I left this comment on Stephen Collins’s piece in today’s Irish Times titled ‘Support for Fine Gael and Labour continues to decline’.
Support for the right-wing Troika Party (the combined forces of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour), the dominant party in Ireland, has taken on a different complexion. Enda Kenny’s hail-fellow-well-met bluster appears to be wearing thin, and people are turning the direction of Micheal Martin’s Honest Joe act, perhaps spurred on by Alan Shatter’s J. Edgar Hoover tendencies. The drama. The intrigue. The…tedium.
Whenever these polls get published, there is never any indication of the overall degree of confidence in the capacity of the political system to change things for the better, in any substantial way, for the majority. Perceptions of individual political parties and leaders relative to each other are probed, not perceptions of the system on the whole. This is in spite of the fact that the Troika Party now effectively recognises the Troika, not the people, as the legitimate sovereign, and therefore voting for any of these options amounts to a mere re-arrangement in how people are to be ruled by an undemocratic power. Such voting, whatever it is, is not an exercise in democracy. And analyses of poll numbers, without the context of confidence in the political system, merely serve to give the impression of a properly functioning representative democracy, much as the fake shop fronts in Fermanagh half-heartedly give the impression of thriving local villages.
The reality of life for most people shouldering massive household debt, or working in fear of losing their job, or in fear of the effects of the next wage cut or rise in regressive taxes, or searching for a job in fear of never getting one, has not changed one iota in the best of cases, and in most cases it has gotten worse.
The attempts by political correspondents to paint over that reality, whether with their breathless good news stories about Ireland’s economic recovery, or their dramatisation of superficial voting trends, have made little difference to those people’s perceptions. It’s highly unlikely that any of them believe voting for representatives would make more of a difference now than it meant at the last election. The question is whether they will develop other ways of practising politics to address this. If they do, don’t expect to read about it in the Irish Times.