Lannigan’s Ball: How Long will FF and FG Partnership Survive?

The Irish political establishment have a major problem. The corruption at the heart of their state is being exposed through numerous ‘commissions of inquiry’. And on the streets, the protest movement is growing by the day. Instead of the large scale mobilisations seen at the height of the water charges movement, there are a host of smaller protests on a variety of issues. The message that ‘people power’ gets results has spread like wildfire.

Socialist Worker

Lannigan’s Ball: How Long will FF and FG Partnership Survive?

Kieran Allen
One long year I spent up in Dublin,
One long year  to learn nothing at all,
One long year  I spent up in Dublin,
Learning new steps for Lanigan’s Ball.
She stepped out and I stepped in again,
I stepped out and she stepped in again,
She stepped out and I stepped in again,
Learning new steps for Lanigan’s Ball.

The Irish political establishment have a major problem. The corruption at the heart of their state is being exposed through numerous ‘commissions of inquiry’. And on the streets, the protest movement is growing by the day. Instead of the large scale mobilisations seen at the height of the water charges movement, there are a host of smaller protests on a variety of issues. The message that ‘people power’ gets results has spread like wildfire.

Traditionally, in these situations even right wing opposition parties seek to give expression to discontent. They put on a show of ‘concern’ and then do exactly the opposite when their turn to assume government office arrives. This is how the buffers of parliamentary democracy are supposed to work.
But in Ireland, conventional arrangements have broken down. The Irish political system was based on a two and a half party model. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael swapped turns in being in government and the pathetic Labour Party propped one or the other up.
And nothing ever changed.
Today, however, the combined vote of the two main right parties now hovers around 50-55% and they need each other to form a ‘stable’ government. Hence the ‘confidence and supply arrangement’ with Fianna Fail.
Results
The results are that FF pretend to oppose their traditional enemy but on all major issues they support them. Take three examples:
Water Charges: FF and FG know that they are beaten but want a back door to re-visit the issue in the  future. After a pretence of backing the anti-water charges movement, FF did a deal with FG to keep open the back door.
Emergency legislation to attack public sector workers: Despite constant talk of recovery both FF and FG want to keep the FEMPI emergency legislation which gives government draconian powers to change earnings at the stroke of a pen.
Police Corruption: Both FF and FG are backing Noirin 0’ Sullivan as Commissioner.
The reason why- even in the face of popular outrage – FF sticks with FG is that both want a long term deal to prop up each other. If FF pulls the plug now, they know that FG will return the favour later when their turn for government comes. Their current arrangement, they think, is  the best way to defend privilege and wealth. However, it is inherently unstable and produces a weak government.
One way out of this would be for Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein to come together in a future coalition.
There are already some signs that this is what Sinn Fein want. Sinn Fein is currently trying to re-galvanise its Northern base by facing down the DUP. But the small print of its wider strategy has not changed.
It believes that the road to Irish unity will only open up when Sinn Fein is in government on both sides of the border.
Recent signals from the SF leadership suggest that they wish to move towards a possible coalition with FF in the future.
The demand that SF would have to have a majority over its more right wing rival has been dropped.
SF have also embraced low corporation taxes for multi-nationals on either side of the border.
Despite their gradual shift rightwards, the entry of SF into a coalition government in the South would still enrage the right wing elements of Irish society. The Irish Independent, for example, would enter a state of permanent apoplexy.
This is the main reason why Micheál Martin is sticking to the ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement for the moment. But it will not last forever because there is a rumbling discontent throughout Irish society that will disrupt all calculations.
The best hope in this shifting terrain is that the genuine left in People Before Profit and Solidarity make substantial gains.
These, it should be repeated, must include total abolition of water charges; the immediate end of FEMPI, the sacking of Noirin o Sullivan; the repeal of the 8th Amendment and the granting of full freedom to women to control their own bodies.
Moreover, PBP and Solidarity will never enter a coalition with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

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