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Democratic legitimacy February 28, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Thought this from Louise O’Reilly was spot on.

Earlier the Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly told the Irish Times Inside Politics podcast that a government of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens would have “democratic legitimacy” if it could command a majority in the Dáil.
“If the government can be formed and voted by the Dáil I wouldn’t dispute the democratic legitimacy of it. However, it is neither fair nor credible to disrespect the mandate of the party that got the most votes in the election,” said Ms O’Reilly.

I think she’s absolutely right – in a context where three parties are vying in or around the same percentage share, then it is entirely democratic for any of them to lead a government if they can make the numbers either between themselves or with others. That’s a function of PRSTV.

What is undemocratic is for FF and FG to refuse point blank to go into talks with SF. If SF were a far-right or authoritarian party there’d be some justification for this form of aversion. But SF is by no means in that category, and nor have either of the other two suggested it was – at least not seriously. In fact quite the opposite, at no point in the process to date – during the election, in previous Dáil’s or Seanad’s, or similar did the parties refuse to engage on a platform where SF was participating. They welcomed, at least publicly, the inclusion of SF in the leader’s debates.

What is a problem is, as O’Reilly notes, the ‘disrespecting of the mandate’ that SF entirely legitimately obtained at the election. At a minimum as a matter of democratic courtesy the least that the other parties could do would be to hold talks with SF. This is not to say that FF and FG should be forced to agree a deal with SF, or anything like that. There’s no compunction on them to go into government with SF, anything but. But to resile from engagement seems to me, from their perspective too, to be counterproductive. Nor is it clear that the other parties should ‘stand aside’ and let an SF led minority government take office. Such a government would be unstable and the numbers aren’t exactly comforting. This isn’t to say some sort of fix-up is impossible, just that it’s not likely and indeed could prove a trap along the lines of attempting to implement legislation only to see itself brought down with FF and FG using the extremely expedient line, ‘look at how the left can’t run a government’ etc.

Which perhaps leaves only two feasible options at this point – either FF/FG going into coalition with SF or with each other. That’s where the numbers leave us.

I saw the Fergus Finlay piece in the Examiner linked to in comments. Finlay made a risible comment about the nature of governments elected in this state, but his broader points were sound. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have the option of building some sort of government together if they genuinely believe SF to be the political threat that some of us would argue it manifestly is to their politics. Do they? Does that belief carry over to their being willing to work with each other or would, as he states correctly, prefer an election where more than likely SF would increase its seats yet further?


1. lcox - February 28, 2020

They don’t believe it for a minute – or they wouldn’t have spent years encouraging SF to be “responsible” wrt govt in NI and seats in Westminster.

The point of the scaremongering is to legitimate an FF-FG coalition (or C&S) in the face of their loss of credibility and no doubt some opposition from their own grassroots.

And *perhaps* to make some difficult pills easier to swallow – a cynical view would be that to make right-wing govt viable here past 2025 will require bursting the housing bubble, with consequent pain to landlords and developers. Unless they think that a Johnsonite Brexit will do that job for them, which of course it might.

But this line of thought might be ascribing too much strategy to Martin and Varadkar, who are presumably sufficiently motivated to form a govt and whip the troops into line by the realisation that they wouldn’t last long as leaders if they’re not part of the next govt in one form or another.

Liked by 1 person

1729torus - February 28, 2020

Like the DUP in NI, FF/FG need to get their supporters to support painful gestures to stop SF’s growth.

Liked by 1 person

2. irishelectionliterature - February 28, 2020

Neither FF or FG want to be the first to “legitimise” Sinn Féin by going into Government with them. SF did very well in the election but this in turn has led to (aside from the shite in the media) them realising that a sizeable part of the electorate is vehemently anti SF.
Where in part it’s a Left / Right divide , there is also a pro and anti SF divide.
The membership of FG are very anti SF, the membership of FF less so but a good majority would be against going in with SF, especially when they both have a similar number of seats.
I’m beginning to wonder how safe Martin is as FF leader, going in with FG will cause him a lot of headaches. For many in the FF membership FG are the enemy , part of their raison d’etre and that both parties are very different beings. Where for the rest of us they are the roughly the same.


WorldbyStorm - February 28, 2020

Do you think FF and FGs leadership could get a coalition deal between them through their memberships?


