Lucinda Creighton is the culmination of the process of de-politicization of Irish politics. Her announcement of an intention to launch a new political party, without actually having any policies, is the logical corollary of a political system rooted in the loyalties of 1922
Interest in Irish politics or history amongst most of my lecturers at the London School of Economics ended with the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. At that point Ireland had gone its own way and apart from the vexed question of the North/Northern Ireland/Ulster/the Six Counties, there was not much that caught the attention. But for a brief period in the early-80s, there was a spark of interest amongst the academics who taught me. Ireland had three general elections in eighteen months. Like two old heavyweight boxers trying to pound each other into submission, Charles Haughey and Garret Fitzgerald trod streets, and stood on platforms, and made countless speeches. On 24th November 1982, Garret Fitzgerald gained the upper hand and formed a government that was to last until 1987.
The politics lecturer believed part of the instability in those opening years of the 80s was due to the fact that there was no ideological difference between the two main parties, it was an issue of personalities. He recounted a tale from the European Parliament in 1973. At the formation of the new parliament, it was alleged, both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael had applied to become members of the Christian Democrat grouping at Strasbourg. The story goes that the Fianna Fail application arrived earlier and was placed in an ‘in tray’, the Fine Gael application was later, and was placed in the ‘in tray’ above that of their opponents. When the letters were opened, the Fine Gael application was considered first and they were admitted to the grouping, leaving Fianna Fail without membership of a significant parliamentary group.
The fact that the battleground is not clear makes Irish politics grey. Not only is the ideological ground unclear, but there is nothing much left to fight over. Most law now originates with the European Union; economic policy is determined by the European Central Bank; foreign policy differences with Europe are hardly possible when you are a small country of four million people. You are left wondering what the government is actually for; most things would run more smoothly if left to a professional civil service.
Lucinda Creighton leaves you almost longing for the days of Charles J and Garret the Good, at least a choice of personalities was better than a choice on nothing at all.