Polling day reflections

Just a few haphazard thoughts on the election, and on last weekend’s PSF Ard Fheis. Firstly, and I’ll get onto the southern situation in due course, was the Ard Fheis pledge on coalition – which may or may not be academic according to the Leinster House arithmetic. There are of course a lot of yahoos running around the Irish left screaming “No Coalition” as if these magic words will cover up a dearth of ideas, but Grizzly faces a bit of a problem here. The PSF leadership would dearly love to be in government in both states, but much of the southern cadre suffers an allergic reaction to the very concept of coalition with Fianna Fáil. Thusly the Ard Fheis pronounced itself against the idea of coalition with… the Desocrats! As if!

I am also slightly bemused by the euro. Not the currency per se, but if I recall correctly the Provos opposed the Free State’s adoption of the euro, on the quite sensible grounds that the Maastricht convergence criteria would rule out radical economic policies. Yet now we hear the call for an all-Ireland currency, as if the punt still existed. Is this a radical policy of the same ilk as the call for an all-Ireland 12% corporation tax, or an all-Ireland police force – made radical by placing the formula “all-Ireland” before it?

Now, the Stormont election. The counts on tomorrow and Friday will give us some idea of how things will pan out, so I won’t even hazard a prediction. But I do want to have a brief look at the two groups posing as an alternative, the republicans and the left.

The letter from 500 ex-prisoners that appeared in yesterday’s Irish News calling for a vote for independent republican candidates had a couple of interesting features. I noticed that the largest lot of signatories came from Derry, with significant numbers from Armagh and Tyrone but not many from Belfast. Besides, most of the Belfast people I recognised on the list were not Provos but Irps, who you wouldn’t expect to be onside anyway. Another weakness was that the unity of the letter was achieved purely on the basis of opposing the RUC/PSNI, with no signs of a positive alternative. Nonetheless, and although the instigators seem to have been the usual suspects, I draw some comfort from the scale, showing that there are a relatively significant number of republicans who believe we need a republican movement and that the Provos aren’t it. Given the almost total lack of support for a return to armed struggle, there is obviously some kind of an audience for political alternatives.

But, as it happens, I didn’t vote republican and didn’t argue with anybody else to do so. The republican candidates, of course, fall into three categories. There is Gerry McGeough, whose brand of Maria Duce politics is a bit rich for my taste. There are folks like Davy Hyland and Paul McGlinchey, who have only been out of the Provos five minutes and, whatever lines in the sand they may have drawn over policing, haven’t yet shown much sign of being a real opposition. Then you have RSF, who actually are an opposition and have a positive programme of their own. The trouble with RSF is that, despite being good principled republicans, they are also rigid doctrinaires (though Ruairí is much more flexible than he’s given credit for) and a tactical sensibility that I would describe as erratic and a less charitable soul as bonkers.

Nonetheless, although I don’t expect the republican opposition to get many votes, it might not be a bad thing if they did. If they started to look like a credible opposition, then there would be some pressure on them to behave like one.

This does not apply to the far left. I have little confidence in the ability of the left to recognise the real world, never mind reflect and draw serious conclusions. Any votes for these bozos will only encourage them. It is likely, for instance, that the Socialist Party’s campaigning around water charges will bring them some extra votes (their tiny vote base couldn’t possibly shrink further). So, if Tommy Black can raise his vote from 130 to something like 300, which is entirely possible, although that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans the SP will claim it as a vindication of their politics and a sign that things are moving in their direction. And the least said about the SWP’s Ali G politics, the better.

7 Comments

  1. WorldbyStorm said,

    March 7, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Hmmm…great post, but I’m still trying to work out how you voted in the end!

  2. Liam Mac Uaid said,

    March 7, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    It’s not a representative sample but of the two most ardent Shinners of my acquaintance one spoiled his ballot paper and the other didn’t vote. Five years ago they would have walked a mile over broken glass to the polling station for Sinn Fein.

  3. AN said,

    March 7, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Your remarks about the Euro were intersting to me, becasue while that is all true about the convergence criteria in the Maastricht treaty, the use of Sterling in the six counties does link the economy to London, and an economic policy of an overvalued currency which only benefits the London money markets and stock markets, at the expense of real jobs in manufacturing.

    This is a bad policy for the English regions, and for the Welsh and Scottosh economy, but in the case of Northern Ireland isn’t this what contributes to the seeming fact that the economy is dependent on subsidy and state spending?

    In which case wouldn’t the Euro be better than the pound, in at least you would break the link with London?

  4. Wednesday said,

    March 8, 2007 at 7:21 am

    The euro issue is actually quite simple, if not immediately obvious.

    SF wants a currency that is
    (A) all-Ireland, and
    (B) Irish-controlled

    If we can’t have both (A) and (B), the next best thing is to have either (A) or (B). At the moment, we have neither.

    Thus, when we had the punt (B), we wanted to keep it. That no longer being an option, we can now at least have (A), by extending the Euro to the north. Better to have one unwanted currency on this island than two.

    It’s important to keep in mind that our objection to adopting the euro in the 26 Counties was based on the fact that doing so involved a loss of Irish sovereignty. That issue doesn’t arise with the extension of the euro to the Six Counties, for obvious reasons.

  5. splinteredsunrise said,

    March 8, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Wednesday, thanks for explaining the thinking behind the euro issue. If I sometimes find these positions baffling, it may be a North/South thing. So I know that PSF policy in the South is to rejig the tax system in a more redistributive way, but up here we get calls for the all-Ireland 12% corporation tax.

    I still don’t find the argument terribly convincing mind. I suppose it depends on whether you think the all-Ireland GFA institutions are leading us to the Republic. Since I don’t believe that, I tend to be more sceptical about this sort of thing.

  6. Wednesday said,

    March 8, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    here we get calls for the all-Ireland 12% corporation tax

    That should be 17.5% (or 30% for larger companies in the 6 Counties). Not terribly redistributive either, admittedly, but the idea is that this would be implemented immediately and then a gradual upward harmonisation could be introduced.

    Note that I’m describing the policy, not defending it 🙂

  7. splinteredsunrise said,

    March 8, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Hmmm… I suppose I should scrutinise the documents more closely, so at least I can blast them accurately! I’ve a tendency I know to rely on keeping my ear to the ground rather than paying much attention to what Gerry says.

    Reaction to the election result will come tomorrow, when the picture is slightly fuller and I’ve had an opportunity to sleep on a couple of questions.


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