27 February 2011

A handshake of carbon monoxide

Well, the final counts and recounts are still going on in a few constituencies, but its fairly safe to say that a) Enda Kenny will be our next Taoiseach, b) the next Government will be a Fine Gael/Labour coalition, c) Fianna Fail is reduced to a minority party existing only outside of Dublin, d) Dublin is more left-wing than the rest of the country, e) the Greens have been wiped out in response to their decision to extend the life-span of a deeply unpopular government for more than two years past its sell-by date, and f) much of the electorate are deeply cynical about traditional party politics and have thrown their support behind Independents and alternative groups.

All of which we knew before the first vote had even been cast.

Dublin South East saw a turn-out of just 60.5%, 10% less than the national average. FG and Labour comfortably took two seats each though Independents Paul Sommerville, Dylan Haskins, Mannix Flynn and PBP/SWP's Annette Mooney took over 16% of the first preference votes between them. While Mannix was eliminated surprisingly early and young Master Haskins secured less 1st preferences than he had Facebook friends, Sommerville did remarkably well and though never in contention for a seat still arrived home ahead of Green Party Leader John Gormley.

The graphic above is from RTE's excellent election website. Their online coverage, with Twitter streams from each constituency, polling centre webcams and constantly updated graphs and charts has been amazing. Their television coverage, however, has been abysmal. None of this data made it onto the TV screens, we were subjected to hour after hour of meaningless waffle, soundbites from political hacks, and endlessly repetitive shots of overweight and red-faced victors being hoisted onto the shoulders of unfortunate load-bearers to the cacophonous chanting of "Olé, Olé, Olé". Was it too much to ask for one hyperactive presenter standing in front of a blue screen waving their arms like an octopus on red-bull being electrocuted? A brief attempt by Pat Kenny to make a touch-screen display work was just embarrassing for the country as a whole, like watching your parents try and make a Skype video-call. When RTE spent such a huge portion of our licence fees on their election coverage, could they not have found a way to put some of the amassed data up onto the TV screens?

No matter, the good news for me has been the rise of the left, both the centre left in the form of Labour's best ever result, and more significantly, the success of a number of candidates from the hard left, particularly the return of Joe Higgins from the Socialist Party and the election of his colleague Clare Daly, Tipperary's Séamus Healy, Waterford's John Halligan and the SWP/PBP's Joan Collins and Richard Boyd-Barret. While Sinn Féin have made hard-left economic policies part of their campaign rhetoric, I don't believe that these policies have been the major factors in the minds of voters who have propelled them to their greatest success in modern times. Still, it's heart-warming to see a significant portion of the electorate take a stand against the neo-liberal policies of both the outgoing government and its incoming replacement.

Less heart-warming has been the gender composition of the 31st Dáil. By 1:30 pm today, with 136 of 166 seats filled, we, as a nation, have elected 21 women. 21 out of 136, or barely 15%. Not a single female TD has been elected thus far from the parties of the outgoing Government, the majority of those elected have come from the Left and are overwhelmingly from urban areas. In the outgoing Dail there were only 23 female TDs (ironically there's a good article on political gender inequality in Village from March last year by Ivana Bacik, who just lost out to Richard-Boyd Barret in a recount today in Dun Laoghaire), so while once all the results are finally in we may not have gone backwards, we certainly aren't going forwards in a hurry. On a more positive note we have also elected our first openly gay TD, Labour's Dominic Hannigan, in Meath East.

The final word (for now) on the election results thus far goes to the prescient Ciarán Cuffe, former Green TD, and eliminated last night on the 6th count in Dun Laoghaire. Four years ago in the aftermath of a very tight count and with the negotiations for a new government about to begin he wrote "Let's be clear. A deal with Fianna Fáil would be a deal with the devil. We would be spat out after 5 years, and decimated as a Party."

He was wrong about one thing, it only took four years.

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At 2:36 pm, Blogger spewbuntu said...

Interesting graphic on the representation of all 31 incarnations of the Dáil.



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