Joe - February 28, 2020

Yes. Because both parties are run totally undemocratically – the leadership cabal in each can easily bully and bribe its membership to do its bidding.
Bit like SF / Not like SF at all – Delete as appropriate.


irishelectionliterature - February 28, 2020

FG I think they will back coalition, FF not so sure.
Part of the “renewal” of FF post 2011 under Martin was giving the membership a bigger say in how things were run. However Confidence and Supply was never put to the membership and pissed off a good bit of the membership. (At the time there was no way going into coalition with FG would have passed a vote so members felt aggrieved that C&S didn’t have to be voted on) .
You also had the fact that the Ard Fheis voted against Repealing the 8th and yet Martin and others campaigned for it. There’s also a feeling that it cost them votes and lost seats because of it. There’s a good few pro lifers waiting in the long grass over it. Although not quite the same numbers, there was a large enough element against the Partys stance on Marriage Equality too. Then you have local stuff like additions to party tickets in the election by HQ. The election campaign itself where every member seems to think they could have done a better job than those at the top of the party. There’s a lot more with gripes against the party hierarchy.
The thing is that many would see a vote on a coalition deal as a chance to give the party top brass a black eye.


Alibaba - February 28, 2020

I agree there are Fianna Fáil snakes in the long grass, though I tend to the view this makes the outcome unpredictable.


WorldbyStorm - February 28, 2020

That’s very interesting IEL. Makes a lot of sense. Wow, though, it doesn’t make any of this easier!


3. tomasoflatharta - February 28, 2020
4. Daire O'Criodain - February 28, 2020

I agree with your general point that FFG should find a way to get off their self-inserted hook of not TALKING to SF at all (and one or other may yet, though unlikely). Where I would quibble is the argument that it is somehow “undemocratic” of them to do so. I don’t think the insertion of that adjective adds any weight to the point. After all, and I know its a cliché, but they were clear before the election that they would not go into government with SF, so to do so now would arguably be at least as “undemocratic” and disrespectful towards their own voters. – and, to be fair, every media hack in town would be rubbing their hands with glee: “We always knew that all those guys are interested in are the mercs and perks.”

As for Ms. O’Reilly, when you study closely the phrase: “neither fair nor credible to disrespect the mandate….”, it sounds solemn and serious, but there’s not much substance. (a) It is entirely “credible” that FFG are ignoring the mandate because the evidence of our own eyes and ears tell us that that is exactly what they are doing – and it is what they said they would do. (b) That doing so is disrespecting the mandate is a loaded presumption convenient to Ms. O’Reilly. They are just ignoring that mandate, whatever that “mandate” is. (c) She has a case on fairness, but that’s it.

The traditional parties are in a bind. It is difficult to see any scenario; grand coalition or coalition of one of them with SF that will enable both of them collectively to advance significantly at the next election. In either scenario, one is more likely to lose bigly. The more likely of those scenarios is the grand coalition but history suggests that, in such arrangements, one party gets a load of blame and the other the biscuit (or at least a lot less blame).


WorldbyStorm - February 28, 2020

I don’t entirely disagree with you but what strikes me is this. There’s actually very little that FF (and at a stretch FG, perhaps in its fleeting social democratic phases, early GFG, Alan Dukes to an extent, however cosmetic same were) couldn’t hammer out on a policy basis with SF. So it’s not even as if we’re talking about some huge ideological chasm that is impossible to bridge – sure, FF and FG not finding common cause with say PBP or constituent elements of same, that I get. But if it’s not policy what precisely is it? Given, as noted by others, the strenuous, not to say exhaustive efforts by all parties to persuade SF into government in the North there’s a credibility gap (to put it at its kindest) in relation to FF and FG refusing event to talk to SF.

And that rankles, and it’s that rankling that I find so interesting, at least in regard to the FF/FG response because that has a political effect wider than SF voters. All they have to do, quite literally, is to go into a meeting with SF, and come out and say, ‘hey, we did our best but can’t go here there or wherever). And there I think SF has a very strong point. If SF is a pariah of the sort FF (and sotto voce FG) suggest then it’s all or nothing. But we know that they aren’t because of how FF and FG have acted previously.

Again, I can look at this from a purely FF/FG perspective in terms of the argument and it seems to me to be bats since this doesn’t help FF in particular on the ground. ironically this appears to me to be a rerun of the debates issue. SF wanted in. When they were in it didn’t quite go as planned (though they surely didn’t suffer for it). Likewise if FG/FF met with SF it would take away a basic complaint of SF’s and I don’t buy the idea that them doing so legitimates SF more than SF’s vote does (indeed it seems to me that FF needs to claw back voteshare from SF.


5. tomasoflatharta - February 29, 2020

Result of the Irish General Election February 8 2020 – Des Derwin Reviews a Muddy Field – https://tomasoflatharta.wordpress.com/2020/02/29/result-of-the-irish-general-election-february-2020-a-muddy-field-is-reviewed/


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