The luck of the Irish?
Widely misused to mean good luck and to conjure up images of happy-go-lucky leaping Leprechauns the above phrase, meaning as it does bad luck, could not be more apposite to Ireland’s political fortunes. Of course, however events have nothing to do with luck and more to do with the bankrupt policies of the aptly named Fianna Fail government.
Today’s announcement that the Irish Greens are leaving the government rounds off what has been a bad week for Fail who have also lost their leader, Brian Cowen. However, I doubt the actions of the Greens will save them when the verdict of the Irish electorate comes though and as if to add insult to the injury of their actions they still seem intent on passing through the Dáil the harsh austerity promised by the Finance Bill.
No illusions should be entertained about who is suffering through this crisis. Magdalena Sepúlveda, an United Nations independent expert on human rights and extreme poverty, explains:
“The reductions will mean a decline in services and an increase in costs to access them, leading to further poverty and social exclusion,” she said. “Retrogressive measures in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights need to be fully justified in the context of maximum available resources,” she said.
Exactly the same people are paying the price in Ireland as are in Britain. This is why, had Labour been concerned with its true tradition of internationalism as opposed to international solidarity with capital, it may well have taken a different position on the recent loan from the British government to Ireland.
I don’t envy Irish voters their choices which are hardly promising. The most desirable outcome from a left-wing standpoint would clearly be a coalition between Labour and Sein Féin. However, that has explicitly been ruled as being ‘off the table’ by Labour’s leader, Eamon Gilmore. Tactically, for Sein Féin it may well benefit more from being in opposition to a Fine Gael/Labour coalition which is unlikely to change course radically economically. Nonetheless nobody in politics declares publicly they would quite like to be in opposition.
Ed Miliband would do well to keep an eye on events over the Irish Sea. It’s true that it’s wrong to make direct comparison’s between Britain and Ireland. For example, there is no directly comparable force to Sein Féin in Westminster politics. Nonetheless, Fine Gael and Labour in power are likely to face a similar crisis of expectations which would most likely greet an incoming Labour government on these shores. Voters are not voting for more of the same; they will expect and demand protection from Labour just as Labour voters here will expect the same. This will lead them to demand more radical changes than the leadership is willing to offer. In Ireland this could pave the way for the spectacular rise of Sein Féin. How this would manifest here is a trickier question to answer…however, perhaps the Emerald Isles will gives us a few clues and we will be a little luckier than the poor of Ireland currently are.