May 2006

Same as it ever was

Irish politics have yet to really capture my interest. After a decade of closely following British politics, I still find myself automatically checking The Guardian and the BBC for general news. It’s far less often that I’ll visit The Irish Independent or The Examiner, and when I do it’s to read “the Irish news”, never just to get “the news”. Partly this is out of habit, but also partly because I still feel more involved with British politics.

This will change over time of course. I lived for fifteen years in the UK and I’ve only been in Ireland for a couple of months. Also, even though the general elections aren’t until next year, the campaign machinery is already beginning to rumble slowly into gear, and discussions about potential manifesto promises are beginning to surface in the media. No doubt I’ll become more engaged as this process starts to accelerate.

Thus far we’ve had the question of whether Fine Gael are really flirting with sensible drug policy? (Answer: No. They’ve just got a maverick candidate… for British readers; think Paul Flynn). The ubiquitous “who can be toughest on crime” contest has begun. Will the winner be Fine Gael, who claim not only to be tough on crime but also “tough on punishment”. Or will it be Fianna Fáil, who are not merely “tough on crime” but also “tough on the causes of crime”. Hmmm… haven’t I heard that somewhere before? And what’s all this about ASBOs? Surely you jest.

In fact, it seems like whole swathes of current government activity involves importing Blairite policies and desperately hoping they’ll work better for us than they did for Blair. I’m half-expecting Bertie to announce he’s ordered a pre-emptive strike against Iran. This view of Irish politics was compounded last week when the Tanaiste Mary Harney (deputy prime-minister and health secretary) failed to address the annual conference of the Irish Nurses Organisation. “There was no way she was going to let them do a Patricia Hewitt on her” was the quote that stuck in my mind.

It all seems a bit… well… derivative. It’s as though the current Irish government is a bad tribute band; Toni Blare and The Ugly Rumours; financing endless tours off the back of their one hit single, The Celtic Tiger.

Posted in: Opinion