- as an alien in the Simpsons once claimed, while disguised as Bill Clinton. In Ireland today, the prophetic words of that "one-eyed space fellar" seem to have become reality. We have a governing party, Fianna Fail,who have (along with their twerpish coalition colleagues, the Greens) frankly handed the opposition an open goal by bringing unemployment to an all time high in real numbers, by bringing about the quickest contraction of the Irish economy in history, and by not seeing how obscene salaries and expenses for legislators could possibly rile the electorate.
However, it is the inability of the main opposition party, Fine Gael, to capitalise on this buffoonery by the incumbents which truly highlights the failure and stagnation of the Irish political system. Some might argue that FG will inevitably fail to tackle FF, simply because the two parties are so similar - centre-right, conservative off-shoots of the original independence movement. However, I disagree - voters in Ireland are by nature centre-right and conservative, so Fine Gael should be able to trade on the fact that they are at least an honest centre-right, conservative party. Their failure is, then, perplexing.
Perplexing, that is, until I heard Jimmy Deenihan, FG TD for Kerry North, on the radio, discussing the plight of Irish hoteliers in the current economic crisis. Basically, perfectly profitable hotels in Ireland are being undercut by "zombie hotels", businesses which have gone into receivership and are now run at below cost. This depreciates the cost of rooms across the hotel sector in Ireland, hitting the bottom line of hotels that should be still viable.
Leaving aside whether dirt-cheap hotel rooms are actually a bad thing for tourism, Mr. Deenihan proceeded to castigate the government for its failure to help the sector. He then called on the government to produce a "strategy" to help the hoteliers.
Ah yes, a strategy. Any hint of what that strategy might be, Jimmy? Any inkling of how we might reconcile the needs of the hotel sector with the requirement to ensure our banks are not undermined by excessive bad debt?
No? No ideas, FG? We're just going to demand the government produces a "strategy", are we? We're going to loudly call on the government to "do stuff"?
At this point, I would like to announce the launch of my own political career. My platform: I am in favour of good things (puppies, sweets, free money), and against bad things (war, taxes, pestilence, Sean Fitzpatrick).
This is not an attack on Mr. Deenihan, who I'm sure is probably a decent, honourable man. But FG as a whole need to learn that standing for something is part of being a political party, and an absolute necessity of being in government. We need ideas, folks, and not simply empty rhetoric.
But surely, this "yay!boo!" approach to politics is characteristic of an older generation of Blueshirts; the younger members must be a little more savvy, right?
Step forth Youn Fine Gael, who last week bravely stood against that most horrid of injustices: an FFer (Finance Minister Brian Lenihan) speaking at the annual Beal na mBlath commemoration of Michael Collins. The reason - FF policies are the exact opposite of everything Michael Collins stood for, while FG continues in the Big Fella's footsteps with its own policies. And those policies would be? Er...
Never mind the fact it is always bad press to attack a dude who has continued to serve in the cabinet (as one of its few able members) while battling cancer. FG needs to learn that if you want to criticise the policies espoused by others, well, fine...but you need clear concise policies of your own.
Now, vote Aitor to receive your free puppy in the mail!
P.S. For purposes of disclosure, I should probably reveal that I am an active member of a political party ...and that my blue shirts match the colour of my eyes.
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