Over the last few weeks, a general election campaign has taken centre stage in Ireland where I have been working for news website TheJournal.ie (hence the lack of regular updates).
It is often said of elections in countries that they are the most important in many years or even in the history of the country. In Ireland’s case this may actually be true.
The state itself has been in existence for less than a hundred years yet at the end of last year it reached a pivotal moment in its short existence when it was forced to accept an EU/IMF bailout after a disasterous financial splurge in previous years that effectively bankrupted the country.
The government that oversaw much of the economic success that eventually turned into an economic disaster, Fianna Fail, now face an electoral wipeout like no other in the party’s history.
There’s been the usual campaign promises and high rhetoric that will count for little once whoever is elected gets into government.
Here’s a selection of stories that have emerged over the past few weeks:
Public want Kenny as Taoiseach in a single party government - The opposition Fine Gael party could be on the verge of being elected as a single party government.
They have portrayed themselves as a very competent alternative that has a plan to sort the country out. There is a lot of rhetoric that many would be sceptical of in these times but Ireland is desperate for an inspirational figure in the mould of Barack Obama, perhaps.
Ireland has Enda Kenny, he is no Obama, he is no David Cameron. He is dour, at times anonymous and sometimes gaffe prone but he gives the air of a statesman in many ways and having accepted that it’s unlikely any other person will be the next Taoiseach (Prime Minister), the public seem prepared to accept him.
Independents could play a big part as FG make approaches – Kenny and Fine Gael will most likely need the backing of independent candidates to form a government and they recognise this.
Earlier this week I summarised those running and likely to be elected with over a dozen independents set to be elected to the 166 seat parliament, underlining the anger many people feel towards the political mainstream.
There are some bizarre candidates in amongst some very intelligent and smart people who would be a welcome addition to the next government.
Some are so disillusioned they predict military intervention – This was one of the most bizarre stories I’ve worked on since being in Ireland.
Ned O’Keeffe has been a TD (MP) for Cork East for nearly 30 years but is stepping down at this election, one of many from the governing Fianna Fail party. He has become so disillusioned with the actions of his party colleagues in government that he suspects the army could be about to takeover.
This is most unlikely. Ireland’s army, the Irish Defence Force, is not nearly strong enough to overthrow a government and what’s more the democracy currently in place will see those responsible for the economic collapse be made suffer at the ballot box which will satisfy most people.
But O’Keeffe later bemoaned the lack of intellectuals in government, a statement many in the country might not necessarily agree with, being more of the view that there weren’t nearly enough to avert the financial collapse.
But at least we’ve retained our pride…and sense of humour – Amidst the arrival of the men in suits from EU and IMF late last year, a brand spanking new terminal was opened at the country’s main airport in Dublin.
Terminal 2 was planned during the boom and built during the bust, it opened with many predicting rather cynically that it would be the perfect facilitator of the many people who would be leaving the country because of the bleak employment and economic prospects.
The Dublin Airport Authority sought to portray their new building as something to be truly proud of, just like being Irish:
Others were perhaps a bit more honest in their assessment of the terminal: