For those of you who don't know, I live in the Republic of Ireland. I lived here from 2009 to 2012, and moved back in 2014. Tomorrow, friday the 26th, Ireland will hold a general election.
I normally don't care about Irish politics. I know I should since I live here, but honestly the system is just so embarrassingly messed up (we'll get to that) that any kind of political activism seems like a pointless waste of time - and to put that in perspective, I do not consider getting involved with American politics to be a waste of time, and I've never even set foot in the US.
However, these general elections only happen once every five years, and they are pretty unavoidable to anyone who reads the papers (like I do, for some reason), so while I won't get emotionally involved with this election, I have decided, after careful consideration, to make an endorsement. I hereby endorse Fianna Fail.
To keep this simple, I'm going to give my reasons in a bullet-point list:
- Fianna Fail has the best immigration policy. In a time when Europe is being overwhelmed by refugees from countries with cultural values that run contrary to our own, Fianna Fail refuses to budge to the "refugees welcome" crowd. While FF supports increasing funding to help refugees in nearby areas, FF will never open the borders. I don't trust FG on this issue as they've already shown signs of yielding.
- Fianna Fail is preferable to Fine Gael on virtually every social issue. Fianna Fail is pro-life and will not hold a referendum on legalising abortion (currently illegal in Ireland), and if there is one they will not campaign in favor (remains to be seen if they're bold enough to campaign against). In the gay marriage referendum last year, FF hardly campaigned at all while every other major party campaigned in favor - don't get me wrong, I won't pretend like FF are social conservative champions, because they absolutely are not. However, this is yet another area where they beat the other right-winged party Fine Gael.
- Fianna Fail is the only party that dares to talk about ending the poverty trap where the structure of the welfare system means that a lot of people lose money when they work more as their benefits are suddenly cut off, instead of being reduced gradually.
- Further on economic issues, Fianna Fail are really the only party that shows even a modicum of innovative thinking - suggesting that Ireland needs to investigate introducing a basic income as a replacement of the welfare system. While I'm not a huge fan of the basic income, it's an interesting idea that may well be necessary in a few decades as automation goes on. Fine Gael is stuck in old thinking and old solutions.
- A somewhat more pragmatic reason: Fianna Fail will not govern alone after the election tomorrow; if a miracle occurs they could become the biggest party, but even that is unlikely. However, the smaller Fine Gael are, the more likely they are to finally accept co-operation with Fianna Fail. This brings us to the reason I hate Irish politics: There are two big, right-winged parties that together have a crushing majority in the parliament. Yet, the government consists of one right-winged party and one left-winged party (Labour), creating a government that is unstable (and that's an understatement). Why? Because 95 years ago, the two right-winged parties - or the movements that preceded these parties - fought a civil war against one another. Yes, a real, military civil war. Since then, even though they have always had ridiculously similar policies, they have preferred opposition to co-operation (though it's never been the case that both parties have been in opposition at the same time). This has to change. As long as Fine Gael can get a majority without Fianna Fail, they will choose to co-operate with loony social justice warriors like the Labour party. The problem is, neither party will want to go in as the "minor" party in the government coalition - hence the best outcome would be for both parties to receive about the same share of the vote. There is no risk that Fianna Fail will be substantially larger than Fine Gael tomorrow, but there is a risk that Fine Gael could be substantially larger than Fianna Fail, dramatically reducing the likelihood of a coalition, and increasing the risk of letting Labour and their gang of potsmoking social justice hippies back in government.
Finally, a lot of people are going to respond by saying that Fianna Fail destroyed the Irish economy the last time they were in government (1997-2011). This is quite simply untrue. Fianna Fail did not destroy the Irish economy. First of all, the Irish economy would not have imploded had it not been for the global financial crisis. When you're a small, export-dependent economy and the world is set on fire, you're going to burn with it no matter what you do. Politicians like to pretend like they can control the booms and busts a lot more than they actually can. Yes, Fianna Fail had some pretty stupid policies both during the boom and during the recession, but here's the thing - if Fine Gael & Labour had been in government at the time, it would have been even worse. Yes, Ireland overspent during the Celtic Tiger years and failed to save for a rainy day - but go back and look at Fine Gael's and Labour's election manifestos for the 2002 and 2007 elections: They promised even more spending! Back then they were criticizing Fianna Fail not for overspending, but for underspending! They supported the bank guarantee, and as for the austerity policies it's time the Irish public come to terms with the fact that they were inevitable, as Ireland simply could not borrow with interest rates being in the double digits.
To summarize: Everything Fianna Fail did badly, Fine Gael & Labour would have done worse. Everything Fianna Fail did well, Fine Gael & Labour would either not have done or not have done as well.
It's hard to get excited over Irish politics as it really is a mess with no truly great parties (I really wish there was a credible eurosceptic right-winged party for example), but given the options, I am happy to announce my support for Fianna Fail. Thank you for reading.