There is an uncanny resemblance between the present Irish Government and the first Cumann na nGael administration of the 1920s. Both took draconian decisions and had the fortitude to see them through even in the case of Cumann na nGael, to the extent of taking the horrific step of executing former comrades.
The present Fine Gael dominated government has not formally killed anyone but there is no doubt that as a result of pressure from the Troika, occasioned in the first place by the depredations of crooked bankers and politicians, that several Irish citizens have been driven to take their own lives in recent years. And it is in this area that the present government can fairly be charged with showing the white feather. They have proceeded against the innocent by ways of taxes and cuts from which none escaped but they have not pursued those guilty of reckless trading for their crimes. I will return to this later.
Like Cumann na nGael, Fine Gael can point to some positive achievements, the former set up a democracy in the wake of a guerrilla war and the Civil War and left behind such legacies as a largely corruption free civil service, a democratically controlled army and an unarmed police force. However as the leader of that government, W.T. Cosgrave acknowledged these were not the sort of achievements to win popular favour in the face of Fianna Fáil blandishments and De Valera’s devicive charisma. Cosgrave was born out in the in the elections of the 1930s onwards and Fianna Fáil held power uninterruptedly for sixteen years .
One can’t see the FFers returning to power at the next election by which time on top of all the cuts in government spending and in peoples incomes which have occurred to date the country will also have felt the full effects of the property tax and water charges. Already these last have raised fears that the good old Irish rip off culture which allowed the bankers, the developers and the CEOs of financial institutions to rape the economy, is still alive and flourishing. The poltroons fumbling in the greasy till have not gone away you know. For, without an inch of new piping being laid or a trickle of water flowing it has been revealed that the government has apparently spent 50 million euro on consultant’s fees advising on how the new water authority should function.
Granted that previous administrations particularly Fianna Fáil which presided over the economy during the Celtic Tiger years when money was flowing down O’Connell Street did nothing to ensure that cash was spent on overhauling the cracked leaky pipes which have existed since Victorian times and instead squandered the money on property developments, many of which now lie idle. Granted also that it is monstrously unfair that a generation, already bleeding from the wounds inflicted by the death throes of the Celtic Tiger, should be required to pick up the tab for the hugely expensive operation needed to bring Ireland’s Victorian water supply into the 21st Century.
Nevertheless the reality of the situation is that water may prove to be a highly explosive substance which could blow away much of both the governments stability and Fianna Fáil’s unpopularity at the next elections which lie over the horizon in a matter of months rather than years, even though some economic recovery is clearly underway as a result of government policy.
What could influence the electorate is an injection of something that is now lacking, a sense of fairness. The government has not been seen to move in an organised and large scale way against the white collar criminals who brought about the crash. Only one bank, Anglo Irish is being held to account. But it took several other Irish financial institutions, notably Allied Irish Bank, to rack up the need to bail out Irish banks to the tune of 65 billions.
In addition to the already all pervasive sense of unfairness the public is now contending with reports of key Department of Finance documents going missing or of being so redacted as to be unreadable. The republics entire financial apparatus was involved to a greater or lesser degree in the disaster which has occurred and whose consequences have to be borne by today’s electorate. And in failing to act decisively to hold the guilty responsible the present administration could find that electorally its achievements are not of the sort to bring victory at the polls. After all the Irish electorate installed DeValera in power after he had actively helped to ferment civil war less than ten years earlier. Fianna Fáil might yet get another spell at the helm.