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Pro NATO Leo jumps ship

His pals in government struggle for survival

26 March 2024

Varadkar makes his exit.

In his sudden announcement of resignation Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed a history of success, retiring to rest on his laurels.  However, as Varadkar has admitted, the rejection of the referenda on family, women and care was a smashing blow to himself, to the government, and especially to his Fine Gael party.

The killer blow was his admission, shortly before the referenda, and referring to the welfare of the family when he stated “I don’t actually think that’s the state’s responsibility, to be honest.”  Also alleged the Minister for Children had withheld legal advice concerning the ambiguity of the referendum wording.

Fine Gael are unlikely to recover.  By rolling with the blow Varadkar hopes to revive the party's fortunes, hold off Sinn Féin and protect the potential for a renewed coalition government of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party in the coming general election.

Varadkar claims to be going out on a roll, with a background of success.  In Washington he successfully cosied up to Genocide Joe while simultaneously posing as the voice of peace and reason.  After two years of collapse his urgings for the return of Stormont have met with success and a new reset of the Good Friday Agreement is in place.  He claimed prosperity under the coalition.  Tens of billions of corporation tax have generated a large government surplus. Economic stability is assured by a long running partnership arrangement with the union leaders. A successful solution to the crisis in housing and the health service is claimed to be just over the horizon.

The government line is that Irish prosperity and stability are guaranteed by association with Europe and with the West.  Varadkar, above all, was presented as the leader of a new modern Ireland. The Fine Gael party of the Blueshirts and the Garda Heavy gang is now the party of woke.  The official line is that refugees are welcome in Ireland.  A country once ground down under the Catholic hierarchy has abortion rights, Gay rights and an extensive suite of Identity regulations that install the ideology of trans activism at every level of society.

However, St Patrick's Day in Washington was a triumph of smoke and mirrors. Varadkar said that he stood for Palestine, but in practice bowed down to Biden.  He looked good because he carried off this trick so much more successfully than Sinn Féin.

The basis of the new Stormont agreement is a British policy of "Sustaining the Union", that derides economic links with Dublin and Europe.  This contradiction is at odds with the nationalist understanding of the Good Friday Agreement and also guarantees high levels of instability and continued economic crisis where the economic opportunities of the European market are dismissed by the Northern statelet in order to placate unionism and align with the disastrous continuation of the Brexit experiment.

The Dublin coalition's claim of prosperity is based on billions of euros in corporation tax flooding into Ireland.  Over €20 Billion are required annually to balance the books. However, this inflow rests on a rate of 12.5% tax that will shortly equalize to a general rate of 15% across the globe. A sharp decrease in the volume of capital inflow could see a rapid return to bankruptcy.

The frenzy to keep capital pouring in and generate profit means subsidising private funding for housing that has generated a housing bubble and removed the prospect of housing security or even affordable rents from many young people.  Similar policies of privatisation are feeding a permanent crisis in the health sector and other public service sectors.

Payment for this economic system comes from the working class.  The partnership system with the unions sees public sector pay lag sharply behind the growing cost of living crisis.  Irish capitalism sees prosperity as bound up with membership of the European Union even though it was the EU that oversaw the nation's bankruptcy in 2011, but it was Varadkar himself who surrendered the EU backstop to allow Boris Johnson to drive forward with Brexit. To repair this disastrous mistake, he stood aside to let the EU negotiate the Northern Ireland protocol that will serve as a permanent source of economic instability.

Varadkar led the charge against Russia over the war in Ukraine. In reality this served as cover for ever closer integration into NATO.  At the demand of the US and Europe the military budget was doubled and the government has admitted several times that 100,000 Ukrainian migrants were admitted, not under any humanitarian impulse, but to reduce the economic burden of the war for the Kiev government.   Furthermore, Ireland is now directly involved in military activity in support of the West and has joined in a new European coordination aimed at a more general war between Europe and Russia.  It goes without saying that the military hub operated by the US out of Shannon goes unremarked upon.

Irish claims of Inclusivity are based on gender identity laws included in legislation without any discussion.  They were followed by regulations in state bodies and NGOs that tended to remove any definition of women from formal language and punish those who questioned the change.  Increasing disquiet led to the rejection of a proposal to amend the constitution to remove the word women, largely fed by Varadkar 's comments that the second part of the referendum, on care in the family, essentially meant the retreat of the state and an increasing privatisation of care. The mass rejection of government proposals is what led to Varadkar jumping ship.

However, there is a much more serious crisis involving Inclusivity.  Non-Ukrainian refugees have long faced harsh conditions.  Recently the government has refused to meet its legal obligations and left males to sleep in tents in the street, going on to demolish their cover, trash their belongings and force them to a camping site on the mountains as part of cosmetic preparations for St Patrick's Day. At the street level a small far right movement was involved is serious rioting in Dublin and there have been arson attacks and protests across the country. The government promised a crackdown, but in practice they have placated the racists and it is Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors who are leading anti-refugee sentiment at local level.

Varadkar's main grace (it can hardly be called a saving grace) is an unusual honesty, or possibly a dismissal of the views of working people.  The core of the government programme was spelt out by him when he attacked Sinn Féin's aspiration to limit the average price of housing to €300,000.  He said:

That would have significant consequences – it would put a lot of people into negative equity, particularly the vast majority of people who bought their first home in the last couple of years.

And it would also send a message to the banks – because if banks and lenders hear that the potential next Taoiseach wants house prices to fall by that much, they will think twice about issuing mortgages to people against assets that are going to deprecate.

In other words, the housing policy is a Ponzi scheme run on behalf of investors and does not involve a solution to catastrophic homelessness.  An attempt at correcting the housing market would bring the house of cards down.

Varadkar, facing an election meltdown, ran and left his party to face the music.  They in turn panicked and held a coronation of a mini-me Varadkar sidekick, Simon Harris.  In doing so they decided to continue the appeal to Dublin liberals rather than change direction towards the conservative heartlands and this may lead to dissent later.

Not surprisingly the opposition parties protested the idea that a new Taoiseach would emerge from the Fine Gael party and called for a general election. However, coalition partners Fianna Fáil and the Green Party want the rest of the year to overcome their referendum defeat. A drubbing at local and European elections in a few weeks may still force them out.

Unfortunately, parties across the political spectrum are all implicated in supporting the family referenda and in different variants of a liberal economic policy.  An election will not produce a new policy or a new party. What we can expect is a sharp rise in the right, encouraged by their interpretation of a traditional family and by capitulation of the authorities towards anti-migrant attacks.

A sharp collapse in the Fine Gael vote would be good news for Sinn Féin in that it might make a place in coalition for themselves inevitable, however, that place would be alongside Fianna Fáil and would burst the pipe dream of a left government led by Sinn Féin.

The government is discredited.  The opposition parties are also discredited.  There will be a growing feeling for none of the above and on the edges a shift to the right.  We need a new working-class party.  The alternative to right wing calls of "Ireland for the Irish" is not to chant "refugees are welcome here" but to assert the unity of the working class and oppressed, regardless of nationality, against capitalist oppression.

Varadkar's list of achievements is a list of assaults against the working class in defence of NATO and Western imperialism.  In return we must demand a housing, health and education programme based on the needs of workers and an Ireland not politically and economically subordinated to the needs of imperialism.

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