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A new Taoiseach: The Election No One Dare Justify

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

13 April 2024

New Taoiseach Simon Harris.

Leo Varadkar resigned as the high king of Ireland, sorry, I meant to say Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) and in true regal fashion his successor was chosen by a select cabal of the chosen Blue Shirts who have been in charge of this country for some time.

The anointing of Simon Harris as the new Taoiseach was a decision taken by a deeply unpopular party and was not the result of the balance of forces resulting from a general election.  The south of Ireland has a parliamentary system, which means that it is parliament and not the people who chose the leader, though the only eligible candidates are those who have been elected to this parliament by the people.  None of this formal democracy actually comes across as democratic.  It comes across as what it is, the manoeuvres of hucksters, the corrupt, the so called great and good of society.  Deals are done by businessmen, bankers, independent T.Ds who legally sell their vote to the biggest huckster in exchange for some local deal.  So, the paving of roads in a small part of the country, could and does in practice determine the national outcome in choice of Taoiseach.  It has been like this for quite some time, ever since Fianna Fáil lost any possibility of ever winning a majority and ever since Fine Gael lost the ability to do a deal with the treacherous Labour Party, which has proven itself willing to sell out time and again.  Now a deal must be struck between three parties, FF, FG and the Greens plus a smattering of independents.

So, Harris’s anointment is not any less democratic than that of Varadkar’s or Martin’s before him i.e. it is quite undemocratic.  We have put up with years of rotating Taoisigh without any election and instead the inner circle of the corrupt choosing from amongst their ranks.   But this time the loyal “opposition” smell blood in the water and like sharks they begin to circle round, claiming correctly that the government was unpopular and that this in their view apparently necessitated a new election.  It seems for the moment that this will not happen.  All the claims and pushes for a new election have centred around the democratic value attached to his anointment.  No party has been able to bring itself to say why the government should go.  It is a right-wing government that has presided over a collapse in the health service, a housing crisis, cut backs, spiralling costs in the Children’s Hospital, not to mention the sheer wilful incompetency of an intellectually and culturally challenged coterie of corrupt landlords in thrall to international capital.  But this is not the reason why an election should be called now as opposed to last year or in two months’ time.

The real reason that shows how unpopular and out of tune the government is, was the crushing defeat it suffered in two referenda in March.  The government proposals were overwhelmingly rejected by the biggest margins ever recorded in referenda in the history of the state.  The defeat was such a shocking blow to the government that its plans for another referendum on allowing the country to sign up to a European wide patents court looks like it will be shelved.  Though patents and patent law can be complex it was the type of referendum the government would have been expected to comfortably win.  But following its recent disasters, it is taking no chances.

The loyal “opposition” of Labour, Social Democrats, Sinn Féin and People Before Profit cannot bring themselves to demand the government stand down following the referenda failure because they were also defeated.  All of the loyal “opposition” supported the government’s referenda proposals and did more campaigning than the actual government parties.  Were they to use the referenda results as the reason for calling an election they would have to look in the mirror as the vote was also against them, in some areas of the country even more so.  They have supported this government in all of its attempts to roll back women’s rights, housing rapists in women’s prisons, allowing men to participate in women’s sports, use women’s changing areas, erasing the word woman and female from legislation and from information leaflets from health authorities.  They have supported and called for the imposition of the legally binding use of pronouns and self ID, something which has failed so far.

They have also supported the government in its attempts to introduce Hate Speech legislation.  Hate was not defined in the legislation, the examples given to justify refer to actual acts of violence already covered by incitement to hatred or criminal harm legislation.  Following the referenda defeat Sinn Féin saw the writing on the wall and has called for the government to withdraw the Bill it had previously supported, though the rest of the loyal “opposition” are still gung-ho for it all.

This loyal “opposition” not only supports the government in pursuit of misogynistic policies on women’s rights but also on other options.  In the midst of the housing crisis, for example, they don’t counterpose the government’s ponzi scheme of constant house inflation with universal public housing, but rather with subsidies and sops to the construction industry, talking of affordable, or really affordable or even more affordable housing.  Anything other than a break with the market and the ponzi scheme in housing.

The loyal “opposition” differs on technical matters, exact wording of the referenda, a clearer definition of hate, how much money landlords should make from the housing crisis, and on this last point none of them say they should make no money.  They all want landlords to make lots of money and FF, FG, Greens, Labour and Sinn Féin are full of landlords.  No one justified the call for an election because they are all complicit with the mess we are in and all of them bear responsibility for the reactionary referenda proposals and the disaster that followed.  They prefer to point to technical matters rather than policy, as they essentially agree with policy and bicker over minutiae rather than substance.

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