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Irish steeplechase is over

February 27th, 2011 Comments off

The people have spoken – and the result will be more to the liking of The Irish Times, which began its post-election editorial in 2007 with these words, but spoken in scorn at the electorate’s resounding return of Fianna Fail. Now Ireland’s party of God has been given a good kicking – half a million votes less than four years ago, according to some estimates. The Green Party has also been obliterated from the national stage. My pre-poll tip of 26 seats for FF seems to have been wildly optimistic, though I underplayed the prediction for my own Labour Party – I said 31, they already have 34 and counting continues.
Fine Gael, the party of rich farmers, right-wingers and academics, will dominate the incoming Dail (parliament), and its leader, strawberry blond Enda Kenny, will be the Taoiseach (prime minister). It’s likely that Kenny will form a coalition with Labour, although Independents have done so well (at least 17 seats) that there is some wild-eyed talk of an indie grouping forming a government with Fine Gael.
The election has been great fun – a massive national steeplechase – but now that the shouting dies down, the challenge of rebuilding the Irish economy and stopping the slide of emigration brought on by unemployment will occupy the nation’s leaders. Numerous economists and informed observers claim that Ireland cannot comply with the rigorous terms of the EU/IMF bailout announced last November. The country is broke, broke, broke, owing between €100 and €250 billion, depending whose figures you choose. Around 350,000 people are out of work, in a total population of 4.5 million.
It’s a messiah that’s needed here, not the man often referred to as ‘County Mayo’s answer to Prince Charles’. Still, who cannot wish the new government well, and hope fiercely that optimism and hard work turn the country around.

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