So it’s finally happened. After almost a century of bickering, Ireland’s two largest political parties have coalesced into a single, stomach-turning, putrid mass. It is not before time. Though their stalwart supporters may argue, both parties essentially espouse the same ideals. On pretty much every major policy in recent years, they have fallen in line together. They are both staunchly Neo-liberal. One pretends they are not, while the other are unashamedly so. Even in the last government, one of them led a minority government, while the other propped them up with a confidence and supply arrangement. The coalition was inevitable.
In what felt like another century, this new government has finally been formed, four months after February’s election. The leaders of Fianna Fáil (FF) and Fine Gael (FG) – Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, pictured above – have agreed to an unprecedented rotating Taoiseach* set-up. They will basically take turns scoffing at the rest of us from the the office of the head of government.
But in the long term, is this a good thing? If nothing else, February’s election was a catalyst for change. Now that the two centre-right parties have finally dropped the curtain and revealed they have been on the same side all along, perhaps for the first time in the history of the state we will actually have a viable opposition in parliament. By far the biggest party on the other side of the chamber are Sinn Féin (SF). Many are skeptical about their credentials, but I for one am very interested in how they fair as the main opposition party. They could in fact have led the government, if they had run more candidates; such was the extent of their sweeping of the first counts in the election. The main reason that FF and FG have banded together is that they were terrified of another election, which no doubt would have seen SF run extra candidates and come close to a parliamentary majority. And perhaps may have been able to form a government with other left-leaning parties.
As it happened, even joining together, FF and FG did not have enough seats to form a majority, so they had to seek support from elsewhere. In this case, The Greens have stepped up as the sacrificial junior coalition-partner. And yes, I do find it galling that a party that I gave one of my preferences to in the election have sided with the neoliberals. Watch for any environmental policy passed by this government to completely skirt tackling the corporate behemoths that are actually driving us to extinction. Expect a carbon tax, which will disproportionately attack the working class while the elite with their armies of accountants find ways around paying it. There will be no meaningful environmental change under capitalism – such change runs completely contrary to the preposterous ‘infinite growth’ myth.
So what we can hope for is for this government to be ineffective and collapse under its own rickety structure. And next time round we may actually get some real change. Would Richard Boyd Barrett, Bríd Smith, or Gino Kelly in the Taoiseach’s office be too much to ask?
That’s probably a few years away yet…