2016 is election year in Ireland – a General Election we call it – as all our Government representatives are elected.
Tomorrow is the big day, 26 February 2016, we get to vote in our new Government and vote out those who have let us down – beings and hasbeens.
“And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance“
Ireland is a Republic and a democracy and i’ve spoken about our failures in achieving the ideals one can fairly associate with such institutions. We have 43 constituencies, areas, in the country and each returns 3 or 4 or 5, depending on the size of the population, representatives to the Dail – the Irish Government. Each elected representative is called a Teachta Dala, a deputy to the Dail, or TD for short.
This is going to be an interesting election, we are a few years into a recovery following a serious recession caused mainly by the greed and ineptitude of our then Government and TD’s, the various regulatory bodies and persons who were responsible for preventing the economy from going off the rails and, of course, the bankers and developers who took advantage of this weakness to extend us beyond our resources.
The principal political party in Government at the time of these seismic failures was Fianna Fail – justifying many subsequent jokes about the Irish word Fail in their title. It is now well documented that they betrayed the Irish people and their own Republican heritage in continued attempts to buy re-election. They were the prime architects of our recession, our national depression and the many ruined lives which fell out of it.
“Oh, and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned”
After the crash, in the next General Election in 2011, Fianna Fail were decimated, losing 51 seats out of a total of 71. The people had spoken, democracy had had its say. Fianna Fail were has-beens. The only problem with democracy is that the people only have power at election time. Between those times the TDs are pretty much free to do as they please if they have a majority in Government. The people can only act retrospectively, which is not a whole lot of use if the TD’s you had elected in good faith turned round and betray that trust. The day of reckoning only comes around every five years or so.
“I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride“
The second largest party in that nation-destroying Government was the Green Party – yes i know – mad. The Government did everything that a Green Party is believed to oppose – that is one i still don’t understand. No surprise that all six of their TDs lost their seats – setting the environmental cause in Ireland back at least one generation in their death throes – death throes we now know started the first day they entered Government, on 14 June 2007
“And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died“
We should have been singing dirges but we were all swept up in the good times – believing the hype and borrowing our children’s futures to pay for our presents, big houses, smart cars and exotic holidays – like teenagers with their first pay packets or kindergarten children let loose in a sweet shop. There was no tomorrow.
Then the recession hit and the house of borrowings collapsed and all our wealth drained away like dirty water down a drain.
“Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again“
The next election saw Fine Gael and the Labour party swept into Government like surfers riding a tsunami. Fine Gael, being somewhat right of centre promising to restore our national finances and our national pride, to make Ireland a great little country to do business in – whatever about living in. And Labour, ah Labour, who?, you know the Labour Party – at one time, or so it is rumoured, they were a left of centre party, promising to make sure that this restoration did not do more damage to those citizens of our sorry State who most need its aid and protection.
Fine Gael did a fine job, many more jokes on their Irish name, fine job boys, but squeezed those who Labour were elected to protect as if they, Labour, did not exist. We expected it of Fine Gael and so we were not too surprised. But Labour? How can a party get elected on its promises and then declare that the people had given it a carte blanc mandate and proceed to break most of those promises? How can a party turn its back on its heritage, on the ideals of its founding parents and perhaps not even realise what it is doing?
“ And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed”
Labouring day may well be upon us as they struggle to convince those who voted for them that they did not abandon them as soon as the ankles sank into the deep piles of the government carpeted corridors. They are in a different pile now. We will know their faith by the weekend.
“But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step“
Fine Gael disappointed me, and many others, by their arrogance, their lack of respect for our democracy and our State, their obvious contempt for the opposition TD’s – sad that many years in the political wilderness would lead to this rather than lead to a political party we would be proud of. Crabby old men who used the opportunity given to them by our desperate State to even decade old scores and irritate old sores.
“And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die“
The Democratic good news is, or i should say ‘are’ as everything about them is plural, pluralist and pluralism, the Independents – folk of many beliefs and ideals, contradictory, some saints, some scholars, some on a more slippy political path but all representing our society in its variety and its colour.
“Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Now do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?”
We are varied and we are many and many of us delight in our variety. We do not wish to be governed by a small-minded, narrow-minded, school of middle-aged men.
And, of course,
And of course, waiting in the darkened doorway, we have Sinn Fein; like the shadows our past behaviour throws over our present circumstances, waiting to step into the sunlight. No-one is excluded from the possibility of renewal, of change, but we are not yet convinced and they have not tried too hard to convince us.
“‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?”
And so tomorrow I’ll cast my vote and hope that it is a wise one and the the people we elect and the government they form will always remember that we are a Republic and a democracy, that we have ideals that they should make sure they live up to and that we would like to be proud of our TD’s
“And maybe they’d be happy for a while“
With many thanks for Don McLean’s company tonight and many nights
Make sure to always vote.