A new kind of voter for post-crisis Ireland

By Reuters Staff
February 25, 2011

IRELAND-POLITICS/By Padraic Halpin

The Irish financial meltdown has turned Ireland’s politics on its head, prompting nuns to consider Marxism, plumbers to track debt markets and the Irish people to abandon the party that has ruled them for most of the last 80 years.

Ravaged by austerity and embittered by years of feckless government, voters who descended upon polling stations on Friday are unrecognisable from those who seemingly sleepwalked to the polls four years ago to re-elect a Fianna Fail party despite decades of corruption allegations.

In post-crisis Ireland, the common man is more engaged by the high interest rate imposed by Europe on the country’s EU/IMF bailout than the weekend’s football action.

“There is no way we can afford to pay back all the debt,” says Alan Pinder, a 49-year-old plumber, father of two and advocate of sovereign debt default. “We have to realise that we are broke, that we can’t afford it. It’s Europe’s problem as well.”

“This government have shamed us, the whole country is shamed by them,” he said.

While voters have second thoughts about the joys of pan-European social democracy, some are casting a jealous glance at the Arab uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia for tips on how to tame their corrupt elite.

“I look at the news at those foreign countries and how they protested. They got want they wanted” great-grandmother Patricia Bryne, 73, says after voting against the government on behalf of three-week old Ryan, asleep in his pram. “I think we should protest too but we are far too laid back.”

There are even a few kind souls eccentric enough to vote for the ruling party, who with their banker golf buddies, plunged the country into the worst economic collapse ever seen in the industrialised world.

Isabelle, a 71-year-old ex-missionary worker, is giving a vote to Fianna Fail, the country’s ruling and traditionally largest party that is braced for an election rout, the scale of which Ireland has never seen.

She knows her local candidate is destined, at best, for the opposition benches but doesn’t care as the names of those who she believes will call the shots in the debt-stricken country are nowhere to be seen on the ballot paper.

“I don’t think any of them have power because it’s the bondholders who call the shots, not any government we elect,” Isabelle says outside a school in the leafy South Dublin suburb of Booterstown where votes are being briskly cast.

“Until we have ethics in the handling of capital, I think we really have to revisit Marx.”

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