Your man reckons these are exciting – ‘dramatic times’ – in the politics of our small island.
Especially in the south. Flann O Brien couldn’t have written the script. The political and economic crisis has been variously described as a ‘circus’, a ‘comedy of errors’, ‘a farce’ and some other things that this blog could not post.
The Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government has been a disaster for the Irish people. And however much they may now try to distance themselves each and every Fianna Fáil Minister and TD went along with what Fianna Fáil did in government.
Politics is a rough trade. I’m sure Brian Cowen’s family are feeling sore and on a personal level I empathise with them and with the hundreds of thousands of other families who have been impoverished and traumatised by this bad government.
The budget which the Coalition government introduced in December and which Fine and Labour have said they will implement, this month stripped over a million people, or a quarter of the state’s population, of significant income as the government’s social welfare cuts and increased tax took effect.
Almost 900,000 carers, people with disabilities, including those who receive a blind allowance, lone parents, widows, women who are pregnant and the unemployed will suffer cuts in their benefits. People earning the minimum wage, who were already living in poverty, have taken further cuts, so that this government can fund a private banking debt.
Tens of thousands of citizens, mainly young people, will emigrate in the next year, some to the USA, many to Australia and other far flung places.
Cutting child benefit and social welfare payments will not magically create jobs or fix the deficit.
In other words the poorest and most vulnerable are being hardest hit, while those who caused the mess are allowed to get off scot-free. Ordinary working people are being punished to save Fianna Fáil’s friends in the banks.
There is a palpable public anger at the Irish government made worse in recent days by the shambolic fashion in which Ministers resigned to be followed by the Taoiseach being forced to stand down as leader of Fianna Fáil.
The general election, and it is now likely to be held before the end of February, provides an opportunity for fundamental political reform. It could begin the process to change the face of Irish society for people across the island of Ireland – North, South, East and West.
For Irish republicans it will be an exciting and an exhausting and daunting time. The general election in the south will be followed almost immediately by Assembly and local elections in the Six Counties, both of which will take place on the same day - May 5th – the 30th anniversary of the death on hunger strike of Bobby Sands.
When the votes are counted after the election Sinn Féin could be in a strengthened and pivotal position on both sides of the border. A critical mass of Sinn Féin TDs would complement our strength in the Six Counties and advance the all-Ireland project immeasurably.
However, unlike the Establishment parties, republicans have never taken election results or voters for granted. And we are very mindful of the fact that there are many families, who are being economically squeezed by the efforts of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party to bail out the bankers and the speculators, who are becoming increasingly wary and cynical of political parties.
That is why republicans have to try all that much harder to make sure that the message is taken into every city, town, village and housing estate – into every home – that Sinn Féin is different.
This blog has already spent a lot of time talking to the media about the current political situation and setting out Sinn Féin’s alternative strategy for tackling the economic crisis. One of the most frequent questions asked is around the issue of coalition. Who will Sinn Féin go into government with?
The fact is that Sinn Féin has no intention of putting either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael back into power. No party that claims to be different to the failed conservative policies of the past should think of putting Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael back into power. The leaders of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael may or may not change but their ideologies and political directions have not.
The message for Labour voters is equally stark. Read the Fine Gael manifesto because that’s what the Labour leadership has tied their future to. A vote for Labour will be a vote for Fine Gael.
The reality is that this election will be one of the most important since partition and the foundation of the state. There is an opportunity to bring in fundamental political change and transform the political landscape on the island.
When taken with the May 5th elections in their north there is a huge opportunity to advance the all-Ireland objectives of Irish republicans.