I ran out of soap this week. In the grip of a seemingly powerful amnesia I managed to forget the fact until I was just about to get in the shower.
This repeated failure to restock led me to dig out a bottle of shower gel purchased many moons ago and kept for just such an occasion. The toxic-green-coloured substance within was housed in packaging, which promised I would ‘Wake Up!’ as a result of using the product thanks to the combination of ingredients including tea tree oil and mint for ‘added Zing!’ In fact, the effect of one or both of these ingredients was merely to sting the skin and provide cleanliness through suffering rather than unleashing invigorating pleasure.
I mention this because the whole experience mingled with my now all-consuming thoughts of Ireland’s forthcoming general election. To me the shower gel in question was very representative of the campaigns that Fine Gael and Labour are about to run. Their message will be glossy and promising but the post-election reality will likely be very different. There is a very real possibility that the promised effect might not come at all. What is almost guaranteed is that there will be pain and irritation.
At the time of writing, an important distinction these days, Fine Gael and Labour have agreed to a timetable for the passing of the Finance Bill in order to facilitate an earlier election than March 11. Inherent in their agreement to pass the bill, or see that it is not defeated, is their desire to seize power.
The bill in question is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before the Dáil in many years. The full content of the bill has serious, life-changing implications for the people of Ireland and yet, in their grab for power, the Opposition is willing to accept whatever is in it on condition they get their electoral foregone conclusion a few weeks earlier than they might.
The more cynical among us might suggest that Fianna Fáil’s only option in guaranteeing itself as a political force in the country would be to include a sly amendment banning all other parties from having legitimacy in law.
The passing glance that the Opposition will run over the legislation would almost certainly ensure they would vote it through anyway, ensuring their own doom along with that of the electorate.
On another, more salient point, with regard to the potential outcome of the forthcoming vote, the attitude adopted by the independent TDs in the Dáil has been most interesting of all. The ‘will they/wont they?’ position adopted by the non-party members of the Dáil ahead of the vote shows the power they hold to a very large degree.
I have been critical of former Clare deputy James Breen in the past and his potential to bring about change for his constituents as an independent but it seems now he may have been ahead of the game in ditching the Fianna Fáil tag and flying solo. There will be many more like him in the forthcoming election but they will have left it too late to shake off the affiliation with the Soldiers of Destiny.
Unfortunately, for those hoping to be elected on an independent ticket for the forthcoming Dáil, their numbers are unlikely to be needed to make up a government so their power is bound to be negligible once again. Even if there are significant numbers it is difficult to see them uniting to such an extent that they would wield any power.
Election or no election, it is increasingly clear who holds the real power over Ireland. The future of the nation lies in the hands of the bond markets and the faceless international investors with pockets full of cash and an eye for a quick buck. The Opposition says the election must happen immediately because the current instability and farcical infighting makes us look like a bad investment.
Fianna Fáil and the Greens say the Finance Bill must be passed in order to appease the bond markets, the IMF and our partners in the European Union. It is a solitary point of consensus in Irish politics at the moment that the power over Irish lives lies in the hands of anonymous investors all over the world who are exploiting the system of international capitalism for their own gain.
Candidates at your door in the coming weeks will not admit to this. Fine Gael and Labour will not canvass votes on such a ticket. They will offer change and a new beginning, where in fact all they can offer is more of the same.
There is a definite sense of deck chairs being rearranged on the Titanic at the moment. Whoever holds power after the vote will be handcuffed by the same constraints as the current administration. The horrible reality is that when you are broke you don’t call the shots; you follow orders.
The Opposition will offer added zing in the coming weeks, they will say virtually anything to get a vote they are so famished for power. In fact, all they can realistically offer is more of the same. In actual fact, that maybe all they could ever promise, so akin to the current gang are they in policy terms.
The manifestos will make for interesting reading because for all the refreshment promised it is difficult to believe that anything other than more stinging pain will follow the general election.