Right Wing And A Prayer

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From top: Cabinet group shot; Dr Julien Mercille

The make up of the new government is terrifying for any progressives.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

We have a new government and it is, once again, a right-wing government. It almost makes you miss Labour.

In fact, Ireland now has the distinction of being the first Eurozone country to re-elect an austerity leader, Enda Kenny. Other countries understood that a leader who attacks its own population with austerity cuts is better thrown out of office.

The shape of this government fulfills the long-term goals of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to dominate government and alternate in power.

Now, they control both the government and the opposition, as was recognised across the political spectrum, from People Before Profit to Michael McDowell  They will implement right-wing policies, from housing and health care to education and labour.

A quick look at the listof Ministers drives the point home directly, and will be frightening for any progressive.

Fine Gael will now control, for example, Education and Social Protection, which had not happened for years.

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The media reacted by welcoming the new government with a mixture of relief and fanfare. The Irish Times editors warned Independents that they would have to toe the line and support right-wing policies.

Indeed, Independents “will have to curb their populist instincts” because “to govern is to make choices which involves taking tough and unpopular decisions in the national interest”.

In other words, according to this, to govern is to ignore the population and do things that elites want, while being ready to push policies against popular opposition. Politicians should not be “populist”—they should be “elitist”.

As Vincent Browne wrote, the new government will be all continuity with the previous one, not change. It will make a few symbolic moves here and there towards vulnerable groups like the elderly, the sick and children, even though their sorry condition was created in the first place by the establishment parties themselves.

Other than that, the fundamental blocks on which this country is governed will stay the same.

Ireland will remain a tax haven, the health care system will move further on the road towards privatisation, tax policy will favor the corporate sector and the rich, etc.

However, there is still reason to be optimistic. There are now many good progressive politicians in the Dáil and Senate, including from the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit, Sinn Féin and Independents.

They will have a stronger voice than before and will have to use it to move progressive ideas into mainstream discourse, which is key to social change.

In this respect, my take is that progressive Independents in the Dáil who are not members of a party should seek to form one.

Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Mick Wallace, Thomas Pringle and others are all doing excellent work, but separated they can’t reach their potential as a progressive force.

The Irish establishment loves Independents, because they are relatively weak and divided and cannot challenge elites as much as if they were united and more coordinated. T

his party, of course, would coordinate closely with PBP/AAA and Sinn Féin, but at least it would focus progressive forces to a greater extent than at present.

Secondly, the counterpart to this parliamentary coordination has to be, as always, the development of progressive forces in communities. The water charges movement has been very inspiring in this respect and must give rise to a mushrooming of similar activity. Much is already going on and hopefully more activity will spring up and develop.

In other words, the pieces of the puzzle are largely all there in the country. What is needed is more coordination between like-minded individuals and groups.

Parliamentary coordination must interact with coordination in the communities and the streets. Those two aspects of politics must be constantly talking to each other and act towards loosely agreed objectives. They must feed on and reinforce each other.

Those in Parliament must give voice to communities and be responsive to them.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at University College Dublin. Follow him on Twitter: @JulienMercille

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36 thoughts on “Right Wing And A Prayer

  1. Disasta

    Too much of the voting population have been relatively untouched by the damage Fail or Gael did.
    And much of the people who were affected don’t vote in enough numbers.

    1. Kolmo

      +1. It’s the party of the insulated class and the the easily spooked

      Could an ardent supporter of FG tell me what the ultimate ideology of the party is? Is it the complete dismantling of the State and handing all State services over to fortuitously-placed, race-to-the-bottom, off-shore entities, ignoring the concept of a society and the inevitable social time-bomb on the horizon

      1. Steve

        Mate you’re watching way too much chompsky on Netflix. Principle 2…

        I would have thought it was the hard left who wanted to dismantle the state? Pull the capitalist state and reestablish the socialist paradise. Worked for Lenin I suppose.

