28 February 2011

The wonders of Irish democracy

On Saturday I briefly managed to watch a bit of the Irish election count courtesy of RTE and BBC Parliament. And what a joy it was too.

For a start it had none of the ridiculous computer graphic metaphors or useless celebrity comment so beloved of the BBC in recent elections (unfortunately occuring under the watch of Craig Oliver - now No10's chief spin doctor). And secondly the reports from the counts had a supercharged intensity that UK counts just don't have (even in the marginals).

Because in Ireland ultimately every seat is marginal and every preference counts all the parties and candidates have something to play for (at least at the start) and it's where the transfers go that is the most fascinating.

The party of 'Dev' - possibly one of the most odious politicians to infest the British Isles - got the drubbing it probably deserved decades ago. Whether Fianna Fail can come back must be in doubt given Irish voters were more happy to transfer to a rag bag of trots, crooks and terrorist sympathisers than to their traditional party of government.

Fina Gael have an almost equally murky history but with a slightly more heroic figure of Michael Collins in their past. And despite their leader's Enda Kenny's realistic assessment of the country's outlook today I still can't get away from the feeling that Ireland's political and economic problems are unlikely to be solved by another party that harks back to the struggle to free their country from the British imperial yolk in the dying days of the last majority Liberal government in the UK.

But regardless of Ireland's long term future they certainly can teach us how to run properly democratic and engaging elections. And I now see why Labour are running scared of political reform, because they like Fianna Fail were just as toxic in 2010. The fact they got away with holding two thirds of their seats - rather than a quarter - is due to our outdated and unfit voting system. An STV election in the UK in 2010 would have seen Labour getting the drubbing it deserved. It held dozens of seats on a mere plurality vote with the electorate unsure how best to use its only vote to unseat them.

STV would have exposed their true weakness to a wider audience - just as it did for that other political dinosaur on the other side of the Irish Sea.


  1. You have a strange understanding of Irish history, how is that Dev is odious and Collins a hero? It was Collins who organised and ordered the brutal murder of British soldiers families on the British mainland. Did your knowledge of Irish history come solely from the Liam Neeson film?

    "terrorist sympathisers"

    LOL! You just called Michael Collins a hero and now bitching about terrorist sympathisers.

  2. Slightly more heroic than odious is what I said...

  3. "but with a slightly more heroic figure of Michael Collins in their past."

    Where does it say odious?