Having had a long and busy day yesterday, including getting home well past my bedtime, I didn’t have much time to write or edit. However, I heard one bit of news from yesterday evening that I must react to.
While I was otherwise engaged, The Dáil (The lower house of the Irish Parliament) tabled a motion of no confidence in our dear friend and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. The motion was defeated by 59 votes to 49. And this serves to illustrate the frustrating pointlessness of the incumbent government. The main ‘opposition’ party abstained from the vote. This opposition of course, in theory, could have voted for the motion and seen the Minister removed from office. However, as the ‘opposition’, Fianna Fáil*, have entered into a confidence and supply agreement with the minority government, led by Fine Gael, they could not vote to see the Minister ousted.
These two neo-liberal parties have led every Irish government since we gained independence. As the last general election didn’t allow either party to form a majority in parliament, the agreement was reached that Fine Gael, with more seats, along with a rag-tag ensemble of independents, would form the government, and Fianna Fáil would essentially not vote against them in parliament. Some ‘opposition’. The aim of this of course is to prevent an actual viable opposition forming from Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, the Green Party etc. Thus, the status quo of the duopoly is maintained.
Why didn’t these two parties enter into a coalition together, as was mooted at one point in the long, drawn-out government formation in 2016? Because they both know that this would cost them large chunks of their base, the parts that actually think there is a difference between the parties. The parts of the base that vote for the party because their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents did. The parts that imagine the two parties as they were in the 1930s: Fianna Fáil as an instrument of the Church, and Fine Gael as supporters of Franco’s Fascism. The only thing that would shake these voters’ confidence in their party would be if the parties were to go into coalition together. This is also why Fianna Fáil often don’t vote with Fine Gael, but abstain from voting, in order to save face.
I am also not sure what removing the Minister would achieve. He would simply be replaced by another self-serving, market-driven, privatisation-pursuing parasite. While the status quo with its neo-liberal agenda remains, the housing crisis will continue unabated. What people need to remember that the TDs (Irish term for members of parliament) work for us. If we give them an agenda, they have to act on it. All that Minister Murphy and the others really care about is being reelected, and maintaining their public profile. Grassroots action saw the 8th amendment removed from the constitution – a true victory for people power, and an indication that when people engage with politics, the elected representatives have to react.
No confidence? I don’t have confidence in the Minister, nor any potential replacement. But while they are in government, let’s keep reminding them of who they work for, and what we demand. And perhaps when the next election rolls around, we could chip away more seats from the establishment parties. One can dream, but one can also act.