        1. Kolmo

          Why reduce the conversation to a single choice between Wall St. Fupp everyone capitalism or hardcore totalitarian death camp ‘communism’? Surely, an alternative could be imagined that puts the citizen and family at the core of society as opposed to the banks and the well-placed insider/speculator types – look at the state of Dublin city- literally 1000’s of empty lots, houses, industrial units let go to shi*e because of land-banking by speculators

          1. Steve

            I agree reductionism and hyperbole don’t help address things. I thought I’d respond to your over the top comment about FG voters with one of my own.

            On land banking in Dublin.The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act passed by the last FG/labour government should help address land back issues. Levy on vacant properties from 2018 onwards. I would argue that the commentcent date should be brought forward. But anyway there ye have it….FG helping society.

        2. PeteS

          Steve, don’t weigh with your ill-informed, idiotic comments equating Chomsky to communism. You’re just making yourself look stupid.

      2. Rob_G

        @ Kolmo

        – FG spent over 30% of Ireland’s GDP on social protection; hardly dismantling the state…

  2. b

    just because the Left may do things differently doesn’t mean they are ‘progressive’, i don’t know why they have claimed ownership of this term

    1. dav

      well the right wing hatred of the poor has to be described as “regressive” so the left must be the opposite of that.

      1. Harry Molloy

        I hate the poor and want to kill them all to feed to my pedigree dogs.
        I hate them almost as much as the PBP /AAA hates the taxpayers

        1. realPolithicks

          Why are you such a negative person? Every comment you make is some sort of sarcastic degrading put-down.

          1. Sheik Yahbouti

            Perhaps he’s just a trolling sh!t reticule. As good an explanation as any.

          2. rotide

            Yes, clearly Harry Molloy is the obvious example of a troll on these fine pages.

            eyeroll

  3. trouble

    Not sure SF can be labeled progressive when they’re implementing austerity in NI

  4. DubLoony

    Where to start!

    “There are now many good progressive politicians in the Dáil and Senate, including from the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit, Sinn Féin and Independents.”
    AAA/PBP are not progressive – they want to take down the whole system, not co-operate with anyone on changing it.
    SF just lost a seat in West Belfast to PBP because they failed to deal with poverty there.
    They also failed to even try to form an alternative government. They are not progressive – they are chameleons, willing to change as the populist wind blows in order to eventually be the biggest party in government.

    1. Liam Deliverance

      @Dubloony – “AAA/PBP are not progressive – they want to take down the whole system…….” What is wrong with that when the system is deeply flawed. That whole system is what gives us elections like we have just had, in 2011 and 2016, where the electorate votes for a change in the way we do things and what they get is no change. That system that, for example, allows rents to rise and rise over years and results in pain and suffering for many. That system that allows a minister to waste €50 million on a postal code system that is not needed and offers little or no ROI. That system that allows billions of euro of gamblers debts to be placed on the backs of regular citizens. That system that allows politicians of all parties to make promises and write manifestos and then bin them a month later. The system is the problem, you cannot be progressive with the system the way it is. We need, and want, to bin the parts of that system that don’t serve us anymore and rebuild the system with the new 21st century outlook that we have. Same system, same problems, more bailouts, more homelessness, more patients on trolleys, more corruption and cronyism, more tycoon owned media, more oppression, more exploitation. Society is getting worse in this country when it could be getting better. Why is that, is it because FF or FG and their great ideologies haven’t been allowed to come to fruition yet or is because FF and FG couldn’t give a rats ass about society. AAA/PBP may not be the great white hope but they do at least represent change and a move in the right direction. Anything could happen after that. The people that voted FF, and FG especially, have lost the ability to dream and they just allow a fear of change to hold them in the past. Left or right, I don’t mind as long as we progress, as long as we don’t make the same mistakes this year as we did last year. That’s not life.

    2. some old queen

      Personally I think the AAA/PBP are actually serving a very useful purpose. If only by contrast they have dragged the centre of Irish politics back to where it should have been all along. I am not sure if you would call that progressive but it certainly is a good thing.

  5. Robert

    > would coordinate closely with PBP/AAA and Sinn Féin

    If that’s the best you can come up with you’ve lost me

    Now if you were to say “lead” I might reevaluate …

  6. Owen C

    “Other countries understood that a leader who attacks its own population with austerity cuts is better thrown out of office.”

    Ok, lets start with a complaint about democracy. Good one Jules.

    “The shape of this government fulfills the long-term goals of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to dominate government and alternate in power. Now, they control both the government and the opposition”

    So, like every other parliament in the history of the Irish state?

    “In other words, according to this, to govern is to ignore the population”

    Wait, what happened to complaining about democracy up above?

    “However, there is still reason to be optimistic. There are now many good progressive politicians in the Dáil and Senate, including from the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit, Sinn Féin and Independents.”

    Are these the same independents that are now part of the government you think progressives should be terrified of?

    “Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Mick Wallace, Thomas Pringle and others are all doing excellent work, but separated they can’t reach their potential as a progressive force. The Irish establishment loves Independents, because they are relatively weak and divided and cannot challenge elites as much as if they were united and more coordinated.”

    Ok, its becoming clearer now. You actually don’t really have any opinion on Independents. You just like hard left candidates. Fair enough. But for the love of God, don’t try and disguise that.

    “In other words, the pieces of the puzzle are largely all there in the country. What is needed is more coordination between like-minded individuals and groups.”

    If you come up with crazy policies, and get less than 25% of the vote, it doesn’t matter how much you coordinate yourselves…

    The rambling incoherency of Julien seems to get worse every week.

  7. Owen C

    “There are now many good progressive politicians in the Dáil and Senate, including from the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit, Sinn Féin and Independents”

    This is interesting. Is Julien sticking his fingers up at the SocDems?

    1. b

      maybe if the Social Democrats were more Progressive he’d like them?

      they need a name change

  8. some old queen

    Something has happened that never did before. FF is now propping up FG. It was probably a better option than outright collation but they are still vulnerable. When the FG high hand is waved again, FF will be tarred with the same brush because they did not oppose. But what is the alternative?

    Julian is correct. The problem is lack of coordinated centre left opposition. People want change and will vote for change but until the left agree a broad set of principles under which they can move forward in cohesive manner, nothing is really going to change.

  9. Cian

    “In this respect, my take is that progressive Independents in the Dáil who are not members of a party should seek to form one.”
    The problem is that all these independents are just that – independent. They all have their own goals and ideals. If they (tried to) form a party they would all have to compromise – and thus would lose there unique selling point – that of being an independent. It is easy to give out about the government and how it is doing things wrong – it’s a whole lot more difficult to come up with viable alternatives.

  10. rotide

    “Now, they control both the government and the opposition, ”

    NOW they do. Wait, they did last governement as well. And the one before that. In fact, that has been the case for EVERY DAIL IN HISTORY.

    Nothing like the media whipping up a frenzy with a bit of hyperbole eh Jules? Isn’t this just the type of crap you give out about the indo doing?

  11. Sheik Yahbouti

    I would not normally agree with Mr Mercille, but a few things are in fact indisputable. An excessively right wing Government HAS been elected – see Coveney gearing himself for his battle against the population; Ross the closet PD relishing the conflict to come ; Zappone just laughing ; the two creeping Jesuses Donoghue and Harris getting ready to do who knows what ; the list goes on. Mr Halligan and Mr Ross (amongst others) say they are on the job and will hold Government to account. Meanwhile on every TV channel we see “Big Phil”, yes, Big Phil, “lecturing, if you please, on behalf of Europe and against ‘Brexit’, so, doing the same bullyboy job for Europe as he did for Indah. I am of mature years, but have always been a Social Democrat before a thousand parties gave themselves that title – willy nilly. Is it really too much to hope, in the autumn of my years, that I would see social democracy and that the Republic might come at last?

    1. Rob_G

      Democracy is such a pain in the bum in when the people vote in a way other than in which you want them to, but them’s the breaks.

  12. sparkilicious

    Lots of hyperbole in this piece. What we have is just another in a long succession of centrist/moderate/”third way” governments in this country. Some administrations, eg the one before last, screwed up royally but, leaving aside individual cock-ups, the general thrust of the policies of governments for a long time here has been… beige. Centrism is not everyone’s bag but I, like lots of middle Ireland, will take it over hard left and hard right.

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