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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. ;-)

Dublin City Council: Are they all insane? – Clontarf Sea Wall

There are (too many!!) times when you have to question the sanity of the people that run Dublin City. Last week I wrote about the mess regarding College Green Plaza. Dublin City is definitely involved in that, but An Bord Pleanala was also a significant contributor to that mess.

This week it is getting worse. Much worse!

You might remember a big fight between Dublin City and locals in Clontarf about the flood protection wall that was built last year. The locals wanted to have a low walls so that their pretty views of the sea will not be disturbed and Dublin City banged their fist on the table and said: NO! The “No” was based on the expected flood levels and the Clontarf locals were the ones that appeared narrow minded and short sighted in that conflict. Dublin City went ahead and got the wall built and the locals had to accept.

Fast forward just little while to last Monday: In their January meeting, the Dublin City Councillors decided to LOWER the sea wall now by just 30cm for a cost of EUR 230k below the level that is the national flood level standard to …wait for it…. “improve the view for motorists”. Have you heard anything more bonkers from the shower of City Councillors? But that’s not all! After that it will cost another EUR 300k to beautify the shortened wall. And it is also expected that the wall will have to be raised again in a few years time.

The interesting thing is that Labour, the Green Party, some from Fine Gael and some from AAA-PBP were against the shortening of the wall, but the decision was 34 in favour and 21 against, 3 abstained. In the Council with 63 councillors there are 8 from Fine Gael, 8 from Labour, 6 from AAA-PBP and 3 from the Green party. That’s 25 who should have been against it (obviously the parties weren’t able to convince their own councillors).
And what parties are on the INSANE side of the house? It is Sinn Fein (16), Independents (11), Fianna Fail (9), Social Democrats (1) and Workers Party (1). Remember them when the next election comes along in 2019!

At the time of writing this, the minutes were not yet published. so a list of names who voted for and who against is not known and the above paragraph is a guess from the above referred to article in TheJournal.ie. If you want to watch the webcast, you can find it here and look for Topic No. 6.

Irish Politics: After the election – What now?

The election is over and the results are interesting. Obviously everybody can interpret the results differently based on their own preferences and therefore my interpretation can’t be completely neutral either. But this is what I see:

Fine Gael and Labour were punished severely for how they ran the country in the last 5 years. Labour largely lost their identity and differentiation in the last 5 years and this resulted in a wipeout in many constituencies. But if you think it is over for Fine Gael and Labour, you will be wrong. As we have seen with Fianna Fail, all that is needed is a government that does things in no better way and suddenly you can be back at the races. So if Fine Gael and Labour want to have a chance to win again next time, they should just let Fianna Fail run the country further into the ground.

Sinn Fein definitely is the biggest winner, but many think that they will win as long as they are not involved in a government as their promises don’t seem to be realisable. The rest is just the rest. Yes, some could get a king maker role in the search for a stable government but since most Independent and many others are more interested in their constituency than the country their election is in many cases counterproductive.

What now? The worst would be to have a new election very soon and luckily the politicians agree with that largely. A new election now would result in a possibly totally random result. Some voters could be shocked about the wins or losses of one or the other party and might change thei voting behaviour significantly, so the outcome is unpredictable and nobody who just got voted in would want that.

So then the only other option is to build a government. The two parties are struggling against it, but in my opinion Fianna Fail and Fine Gael should definitely form a Grand Coalition. They have well over 50% of the seats and the voters did want to have them in that position. Micheal Martin’s suggestion of a comprehensive reform of the Dail and the system is a very good idea and the two big parties could work that out together. It doesn’t really matter to the country or the people who is Taoiseach, but I can understand why to the parties this looks differently. A Grand Coalition can be good for the country, but it also can be detrimental to the junior partner in such a coalition. They might get punished in the next election even further.

Sinn Fein might get away again of not having to take any leadership role, but they won’t get away forever. There wanting to stay in the opposition is well justified and makes sense from their point. In control they would have to put promises into reality and that can be very very difficult….and once you screw up, your meteoric rise might not continue.

So there is a LOT of strategising going on. More than is good for Ireland. But ti shouldn’t really surprise us that the parties, like the Independents, more think about their own bacon than about what is good for the country.

By the way, if no government is found, that’s no problem. The Irish constitution has considered that as a possibility: The old government will continue until a new government is found. There will never be a gap. Minority governments are also a possibility. Yes, more negotiation will be required. But essential laws have even in the past been agreed by the big parties, so they could still continue with that. And non essential laws are just that: Non essential! The budget is many moons away and even a need to negotiate a budget that would be acceptable by all might not be automatically a bad thing.

Are we in a mess? Not at all! There is no panic or worry about the future of the country. I hope they will all talk to all parties and see what makes sense and what can be done and at some stage in the next few months, we will probably have a new government again. Patience!! :-)

20 km/h in residential areas? Sinn Fein are mad!

The Dail will vote next week on the introduction of a 20 km/h speed limit in residential areas and housing estates. Sinn Fein proposed this bill and local authorities would – if it becomes a law – decide what roads would be covered by the new limit.
Lowering the speed limit in housing estates is something that will happen at some point and it makes a lot of sense around schools for example, but the speed of 20 km/h is totally bonkers. Had they said 30 km/h I would agree as long as it is only for VERY limited high-risk areas. But it is impossible to drive 20 km/h reliably in a car because the speedometer doesn’t even show anything below 20 km/h in many cars. And if that means it couldn’t be enforced because I would think something the driver can’t control can’t be enforced effectively, then the whole idea is infeasible.
Another crazy Sinn Fein idea!
www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/dail-to-vote-on-20kmh-speed-limit-for-residential-areas-662188.html

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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