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From: Irish Political Review: Editorials
Date: April, 2011
By: Editorial

Irish Election Result: Labour Opts For Permanent Fringe Status

Labour came within reach of realising its dream of putting an end to "Civil War politics", and establishing a class-based party system at the heart of the state.  It became the second party in the Dail in the February 25th Election, with almost twice the seats of Fianna Fail.  But it did not have the will, the ambition, to take advantage of success by taking up the position of official Opposition—alternative Government—and putting Fianna Fail effectively out of the game.  It went tamely into Coalition again, as if nothing had really happened, giving Fianna Fail the status of official Opposition and boosting its chances of recovery.

It claims to have done this in the interest of the country.  It did not coalesce with Fine Gael, and sacrifice its future prospects, just in order to get on the gravy train—Perish the Thought!—It got on the gravy train as a sacrifice in the interests of the country.

The 'interest of the country' line should be, and usually is, received with great scepticism in a democracy which functions through adversarial politics—the only kind of Democracy that is recognised as legitimate in this region of the world.  And the scepticism is well merited in this case.  The Labour leaders say they joined the Government as a junior partner in order to curb the laissez-faire capitalist inclinations of Fine Gael.  But it is evident that Fine Gael could be much better curbed by a strong, critical Opposition which had the capacity to defeat it, if it tried to get out of hand.

Fine Gael, as the biggest party by far, might have formed a Government without Labour.  With so many Independents of various kinds now in the Dail, it could have formed a Government without entangling itself with any other Party.  Many of its supporters urged it to do this.  It chose not to do so.  It chose to have a Coalition with Labour, and to give it many more seats in Cabinet than was strictly necessary, going by the election result.

And it arranged the matter astutely.  It did not approach Labour.  It acted as if it was going ahead with some Independents.  It made Labour come and beg.  And it treated it handsomely when it begged.

Labour is now safely back where it thinks it belongs.  It lacked the will to go it alone, and it will not now lightly undertake to rock the boat.  And the Opposition is negligible.

If the Government is a success, Fine Gael will get the credit for it.  If it is not a success, it is Labour that will be punished.  Fine Gael represents a substantial interest in the country that will sustain it.  Labour does not.  It was in the process of remaking itself into a party that appealed to flighty elements of the middle class when its moment of opportunity came.  It was incapable of seizing the opportunity in a way that would justify its name.

The Irish Times supported the formation of this Coalition with the argument that this is what 55% of the electorate voted for.  It got this figure by adding the First Preferences of the two parties.  In a two-party system it can be said that what the voters want is what they get, but not in a multi-party system in which the elected Parliament is itself the electorate of the Government.

Labour launched its electoral campaign against "the two Tory Parties" and only in the latter stages sold itself as a junior partner of fine Gael.  And the Second Preferences show anything but a meeting of minds between the two parties.  Only 35% of Labour's Second Preferences went to Fine Gael, while only 16% of Fine Gael's went to Labour.

In multi-party systems what you get is only what you get.  Wants are not sufficiently hammered into shape, so that it could be said that what the electorate gets is what it wants.

Does the electorate want the privatisation of public assets to raise money to be used to subsidise an increase in demand for the building industry?  That is what Fine Gael wants.  If it won the election outright, it could be said to be what the electorate wants.  

And God only knows what Labour wants.  What it presented to the electorate was little more than waffle.

Irish Election Result: Labour Opts For Permanent Fringe Status.  Editorial 1
Libya.  David Morrison 1
EU Summit:  Comprehensive Solution Of Continuing Crisis? 1
Poems:  Mad Dogs And Englishmen;  Saving Lives;  
Second-Hand Peace Sale, Fits Most Nations.  Wilson John Haire 3,5,6
Libya:  Fooled By The Humbug?  Report 4
The Life, Times And Legacy Of Terence McSwiney.  Cathal MacSwiney Brugha 5
The End Of Class Politics?  Jack Lane 6
Shorts from the Long Fellow (Ireland & Iceland;  The Irish Times Election Campaign;
The Laws Of Libel;  Sunday Times & Fintan O'Toole;  Real Journalism;
Hypocrisy Over Sarah Carey) 7
Madam Retires!  John Martin 9
Gerard Murphy's Fairytales.  James Fitzgerald 10
Gerard Murphy's Disappearing Sources.  Padraig Og ORuairc (Report) 11
Population Questions.  Editorial 12
On The Blatant Hypocrisy Of Referring Libya To The ICC.  David Morrison 13
Es Ahora.  Julianne Herlihy (War & Peace;  State of Ireland;  Triple Alliance;
Threat To Britain;  Irish Culture) 14
Naval Warfare.  Pat Walsh  (Part 9) 17
Bolshevism From Larkin To Lozovsky.  Manus O'Riordan  (Part 1) 19
The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee:  Some Context.  Editorial 22
Biteback:  Japanese Holocaust Forgotten?  Philip O'Connor 23
Gilmore's Recipe For Inaction On Palestine.  Report 24
Does It Stack Up?  Michael Stack (Nuclear Power;  Democracy;  Libya & USUK;
What About The Irish Banks?;  The Irish Army;  Cork City Council) 25
Saying What He's Meant To See?  Seán McGouran 26

Labour Comment, edited by Pat Maloney:
MacCurtain/McSwiney Legacy:  
A Slap In The Face For Cork
 (back page)