Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The State of the Nation

The following is an account of the events that have taken place over roughly the last week in Irish Politics, specifically focusing on the leader’s debate and the political fallout (results of the election). We have experienced what one person in particular has deemed a ‘Democratic Revolution’. If this were to come from a previously hidden away corner of Irish politics that had until now remained skulking in the background, the statement may have carried a little more weight. The last event the electorate had to endure and attempt to make up their minds on what way the crumbs of the cake divided went like something like this.

Calm and collected they all did arrive,
Mirriam O Callaghan was there to imbibe,
Three lads to debate,
Éire there to be ate,
This is where they all did strive.

The final debate of election had taken place and where did it leave the electorate? According to the last pole before E-Day only eleven percent of the electorate were now unsure of where their allegiances lay. So in a sense this poll amongst the coalescing of political rhetoric into brief slogans had helped to focus people’s minds.
The final ‘leaders’ debate saw the three potential Taoisigh square up to each other in what one would expect to be an epic face off if you were to be sucked in by the introductory montage and epic music provided by the RTE. What it was in the end was of course something entirely different. Míchael Martin attempts to wound the very calm Enda Kenny failed for the majority of the debate. Martin smacked of desperation, but did succeed in one thing. He managed to chisel out the limitations of the Five Point Plan of Fine Gael. What it will seem to do in essence is place the same burden on the tax payer as will the Fianna Fáil programme for government. Fine Gael claim that there will be an adjustment of 73% cuts and 27% tax, which appears to be a low tax option for the electorate. However, the knight in shining armour arrived to slay the mighty Mayo Behemoth. Míchael Martin a Knight in Shining armour you say? Well yes I do. But isn’t he from the very party who until now taxed  the most vulnerable and cut the minimum wage? Well yes he is, but in what initially seemed to be a good strategy for the debate he began to poke holes in the Five Point Plan. It is a pity that Míchael Martin couldn’t follow this up with any sort of coherent narrative for his waning party.
When Enda claims such a low tax he is neglecting to mention that there will be other taxes and charges applied that can only be called stealth taxes. For example there will be a water charge, but this will be organised at the local level and more importantly for those voting students, there will be a graduate tax. Measures such as this clearly make the Fine Gael option one of high cuts and high taxes. This is where we have to thank Mr. Martin for his scathing interruptions of both candidates.
Eamonn Gilmore was slightly absent from the proceedings initially, but then gave what can arguably be his best performance to date in the election campaign. He appeared calm, but also assertive which was directly at odds with the sheepish and choir boy image of Enda and the other man who had been backed into the corner by raging public opinion. Labour, normally considered weak on policy, seemed to bring balance to the debate, combining quite well with Fine Gael’s ‘realism’. So what resulted was Labours 50/50 policy, personified in Gilmore’s fifty percent calm and fifty percent indignation. Labour’s taxes seem to be spread out evenly, but Gilmore was keen to focus on tackling bondholders and on reversing the Universal Social charge and also taxing those who earn over 100,000 more heavily.
Fianna Fáil’s approach was essentially we have done the ‘heavy lifting’ and will do more of the same, with introductions of water charges, cuts in the Public Service. Similar in fact to what Fine Gael wishes to do, but there is one major difference. There is no reform of the health service on the agenda for Fianna Fáil, where it is on both of the other parties’ agenda.
‘A lot done more to do’, obviously doesn’t fly any more as we have now ingested what can only be described as quite predictable results in the general election. What it looks like is a Fine Gael/Labour Coalition that is more heavily dominated by the former. How 50/50 Éamon will fit in with Shneaky Enda remains to be seen, but this unlikely marriage will certainly provide us with plenty of lovers spats to talk about here in the land of Political Punditry … It is kind of like the Jordan and Pete André malarkey … God help us all. 

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