Fine Gael will be the largest party in the Dail and form yet another coalition, and Enda Kenny is almost certain to be the new taoiseach. But beyond that, what difference will Ireland’s voters see?
There is excited talk of Kenny starting the process of renegotiating the previous government’s 85bn-euro (£72bn) EU/IMF loan package. It is something that has echoes of David Cameron’s pledge to renegotiate the repatriation of power from Brussels to Westminster and is likely to have the same outcome.
But then, what else do the Irish expect? Fine Gael actually helped Brian Cowen’s sinking government to put the Finance Bill to a vote in the Dail, supported some of its provisions and failed to stop the ones it opposed from passing. It is unrealistic in the extreme of Fine Gael to give the impression they will be able to change the terms of the expensive loan the EU and IMF put together.
Bar some tinkering around the edges nothing will change. Ireland’s voters will still be paying higher taxes and experiencing huge cuts in spending on public services. They voted for change but will not see any, because when all is said and done the government of Ireland is cannot be found in the Dail, it resides in Brussels. No one was able to vote for or against it.
Those making the decisions for Ireland have not appeared on any ballot paper. Ireland is not mistress in her own house. The democratic process engaged in by 70% of those eligible to vote is meaningless, a charade, an illusion. How can Ireland’s government be on a collision course with the EU, when the EU is Ireland’s government? It is already making this clear:
As Irish voters headed for the polling booths on Friday, the European Commission bluntly declared that the terms of the EU-IMF bailout “must be applied” whatever the will of Ireland’s people or regardless of any change of government.
“It’s an agreement between the EU and the Republic of Ireland, it’s not an agreement between an institution and a particular government,” said a Brussels spokesman.
A European diplomat, from a large eurozone country, told The Sunday Telegraph that “the more the Irish make a big deal about renegotiation in public, the more attitudes will harden”.
“It is not even take it or leave it. It’s done. Ireland’s only role in this now is to implement the programme agreed with the EU, IMF and European Central Bank. Irish voters are not a party in this process, whatever they have been told,” said the diplomat.
It will become apparent to the Irish people in the weeks and months that despite the campaigning, the voting and the time consuming counting they have changed precisely nothing, they are not a party in this process. It has been nothing more than a very expensive piece of theatre.
The question that will then need to be asked is what will the Irish people do about it. Will they confirm their surrender, or will they again satisfy their hunger for independence?