Wednesday 26 January 2011

Quite a year

I don't usually get into politics, but some people have asked me about the perhaps confusing news coming out of Ireland right now. I dealt with some of it in a previous post, and in the upcoming AmCon article. For now, here's a summary of recent events for anyone interested:

2005: We move here to be near my wife’s family. In unrelated news, Ireland voted best place to live in the world.

Summer 2007: Election leaves Fianna Fail (rhymes with tall) party -- which has dominated Irish politics since the country’s founding -- short of a majority. Ireland has a parlimentary system like the UK, so people vote for one of several parties, and if no one has a clear majority, two or more parties must form a coalition, and the major coalition partner picks the Prime Minister. Fianna Fail asks the Green Party to join them in coalition, and in a controversial move, the Greens accept.

Fall 2008: Economic crash bursts Ireland’s bubble. Fianna Fail ensures all of nation’s banks, placing nation in unprecedented debt.

Winter 2009: Ireland sees worst floods in 800 years.

April 2010: Volcano temporarily shuts down air travel.

September 2010: Fianna Fail Taoiseach (TEE-shak, or Prime Minister) Brian Cowen appears drunk in interview – makes the news across the world.

November 2010: Irish government is bankrupt, asks for bailout. Massive protests fill Dublin, offices of Dail (Congress) members vandalised.

Late November 2010: Ireland sees worst snowstorms in living memory.

December 2010: New budget cuts services and pensions and raises taxes. Fianna Fail widely blamed – their poll numbers drop from around 45% to 14%.

Monday, Jan 13: FF leaders begin to question the Taoiseach’s leadership.

Sunday, Jan 16: A faction of Fianna Fail breaks away and calls on Cowen to step down. Foreign Minister resigns.

Tuesday, Jan 18: Fianna Fail votes on whether to retain Cowan as leader, attempt to oust him fails.

Wednesday, Jan 19: Four of the 15 ministers (like US Cabinet members) resign.

Thursday, Jan 20: One more minister resigns. News reports that Cowan is attempting to pack his cabinet with allies. Green leader John Gormley tells the Taoiseach the Greens will not support his ministerial appointments.

Saturday, Jan 22: Cowen announces he will resign as head of his party but remain head of government.

Sunday, Jan. 23 – Green Party pulls out of government. Only seven of 15 ministers left. Coalition ends.

Monday, Jan. 24 – TDs (like Congress members) hashing out new Finance Bill – as soon as that is complete, the Dail will dissolve and a new election will be set.

Today – Finance Bill set to pass; new election at end of February. Fianna Fail votes for new leader, Cowan will stay as Taoiseach until after election.

More on the story here, here, here and here.

It's dramatic, but only in the way the USA's 2000 election was dramatic, and on a smaller scale. We're still working, the police still function, no one's shooting and the lights are still on. It could be a lot worse.

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