37 seats. Fianna Fail got just 2% less of the votes at 17.4, but won just 20 seats.
The final result is
FG 76, LAB 37, FF 20, IND 15, SF 14, GP 0, SP 2, PBP 2
but it should be
FG 60, LAB 32, FF 29, IND 21, SF 16, GP 3, SP 2, PBP 1
In the elections this time, that result wouldn’t have changed much in the majority situation in the Dail, but the difference to the undemocratic actual vote is significant.

I can’t see how the Irish voting system can be called democratic!

Use your time wisely!

An interesting thought:

At the next election in 5 years (or less) the probability is very high that Fine Gael and Labour will get less TDs than this time. So a sizable proportion of TDs will be in the Dail for just one period.

I hope they use this time wisely and are aware of their political mortality.

It’s all over – Let’s get started!

Finally the election (or most of it) is over. The ballot papers are nearly all counted and while there are still 12 or so TDs to be decided in a few constituencies, we know that the new Taoiseach will be Enda Kenny and that he most likely will form a coalition with Labour.

The Fine Gael win was impressive, but Labour’s and Sinn Fein’s many seats in the Dail mean that Ireland moved to the left and I am not too impressed by that. I prefer a center/liberal/social society, but not a socialist society.

Fianna Fail’s loss was impressive as well, but look at it this way: A party that ran the country into the ground in many aspects still got approx. 20 seats out of 160. That is still quite a high number! So many people still think that Fianna Fail is a party that should be in charge, which is rather shocking.

Now it is over to Enda Kenny! The Dail will meet on 09 March, so he has another 8 days to sort out his government. I am still not convinced that he is suitable or will be good as a leader, so he has to show us now that he can build a government and that he will choose the right people for his cabinet.  So, let’s get the future started. A future hopefully with more accountability and with a less self-serving attitude among the TDs.

 
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