Tag Archives: Fintan O’Toole

Fintan O’Toole’s ‘State of Us’ series

Fintan O’Toole, a columnist at The Irish Times for nearly 30 years, has just finished a four-part series of reflections about the state of modern Ireland. His thoughts are contextualized by last year’s Easter Rising centenary and the massive political, social, economic and religious changes on the island, north and south, especially over the past decade.

The series is called the “State of Us,” and it’s well worth the read.

Part 1: Ireland’s story doesn’t make sense any more

Part 2: Irish identity is no longer fit for purpose

Part 3: Irish nationalism needs a revolution

Part 4: The ties that bind

Polling and pundits forecast historic election outcome

Ireland appears to be careening toward an historic election outcome Friday. The question is: Historic in what way?

If the Fine Gael/Labour coalition of the last five years can hold, it would be the first time a Fine Gael leader is re-elected as Taoiseach for a successive term since the party was founded in 1933, The Economist notes. County Mayo native Enda Kenny leads the centre-right FG party in the role of prime minister.

But Fine Gael is treading water in the polls, and Labour is sinking. Opposition Fianna Fáil, which had a near monopoly on power in Ireland during most of the 20th century, is rebounding after being punished in the 2011 election for the country’s economic collapse. That has some pundits suggesting the once unthinkable possibility of a grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which each evolved from the bitter split of Irish nationalists during the country’s civil war in the early 1920s.

In public, party leaders say this isn’t practical. They are still focused on winning Friday’s count. But if the results suggest such a coalition is the only way to move forward with a government, you can bet that private negotiations will begin immediately, even as public posturing continues.

Writing in The Irish Times, columnist Fintan O’Toole suggests that “it’s surely been clear to any objective observer that the logic of the fragmentation of Irish politics (now about 10 parties) leads, at least in the medium term, in only one direction: Fianna Gael.” He continues:

When there were two big centre-right parties carving up anything from two-thirds to three-quarters of the vote between them, it made complete sense for those parties to exaggerate their tribal differences in order to generate the sense that something huge was at stake in their tribal competition. But the space they jointly occupy has shrunk; … they now have one comfortable majority between them. If they don’t occupy that space together, it becomes a power vacuum. One can never rule out the ability of petulance, tribalism and vanity to overpower logic, but office is a great magnet.

This suggests another possibility: a “hung Dáil,” or a stalemate due to the failure of any party or bloc of parties to form a majority of newly elected TDs in government, The Irish Times explains. This could mean months of gridlock, and eventually calls for new elections.

For a super-detailed looked at the last polling before the election, see the blog of Dr. Adrian Kavanagh, Maynooth University, FF-FG or Voting Again?

Not much sweetness in Ireland’s post-bailout “success”

Fintan O’Toole of The Irish Times has an op-ed in The New York Times about Ireland being the first country to emerge from its Eurozone bailout. The headline tips off his opinion: “Ireland’s Rebound is European Blarney.”

In part, his piece says:

Everyone wants Ireland to be a good-news story, proof that a willingness to take the pain of prolonged austerity will be rewarded in the end. Ordinary citizens are hungry for some hope. The government, in the words of Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore, was “determined that Ireland would be Europe’s success story.” An influential board member of the European Central Bank, Jörg Asmussen, says, “The Irish program is a success story.” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany praised Ireland as an example of how crisis countries could turn themselves around.

The only problem is that, for most of us who actually live here, Ireland’s success story feels less like “The Shawshank Redemption” and more like “Rocky.” We haven’t been joyously liberated; we’ve just withstood a lot of blows. We’re still standing, but we’ve taken so many punches that it’s hard to see straight.

Ireland was forced to take 67.5 billion Euro in loans starting in 2010 to prop up banks over leveraged by the property bubble of the 2000s. The damage spread as far as a commercial real estate development in Tampa.

Ireland exited the bailout in December. A few weeks later the country held its first bond sale since reaching the milestone.