Radical change has finally come to Irish politics but why now?
There is just one fact that explains all about the Irish election. Among voters, 18-35, housing was the most important issue among a whopping 38 percent.
In real terms, it meant that young adults who can no longer afford a home or even to pay the rents demanded by landlords had had enough.
Tale after tale of people and couples still squatting in a parent's home or in tiny apartments were carried far and wide. Along with housing, the homeless also rated hugely with 10,000 a night sleeping rough. Only Sinn Fein seemed to focus on the issue. That focus paid off bigly as Donald Trump might say.
Home is the emotive word in the lexicon. Housing is the most important issue that young Irish face, but the growing homelessness crisis was the breaking of faith with everything Irish have fought for.
Something had to give.
Political leaders have failed to understand that telling most citizens that they could never expect to afford to own a home in their lifetimes was a long term losing political strategy.
Former PDs leader Michael McDowell on RTÉ 1:
“Many young people don’t think they can get a house.
“The biggest mistake this government made was to say to an entire generation of people: there isn’t much hope for you.”
Think that nails it #GE2020— Paul O'Donoghue (@paulodonoghue93) February 9, 2020
But blinded by their privilege and their conservative free-market ideologies, for a decade now our government has failed to see the looming iceberg. This weekend the ship of state finally crashed into it.
For years to come Fine Gael will be associated with our brave new tale of two cities era: luxury hotels on every city street corner for our visitors and increasingly unaffordable homes for ourselves.
As the government's attitude to property changed, so did Ireland. Dublin started morphing into a little borough of Manhattan, attracting overseas investors and vulture funds with deeper pockets than young Irish couples could ever hope to compete with.
Soon we were in the midst of an entirely foreseeable and never-ending housing crisis, with record-breaking numbers of Irish citizens living in emergency accommodation and a government response that has ranged from the scolding (get up earlier, yobs) to the completely out of touch (why not try tenement living, as they used to 100 years ago in the good old Dublin slums?).
Combined vote of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil:
1977 - 81.1%
1989 - 73.5%
2007 - 68.9%
2020 - 44.6%
The era of right-wing domination is over.— Ronan Burtenshaw (@ronanburtenshaw) February 8, 2020
It was Fianna Fail that presided over the banking collapse, it will be Fine Gael who carry the can for years to come the housing/homeless crisis. Neither party seems to have really absorbed or learned how to recognize their own failings in these regards but the public hasn't forgiven or forgotten.
In Donegal, where I hail from, the voting statistics tell us the story of what just happened. A county that has been historically overlooked when it has not been outright surrendered (neither quite in the Republic or Northern Ireland) they voted overwhelmingly for Sinn Fein in this election cycle for a host of compelling reasons.
First, Sinn Fein has always ignored the border, being the only all-Ireland political party. That part is crucial for Donegal, who have long known the sting and the consequences of partition. So the vote in Donegal has just sent a particularly pointed message to the establishment partitionist parties in Dublin that we belong to Ireland and will no longer be overlooked.
Likewise, we are saying that national reunification is a debate that will no longer be postponed. But it's more than even that, we have voted in solidarity with those inside the six counties, with a renewed focus on national transformation. The most conservative county in Ireland has finally hit the national reset button. Change is coming.
Check out those numbers eh https://t.co/SvGW5ap1Po— Dawn Foster (@DawnHFoster) February 9, 2020
It was the banking crisis and its fallout that shattered the social fabric, in a country where the social fabric is the most important thing of all. For years we watched as most of the culpable high fliers eluded any kind of justice.
Then came the water charges debacle, then the housing crisis and the inevitable homelessness crisis. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael pressed on with their two-tiered free-market ideologies. Consequences were only for the little people, they saw our pain but they would not alleviate it.
In Donegal, where each year a generation is surrendered to emigration with the regularity of swallows setting off for the south, the economic tides have ebbed and flowed like a distant wave you can just about hear.
Raised on a diet of privation the message they could no longer afford a home in their own country seemed like a breaking of every last bond.
As a northerner this is emotional stuff. It’s the longed for embrace.
In all the rightful smashing of the partitionist establishment parties - it’s mixed with the heady euphoria of solidarity & union.
We’re a united people, on the march to a united future.#GE2020— Damien Mullan (@jediknight1985) February 9, 2020
Did you know that Ireland has the world's fifth highest concentration of the super rich on earth? The problem is most people actually living there haven't noticed. That's what this election has been about.
Historic breakthrough for Sinn Féin, powered by younger and working-class voters.
To put it in context, Ireland is the only country in western Europe never to have even had a centre-left government.
The sun is setting on decades of right-wing rule. Not a moment too soon.— Ronan Burtenshaw (@ronanburtenshaw) February 8, 2020
Tumbrels have not yet rolled, but they have very nearly done so, and in their complacency, the most surprising thing of all is that our political masters couldn't hear them.
If I was a top tier establishment politician in Dublin tonight I would be feeling my bespoke Charvet shirt collar and feeling relieved that I still had the neck to wear it.